Thoughts and reflections from Liberty’s Pastors

September 21, 2017

Dear Friends:
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the idea of benediction…those words of blessing at the end of a time of worship, or over a child in baptism, or pronounced over a couple as they stand trembling before you and make forever vows….  We all need words of blessing spoken into our lives.  I recently discovered a benediction that speaks not only blessing but challenge into our days:

May God give you the grace never to sell yourself short:
To risk something big for something good
Grace to remember that the world is too dangerous for anything but truth
And too small for anything but love.

So may God take your minds and work through them
May God take your lips and speak through them
May God take your hearts and set them on fire.
-Dr. William Sloane Coffin

May we not only receive blessing but be blessing in a world that desperately needs us.

Yours in Christ,

September 14, 2017

From the Desk of R.H. Karn,  Liberty Youth Ministry

Dear Friends:

Commuting into work this morning was a little rocky; the twenty to thirty-minute drive to my office was put into perspective while imagining the millions of people in Florida who couldn’t drive anywhere (even if they wanted to) due to impassable roads or waterlogged vehicles. And countless more people without power waking up to destruction and devastation all around them. Does a “Good morning!” greeting in Ohio to my neighbor or office-mate mean the same as a “Good morning!” greeting in a hurricane shelter to the people who slept beside you in cots? I think it does. I hope it does. Mornings bring hope, even after the darkest of nights.

When discussing Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, our Liberty youth group had one serious question: How can we help? I am so blessed and so thankful to be part of this group, and I am so thankful for their hearts and the drive that has been instilled in their hearts to live out what Romans 12:10-13 says:

“Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them.”

As much as we would love to move our summer mission trip from June to September, we still have commitments here in Ohio. However, we do have an opportunity to aid the hurricane relief efforts: the youth group will be putting on a drive for supplies to put together hygiene kits for hurricane victims, and we invite all of you to participate. We will be working with Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, who have been collecting “Gifts of the Heart” kits just like these from all over the U.S.

We will be collecting the following items:

  • Hand towels (approximately 16″ x 28″, no fingertip or bath towels)
  • Washcloths
  • Wide-tooth combs
  • Nail clippers
  • Bars of soap (bath size)
  • Toothbrushes (in original packaging, NO toothpaste)
  • Band-Aids® or other adhesive bandage strips

We will be collecting these items this Sunday, September 17 through Sunday, October 15. Please bring your donated items to one of the four collection boxes around the church:  the Sanctuary entrance, Barn Lower Level, Reception Area, or Youth Room.

This week, as we see stories of loss, devastation, mourning, and heroism, selflessness, and love, pray for our neighbors impacted by these storms – those on our southern shores, those in the Caribbean, and those world-wide who are suffering. Pray for God to bring hope into their lives, and thank you for your participation in this drive.

R. H. Karn

September 7, 2017


“Christians believe that there is one true story: the story told in the Bible…Only this story unlocks the meaning of human history—and thus the meaning of your life and mine.”  ~Craig Bartholomew and Michael Goheen

Dear Friends:

From beginning to end, the Bible tells a story. Just like any other story, the Bible has a hero (spoiler alert: it’s God). The hero of the story has a quest—to rid the world of sin and evil and to cleanse the world of their damaging effects. And like every good story, the hero is decisively victorious in the end. But more than simply a good yarn, the Bible tells us about who God is and who we are. Theologian Lesslie Newbigin once wrote in his book, A Walk Through the Bible, that if we want to know who God is, we need to know the big story of the Bible.

The Bible interprets the whole of reality and the whole of history in terms of the actions, the doings, the speakings, the promises of God. And therefore the Bible is the way in which we come to know God, because we don’t know a person except by knowing his or her story.

This year as an entire Church, we are going to immerse ourselves in that big story of the Bible, and we’re calling it “Long Story Short”. We won’t read every word or even every book of the Bible. But on May 20, 2018, when we finish our journey together, we will have read through the Bible’s overarching story from beginning to end.

How can you participate Long Story Short? Here are three ways:

  1. Join us in reading the Bible. Each week we will publish a weekly reading plan and brief study guide. Use this guide to focus your reading and to help you reflect on what you have read.
  2. Join a Bible Study. Many Liberty Bible Study Groups will be following along with Long Story Short, and they would love to have you join them. Click here to find out about our study groups.
  3. Purchase a Study GuideThe Adult Discipleship Committee is recommending the book Exploring the Story as a study guide for Long Story Short. The book is available in the Barn Lower Level on Sundays for the discounted price of $10, or you can buy the book from your favorite book store.

