2-Week Study on Pentecost

On May 12 and May 19 we will be having a two week study on Pentecost.

John Wren will be leading a lesson on May 12 and you can access that lesson materials here.

Adam will be leading a lesson on May 19, continuing the conversation from the first week’s discussion on Pentecost, and asking the question: “What does it mean for us today??”

We hope you will join us for these two weeks of conversation. We will take May 26 off for Memorial Day, and then Connie and Jerry Freed will be doing a two week Adult Education Series on Hospitality on June 2 and June 9.


Gospel Portraits of Jesus

April 7 begins our first in a series of five Adult Education Classes based on our new curriculum, “Gospel Portraits of Jesus.” “Gospel Portraits of Jesus” is a 5-week class that will explore a number of the names and titles for Jesus that appear in the four Gospels, with some attention to relevant Old Testament passages. The sequence of the names and titles of Jesus for our course of study moves from the most familiar name, Jesus, to Jesus’ activities as teacher, to several common metaphors such as bread, to more abstract names like Messiah and Son of God, concluding with a focus on resurrection and life. We hope you will join Connie and Adam for this conversation about Jesus and the Gospels on Sunday mornings at 9am in the Fireside Room.

This class is structured around discussion guides that you should read prior to coming to that class on Sunday morning. This isn’t a strict requirement, but our conversations will be based on the material for that Sunday morning. In order to help cut down on the amount of copies that we make at the church, I’ve put electronic copies of the curriculum below for you to download on your home computer, or iPad, and then decide if you want to print it out. The dates match up with what topic will be discussed.

We look forward to this exploration into the different portrayals of Jesus found in the four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke & John.

Week 1 (April 7) – Session 1: Jesus is the name given by the messenger of the Lord to the One who would be born of Mary by the Holy Spirit. Download curriculum here.

Week 2 (April 14) – Session 2: Jesus is called Rabbi, Teacher, and Master. Download curriculum here.

Week 3 (April 21) – Session 3: In the Gospel of John, Jesus speaks of himself as Bread of Life, Light of the World, Good Shepherd, and True Vine. Download curriculum here.

Week 4 (April 28) – Session 4: Messiah or Christ is a title by which Jesus was identified by the writers of the Gospels and other writers of the New Testament. Download curriculum here.

Week 5 (May 5) – Session 6: “I am the Resurrection and the Life” and “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life” are two more ways that Jesus spoke of himself in the Gospel of John. Download curriculum here.

Animate: Week 7

Church| An Imperfect Family • Bruce Reyes-Chow
Bruce Reyes-Chow knows he’s not inventing the metaphor of the church as family. So he suggests we take our changing notions about what it means to be a family and let them seep into our understanding of the church. For Bruce, it’s the messiness, the dysfunction, and the joy that comes from complex relationships that make church worth hanging on to. So how do we stay connected to this sometimes-broken family system? What does it mean to commit ourselves to the church family, for better or for worse?

We began our last class together (for this round of Animate) talking about reasons for going to church and reasons for not going to church. These are the lists that you all came up with:

Reasons to Go to Church: 

  1. To be with people who also are celebrating Christ
  2. Face-to-face interaction / community.
  3. We are supposed to go.
  4. To have a dedicated period of time to center in on my relationship with God. Helpful to be around others who are hopefully seeking the same.
  5. To keep the sabbath day.
  6. Come to expose children to Christianity, other generations of people.
  7. Getting in hopes of getting a message, a spirit of renewal. Reminder that we are Christian.
  8. Find family there.
  9. To be around others who do believe in a very spiritual but not religious area.
  10. Engage with scripture.

Reasons to NOT Go to Church:

  1. To sleep in.
  2. To enjoy a day off with family.
  3. To read the paper / cup of coffee.
  4. We have other small group opportunities, that might be better.
  5. The services have gotten too routine/predictable.
  6. Hard to be somewhere if issues being spoken about are not where you are at on those issues.

When we were having our conversation yesterday, I was reminded of this video here, which I think is pretty well done:

In Bruce’s video, he talked about a variety of metaphors for the church, and for him, he landed on the Church as Family being a very helpful metaphor for him. Probably one of the reasons is that we all know how messed up our own families are. Though, perhaps because of that, that makes us have unrealistic expectations that our “church” families would be perfect, or at least better than our own families. But if we stop and think about it honestly, we’d realize that our churches are just as messed up as any family. Bruce asks the question, “When we call the church a family, do we really mean it?”

