Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Candlelight Worship, 12/23/12: "The Medium Is the Message"

For the past two Sundays, we’ve read about Mary, mother of Jesus.  We know she was young, we know she was poor, we know she was faithful.  If Mary is the medium, what is the message?  If God works through her—a poor, young, faithful teenager, what does that mean?  What is God saying? 

Merry Christmas! 

Morning Worship, 12/23/12: "Christmastide"

Is it just me, or has Christmas come unexpectedly this year?  It doesn’t feel like Christmas.  Maybe it’s the weather, which has been unseasonably warm until this weekend.  Maybe it’s the Mayan calendar, which had some people thinking Christmas wouldn’t come at all.  Maybe I’m just getting grinchier as I get older.  Maybe it’s Sandy Hook Elementary, which has us all grieving.  Maybe something’s different this year--nervousness over the economy, hot spots across the world in turmoil, people anxious about their jobs and kids.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Morning Worship, 12/9/12: "The Possibility of God's Promises"

Zechariah’s story is in many ways an amusing one, and ultimately it is a human story.  It is the story of our lives.  God sends us a message.  We have reasonable doubts as to whether or not that message will come true.  So we sit with it for a while, usually in silence, to let it simmer and sink in.  Eventually it does, and we give it a name—daughter, purpose, hope, Christmas.  Then, we begin to believe God’s promises on our lives are possible.  We can nurture life, we can find purpose in what we do daily, and we can find joy…even in the ordinary, everyday lives we call our own.  We can…believe.  


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Morning Worship, 11/25/12: "Found Trustworthy"

Stephen received a most intriguing letter in the mail, which speaks to the importance of trust in the work of stewardship. Listen to this amazing story!


Morning Worship, 11/18/25: "Ending Is Beginning"

           The Bible is filled with apocalyptic, or end-times, literature.  Mark 13 is a type of apocalyptic literature, as are some of the prophets of the Old Testament and Revelation, for example.  Each of these stories teaches us about the end of the world.  Over the centuries, people have come to believe they provide a step-by-step blueprint for how the end will come.  They see wars and natural disasters and believe they are signs for the end.  It’s no wonder 22% of us think the world is coming to an end! 
            The problem is that apocalyptic literature, like Mark 13, wasn’t written as a blueprint for the end.  It was supposed to be a roadmap to the future.  


Morning Worship, 11/11/12: "Spirit of Giving"

Stephen shares a story from his visit to the Summersville Food Pantry to deliver canned goods in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Morning Worship, 11/4/12: "Anonymous Saints"

Have you ever loved someone so much you wish they could come back from the dead?  While that may be possible in a children’s movie or for the Son of God, we know it is not possible for us.  As much as we may want to, we cannot bring back the dead.  That’s not the way it works.  In fact, and this is the good news, it’s just the opposite.  They bring us forward!


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Morning Worship, 10/28/12: "Blind Bartimaeus"

The story of Bartimaeus is a story of discipleship.  It’s about following Jesus.  In other parts of Mark, we hear about people who are either to proud to ask for Jesus’ help or people who ask for Jesus’ help with unimportant things, treating him like a genie in a bottle.  In Bartimaeus, though, we learn the true meaning of discipleship—following Jesus wherever he takes us.


Monday, October 22, 2012

Morning Worship, 10/14/12: "Courting"

     My grandparents called it, “courting.”  My parents called it, “Dating.”  We called it, “going out,” even though you could “go out” with someone without ever actually taking them on a date.  Today, they call it, “talking.”  Or at least they did before texting became all the rage.  It would be hard to date as a young person in today’s society.  People break up with each other by email and text, for goodness sake!  (At least when my girlfriend broke up with me when I was a teenager, she had to watch me cry!)
     In all sincerity, what can we learn about deepening our relationship with the divine through the lens of human relationships?


Morning Worship, 10/7/12: "Something Like Family"

Have you ever seen a baby porcupine?  They have the beginnings of their quills, but they aren’t yet dangerous.  Soon, they grow up, and their bodies are covered by 20,000 quills which can be very dangerous, even deadly, to anything with which they come in contact.  This leads to a very isolated life.  They don’t live in packs or herds, like most humans and animals.  They often live alone.  But when they do have relationships with one another, they learn to dance.  In order to be close, they have to walk on their back legs and pull their quills back.  And when they are close, they have to be very careful, or else their closeness can lead to the other getting hurt.  