I am excited to see how God will speak to us and shape us as a congregation this year. Join us as together we take a long look at the big story of the Bible!

Grace and peace,
Pastor Kyle

August 31, 2017

“Many waters cannot quench love,
neither can floods drown it.”
~Song of Solomon 8:7

Dear Friends:

As I sit here on dry land, I can’t help but think of our brothers and sisters in Houston who have experienced endless rain and historic flooding. My focus this week is all about prayer. Prayers for safety. Prayers for God’s protection. Prayers of gratitude for the first responders and emergency workers, and for shelters housing families who have lost everything. Prayers for churches opening their doors with everything from a hot meal to beds and blankets. Prayers for recovery and new chapters. Above all, prayers for God’s grace and mercy.

The Psalm that I keep turning to in my worship time is Psalm 69. Here is an edited version for your prayers:

Save me, O God,
for the waters have come up to my neck.
I sink in deep mire,
where there is no foothold;
I have come into deep waters,
and the flood sweeps over me.
I am weary with my crying;
my throat is parched.

But as for me, my prayer is to you, O Lord….
With your faithful help rescue me
from sinking in the mire;
let me be delivered from this enemy—
from the deep waters.
Do not let the flood sweep over me,
or the deep swallow me up,
or the grave close its mouth over me.

Answer me, O Lord, for your steadfast love is good;
according to your abundant mercy, turn to me…..

Let heaven and earth praise him,
the seas and everything that moves in them.
For God will save the people
and rebuild the destroyed cities.

Let us pray for our nation, and particularly for the people of Houston, and know that we at Liberty are continuing to seek ways to serve through Presbyterian Disaster Assistance and the Red Cross. These efforts represent your mission dollars at work.

With Prayers & Blessings,



In response to the damage caused by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, Liberty Church is providing funds to Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, the relief agency of our denomination, the PC(USA). For more information on this outstanding organization and to give your support to their response to the current crises, please see their website:

August 24, 2017

Dear Friends:

I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen:
not only because I see it,
but because by it I see everything else.
-C.S. Lewis

Did you watch the solar eclipse?  The staff here at church watched the moon pass over the sun, leaving a bright orange crescent shining in the sky – one of those wonders that leaves you “gob-smacked” at God’s handiwork.

Genesis 1 tells us: Then God said,“Let lights appear in the sky to separate the day from the night. Let them be signs to mark the seasons, days, and years. Let these lights in the sky shine down on the earth.” And that is what happened.  God made two great lights—the larger one to govern the day, and the smaller one to govern the night.  The sun shines its light upon the earth, and the moon reflects the sun’s light upon the earth.  One is the light – the other reflects the light.

Which is where we come in. Like the moon reflects the light of the sun back to a dark world, we too are to reflect the light of Christ to a world of people. The Apostle Paul puts it this way, “shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life….”

While we won’t have another eclipse until 2024, don’t stop pondering God’s greatness and the wonder of His majesty in creation. And don’t forget to reflect His light –  that together here at Liberty we can be a shining light for Christ.

Serving Jesus with you,


August 17, 2017

Dear Friends:
These are such disturbing times. Watching white fringe groups with torches and Nazi flags march on our beloved country is more than I can bear. I can think of nothing that speaks to my broken heart – our broken hearts – more this week than this affirmation from former Archbishop Desmond Tutu:

Good is stronger than evil
Love is stronger than hate:
Light is stronger than darkness
Life is stronger than death.
Victory is ours, through Him who loves us.

Standing strong with you in faith, hope and the redeeming power of God’s love,

August 10, 2017

Dear Friends:
We have some AMAZING August Sundays coming up!  This Sunday is Heritage Sunday and the ever popular Chicken BBQ (with all the fixin’s!).  Next Sunday is Rally Day with “Touch-a-Truck”, Food Trucks, a Bounce House, and information on 101 ways to grow in faith and outreach thru Liberty. Then on August 27, it is Blessing of the Animals – with St. Francis!