So…do we? We’ve been talking about that a lot here at First Presbyterian Church, and have used the language of wanting to be a unified church family. So, we could ask ourselves that same question that Bruce asked: “When we call the First Presbyterian Church of Ashland a family, do we really mean it?” What do you think?

I really appreciated people’s honesty and vulnerability in sharing about their experiences with church, specifically their experiences here at First Pres. Some shared that they haven’t found our faith community to be as welcoming and friendly and inviting as perhaps we’d like our community to be, and those are always good reminders of things that we can work on.

Any lingering thoughts or questions that came to mind about the topic of the Church?

Animate: Week 6

Bible | A Book Like No Other • Lauren Winner
Why read the Bible? This is Lauren Winner’s central question. For Lauren, an avid reader, there remains something odd about the way Christians read the Bible. Why do we keep turning to the same stories in search of some new revelation? What is it about the Bible that makes it worth repeated reading? What gets in our way as we read the Bible and try to make sense of it? These are issues the church has wrestled with for centuries and yet we keep at it. We keep coming back to this book and its strange narrative full of plagues and miracles and destruction and rebirth. So why do we do it?

Here’s just a brief video about Lauren Winner talking about Animate – this will be great that we can use some of these videos in church to talk about the Animate 2.0 Adult Ed that we’ll be doing, starting in January.

One thing that we didn’t get a chance to talk a ton about was from pages 92-93 in the Animate Journals: the Uses and Abuses of the Bible. I think that for many people, that’s one of the big problems with the Bible – the way that it’s been abused and misused by so many Christians throughout the history of Christianity. Check out this video below, which shares a story from Donald Miller’s book “Blue Like Jazz.” In that book, he tells a story about setting up a “Confession Booth” at an event at Reed College in Portland. However, this wasn’t like any other confession booth, it was a chance for people to come to the booth, and for Christians to confess the sins that Christians have been a part of over the years.

I think we have much we need to confess for, when it comes to how Christians have used and abused the Bible. What are some abuses of the Bible that you can think of now?

Lauren shares this quote from Thomas Merton in the video, in which Merton finally started reading the Bible and then had this to say:

“By reading the Scriptures I am so renewed that all nature seems renewed around me and with me. The sky seems to be a pure, cooler blue, the trees, a deeper green. The whole earth is charged with the glory of God, and I feel fire and music under my feet.”

Have you seen this happen in your own life? What other questions remain for you about the Bible, its authority and how we interact with scripture in our daily lives?

Animate: Week 5

Cross | Where God Is • Nadia Bolz-Weber
The cross sits at the center of our faith, and yet our understanding of what exactly happened on that cross remains conflicted and confusing. Was Jesus our proxy? The payment? The only way to appease an angry God? Nadia Bolz-Weber reminds us that our theories about the cross tell us as much about ourselves and our view of God as they do about Jesus and salvation.

Hey everyone – I wasn’t there for the Animate conversation about Nadia Bolz-Weber’s talk on atonement and the cross, so I’m going to share this video and then pose a few questions. I think this video doesn’t have as much to do with atonement theories or questions about the cross, but it does give you a better sense of where she’s coming from:

When you think back to the discussion you had on the atonement and cross last week – what sticks out to you as some new insights or understandings you took away from the conversation? What surprised you? Are there still things about the cross that you find hard to swallow? Hard to understand?

I don’t know if you got into different atonement theories, but if you did, which of those do you find yourself connecting with most?

Any other questions the discussion raised for you?

Animate: Week 4

Salvation | Abundant Life Now • Shane Hipps
The cross of Christ stands as a symbol of God’s saving work. But what, exactly, does it mean to be saved? From what? For what? Is salvation a reward we claim at death or something meant to change our lives right now? For Shane Hipps, these are the questions we need to answer if we are to truly receive the release that comes with salvation in the here and now.

I’m grateful for all of you and our wonderful conversation this morning. In case you wanted to see the information about Hellbound?, you can find out more information on their website here, and you can watch the movie trailer below. I’m planning on taking the College Group to the showing on October 17th and staying for the Q&A afterwards.