Morning Worship, 9/30/12: "Prayer That Works"

     What kind of prayer works?  The answer is, “Prayer than works.”
     Think back earlier in James.  He teaches us that faith  without works is dead, right?  What if the same is true of our prayers?  What if, in describing all these kinds of prayers, he is saying that our prayers should be more than words?  What if he’s saying prayers that work…work?


Monday, September 17, 2012

Morning Worship, 9/16/12

Why do words spoken to us eons ago stick with us?  Don’t you remember certain conversations with coaches, teachers, or parents from your past?  And have you wondered why you remember those words?  Why do words, mere words, which have no form or substance, hold such power over us? 
            Words are symbols.  Their power lies in what they represent.  Words represent our thoughts, feelings, and ideas.  When we say a word, we are trying to communicate something from our soul.  That’s why words are such powerful symbols.  They are one window to the human soul.  The ancient Hebrews said words are so powerful, they’re like arrows.  Once released, they can’t ever be brought back.  


Monday, September 10, 2012

Morning Worship, 9/9/12

Do you remember that wonderful show CHEERS about a bar in Boston? You could probably sing along to theme song: "Making your way in the world today takes everything you've got. Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot. Wouldn't you like to get away? Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name, and they're always glad you came!" As I read James, preaching about the importance of treating everyone equally, I wondered: What if the church was like that?


Tuesday, September 4, 2012



Dear friends,
Seven years ago this week, Hurricane Katrina swept through the Gulf of Mexico, destroying homes, devastating the economy, and claiming the lives of many. Because of your generous gifts to Presbyterian Disaster Assistance and One Great Hour of Sharing, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has truly been able to help these communities heal and rebuild from that disaster, as well as from the Gulf oil spill in 2010.
Now communities like Plaquemines Parish, profoundly impacted by both Katrina and the oil spill, are in great need once again as a result of Hurricane Isaac. We respond in faith and affirmation that God’s might is greater than any storm.
Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) stands ready to immediately respond to needs identified by mid councils in the affected areas. Trained National Response Team members are being deployed to provide a ministry of presence and help with assessments and other identified needs. Cleanup buckets and Gift of the Heart kits are being assembled for the cleanup and recovery process. Your generosity will make a big difference in the effectiveness of our response.
How You Can Help
We ask that you stand in the GAP for those who are being affected by this devastating storm:
GIVE. Isaac has both national and international impact; we ask that you prayerfully consider giving online to DR000148. You can give $10 now by texting PDA to 20222.
ACT. Volunteer work teams may be needed to help with cleanup efforts. Contact Eden at the PDA Call Center, (866) 732-6121, to let her know of your team’s skills and availability. You can also download and share this bulletin insert with others to inform them of the needs brought about by this situation.
PRAY. Please pray for those who have already been impacted by the storm and those who will face coastal and inland flooding. Pray for affected families and those who will help with emergency, relief, and recovery efforts. Pray that the hope of Christ will be evident in our response.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Morning Worship, 9/2/12

*Today's sermon was "visual" in that the narrative accompanied pictures projected for all of the congregation to see. Therefore, much will be "lost in translation" merely listening to the audio.

Truth be told, I feel sorry for those Pharisees.  Their name has become synonymous with the likes of all sorts of sorry souls.  Jesus himself called them every name in the book. He called them vipers, greedy and cruel, those who loved too conservatively,  those who loved too liberally, and  those had no sense of spiritual proportion.  Jesus called those Pharisees every name in the book during his ministry.  And we can understand why.


Monday, August 27, 2012

Morning Worship, 8/26/12

Think about the most important decisions you’ve ever made.  Can you force someone to love you?  Can you make someone respect you?  Are you compelled to worship God?


Morning Worship, 8/19/12

Why should education matter to people of the Christian faith?  What is the role of the church in the public school system?  How can faith be employed inside schools?  As our children head back to school, we'll address these questions this morning.


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

From the Moderator's Desk

Hello, friends! Do you have “school” on the brain?  I do!  In May, I was elected to the Greenbrier County Board of Education, and we are working diligently to prepare for the year ahead. Many of you are undoubtedly undergoing your own preparations.  Some of you are students, anxious about beginning a new year in a new class with a new teacher. Some of you are teachers, anxious about starting a new year in a new class full of new students! This time of year, when we have “school” on the brain, can be overwhelming, can’t it? 