So what’s the catch?  It’s all a celebration – but we are also hoping that you will take advantage of these special Sundays to invite a friend. In fact, I’d like you to think of these coming Sundays as “Friend Days” – where we share the joy by inviting someone to join us.

The single most effective way to grow the church is by the power of a one on one invitation. Church consultants say that 80% of the people in a church first came “because a friend or relative invited them.” George Gallup Jr. surveyed non-church-goers and was surprised to find that “70% of all people who do not now attend a church responded that if someone invited them they would react favorably.”  Contrast these statistics with another statistic found in a recent Presbyterian publication, which concluded that “the average Presbyterian invites a friend to worship once every 24 years.” (No wonder we are known as the frozen chosen!) Do take the time to invite a friend, a newcomer to the neighborhood, a new face at the office, to join us in one of these special worship services and to discover (maybe for the first time) God’s great love for them in Jesus Christ.

See you Sunday!


P.S. An easy way to invite friends to the amazing upcoming events at Liberty is by sharing our Facebook events! Click here!!

August 3, 2017

Dear Friends:
I received a wonderful note in the mail from a home-bound Liberty member.  In response to a visit from a Deacon (with flowers in a painted vase and cookies – both from our Be the Church Day!), she writes:

This thank you note comes from the heart.  
One Sunday, after church, a Liberty friend came by 
with delicious cookies and a flowering plant in a decorated pot.
I loved them and thank you. 
Liberty will always be my church.

Whether you come to us, or we come to you, we want everyone to know that you are a vital part of Liberty. We are family. Which leads to a second note from a home-bound member. This woman shared with me a prayer she has treasured for years, from the 19th century hymn writer Jane Eliza Leeson:

Savior teach me day by day,
Love’s sweet lesson to obey,
Sweeter lesson cannot be,
Loving Him who first loved me.

May that be our prayer.


July 27, 2017

Dear Friends:
It is good to back here at Liberty with you, and to be a part of another amazing Vacation Bible School. This is sports-themed week, and above is a photo of our Pittsburgh Penguins! We also have teams ranging from the Cardinals to the Broncos to the Buckeyes–of course! At the bottom of this section is a photo of the guy pastors as newscasters on J.S.P.N. (Jesus Sports Network) and myself as “Natasha Splatt”, a Slovenian pageant contestant and Olympic athlete (wait – that’s not how you think of me?!).  The campus is alive with Bible stories, songs (thank you, Angie Hurd!), videos, drama, all kind of games, crafts – and yes, those delicious snacks. We cannot thank Dawn Parr and our outstanding volunteers enough for all their efforts!

Our theme verse for this week is from Philippians 4:13:

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

I’m thinking the apostle Paul is not imagining we’re going to defy the gene pool, thinking we are suddenly going to pole vault 20 feet through Christ, or that we will instantly become Olympic athletes or winners on the Amazing Race. But the apostle Paul is clearly saying that we can do everything we need to do in and through Jesus. And Paul is encouraging us to go stretch our faith because we can do everything through the strength and power of Jesus Christ. We can reach higher, serve wider, love deeper.

So think about all the things you want to do to serve Jesus and others – and keep our last day of VBS in your prayers!

Natasha Splatt


July 20, 2017


Dear Friends:

Sports stories often have a lot in common with life as a Christian. Many of the struggles, goals and principles of living life as an athlete are pretty comparable to being a believer. Paul saw the connection between Christian life and sports. In his letters, he used the major sport of his day—racing—as an analogy to explain faith.

Next week, 300 children will gather in Liberty’s Sanctuary each morning for ‘God’s Dream Team’. They will learn five of these principles from the Book of Acts: Leadership, Teamwork, Drive, Discipline, and the Pursuit of Excellence.