It was wonderful to hear your thoughts on salvation this morning. It’s definitely something that can stir up a lot of thoughts (both good and bad) for people, and so I appreciated your willingness to share them.

I think for me, a lot of what Shane talked about in terms of salvation being in the HERE and NOW as opposed to being something we just think about for later or then…a lot of that plays in very nicely with this idea of being saved versus saved as a one-time decision.

And for many of us, we can probably relate to both of those two ideas co-existing in our own spiritual lives. For me, I can look back on a moment (or perhaps two) where I think I might have been able to say, I experienced “salvation” or “I was saved.” But it certainly wasn’t a one-time deal for me. There were continually moments, sign posts along the journey, where I’ve had more and more of those moments, where it really does become a process, a journey, of salvation.

One thing I like to do sometimes, is to do a Google search for a word, but look at the Image results. I just did that with “salvation” – there are about 69,200,000 images results: here are a few of the ones that came up in the top 30 results.

This is kind of a typical understanding of “salvation” I think. Probably one that many of us don’t really connect with. We’re on one side of a chasm, and the only way to get over to the other side and be “saved” is by accepting/receiving Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior…after that, everything is okay – because we’re on the “right side” of the chasm.

This one is for a kid’s curriculum, and is the “list of things” that need to happen for a child before they can be baptized…wow! That’s a lot of pressure for a child to have to have faith, believe, pray, repent and confess…all before they’re able to baptized…obviously, a much different understanding of baptism than we have in the Presbyterian church. So, I’m not sure if for these people you must get to “baptism” before they would say you’re fully “saved” or not, but…again, an interesting take on salvation.

This image connects with me a bit better – and seems to be more like what Shane was talking about, especially in terms of the idea of a rope becoming undone, or something inside us being “loosened.” I can imagine Shane doing this after his conversation and prayer with his father from his story. It appears that this person is ready to receive something…maybe that is salvation, putting ourselves in places and postures ready to receive God’s blessings and gifts?

I like this one the best. It really does portray to me the idea of the journey – of setting out on a quest…

Which image do you connect with? Do your own Google Search, and post a link to a photo that speaks to you or resonates with you when you think about salvation.

In the end, I wonder how we would all answer that question from the end of the video. If the 25,500 days are really the entree, and not the appetizer, if we can experience the kingdom of God and salvation in the here and now…and not wait for the afterlife (whatever that might be)…how does that change the way we live? How does that change the way we treat others? How does that change the way we look at our lives, the ways we encounter God? Does it?


“A Conversation about Prayer” by Dianna Warner

This past Sunday in worship, in lieu of a traditional sermon, we were blessed with an original piece of reader’s theater written by Dianna Warner. Everyone involved (children, young adults and adults) did a wonderful job, and we wanted to at least share the text with those of you who weren’t able to be there. Many thanks to Dianna and all those involved.

A Conversation about Prayer

Beginning: One Verse of “Oh Lord Hear My Prayer” (a Taize piece)

Voice One: Why do we Pray, when do we pray, How do we pray? The writer of James tells us in Chapter 5:13 – 18 – Are any among you suffering? They should pray.

Voice Two: “Help me, help me, help me!”

Voice One: Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise.

Child’s Voice: “Dear God, thank You for the baby brother but what I prayed for was a puppy.”

Voice One: Anne Lamott says:

Voice Two: Here are the two best prayers I know: ‘Help me, help me, help me’ and ‘Thank you, thank you…’ I have a friend whose morning prayer each day is

Katie: “Whatever,”

Voice Two: and whose evening prayer is

Katie: “Oh, well.”

Voice One: James continues in verse 14: Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. In Prayers from the Heart by Richard Foster, he speaks this healing prayer:

John: “Lord Jesus Christ, when I read the gospel stories I am touched by your healing power. You healed sick bodies to be sure, but you did so much more. You healed the spirit and the deep inner Mind. Most of all I am touched by your actions of acceptance that spoke healing into those who lived on the margins of life-shoved aside by the strong and the powerful. Speak your healing into me, Lord -body mind and soul. Most of all, heal my sense of worthlessness. My head tells me that I am of infinite value to you but my heart cannot believe it. Heal my heart, Jesus, heal my heart.”

Voice One: The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven.

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