A Message from Pastor Scott

Accepting God’s Call

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Board of Pensions invited me to attend a conference that would help me evaluate my ministry and what I wanted to do with the next phase of my life. There was a binder full of paperwork I needed to fill out before I arrived, and we worked hard, listening to speakers, meeting in small groups, worshiping, and reflecting on our learnings and what God is calling us to do with the time we have left in ministry. It was a remarkable experience.

One of the major learnings I gleaned from the experience is how fortunate I am that God called me to Westminster. While many of the 30+ ministers were considering a move or felt stuck in their position, I felt like my ministry was just beginning. I’ve had my share of challenges in the six-plus years I have been here, but together we have made many important and necessary changes, and are now prepared to move forward in faith.

I am excited by the ministry challenges we are addressing at Westminster. While we celebrate our ongoing commitment to issues like homelessness, equal marriage rights for gay people, the ethics of food, children’s issues - including but not limited to our Preschool and Wrap-Around care, etc. - we are also addressing the Biblical imperative to care for the stranger.

You will continue to hear about immigrant and refugee issues in the coming months. God has been pushing on my heart to address this issue for some time now. I believe God wants this issue to be at the forefront of Westminster’s ministry, because a number of other staff and members have also felt convicted by God to respond to those in need. The crass statements and disrespectful ambitions of the White House have forced many faithful Christians to get off the sidelines and put our money where our mouths are. God isn’t allowing many of us to stay silent one minute longer.

Throughout Scripture God has laid bare the sinful political structures that make scapegoats of a minority people. God came to the aid of the people enslaved in Egypt and brought them to the Promised Land. Jesus would not allow the Samaritans to be excluded by the Jewish community. And, throughout history God has held groups in contempt, when they belittled or excluded a minority group. Germany inflicted on themselves a terrible price for the sinful atrocities they committed in their concentration camps.

God is calling us, as members of Westminster and Christians around the world, to reach out to those who feel abandoned by society. Westminster will continue to be an example of love and compassion amidst an angry world. At the conference I attended, I realized how powerfully God is calling us to respond as a loving example amidst the violent rhetoric so prevalent from our political leadership. If I am forced to choose between the ethics of my President and my God, as a Christian I must choose God’s ethics! I wake up each morning excited by what God has in store for us today. We will be offering education and instruction on the Biblical principles of caring for the immigrant. We will also provide ways you can respond to God’s call in very meaningful and tangible ways. Come with an open heart and an open mind. See what God has in store for us. Together, with the Spirit’s guidance, we can do great things in God’s holy name!

Responding in Challenging Times

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Living the faith becomes more challenging every day. This morning I had an interesting meeting. I learned how we, as Americans, lost any sense of privacy about ten years ago, as companies began gathering information on us. Every time you google, you leave a digital footprint that defines you to others. A company can quickly determine by your internet browsing and shopping history, how much money you make, and your lifestyle. They have already gathered all the public information on you, including but not limited to, how much you paid for your home. They also know where you work, and patterns and trends in your life. For example, whether you are having a baby, or trying to have one, or getting married or grieving a death of a loved one, all known to them. These internet gatherers used to be called statisticians, but they now are known as “Data Miners.” I always wondered how I could look for a new pair of shoes on Amazon, and the next day while checking my email on Yahoo, there is an advertisement box for the same shoes.

Another example of the disappearance of our right to privacy is a murder trial in Arkansas where the prosecuting attorney is attempting to use the Amazon Echo information from the family home as evidence. The Echo, which I used in church one Sunday, listens to all the conversations in one’s home, waiting to be given a request like, “Alexa, play Bob Dylan’s ‘Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door’ from the Soundtrack Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid.” The prosecutor would like to eavesdrop on the accused murderer through the Echo’s technology. Amazon, the maker of the Echo, is trying to keep from giving the government this personal information. Imagine giving the government access to our personal conversations, shared in the privacy of our own homes!

Humans are so brilliant in our ability to create. Whether it is new technology, or scientific or medical discoveries, humans have amazing creativity and skill. We humans are less proficient in creating and implementing the ethical imperatives necessary to live productively with the creations we have made. After a century of disagreements and shallow visions, the Church has abdicated its ethical voice in the world’s affairs. Yet, for people of faith, it is abhorrent to have ethical decisions made without God’s ethos being part of the equation.

When you sit in front of your television, at work, or in discussions with others, share your beliefs and understandings. But when you share, do it from the standpoint of faith. Study your Bible, go to adult education classes at church. Pray over challenging aspects in our world. All of us are called by God to be ethicists in our own small corner of the world. Most of us have pretty strong beliefs about politics and abortion to Xenophobia. We may even have some background based on things we have watched or read. Include your faith in your decision making process regarding the thought-provoking issues of the day.

Perhaps more than at any other point in human history, human beings need a strong ethical voice. People of faith need to take back their voice. It doesn’t just happen in universities or even in the pulpit. Real change happens when large numbers of faithful people - like you - study, think and respond with their voices. It is time for you and me to stop complaining and start acting. Begin by reading and coming to classes at church; then by sharing your beliefs. Be open to changing your mind, based on new information. But keep sharing in growing. God deserves a voice, and that comes through each of us sharing our voices together. Let’s get started.