Several years ago on a Sunday in mid-August at the Ronceverte church, we began a tradition of joining hands in worship, bowing our heads, and asking God to bless the school year and all those who participate in it—students, teachers, custodians, cooks, parents, administrators, counselors, and volunteers. Immediately, it resonated deep within our souls, for it turned our anxiety to anticipation, our hesitation to hope. 

In the midst of the busyness of the season, I invite you to join me in asking God to bless the school year ahead…for several groups in particular.

College Students.   Many of our college students are leaving home for the first time, but they do not have to leave the care of the church. Through the Westminster Foundation, our partner in ministry in the Presbytery of West Virginia, we support campus ministries across the state. If a young adult from your family or congregation is attending college, contact their Presbyterian campus minister so that they can reach out to the student. Contact information for campus ministers is available at

Mountain State UniversityBeckley Presbyterian Church sits adjacent to the campus of Mountain State University. As you may have read in the news, MSU lost accreditation this summer, resulting in a tremendous amount of anxiety amongst students, staff, faculty and the community at large about the future. The Rev. Janice Tiedeck, who serves the Beckley church and the MSU community, sprang into action alongside the congregation. They planned a luncheon for the entire campus community, offered daily prayer services, and reached out to offer pastoral support to students, staff, and faculty alike.

Praise God for the educational ministries of our campus ministers and the Beckley church! Yet, these are but two examples of the important ministries and missions we as Presbyterians in West Virginia undertake at the beginning of the school year. Many of you are gathering supplies for children in your community, opening after-school programs, and coaching athletic teams as acts of faith.  And all of you are in my prayers.  Will you join me in prayer?

Most Gracious God, you are trustworthy in all that you promise and faithful in all that you do. Therefore, we know that no matter where we go, you go. No matter what we face, you face. Go with all those returning to school this year. Help them face their fears as genuinely as they face their joys.  By the power of Christ Jesus and the presence of the Holy Spirit, let us all go and re-create your world by the transforming of our minds…in our friendships, in our families, in our places of work, in our play, in our streets, and in our schools. Amen!  

Many of us are overwhelmed this time of year. But please don’t be overwhelmed by busyness; be overwhelmed by God’s good grace, which transforming and teaching us all the time. 

Grace & peace,

Rev. Stephen Baldwin, Jr.
Moderator, Presbytery of West Virginia

Bluestone Summer Newsletter

The latest newsletter from Bluestone, the Beech Tree, is available...HERE. Check it out!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Morning Worship, 8/12/12

We often think of "prophets" as fortune-tellers. But biblically-speaking, prophets are truth-tellers. They speak truth to power, even in the face of dire consequences! Nathan provides a powerful example of prophecy as truth-telling in today's story.


Monday, August 6, 2012

Morning Worship, 8/5/12

            One time a young man came to me to confess something he had done.  His friend had mistreated the young man’s girlfriend, and it made the young man so angry he punched and kicked his friend until he had no energy left.  “And you feel bad about that today?” I asked him.
            “I do,” he said.  “There was probably a way I could’ve made my point without letting it get that far.” 
            The young man was onto something.  Retribution—the kind David wanted against the rich man—gives us the allusion of righting a past wrong.  Rectifying an injustice done to us.  But the next morning, we realize that nothing has changed.  Only compassion can open the door to a new future.  Only compassion, like the compassion God shows David, can create something new.


Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Morning Worship, 7/29/12

What is power? Who has it? And why does it matter? We explore David's abuse of power against Bathsheba, compare that to Jesus' positive use of power with "the five thousand," and discuss what power we have in our own relationships.


Monday, July 23, 2012

Morning Worship, 7/22/12

A person dies of suicide every 14 minutes in the United States.  There are one million suicide attempts every year.  Nineteen percent of high school students have seriously considered killing themselves.  Fifteen percent actually made suicide plans.  But we’re not just talking about young people.  Suicide rates are highest in people ages 40-59 and over 80. 
            As you may know, this coming Saturday, July 28, is Suicide Prevention Awareness Day in Greenbrier County.  There has been a rash of suicides, especially amongst young people over the last few years here, and a group of people have come together to do something about it.  By chance, today’s continuation of Saul and David’s story deals with the same issue.  

May God bless you and yours! 

Morning Worship, 7/15/12

Do you see the glass as half-full or half-empty?  Is Saul a hero or a villain?  What about David?  Are you an optimist or a pessimist?  Or…do you really have a choice in the matter?  If recent research done by neuroscientists is any indication, even on a cloudy day we look for the silver lining.


