Joint Heirs with Christ
For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.
This week, we are embarking on am ambitious season of meetings in San Gabriel Presbytery. On Wednesday evening, we begin our annual leadership training event, WinterFest, which continues on Thursday and Friday evenings. On Saturday morning, we have a brief Presbytery meeting, followed by the plenary session of WinterFest. Then, a week later, on February 10th, we begin a Presbytery-
wide Lenten series, “Becoming the Beloved Community,” which will meet on Tuesday evenings from February 13th-March 19th. After a break for Holy Week and Easter, we will have a closing session on April 6th. I strongly recommend you participate in any and all of these events. Click HERE to register for the Presbytery meeting, and/or WinterFest. And for the Lenten series, we have heard that folks are having a hard time committing to every session. We invite you to come to the first sessions if you can, and see how it feels. And though we are hoping folks will make this commitment as their Lenten practice this year (and we hope the small groups will get to know each other better each time they meet), we are no longer requiring people to attend every session.
As I think about some of our upcoming activities, they offer glimpses of life as joint heirs with Christ. As we take on the identity of being children of God, who become our family members?
Some of our WinterFest sessions help us expand and deepen our vision of who is in Christ’s family:
- On Wednesday, we will hear from some of our younger pastoral leaders about their vision for the future The qualification for their presence on the panel? As they have connected with our presbytery, they have used terms and described ministries that have baffled us! Their visions areintriguing and enlightening as we look not at how to polish up the old way of doing church, or even get “back to normal” post-COVID, but how to look at the concerns and lifestyles of the next generation of God’s family.
- On Thursday, we can listen to an Indigenous Christian voice in Mona Morales Mona is not only a ruling elder of La Verne Heights Presbyterian Church, she is a member of the Gabrieleño-Tongva San Gabriel Band of Mission Indians and an elected commissioner with the Los Angeles City/County Native American Indian Commission. Because of the Christian church’s earlier coercion and violence against Native Americans, it is a rare gift to have in our familysomeone who has been able to hold her Indigenous identity and Christian faith together, and who is willing to invite us to journey with Christ’s Indigenous siblings in a path towards healing.
- On Friday, we can learn how to respond with compassion and respect to the children of God who are without shelter. Homeless people often turn to churches seeking a safe place to rest and have a meal, and in a recent survey we heard from many of you a need to learn how to respond when they approach We will hear from some of the key agencies in San Gabriel Valley who work with our unhoused neighbors: Union Station, Friends in Deed, and Volunteers of America in Pomona.
- On Saturday, we will begin to explore how to come to know each other better as siblings in Christ, beyond the assumptions and false controlling narratives that keep us from seeing all that we are. For the ten years I have been with this presbytery, you have expressed a desire to buildrelationships across the presbytery, and learn about the diversity of God’s creativity by learning from each other, in this little branch of God’s family tree.
- On Thursday and Friday, we also have the opportunity to confront the fear that the world puts on After all, don’t we often react with fear when we think about financial management and legal issues? We are grateful to have experts in their field—Kevin Haah on Thursday, pastor and attorney, and Renato Halili on Friday, CPA and former controller of Forest Lawn Mortuary—who are also faithful Christians to help us live out our faith in the midst of the structures of the world.
And just for fun, the Education Equipping and Empowering Committee is offering $100 gift cards with Homeboy Industries for intergenerational church teams attending WinterFest. You can use them at https://shophomeboy.com/ but better yet—go see what God is doing in downtown LA and get a great meal at Homegirl Café!
On a more serious note, I have heard that many people are struggling these days. Several people have had clustered or lingering health problems; someone just texted me as I have been writing this column that he was out for a month due to pneumonia. I just heard about a concerning survey of pastors that reveal a rising number of pastors who are suffering from loneliness and burnout, and are considering leaving the ministry. This would be a time for people to fall into the enslaving spirit of fear, of anxiety, of exhaustion. Thank God for this family of faith, as we can be reminded that we are not alone, we are strong in Christ’s presence, and we can be inspired by our friends who are excited about their ministries. We can know the glory of Christ, and the love of God, but also a bit of the suffering he sustained for our sakes. Even when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we do not fear, as we know the comforting guidance of our God.
Recently I mentioned to some folks that I have never seen so many times when God broke in to give extraordinary providence and grace as in the life of this presbytery. May we take confidence in the knowledge that God is with us, and acts for us, and works through us. I hope to see you this week.
In Christ’s love,