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Monday, October 22, 2018

WVUKirk-PSF advent devotional scripture

Homework: Read and carry around this passage until 10/24/18:  Philippians 1:18b-26
We are writing a prayer, devotion, and/or creating art for the national Presbyterian Campus ministry Advent devotion book with this!!

Philippians 1:18-26
18 What do I think about this? Just this: since Christ is proclaimed in every possible way, whether from dishonest or true motives, I’m glad and I’ll continue to be glad. 19 I’m glad because I know that this will result in my release through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ. 20 It is my expectation and hope that I won’t be put to shame in anything. Rather, I hope with daring courage that Christ’s greatness will be seen in my body, now as always, whether I live or die. 21 Because for me, living serves Christ and dying is even better. 22 If I continue to live in this world, I get results from my work. 23 But I don’t know what I prefer. I’m torn between the two because I want to leave this life and be with Christ, which is far better. 24 However, it’s more important for me to stay in this world for your sake. 25 I’m sure of this: I will stay alive and remain with all of you to help your progress and the joy of your faith, 26 and to increase your pride in Christ Jesus through my presence when I visit you again. (Common English Bible)

Philippians 1:18-26 The Message (MSG)
18-21 So how am I to respond? I’ve decided that I really don’t care about their motives, whether mixed, bad, or indifferent. Every time one of them opens his mouth, Christ is proclaimed, so I just cheer them on!
And I’m going to keep that celebration going because I know how it’s going to turn out. Through your faithful prayers and the generous response of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, everything he wants to do in and through me will be done. I can hardly wait to continue on my course. I don’t expect to be embarrassed in the least. On the contrary, everything happening to me in this jail only serves to make Christ more accurately known, regardless of whether I live or die. They didn’t shut me up; they gave me a pulpit! Alive, I’m Christ’s messenger; dead, I’m his bounty. Life versus even more life! I can’t lose.
22-26 As long as I’m alive in this body, there is good work for me to do. If I had to choose right now, I hardly know which I’d choose. Hard choice! The desire to break camp here and be with Christ is powerful. Some days I can think of nothing better. But most days, because of what you are going through, I am sure that it’s better for me to stick it out here. So I plan to be around awhile, companion to you as your growth and joy in this life of trusting God continues. You can start looking forward to a great reunion when I come visit you again. We’ll be praising Christ, enjoying each other.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Searching for God: So easy, so hard

Each week the PSF reads along with the Ukirk lectionary. September 19 we read the beatitudes in Matthew 5.  The are beautiful in their simplicity of what is blessed.  We can read these words and agree -- yes, this is what God is about.  These are easy to understand.  Yet, as we easily skim through or social media feeds #blessed stands in stark contrast to Jesus' words.  It's also just that hard.

Here are Jesus' words in the NRSV Matthew 5
 ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
 ‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
 ‘Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
 ‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
 ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
 ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
 ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
 ‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
 ‘Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Here is how a brief search of social media sites defined blessed. 
A quick search of #blessed and this is how its defined.

Read again Matthew and contrast where happiness is found.  It is no wonder we are more anxious at times.  When we are faced with well put together pictures of happiness and #blessed, it is easy to assume that is what blessing looks like. We can feel apart from God and God's promises.  The promise and good news of Jesus' words in this passage is that blessedness is not based on exterior traits, stuff we have, being popular, keeping it together, or getting it right. 

Matthew 5 (Common English Bible)
5 1 Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up a mountain. He sat down and his disciples came to him. 2 He taught them, saying:
Happy people
3 “Happy are people who are hopeless, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
4 “Happy are people who grieve, because they will be made glad.
5 “Happy are people who are humble, because they will inherit the earth.
6 “Happy are people who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness, because they will be fed until they are full.
7 “Happy are people who show mercy, because they will receive mercy.
8 “Happy are people who have pure hearts, because they will see God.
9 “Happy are people who make peace, because they will be called God’s children.
10 “Happy are people whose lives are harassed because they are righteous, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
11 “Happy are you when people insult you and harass you and speak all kinds of bad and false things about you, all because of me. 12 Be full of joy and be glad, because you have a great reward in heaven. In the same way, people harassed the prophets who came before you.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Search for God: Called out of the ordinary

Each week the PSF reads along with the Ukirk lectionary.  Last week (Sept. 12) we read the story of Jesus' call of the disciples in Matthew 4:18 - 25.  Jesus meets the soon to be called disciples while they are taking part in their everyday work and calls out to them.  They immediately drop everything (their work and their family) to follow Jesus.   

Here is a quote from this story:
And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.’ Immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him. (NRSV)

Another translation:
19 “Come, follow me,” he said, “and I’ll show you how to fish for people.” 20 Right away, they left their nets and followed him. 21 Continuing on, he saw another set of brothers, James the son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with Zebedee their father repairing their nets. Jesus called them and 22 immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him. (Common English Bible)

The first disciples were not looking for Jesus.  Instead, Jesus found them in the midst of their daily routine.  How does God find us in our routines?  How is God speaking to us?  The daily examen is a practice where one reflects at the end of the day on both the consolation (graces) and desolation (absences) of God throughout the day.  It is an intentional way to see where God has been approaching us all day and a space to ask for God's presence where it has felt absent.

The first disciples dropped everything to focus on and follow Jesus.  What would compel you to more fully focus and follow Jesus?

Here are some links about the examen:  

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

What's coming up!

What’s happening at the Presbyterian Campus Ministry!

