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A Letter from the Pastor to Presbytery

Three Main Things
March 10, 2011

We all know the old saw: In real estate, there are three things that matter most – location, location, location. Of course that is an oversimplification, but it underscores the core truth that without a good location, a property will be worth less and will sell more slowly.

In that vein, a similar “three things” priority statement emerged at our Council retreat a couple of weeks ago. We had been discussing our presbytery mission statement, and the vision that it serves, and found ourselves focusing on what it means as a presbytery to be a body bound together in witness to the Gospel. We confessed that all too often we conduct our witness separately, or do it together only in fragments. But as a covenant community, we are called and destined by God to witness together to the mighty acts of God in Jesus Christ. We believe that bearing witness together is essential to the right proclamation of the Gospel and to the right representation of who Jesus is.

Meanwhile another conversation was also in progress, this one around our presbytery motto, “Vital congregations bringing people to Christ.” Are we in fact bringing people to Christ?

In reflecting on this discussion, one Council member said that what he heard in our conversation was that there are three priorities most important for us to recover as a presbytery: relationship, relationship, relationship. First, there is the matter of our relationship with one another rooted in our shared relationship to our Lord. We are bound to one another because we are all bound to the one Lord, Jesus Christ. Whatever we do in his name, we must do it together, if we want Christ to be at the center of all we are and do. One of our great challenges is to be intentional in continually nurturing strong sinews of relationship with one another. Second, because of our relationship with Christ, we necessarily have a relationship to the world he came to save. Christianity cannot sequester itself in isolation, but must always be going public with its witness. This means we must be always engaged in evangelism, proclaiming to the world in word and deed the Good News of God’s unquenchable love revealed in Jesus Christ. Might the fact that we sometimes falter in our public witness be rooted in an underlying disconnect in our relationships with each other?

What is the state of our union in Christ? Do we do all in our power to guard our bonds with one another with the help of the Holy Spirit, or do we treat our koinonia as something secondary, a nice bonus when we have the more important stuff right? Let’s be clear: Relationship is not a secondary benefit, but lies at the very core of our life as Christ’s disciples. We cannot have right relationship with God if we are not rightly related to one another. John Calvin commended the famed saying of the ancient church father Cyprian: We cannot have God as Father if we do not have the Church as our Mother. By this, Calvin and Cyprian both had in mind the visible, tangible fellowship of believers in a particular place and time. The church is not an invisible spiritual body; rather, it is flesh and blood joined in an actual place discoverable by GPS.

Relationship, relationship, relationship – this gets lived out in location, location, location. It is never something abstract; it is always concrete. It is real people living together as Christ’s disciples in a particular place at a particular time. It is congregations joined in concert to praise and serve the Triune God, for the sake of the world. It is the community known as Pittsburgh presbytery covenanted to speak and live the transforming word of the Gospel in Allegheny County in 2011 and beyond.

Grateful that God has bound us together,

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

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