Exodus, Chapter 29

Sunday, July 5

Read

Exodus, Chapter 29

Reflect

These are the kinds of passages we often skip over in personal devotions, Bible studies, and sermon series.  Modern Christians assume these ancient practices of animal sacrifice are dated and no longer bear any relevance.  However, we know that there is a reason that the author of Exodus includes these details.  As the law around the tabernacle, worship and the priesthood are given to God’s people, we see that the emphasis is not so much on the people’s ability to follow every jot and tittle, but rather the willingness of God to come and dwell with his people.

There is a portion of this chapter that I had never really noticed before, but it seemed strangely specific and somewhat out of place.  What is all of this instruction around blood being smeared on the tips of Aaron and his sons’ ears, and the thumb of their right hands and the big toe of their foot?  That is especially odd and specific.  As we know by now, blood is a very important symbol of life as it is offered to God in total surrender.  To consecrate the priests with blood on these specific body parts was intentional.  As the blood touched their ear they were to hear differently; as it touched their thumb they should work differently; as it touched their toe they should walk differently.

To be one of God’s chosen is to have every part dedicated to him.

Respond

Though the way we set apart holy things today looks much different from this passage in Exodus, we still have means by which we notice the holy around us.  What could you do today as a way of re-dedicating your work, your time, your day to God?  Perhaps it’s a special prayer over the hands that cook dinner or hold children, maybe it’s a word of gratitude over the glasses that help you see and interact with the world. You could speak a blessing over your shoes as you slip them on in the morning – mindful of the places they will take you and the people you might encounter.

The Israelites had a unique understanding of God’s presence being bound up in the tabernacle; but we as Christians know that in Christ, God has come to us and is present everywhere through his Holy Spirit.  As you make your way through this week, take time to be intentional about naming and noticing the ways God is at work all around.

Pray

Gracious God, thank you for sending your Son among us to “tabernacle” here on earth and reveal your goodness and grace.  Make us eager students each day as we respond to your devotion to us with renewed joy and attentiveness.  We ask it in the name of Christ Jesus, the Word made flesh. Amen.

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Exodus, Chapter 23

Monday, June 29

Read

Exodus, Chapter 23

Reflect

The conversation may be as old as parenting itself. “But mom!  Everybody’s doing it!” To which the mom replies, “If everyone were jumping off a cliff would you?” Honest kids (and adults) will respond with a resounding, “If it was trending, maybe!” Exodus 23 points to the type of people the Hebrews are called to be. God’s people practice justice for all: not just when it’s convenient, not just when it’s advantageous, not just for the people who look, act, and believe the way they do, not just when its popular, but justice for all always. This impartial justice will set apart the people of God from the people of the world.  Think about where we are as a nation and world today. The governments and powers of the world have not been able to provide justice for all no matter how lofty their ideals and founding documents. Look no further than recent and current news to see that justice for all and always has yet to take place. Better yet, flip back and forth between news outlets to see opposing sides, stories, and accounts of who justice is for and what it is. What’s striking about this chapter is the description of justice is right alongside the description of Sabbath practice. If nothing else, the practice of sabbath will shape and form the people of God in a different way than the nations of the world. Remember they have just been slaves in Egypt. Slavery and PTO don’t go together. The sabbath is not only for the Hebrews but also for the non-Jews (slaves and aliens) who live in their midst. The sabbath protects vulnerable groups from oppression and exploitation. The sabbath, like God’s justice, is for all.  Not only the sabbath but the sabbatical year. If you told any business that once every week and once every 7 years they had to focus on resting and not producing . . . the CEO would probably disagree with your business model.  Justice, time, and rest are for all people and God has just given the Hebrew people systems to help the Hebrews practice it. Can you imagine Chic-fil-a being closed for a year?  The Hebrews are going into the promised land. This is territory that is currently occupied by others.  “Little by little”(v.30) as the Hebrew people grow God plans to give them this land. God plans to replace the unjust systems of the world with God’s justice through the Hebrew people. God invites us to do the same.  God invites us to practice, support, and live out this justice for all always.  Sometimes, the price of practicing God’s justice is inconvenient, unpopular, uncomfortable, lonely, and may even involve a cross. The Good news is that Christ has paid that price, shown us the way, and invited us to take up our cross and follow as disciples, apostles, ambassadors of God’s just mercy and grace.

Respond

Reread verses 1 through 9. Where do you see yourself, your family, your school, your business, our nation, and maybe even our church succeeding or failing to practice God’s justice? What could the Holy Spirit be calling you to do about it? If someone was to look at your life, would they notice anything different about the way you live because of the God you love? Is there something you have resisted doing or saying because you’re afraid of how it will look to the majority of those around you?

