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A Letter from the Pastor to Presbytery

"I Have a Dream," Part 5
May 27, 2010

Last week I disclosed the first part of my vision for our presbytery: “In a broken and fearful world…” I noted the importance of framing a vision of the world as it should be from the vantage point of the world as it really is. We can’t move toward something new if we fail to acknowledge where we presently stand.

These opening words are drawn from our Book of Confessions (from “A Brief Statement of Faith”). It is important that our vision be shaped not only by what we can see, but more comprehensively by what the larger church is able to see. Our perspective is corrected and sharpened as we listen to the wisdom of all the saints, both contemporary and historical.

The second phrase of my vision statement also “borrows” from our Book of Confessions, this time from the Westminster Catechism. It is brief, but loaded with enduring significance. “….Pittsburgh Presbytery glorifies God.” Any child of the Presbyterian Church recognizes this language from the first article of the Catechism:

Q. What is the chief end and purpose of man?
A. To glorify God and fully to enjoy him forever.

I was tempted to say, “In a broken and fearful world, Pittsburgh Presbytery seeks to glorify God.” Such modesty seems most appropriate, if we are speaking descriptively of things as they are. But a vision statement paints a picture of how things should be, of how faith declares they will be.

So what does it mean to “glorify” God? We almost never hear that term in reference to anyone or anything but God, so we need to unpack its meaning. To give God “glory” is to acknowledge God’s sheer greatness. The Hebrew word for “glory” is kabod, meaning “weight, mass, substance.” Kabod is the center of gravity. Everything is drawn to it.

One of the marks of childishness is the conviction that I am the center of the world. Maturity is measured by my progress toward understanding that such a worldview is literally eccentric, off-kilter. When I give glory to God, I declare that God is at the center, and I am not. God’s ways, God’s holiness, God’s law, God’s mercy, God’s love all matter infinitely more than my fulfillment, my well-being, my self-determination, and my ability to control things.

So when I speak of our presbytery glorifying God, I mean it as an acknowledgment that all judgment, power, and love belong to God and flow from God. The center of gravity lies in God and God alone. When we glorify God, we make it clear that we do not arrogate to ourselves that which belongs only to God. We live not to make our mark or secure our place in the world, but only and entirely to serve God’s will.

This is the first step toward healing the world’s brokenness and fears – point always and only toward the One who alone can heal the broken and quiet the turbulent waters of a fearsome world. “In a broken and fearful world, Pittsburgh Presbytery glorifies God.…” How? Stay tuned.

Soli Deo Gloria!

The Rev. Dr. Sheldon W. Sorge, Pastor to Presbytery

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