  1. Leadership – While many athletes possess this quality, leadership that exemplifies Christ is unique. Jesus gave us the Great Commission in telling us to go and make disciples of all nations. He encourages others to follow His example.  The Apostle Paul understood this: “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ”. (1 Corinthians 11:1)
  2. Teamwork is essential in any sport, and using teamwork to bring others to know Christ is the ultimate goal as a Christian.  Paul wrote, “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’ And the head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you!’ … But God has combined the members of the body … so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. (1 Corinthians 12: 20-26, NIV) All Christians should focus as a team so that teamwork will bring many to know Him.
  3. Drive – Athletes must be extremely focused in order to achieve their goal. Their behavior is inspiring. Imagine this same drive as a Christian to do His will so that others will seek Him.  Remembering Paul’s words, “We are more than conquerors through him who loved us”. Truly, if God is on our side, who can be against us? Nobody. With Christ, we can truly be driven to do His work and His will so that others will seek Him.
  4. Discipline – Athletes face hardships physically, mentally, and emotionally—as do Christians. Being a Christian does not exempt anyone from hard times. It’s never easy to understand why bad things happen, but we have to continue living with faith that our hard times will be redeemed. In fact, the Bible says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. … Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him”. (James 1:2-4 and 12, NIV)
  5. Pursuit of Excellence – Anyone who has ever wanted to become good at anything knows that practice is key. We, as disciples of Christ, also follow a way that’s hard. It, too, requires daily practice. We must act on our faith every day. That means praying, getting together for encouragement, and being a part of teaching and worship. It means practicing love, mercy, patience, and forgiveness—to be better spiritual athletes and pursue the excellence He seeks in us.

Athletes practice daily to make their bodies stronger and skills sharper. Believers practice daily to make their faith stronger and their relationship with Christ sharper. Paul writes, “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice” (Philippians 4:9, NIV). Live it out, Paul says. Faith is not just about cramming a bunch of religious facts in our heads. It’s an action. We need to practice it and work on it every day so we can be more like Christ. When we become more Christ-like, we are winners!

Please pray that our children will understand more fully the Gospel Message during ‘God’s Dream Team!’  Amen


July 13, 2017


Dear Friends:

Over the summer, I have been facilitating two Liberty Bible study groups as they have been using the book When Helping Hurts to understand issues surrounding poverty. The members of these groups have tried to wrap their heads around the depth of the problem of poverty, to understand some of the root causes of poverty, and most importantly, they are trying to understand what a faithful Christian response to poverty truly looks like.

To be honest, as we have begun to look more deeply at these issues, the depth and complexity of the problem of poverty can seem overwhelming: 40% of the world’s population—more than three billion people—live on less than $2 per day. The sheer magnitude of the issues at play are simply staggering. What can I possibly do to even put a dent in such a problem? And yet, I remain convicted that the faithful Christian response is to do something, that the faithful Christian hope is the fervent expectation that one day all that is wrong in the world will be set right.

We concluded one of our most recent sessions by looking at Colossians 1. In this chapter, Paul is talking about Jesus, about who he is and what he has done. And yet again, the sheer magnitude is simply staggering. Paul sums up the chapter by writing,

“For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and though him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.” (Col. 1:20)

I am quite convinced that when Paul wrote the word, “everything”, he meant it. That the good news of Jesus is good for more than just me and mine, but is good news for everything everywhere. That no matter how broken the world may be, we have a God who not only can fix it, but is pleased to do so. And it’s hard to despair with such good news.

Grace and peace,
Pastor Kyle

July 6, 2017

Dear Friends:

Bittersweet. I’ve always been fascinated by words like bittersweet – those oxymorons which appear to be in contradiction, but capture the real state of things quite well (think jumbo shrimp, deafening silence, virtual reality).

Back to bittersweet. It is a bittersweet season at Liberty as we prepare over the next few weeks to say goodbye to our beloved pastor Todd Tracy, his wife Heather, and their girls Addy and Isabelle. Todd has served here with excellence for the past five years, dramatically growing our ministry to youth, and leading us in worship, preaching God’s word, baptizing babies, visiting those in need, offering words of comfort, and teaching all of us what it means to live day by day as a follower of Jesus Christ.  Goodbyes can be a bit bitter, but as Todd moves on to a wonderful call at Second Presbyterian Newark, it is also a great joy to see him follow God’s leading into a whole new chapter of ministry. It is time to share the blessing Todd has been to us with others!

So maybe I will start inventing more oxymorons to convey how we are feeling: sadly joyful, falteringly faithful, fearfully confident…But as I sit here in the Berkshires dreaming up new descriptions of this moment in time, I’d like to invite you to do two things.