Wednesday is coming!  Dinner is awesome:  sweat and sour chicken, rice, egg drop soup, almond cookies!  We can accommodate dietary needs (just give us a heads up if you can!!).  Dinner starts at 7 pm, drop in any time after 6:00 pm.  Program:  Gospel in 7 Words, pt. 1 (God).  We close with prayer. 293 Willey Street

Worship, 11 am, Sundays, at First Presbyterian Church, Morgantown, downtown

Weekly Bible Study starting Sept. 18:  Bible and Burritos, Black Bear Evansdale, in the side room

Pancake Breakfast, Sun. Sept. 23:  Sign up on ISERVE here.  We prepare and serve a  hot breakfast to all who need it at First Presbyterian Church, Morgantown, 7 am – 10 am, 456 Spruce St, downtown, come in on Forest Ave, head upstairs to gym.  We will serve again Nov. 11!

Follow along with us!  Weekly Bible reflection.  Stay connected even when you can’t be there.

Calendar updated!  You can subscribe to it in google:  WVU Presbyterians

Contact us at:  wvupsf@gmail.com

Still want to go hiking!  Weather is not on our side.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Search for God: Tempted

Each week the PSF reads along with the Ukirk lectionary.  Last week (Sept. 5) we read the story of Jesus' temptation and the whole armor of God from Ephesians (Matthew 4:1–11 Jesus Tempted in the Desert, Ephesians 6:10–20 The Armor of God).  In Matthew's telling, Jesus is first tempted to relieve his hunger, then to save himself, then to command all the kingdoms of the world.  Read Luke's version and notice an ordering difference and wonder for a bit about each author's choice.  Supposedly the third temptation is the greatest.  Why would each author choose a different final temptation?  What would be the most challenging for you to refuse?  Food when you are starving?  Healing/life when you are close to death?  All the power in the world? 

Ephesians reminds us that we need to be strengthened with truth, faith, righteousness, and most importantly prayer for ourselves and prayers for others. 
Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints. Pray also for me, so that when I speak, a message may be given to me to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it boldly, as I must speak.  (NRSV)

In the tradition of the PC(USA) Matthew 4 shows up most often around Lent.  However, we face temptation to follow other more compelling calls and paths all the time -- especially as we start a new school year or place.  Here is a prayer to sustain us inspired by Matthew 4:1-11, Mark 1:9-15, Luke 4:1-13.

Holy God, by the grace of Jesus Christ
you know the tests and trials we face.
Walk with us through this wilderness.
Come to us with ministers of healing
and visit us with messengers of hope,
so that we may return to you in faith,
believing the good news of the gospel;
through Jesus Christ our Savior.

— posted on the Presbyterian Church USA website. http://www.pcusa.org/

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Searching for God: Challenge and the waters of baptism

We are reading through the Ukirk lectionary each Wednesday primarily focusing on Matthew.  Last week's reading was  Matthew 3:1–17 John the Baptist/Jesus' Baptism.

Check out this description of John the Baptist (NRSV):
In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’ This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said,
‘The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
   make his paths straight.” ’ 
Now John wore clothing of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

John was clearly not the clean cut, respectable, hip pastor of the day.  I don't think camel hair was any more popular then -- nor was eating locusts.  John's presence offered a challenge to the faith tradition as it was being organized and lived out.  He called for a new way of thinking and living.  It was a challenge to the way things were always done.  If you read on, you'll see he is not kind to the religious leaders and calls on them specifically to change their lives.

As we look for signs of where God is moving in our lives ponder these questions:
How does God put experiences and people in our path that challenge our assumptions?
How can challenges to our faith help us see new places God is working?
Where is God speaking in unexpected places and people?

Last week we talked about that fear in the pit of the stomach and places that are not life-giving but are rather death-dealing.  To be challenged in our faith is different.  It is not something to be feared but something to explore with trusted mentors and in a community of believers.  John's challenge to the way things always have been comes as he is baptizing followers and Jesus.  We must remember that our baptism does not mean an easy life, but a life of both great joy and great challenges.  The promise in baptism is that Christ has gone before us and God's grace is always with us.

Another question to ponder:
In what ways has your faith been challenged?
In what ways have you seen God's grace?

We are reminded of how challenging and costly this life is by Dietrich Bonhoeffer  in the Cost of Discipleship:  Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which [one] must knock.  Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ.  It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives [us] the only true life.

This poem is attributed the French Reformed Baptismal liturgy:
For you, little child,
Jesus Christ has come, he has fought, he has suffered.
For you he entered the shadow of Gethsemane and the horror of Calvary.
For you he uttered the cry, “It is finished!”
For you he rose from the dead
and ascended into heaven
and there he intercedes —
for you, little child, even though you do not know it.
But in this way the word of the Gospel becomes true.
“We love him, because he first loved us.”

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Searching for God: fear

The PSF follows the Ukirk lectionary along with other Presbyterian Church USA campus ministries each year (see our read along with  us).  We are specifically focusing on the Matthew texts in the lectionary this fall.

The second week of PSF we read together Matthew 2:13 - 23 and Galatians 5:16 - 25

From  Matthew we focused on: Now after the wise men had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.’ Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I have called my son.’ (NRSV)

I John reminds us that perfect love casts out fear.  While we seek and see God in places of deep joy and head down those paths, paths that fill us with fear need to be scrutinized.  There is reasonable fear-- of the new, the unknown, the obviously dangerous, etc.  But fear that grows in the pit of our stomach, fear that comes when we know the our well-being (peace) or that of others is threatened is a 'do not enter,' or turn around sign.  Those might also be times and places where we need the support of the Body of Christ/the Church to fight against whatever is not seeking well being (peace) for all of God's children and creation.  So, while we may turn for a bit, we may strengthen ourselves in community to return and witness to God's radical love, grace, and welcome.

Galatians 5 again reminded us of signs to seek:  By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  When we find ourselves experiencing these fruits, we again are experiencing God among us.