Reflection: Gathering Stones, Silent and Shouting

by | Apr 8, 2019

Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.”  He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”

Luke 19:39-40

Last Saturday we held our Presbytery meeting.  I thank Divine Light Presbyterian Church for hosting the meeting so beautifully, as always.  They consider hosting the Presbytery as a part of their ministry with us, and I thank Rev. Sam Kim and the members for their great hospitality, and the leaders of “The Tent” ministry, a 1001 New Worshiping Community in Koreatown, for the beautiful music during lunch.  The Tent’s leader, Rev. Daniel Bahng of Pacific Presbytery, has deep family connections with Divine Light.  

At this meeting, we considered the amendments to the PC(USA) Constitution.  All of the amendments were approved without comment, except for Amendment C.  I was interested to see the response to Amendment C, which was mixed but with some strong concern about restricting the church’s prophetic call especially in a time when political leaders seem to run counter to Christ’s call to care for the poor, the widowed and orphaned, the outcast, the foreigner.

The reason I was intrigued was because the amendment came about in response to the weakening and rumored repeal of the “Johnson Amendment,” a part of the IRS tax code that restricts non-profits (including churches) from endorsing or opposing political candidates.  Those seeking to repeal the Johnson Amendment have tended to come from conservative churches and politicians, and the concern has been that the power of the pulpit would be used to impact political campaigns.  Besides the philosophical concerns about separation of church and state and the pastoral concerns of fomenting discord or undue spiritual pressure on church members, the intent of Amendment C was an attempt to maintain the tenets of the Johnson Amendment within the PC(USA), in case it does get repealed.

So God had the last laugh when some members, critics of the anti-Johnson Amendment camp, raised their concerns about Amendment C.  The Presbyterian tradition has a deep and inherent concern for justice in the world, including in government, and the Bible repeatedly condemns prophets and disciples who stay silent in the face of injustice.  But we see again that Christians can see injustice in wildly different ways, yet all feel it would be unChristian to stay silent, whether you see the current President as God’s gift to the nation or an affront to God.  So this attempt to stay comfortably silent, even with good intentions, was a dodge to “play it safe” which Jesus often rejected.  The question is, for what and for whom will you speak out?  May our voice, and all our actions, be guided by Christ.

Another highlight of our meeting was the image of God’s family in San Gabriel Presbytery.  For many of us, Presbytery is a meeting of this family of God’s choice.  We are not just a biological family, bound by genetics; nor are we a family of choice, formed by our personal desires.  We are a family of God’s choice, bringing together diverse people who live in the same area, and our presbytery has been faithful in reflecting the diversity of our community.  Yet we are family—discerning together, praying together, gathering around Christ’s table, and welcoming cousins from near and far into the fold.

So we manage household finances and support members in need, including a DACA recipient and two churches who offer food to the hungry in their neighborhoods.  We make decisions together on how we will live together.  We hear announcements about what’s happening in our houses of faith, and share ideas on ways to care for each other and our neighbors.  And we hear from Maggie Harmon of the Presbyterian Foundation and Clayton Cobb of the Board of Pensions about programs and events they are holding for our benefit, including:

  • First Call First Steps Seminar with Board of Pensions, 10 am-1 pm on April 23, at Fuller
  • Benefits Connection Seminar with Board of Pensions, 10 am-2:30 pm on May 15 at La Canada Presbyterian Church—go here to register
  • Luncheon on Long-Term Financial Sustainability with the Presbyterian Foundation, June 11 at 11:30 am at Westminster Gardens.

And we welcome new (or returning) members, this time Larry Ballenger, as he returns to Arcadia Community Church as Interim Pastor; Charlie Campbell, who was ordained by this presbytery and now will be serving Northminster Presbyterian Church as Pastor; and Pipi Dhali, ordained by Gereja Kristen Indonesia (GKI), a Presbyterian sister denomination in Indonesia, now serving a church in Covina who are hoping to join our Presbytery.

Whenever we connect with each other, at Presbytery meetings and visiting each other’s churches, may we be ever more grateful for God’s blessings on us, and the many ways we are responding by blessing others.

As we prepare for Holy Week, as we continue to see ourselves for who we are as God’s beloved but broken children, may we give thanks for Christ’s gift of life, and Christ’s call and assurance that we love one another.

In faith,