Reflection: Christ among Us

by | Dec 9, 2019

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.  And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues.

1 Corinthians 12:27-28

During this Advent season, we contemplate the power of love that God demonstrated in the birth of Jesus Christ.  We call Jesus Immanuel, or “God with us,” and marvel at the idea that God would stoop to come to earth, not just as a visitor, but as one of us, born of a woman, fully human as well as fully divine.  Advent allows us to reflect back, but also to anticipate the fruition of God’s promise to restore God’s people, when Jesus comes again.

So God came first as the baby Jesus, but there is diverse speculation on how Jesus will come again.  At least in this in-between time, Jesus told his disciples that he is here, in the least of us, and in the Holy Spirit.  The apostle Paul tells the church repeatedly that we are the body of Christ, each of us a member with individual gifts that contribute to the working of the body as a whole.  This leads to some of us to believe that Jesus will not come again as an individual or any kind of outside force, but the kin-dom will be realized when all of God’s people fulfill our calling as members of one global, diverse, blessed, saved, healed, and healing body.

In our little part of that global body called San Gabriel Presbytery, we are blessed with the presence of so many people with varied gifts.  And though sometimes it seems that Paul’s instruction leads us to believe that each of us are given one calling each, for life, I have witnessed the Holy Spirit gifting us differently at different times in our lives, and sometimes with multiple gifts at once, as our calling requires it. 

So as we give thanks for God coming down to earth in the baby Jesus, let us also take seriously what Jesus said about being present among us even now.  Personally I am grateful for the opportunity to work with so many volunteers, and with Presbytery staff, who bring their varied gifts and perspectives to the service of you and God’s will for this valley.

If you reviewed our recent representation report, you may have noticed that we have just under 100 volunteers who have been elected to various leadership roles in the presbytery’s ministry, and we have made progress these last few years in the leaders reflecting the membership of the presbytery.  One thing that the Committee on Representation and Nominations often does is to speak with potential leaders not about filling a particular slot, but what they feel called to, because again our calling and giftedness are not always reflected in our “day jobs” or how the world has shaped us—or what our church bylaws demands.

Likewise, our staff sometimes practice different gifts.  So Lauren Evans, who was first ordained as a solo pastor in Florida and then became a parish associate at La Verne Heights Presbyterian Church, has gained additional training in the spirituality of aging, and is now doing her practicum in a master’s program in counseling.  She has done great work as our inaugural Chaplain for Retired Presbyterian Church Workers, and expanded her ministry to include the residents of Monte Vista Grove Homes.  She realizes that she is now overcommitted in her multiple roles, so we, along with the Chaplaincy Committee of Monte Vista Grove, have invited Diane Frasher to fill in as chaplain there.  Diane continues as our Stated Clerk, but she has always demonstrated a pastoral, caring side to her ministry, and she has moved into this temporary assignment with joy.  She will continue in this substitute role while we meet with the House of Rest, who has funded this position, and if we are granted another year of funding, we will open the position for a half-time chaplain for Monte Vista Grove.

And as you know, Twila French, who took on the role of Bookkeeper a few years ago, is getting ready to end her time as Presbytery Administrator and Associate Stated Clerk, to continue on in 2020 as half-time Bookkeeper.  As the Presbytery has embarked on a sustainability plan that works with our congregations to utilize Presbytery properties in different ways, the role of Bookkeeper has expanded and become more complex.  In the meantime, we continued to seek a staff person who would coordinate our administrative and ecclesiastical tasks as a presbytery, and has some ability to work with property issues as well. 

We are delighted to announce that Rev. Ally Lee, a minister member of the Presbytery, will join the Presbytery staff as Administrative Presbyter and Associate Stated Clerk.  Though she is already doing some cross-training (and she ably filled in at our November 19th Presbytery meeting), Ally officially starts her new position on January 1, 2020.  She will also continue at Knox Presbyterian as temporary associate pastor, but she will be working half-time in each ministry.  Ally has fulfilled many of the administrative roles at a congregational level for Knox, so she is already familiar with church records and statistics, and polity.  Also, she will support CPM as Twila did, and since she was under care of our presbytery, she knows that process well.  Thanks be to God, she also oversaw property management for Knox.  Her experience will be stretched, as we have recently faced a string of break-ins and vandalism at the Presbytery Center; please pray for us as it feels very violating to have this happen. 

We are indeed blessed to know the presence of Jesus Christ, as that little baby, prophet, healer, teacher, and savior—but also we know Christ through the people we meet.  I am so grateful for all the volunteers and staff who serve Christ through this Presbytery.  I ask for your blessings on the staff—Diane, Twila, Ally, Lauren, and always our mission staff Wendy Gist and Kristi Van Nostran—now and throughout the new year. 

Continued Advent blessings,