First, please email Todd and share a moment where his ministry has blessed you and yours. One of my favorite moments with the whole Tracy family was when Todd led John and I in renewing our wedding vows in the Chapel, and Addy & Isabelle (under Heather’s supervision!) were beautiful flower girls. Maybe it was a thought from a sermon that has stuck with you, or sharing in the impact of a mission project or trip, a hospital visit, or just his patient humor during a Children’s Moment, but please share your gratitude with him.

Second, I invite you to contribute to a farewell gift for Todd. Simply send in a check to the Church Office (attn. Finance Administrator, memo Tracy Gift). This will be presented to the Tracys on August 6, when we will hold a reception for Todd following 10:00 a.m. worship.

Back to my oxymorons.  I am both sadly joyful as someone who has had the privilege of serving alongside Todd for the past five years, and fearfully confident. Fearfully confident because as fear-inducing as change can be, the Youth Elders (Brenda Lucas, Marty Johnson) and I are putting a great interim plan in place even as I write this. Above all, I’m confident because I know that the God who has led Liberty so faithfully for the past 207 years will continue to lead us and guide us into new and fruitful chapters.

With Teary Gladness,

June 29, 2017


Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”Matthew 11:28-30

Dear Friends:

This past Sunday was a remarkable day at Liberty! God blessed us with a perfectly cool and refreshing summer day along with clear skies and sunshine. In the evening, Lone Raven presented an amazing concert under the oaks with many people in attendance who took advantage of the wonderful weather. In all the years I’ve been the Music Director at Liberty, I can’t remember a more relaxed concert event where everyone, including myself and the musicians, felt totally stress-free! Throughout the entire day I was reminded of God’s instruction for us to rest on the Sabbath. In fact, God was the first to set an example for all of us. “For in six days the Lord made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and everything in them; but on the seventh day he rested. That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy.” (Exodus 20:11)

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 states: “Don’t you know that your body is a sanctuary of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought at a price. Therefore, glorify God in your body.” In other words, we need to take care of our bodies, our health, and most of all our spiritual well-being.

Summer is a time when we all look forward to vacations and rest. The bible has many examples of why rest and renewal is so important for our lives. In Mark 6:31 Jesus commanded the disciples to “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” The bible even addresses our travels. “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” (Exodus 33:14) This week my wife and I spent quality time with our granddaughter, Hannah. It’s been a tradition for many years for us to have a ‘special day’ with our grandkids. Nothing can replace this experience we are fortunate to have each year. Hopefully, you can also spend those extra moments with family and friends while you have the chance. Most importantly, use this time to renew your walk with God and all the blessings you might have been missing!

I want to leave you with a quote from pastor and author Charles Spurgeon. Rest time is not wasted time. It is economy to gather fresh strength… It is wisdom to take occasional furlough. In the long run, we shall do more by sometimes doing less.”


June 22, 2017


Dear Friends:

This coming Sunday is one of my favorite Sundays at Liberty—the Sunday when we hear stories from the youth who were part of the youth mission team. This Sunday never ceases to amaze me. Students from the Liberty community come back to worship under the oaks with us, wide-eyed and amazed at the ways God has been at work around them and through them on their trip. They come back with stories of a world that is so different from ours, and yet is still remarkably close to home. They have stories of people who are both familiar and foreign. They come back with new skills and new confidence—and a renewed sense that God is at work and on the move.

This Sunday, I encourage you to come to worship with your ears open and your hearts ready to hear our youth tell stories and remind us of the riches of God’s love and grace.

Grace and peace,
Pastor Kyle

June 15, 2017

Dear Friends:

In the first letter of John we read: “Let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” (1 John 3:18). In other words, love is a verb; without action, it is only a word.  This past weekend we witnessed love in action all over this campus – and all over our community.  Our Be the Church weekend was a huge success!  Many thanks to the 195 (we almost cracked 200!) of you who participated, as well as our Church School and everyone who so generously brought in supplies.  I am (as the Brits would say) gob-smacked by God’s grace, and by your willingness to be His hands and feet to those in need.
From the bottoms of Columbus to our men and women overseas,

  • from gratitude baskets to our fire & police stations to worship led in homes and retirement communities,
  • from picking up litter to remind a community of its beauty to painting flower pots and planting gardens,
  • from handmade cards of love for the homeless to baked goods for our homebound,

you all reached out and made a difference in a million ways.

