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A Letter from the General Minister to Pittsburgh Presbytery

Top News Stories of 2014
January 2, 2014

You may think the title above is a typo, but it is not. Many folk this week are recalling 2013’s top stories, as determined by one expert or another. But I already know 2014’s top stories for Pittsburgh Presbytery!

That’s because I know our top stories are not those associated with ephemeral occasions or shooting stars, with crises or celebrations, with gains or losses, or with trending developments. Of course such stories make the news, but they don’t determine our longer trajectories. The top stories of life are those that abide with us and form us over the long haul. Our reactions to momentary events, moving targets, or passing fads are incidental at most.

I am beginning my fifth year in Pittsburgh Presbytery (already!) with some confidence about what I have seen that constitutes abiding bedrock for us. These large foundational stones will be the biggest stories for us in 2014, even as they have been over years past.

One: The Gospel will be preached in our congregations, and as it is, people will be drawn to trust more and more in the God revealed to us in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. I have seen much hand-wringing among some folk worrying that our church has abandoned Jesus. In most cases I know, that worry is founded on things that we hear from the Chicken Littles among us (and there is never a lack of such) more than from our direct experience of hearing what churches are actually proclaiming. I have the wonderful privilege of visiting churches of every social and theological location, and I can attest that in every church I have visited in our presbytery I have heard the Gospel proclaimed clearly, with conviction. The Bible is read carefully and preached diligently, Jesus is confessed as Lord and Savior, and the church is actively engaged in Christ’s mission to the world. Without exception. Let us cease alleging otherwise as we fire salvos from a distance at folk who are not in our particular “camp.”

Two:  The world around us will need desperately to hear the good news of the Gospel. There will be poverty, calamity, and corruption that cause folk to long for what we proclaim as the Kingdom of God. The fields will be white unto harvest.

Three:  Our commitments to one another will be tested. The bonds that hold the church together in union with Christ have always been assailed – why should it be different for us here and now? When Jesus prayed that we would remain one even as he and the Father are one, he was not naïve about how that will be opposed. Some forces will threaten to dismember the church from without, and some from within. Some among us will decide that they can no longer walk with the rest of us – that will be a passing story, not a lasting one.

Four:  Reconciliation will happen. Folk who have been separated will find their breaches mended. This will happen not because we change heart, but because of the reconciling work of the cross that inevitably prevails over the hostilities that divide us.

Five:  God will be glorified – in us, through us, and in spite of us! Even when wrong and calamity seem to prevail around us, among us, and within us, God’s glory will be the final story.

Six:  Jesus will be with us every step of the way. And so we will always be fully ready and equipped to conduct his ministry – no matter what happens in the world around us. No matter what happens at General Assembly. No matter our economic situation. Come hell or high water. And he will be as relaxed as ever – asleep on a cushion amid the storm.

As the New Year dawns, I appeal to you always to attend to the big story, to focus your eyes, set your hearts, and put your hands to things that last. Turn away from story-tellers who focus on the church’s passing fancies or foibles, as though they change everything. No worldly power, no churchly action, no social upheaval, no calamity of nature, nothing that may come our way will change God’s love and purpose for us. That’s the big story for 2014!

Happy New Year!       

The Rev. Dr. Sheldon W. Sorge, General Minister

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