Pray

God of just mercy and amazing grace, teach me to look not only to my own interests but also to the interests of others. Make me mindful of ways I may have crucified your justice for my comfort, and little by little may the same mind be in me that was in Christ Jesus. May I be your willing instrument of justice and mercy in my home, community, and world. Amen.

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Exodus, Chapter 22

Sunday, June 28

Read

Exodus, Chapter 22

Reflect

Chapter 22 is part of a larger section of text here in the middle of Exodus called the Book of the Covenant.  It includes the 10 commandments listed in chapter 20 and other laws given to the Israelite people from Mt. Sinai.  While we as modern Christian readers may be tempted to skim over this section as an intrusion to the ongoing narrative, the ancient Israelites’ ears would have perked up.  Now that they have been redeemed, they want to know what to do.  And here is a key point – redemption always precedes law.  The law is a response to grace not a precondition for it.  So when we read these strange laws about oxen and idols and bestiality, we must remember these were words spoken by God to a redeemed people.  Now, in light of their redemption and freedom, they are to live in harmony with God and one another.

Our first temptation when confronted with verses like these that don’t easily translate into our modern culture is either to totally dismiss them or to try and uncover a hidden meaning or principle that we can fit into our contemporary context.  But the Book of the Covenant was a very specific law given at a particular time to a particular people for a particular purpose.  And because of that, these few chapters give us unique insight into the way God was shaping His people after their escape from Egypt.  They have a new start and these are just a few of the ways God wanted to structure their life together.

Respond

When you hear “grace precedes law,” how do you feel?  Is this assuring, threatening, does it bring up a sense of security?

For many of us, there is comfort in the law because when we are given a set of rules, we feel as if we are in control of our standing with God.  If we try just a bit harder or do a bit more, then perhaps we can earn an extra measure of His grace.  However, over and over again, especially in the Gospel narratives, we find that God’s grace cannot be controlled or tamed.  We are fully dependent on the God who eagerly extends irresistible grace to each of us as He took the form of a man and saved us from our sin.  There is nothing more to be done, no more grace to be earned.  We can trust Him.

Pray

Merciful God, we cannot fathom the expanse of your grace.  We cannot comprehend the depth of your love.  Forgive us when we try to limit you by our desire for control and our narrow understanding of your salvation.  When we become burdened by the laws and rules we set up for ourselves, reorient us, remind us of your economy of grace that doesn’t fit neatly into any of our boxes, but simply calls us to trust, to love, and to find freedom in our limits. In Christ’s name. Amen.

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Test

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Endowment Program Update

First Things First
Endowment Program Update

Once again, we can all be thankful for the generosity demonstrated by past members who included the church in their planned giving. Those gifts continue year after year to fund programs, projects and missions that otherwise would not be possible or would put pressure on our annual operating budget. Here’s a short list of some of the things that endowment fund income accomplished in 2013:

• $10,000 to assist two members in their seminary educational pursuits.
• $11,000 to support the Center for Youth Ministry Training.
• $117,000 for construction of a handicap ramp, roof repairs and other facility improvements.
• $46,000 for landscape, irrigation and asphalt improvements to church campus.
• $100,000 to support New Creation Church, our New Church Development project in Hendersonville.
• $7,000 to purchase donuts and coffee for the enjoyment of worshipers on Sunday mornings.
• $3,000 for scholarships for needy children to be able to attend the Oak Hill Day Camp.
• Funded various projects and initiatives to improve the Biblical Garden, the music program and other church outreach.

We sincerely hope that you will prayerfully consider joining those who have already expressed their love of the church by including it in their planned giving. What stronger statement is there about what was important in life than a gift that extends beyond one’s life on this earth? The easiest way for many members to participate is by a simple bequest in their will: “After all my bills are paid, I want X% of my estate to go to First Presbyterian Church.” Another easy method is to designate the church as a beneficiary of a percentage of a retirement account, such as a 401(k) account. There are other ways too, and any planned gift qualifies you for membership in our Vance Society. In 2013, we had several new Vance Society members. In fact, we will be recognizing all Vance Society members at our annual thank you dinner in a few weeks. This year’s Vance Society dinner will be Sunday evening, September 28, so now is a wonderful time for you to become a member of the Vance Society. Should you have an interest in joining the Vance Society and attending the dinner, please contact the church office (383-1815). Once you have included the church in your planned giving, complete the enrollment form that you can download from the church website at: fpcnashville.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/VanceSocietyEnroll.pdf, and send it to Cindy Bozman in the church office. And as always, we encourage you to contact any member of the Endowment Committee listed below or the church’s Finance Office if you have questions or you can use fully accountable e-commerce accounting services for this purpose as well. Thank you for your prayerful consideration!