I wish I had the time to share so many stories with you – how our first responders were “shocked and delighted” by our remembrance of them, how our litter league interacted with local residents, how love was shared in such concrete ways at Common Ground Free Store and St. Johns, how furniture was restored, food and flowers joyously shared with those who felt a bit isolated, prayer shawls knit, our brave soldiers remembered.  Since I don’t have the time to share all these stories with you at length, please look at the pictures here and on our website with the hope that a picture really is worth a million words!

Huge thanks to all our leaders, especially the amazing Penny Hampshire, and to ALL our volunteers!  You fill this heart.

As my friend Tracey says, “May God’s blessings overflow to you this week”,

June 8, 2017

Dear Friends:

What a joy to celebrate so many high school and college graduates in our Liberty family!  It is a season of celebration.   As experienced college graduation attenders, I liken graduations to a trip to Disney World – ten minutes of excitement followed by two hours of lines!  John spends most of graduation weekend finding parking – I spend it herding family from one event to the next and making sure everyone has water.  But then there is that lump-in-the-throat moment when they reach that part in the ceremony when they call your child’s name.  As they walk forward to receive their diploma, you don’t really see an 18- or 22-year-old crossing the stage – you see your child at age six reaching out their hand to you; you see that little girl or boy seemingly in dress-ups of a formal cap and gown.  Kleenex is handed from one parent to the next, and you wonder how all those years flew by so quickly.

There is so much still that I want to say to my own children in their 20’s…and to each of our new graduates as they move onto new chapters.

  • I want them to know that while this feels like an ending and they will miss these days so much, God has new experiences and friendships waiting just around the corner.
  • I want them to know that they are not alone in this adventure of entering the adult world. Jesus walks beside each of them every step of the way.
  • I want them to know that there will be good times and bad times ahead, successes and total flops. And that the flops are easiest to learn from.
  • I want each of them to know to wear sunscreen  – always.
  • I want our grads to know that it helps to get advice from people who have walked this path before, even if they happen to be related to you.
  • I want them to know that wherever they go, they are still a beloved part of the Liberty family.

And finally: I want each of them to carry with them these words of our Lord

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” ~Joshua 1:9

With congratulations and blessings to all of our Liberty graduates,

June 1, 2017

Dear Friends:

This Sunday, the Christian church celebrates Pentecost – the gift of the Spirit. The coming of the Spirit 2,000 years ago transformed the Christian community from a fearful band of believers huddled in an upper room to those who went out into the world, boldly proclaiming Christ’s name (see Acts chapter 2).

Locked doors were opened.

Fear was replaced by courage.

Those who were afraid began to speak out.

Barriers came crashing down as everyone heard the message in their own native tongue.

Over 3,000 came to believe in Jesus as Lord.

On that first Pentecost, a desperate, frightened bunch became a church. They empowered each other to do things and be things they could never have managed on their own. Who were these people? Who are these people?

They are the people on whom God has breathed. They are us.

Pentecost Blessings,

April 20, 2017

Dear Friends:

What a glorious Easter Sunday! It was a joy to celebrate with you, and huge thanks to everyone who helped with worship in ways large and small, from decorating to greeting to singing to welcoming that visiting family on the next bench! Over 1650 people decided to worship with us on Easter – what an incredible blessing!

This coming Sunday, April 23, has a name of its own – or perhaps I should say nickname! The Sunday after Easter is known by pastors as Canon Sunday. Now the word canon has a long religious history and can refer to everything from a code of laws established by a church council to the chapter of priests serving in a cathedral. But that’s not the everyday meaning of Canon Sunday. When pastors say that this is Canon Sunday, they joke that you could shoot off a canon in worship that Sunday and not hit a soul!

But this particular Sunday is going to be anything but empty here at Liberty! We will celebrate the confirmation of 23 youth into the faith and into the life of our church, and get to hear about two personal faith projects created by our youth, with more on display during coffee hour. As I pray for this service, I keep coming back to the words of the Psalmist:

What we have heard and known,
what our fathers have told us.

We will not hide them from their children;
we will tell the next generation
the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD,
his power, and the wonders he has done.
~Psalm 78:3-5
This Sunday, there may not be a canon going off inside, but there will be fireworks inside as we pass the torch of faith from generation to generation.