Monday, July 9, 2012

Morning Worship, 7/8/12

Kelsey McCoy is a 2012 graduate of Greenbrier East High School and an active member of Ronceverte Presbyterian Church. She plans to attend Michigan State University this fall as a freshman studying Broadcast Journalism. Today, she is the guest speaker, sharing her thoughts on what it means to be faithful.


Thursday, June 28, 2012

Morning Worship, 6/24/12

When Goliath saw David, he couldn’t help but laugh.  Not only had the Israelites sent a young man, but he didn’t even wear armor!  He held no sword!  Goliath assumed he’d already won.  And that’s precisely why David defeated him.  David refused to play by Goliath’s rules.  Hand to hand combat with armor and swords meant certain death for David.  He knew that as well as Goliath, so he innovated.  He introduced a new idea that played to his strengths rather than Goliath’s.  He threw a rock.  The underdog won, because the underdog changed the game. 


Prayer Request

We received the following note from Mike & Debby Moss (Navigators Ministries) yesterday. Please read it and remember those in the fire's path. Thank you. 

Dear Partners, as you probably have seen on the news in the last few days, Colorado Springs is experiencing terrible fires.  The Navigators headquarters which includes Glen Eryie Conference Center, Nav. headquarters, NavPress, and Eagle Lake Camp ground are in the direct path of the fires and has already claimed one building at the camp ground.  All buildings have been evacuated and Focus on the Family has
provided office space for 25 staff to conduct business until it is safe to return.  Please be in prayer for the situation out there in COS.  On a personel level, our daughter Juli and her husband, Justin also live and work in COS.  They can see the fires burning on the mountains from their bedroom window.  Its very close.  The air quality continues to deteriorate and ash is blowing all over. Thank you for your love and concern for the lives that are being affected and disrupted because of these fires.  Every prayer is greatly appreciated.  
                                   --Mike and Debby

Monday, June 18, 2012

Morning Worship, 6/17/12

Father’s Day can be an emotional day for us, and Jesus sympathizes with us in that regard. Tradition tells us his earthly father died when he was young.  Jesus, the simple country boy, probably grew up as the man of the house, helping to care for his mother and younger siblings.  I can’t help but think that was one of the seeds God planted when the earth began, for while it wasn’t easy for Jesus…it allowed him to grow.


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

From the Moderator's Desk...

Rev. David Lee, who serves the First Church in Nitro, wrote a thought-provoking letter to the Council about our current transition and the future of the church. While it was written in the context of Council business, I think it speaks to the larger church context as well. I asked Dave for permission to share it, which he granted. Please take a few minutes to read his thoughts and respond with your own. May God bless you & yours! 
                                     --Peace, Rev. Stephen Baldwin (Moderator, Presbytery of WV) 

To the members of the Council, Presbytery of West Virginia

Grace and peace,

            As we saw on Thursday at the meeting of Council in Elkins, many of the conversations on our docket overlap. (And thank you, George, for allowing us to have the free-wheeling conversation that emerged, rather than constraining it to specific items of business!) Conversations about ministries become conversations about finances become conversations about futuring become plans or dreams or questions or... This felt very healthy and good to me, and I am grateful to have been a part of it today.

            It spurred me to thinking. As chair of the Finance & Development Committee, I have been assigned by the Presbytery to be part of the Negotiating Team, working with congregations seeking dismissal from our presbytery and denomination. So far, we have been working with pastors whom I know fairly well and count as friends. I appreciate their integrity that insists that they wrestle with hard questions and live out difficult answers. I also begin to see that it is not those pastors or churches who are leaving the PC(USA) but it is the PC(USA) who is leaving them.

            Your first reaction to that claim might be denial, or an immediate raising of defenses. Believe me, I understand... It is a very uncomfortable way to phrase what is already a highly charged situation. But it is NOT meant as a condemnation, or an attack. Instead, it is meant as an affirmation - even, dare I say it, a celebration. I believe that it opens up both possibilities and perspectives that otherwise would not be available. Please let me try to explain...

            The PC(USA) is, by the whole culture of its ongoing transformation, separating itself from the vast majority of the Body of Christ, both historically and globally. Supporters of the transformation would probably call it prophetic; opponents may call it apostate. I say that it simply is what is. Whether it is foolishness or fearlessness is something that only God can determine, and God seems to be in favor of revealing that information over the course of time. So regardless of personal opinions, theologies and politics, it is the reality - not only of the present but of the immediate future as well.