 

Endowment Committee
Todd Jones, Staff Liaison Sam Cooper, Staff Liaison
Skip Stevens, Chair Eric Lamb
Allen Kennedy, Vice Chair Benjamin Carswell
Lawson C. Allen Les Coble
Susan Kaestner Tom Stumb

Week of November 14

Catherine Foster

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

On Sunday, November 25, First Presbyterian Church has the unique and exciting opportunity to welcome the Reverend Doctor Anthony Campolo. Dr. Campolo is an internationally celebrated speaker, author, sociologist, pastor, social activist and passionate follower of Jesus. First Presbyterian Church will be blessed to have Dr. Campolo in the pulpit at all three services. Additionally, he will join young adults for a special dinner in the Enrichment Center following the 5:30 service. While I was studying religion at Davidson College, I had the poignant experience of witnessing Dr. Campolo and his wife Peggy preach to a standing-room-only congregation in one of our local churches. What deeply impressed me about Dr. Campolo was his ability to communicate the gospel in such a clear, capable and convicting manner. He is not afraid to broach some of our nation’s most sensitive religious and social issues while simultaneously modeling respectful dialogue and Christian reconciliation. Though I did not agree with everything that Dr. Campolo espoused, I left the Davidson church that evening feeling intellectually challenged, spiritually recharged and generally more receptive to conversations with Christians whose positions differ from my own. Since then, I have jumped at the opportunity to hear Dr. Campolo on radio and TV, and I have consistently found his remarks to be relevant, insightful and faithful.

Dr. Campolo is an ordained American Baptist minister and prolific Evangelical Christian. Yet, Dr. Campolo refuses to be confined to any one denominational or sectarian platform. He has employed his fierce intellect and passionate love of Christ to serve as a major proponent for progressive thought and reform in the Evangelical Christian community. His sermons call Christians to respond to God’s boundless love by combining personal discipleship, evangelism and social justice.

Dr. Campolo is a graduate of Eastern College and earned a Ph.D. from Temple University. For ten years, he served on the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania and is a Professor Emeritus of Sociology at Eastern University in St. Davids, Pennsylvania. He has pastored churches in New Jersey and Pennsylvania and is presently recognized as an associate pastor of the Mount Carmel Baptist Church in West Philadelphia.

As part of his life’s work, Dr. Campolo is founder and president of the Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education (EAPE). For over thirty years, the EAPE has developed and nurtured elementary and secondary schools, universities, adult and child literacy centers, tutoring programs, orphanages, AIDS hospices, urban youth ministries, summer camps, and long-term Christian service programs across the United States and Canada, in parts of Africa, in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The EAPE embodies Dr. Campolo’s unique understanding of the gospel that combines personal discipleship and social justice. A prolific speaker and writer, Dr. Campolo has authored 39 books. His latest release is Red Letter Revolution, which he co-authored with Shane Claiborne, the leading figure on the Christian New Monasticism Movement. Other recent titles include: Choose Love Not Power; Connecting Like Jesus coauthored with Mary Albert Darling; Stories That Feed Your Soul; Red Letter Christians, A Citizen’s Guide to Faith and Politics; The God of Intimacy and Action co-authored with Mary Albert Darling; Letters to a Young Evangelical; Adventures in Missing the Point co-authored with Brian McLaren and The Survival Guide for Christians on Campus co-authored with Will Willimon. Dr. Campolo speaks about 350 different times each year around the world. His diverse audiences include churches, colleges, youth groups and the business community. He has guest starred on television programs including the Colbert Report, Nightline, Crossfire, Larry King Live, CNN News and MSNBC news. He co-hosted his own television series, Hashing It Out, on the Odyssey Network, presently hosts Across The Pond, a weekly program on the Premier Christian Radio Network in England and also co-hosts Red Letter Christianity on JCTV.

Dr. Campolo and his wife, Peggy, live in the Philadelphia area and have two grown children and four grandchildren. Sunday, November 25, would be an excellent Sunday to invite a friend to experience this internationally renowned preacher at First Presbyterian Church.

You may not agree with everything he says, but I can guarantee you that you will leave church challenged, entertained and inspired. His books will be on sale in the FPC bookstore, Bookmarks on November 18 and 25, and December 2.

To learn more about Dr. Campolo, visit TonyCampolo.org and his blog RedLetterChristians.org.

Grace & Peace,

Catherine Foster, Associate Pastor

Catherine Foster

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