April 13, 2017

Dear Friends:

Tonight we gather in a candlelit Sanctuary to celebrate the Last Supper, and to hear Jesus’ last words from the cross. This is a very moving service as we contemplate Jesus’ sacrifice for us.

On Sunday, we gather in a joyous, alleluia-filled celebration of the glorious resurrection of our Lord Jesus!

As we walk through Holy Week, one of the things that I need to remember is that this is not just about “me and the Lord”. If Jesus really died for our sins and conquered death itself, if Jesus sends his living spirit to work in us and through us, then this is not just good news individually. This is good news – life-changing news – for our whole world. By the resurrection of Jesus, we have infinite power to share infinite hope.

N.T. Wright has written:

The message of the resurrection is that this world matters! That the injustices and pains of this present world must now be addressed with the news that healing, justice, and love have won. If Easter means Jesus Christ is only raised in a spiritual sense—[then] it is only about me, and finding a new dimension in my personal spiritual life. But if Jesus Christ is truly risen from the dead, Christianity becomes good news for the whole world—news which warms our hearts precisely because it isn’t just about warming hearts. Easter means that in a world where injustice, violence and degradation are endemic, God is not prepared to tolerate such things—and that we will work and plan, with all the energy of God, to implement victory of Jesus over them all.

In the sure life-changing, world-changing Hope of Christ,

April 6, 2017

Dear Friends:

This Sunday is Palm Sunday – the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem!  This begins Holy Week, Jesus’ last week on earth. Nearly one third of all four Gospels focus on this final week of Jesus’ ministry. The action moves quickly through the Gospels, racing through Jesus’ early life, and then the action shifts into slow gear, walking us carefully through these last days of Jesus, and the events leading up to the cross.  The Gospels give us a chance to read and absorb the meaning of this week.  So I offer some passages below to help us journey with Jesus through his final days.

Holy Week:
1. Palm Sunday: The Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem through the “Golden Gate”—the gate of the Messiah, as a great crowd proclaims: “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the King of Israel!” (Zephaniah 9:9, Matthew 21: 1-11)

2. Monday: Jesus cleanses the Temple, clearing out the money changers, declaring: “My Father’s House is to be a house of prayer for all people—but you have made it a den of thieves!” With this, the die is cast. Both the Priests (Sadducees) and the Pharisees (Teachers of the law) determine to kill Jesus. (Matthew 21:12-17)

3. & 4. Tuesday & Wednesday: The last days of public teaching as Jesus speaks in parables of Himself as God’s Son, by whom all will be saved. (Isaiah 53: 1-12, Read any of Matthew 21:28-25:45)

5. Maundy Thursday: After washing the feet of the disciples, Jesus celebrates the Feast of the Passover, instituting the sacrament of communion.  After the supper, Jesus and his disciples went to Gethsemane to pray, where he was betrayed by Judas, arrested by the Temple guard and taken to an illegal night session of the Jewish courts. (Zechariah 11:12, Matthew 26:14-67)

6. Good Friday: The denial by Peter, Jesus’ trial before Pilate and Herod. The crown of thorns. Then the crucifixion between two thieves. At 3:00 p.m. Jesus dies as the “Lamb of God.” There is an earthquake, the centurion confesses his faith and the veil in the temple is torn from top to bottom just as Jesus proclaims that salvation is accomplished: “It is finished!” After His death, Nicodemus and Joseph bury Jesus in a new tomb in a garden.  (Amos 8:9, Psalm 22: 1, 16-18, Psalm 69:21, Psalm 31:5, Mark 10:34, Matthew 27: 1 – 27:61)

7. Saturday: The Jewish leaders break the Sabbath to insure that the tomb is sealed and no one can break in to steal the body.  A Roman guard is posted. (Matthew 27:62-66, Philippians 2; 5-11, Isaiah 52: 13-15)

8. Easter Sunday: Shortly before dawn on the third day, the stone of the tomb is rolled away (by angels) as Jesus triumphs over sin and death. The angels tell the women at the tomb: “He is risen!” Jesus appears to Peter alone, to the two on the Road to Emmaus, and to His disciples in the Upper Room. (Psalm 118:22, Isaiah 26:19, Matthew 28:1-15)

Friends, I invite you to read along with me this holy week. And know that we are walking on holy ground.

In the sure Hope of Christ,