by | Sep 18, 2023

Do not deceive yourselves. If you think that you are wise in this age, you should become fools so that you may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.

1 Corinthians 3:18-19a

I realize that the last several weeks I have been reflecting on paradoxes, as I have seen how God’s world seems to be our world, inside out. Even the way I describe this paradox shows the bias of my perspective—I am tempted to say that God’s world is an inversion of our world. But, if we are to reflect our Reformed viewpoint of God’s sovereignty, God’s world is not the inversion; God’s world is good, and eternal. Our world is the inversion, or the distortion, of God’s world. But since I was born to this world, it seems to me that God’s world is the strange place I must attempt to accept.

 I’m sure you have seen different optical illusions that show how we can see things differently. One of the most famous ones I just learned is usually titled “My Wife and My Mother-in-Law”—I don’t like the implications of that title, so I won’t show it, though
my guess is you know the image I mean. I’m showing instead another image that is also very popular, especially in church circles. Let me know if you don’t see what (or who) is “hidden” in this image.

One of the great blessings of my job is getting to meet amazing people. As we prepared for tomorrow’s meeting, I touched base with Veronica Ota, whom CPM is recommending be examined for candidacy, and Beth Putney, who just started at San Marino Community Church as the very first Pastoral Resident, focusing on culture and pastoral entrepreneurship. Both are Princeton types—Beth just graduated this year, and Veronica is still there. And from what I can tell, this focus on social enterprise/entrepreneurial ministry/ministry innovation (they haven’t landed on an easy handle yet) is all the rage at Princeton, and other seminaries as well. Harlan Redmond, a recent Princeton grad, envisions this for the future of Interwoven.

In conversations with these bright lights in the future of our church, it has become clear to me how much things have changed since I was in seminary! But it also reminds me of my early years in ministry, when church transformation consultants kept talking about “adaptive change”—so much that some of us joked we can all sing a song about it together. We more recent seminary grads realized that what we had been taught was new and foreign for the prior generations of pastors, who could see the church as a stable, prominent, unchanging institution. Now, I am the one in that prior generation, and now I’m stumbling to figure out what the next generation is talking about!

In fact, the first time I met Veronica, I attempted to correct her on her initial theological statement. Turns out she was just a few steps ahead of me—! Isn’t it great how we old-timers think we’re in the position of guiding and teaching the next generation, when they have so much to teach us. We are blessed to have these leaders of the next generation in our midst, as they have the grace and wisdom to be bridge people for us as we move into the future church. We will continue to be blessed as San Marino’s Pastoral Residency Program continues in full swing, because they expect to have two residents for two years each, starting in alternating years, so we will get to receive a gifted new pastor every year through their program! Beth is a most excellent pioneer in this effort.

By the way, one of those amazing people I met fairly recently is Kevin Haah, who joined our presbytery in April. Kevin is a member of our JPM Committee, and he emailed us right before their meeting last Wednesday to tell us that he would have to miss the meeting because he had just been in a motorcycle accident and was at the emergency room. He has ended up in the hospital for the days since, though most people know that his injuries could have been much worse.

Another amazing person is Ally Lee, who recently left us to move back to Georgia. Wednesday was a big day for her as well, as she gave birth to Rowan Mae Lee. Ally, as an only child, texted that “seeing the sisters together has been by far the most joyful part.” I cannot quantify the impact of having my three older sisters has been on my life! Blessings to Ally, Brian, Johanna, and Rowan.

Let us pray—for these new pastors and ministries in our midst, for healing for Kevin and all who need the power of the Holy Spirit (that’s all of us), for new life and growing families in our Presbytery family, and for all that God has entrusted to us, as we consider together the will of God in our Presbytery meeting tomorrow evening. See you then!