            I believe that this gives the PC(USA) and the PWV an opportunity to reinterpret their ministry and role in the world in a new (renewed?) and powerful way. We are PIONEERS... going where we (and almost everyone else) have never been before. If there are those who do not feel the call to leave the settled lands for new frontiers, there is no reason to punish them for their decision: they would hardly make ideal companions on the journey if they were coerced into it. Let them stay home with your blessing - where do you think the settlers who ultimately will follow you will be coming from?

            We are PIONEERS. This means that we are streamlining almost every aspect of our common life. When it is time to load the Conestoga, the whole house isn't going to fit. Pioneers pack only what they need, with the hope and faith that a time will come when they can settle again, and those creature comforts can be reintroduced into their lives. Until then, they take on only what is absolutely necessary. This is not the same as survival thinking. In survival thinking, a person (or church, or presbytery) spares every resource it can in order to prolong the dying process. In pioneer thinking, a person spares every unneeded resource while pouring every needed resource on moving forward. In survival thinking, everyone is a patient - a more or less inactive observer - except for the caregiver(s). In pioneer thinking, there are no observers: everyone is expected and required to commit themselves to the forward progress of the 'wagon train' or caravan. The entire journey is done with the firm expectation that we will reach a destination, as yet unknown, where we will settle and grow and flourish.

            I don't (usually) pretend to be omniscient. It may be that the naysayers and settlers are correct, and that the PC(USA) will wither into obscurity, living on only as a footnote to church history. But it may well be that they are short-sighted, and that the glory of the latter temple will indeed be greater than that of the former if we stay the course, pay the price and commit ourselves whole-heartedly to the task we believe that we have been given. It may be faithful to hold on to what we have been given, but it is faith-filled to dare to leave behind what has become cramped and crowded, where there is no room or freedom to live, love and serve in the way that we believe God has called us to do.

            As we, as a Council and as a Presbytery, go through this time of transition and cultural transformation, it is my hope and prayer that we will face the challenges and changes in the spirit of pioneers: willingly laying aside things that we once cherished in strong, sure hope of attaining something even more worthwhile. Perhaps we will have to make some difficult financial choices. Perhaps we will let go of some things we have done, not because we haven't done them well or seen blessing from them but because they just won't fit into the wagon. But if we can do this with the optimism and courage of pioneers, even the hardships become a part of the story of God's ultimate blessing.

            Thanks for letting me think out loud here. I pray that I haven't offended anyone, and that you will find grace enough to forgive me if I have.

Dave Lee

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Morning Worship, 6/10/12

     Have you ever been to a restaurant…and just when you were about halfway done with your meal, you stop to take a little break.  The waiter doesn’t know this and thinks you’re done, so he begins to take your plate.  “Excuse me, sir, but I’m not finished yet!” you might say.
     Surely, you've heard the chatter that the church is dying. Statistics in the Presbytery of West Virginia, the PCUSA, and the USA bear that out in some ways. But I say, "God's not finished with the church yet!"


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Morning Worship, 6/3/12

The word “Trinity” never appears in the Bible. Why is it so important to us that we celebrate Trinity Sunday?  Because the concept of the Trinity is found from cover to cover in the Bible, and that concept is vital to our faith.  What is the concept of the Trinity?  The idea that we are more than relational, more tan connectional, something like the "opposite of loneliness."


Morning Worship, 5/27/12

How do you know when you’re feeling the Spirit or when you’re just feeling good?  How do you know if you’re hearing the Spirit or your own voice?  How do you distinguish between the words of the Counselor and the words of one who would like you to think they’re the Counselor?


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Morning Worship, 5/20/12

Does your behavior change when no one is watching?  In today’s passage from John, the resurrected Jesus appears to his disciples.  They tell Jesus, face to face, that they love him.  He says, “If you really love me, you’ll feed my sheep when I’m gone.”  Soon enough, Jesus will leave this world and his ministry to the disciples, and he wants to know if they’re committed to doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.  


Morning Worship, 5/13/12

What makes a family?  We hear lots of people, especially those pesky politicians, 
talk about “the family” these days.  But what is the family, anyway, and why is it so important?  There are all kinds of families, aren’t there?  What makes them a family?  I think the answer is as simple as it is complex, “love.”  


Monday, May 14, 2012

Morning Worship, 5/6/12

If a vine is cut off from the root, what happens to it?  It dies.  If a branch is cut off from the vine, what happens to it?  It dies.  If a piece of fruit sits on a branch without being picked, what happens to it?  It dies.  John 15 is a parable about stewardship.  If the garden isn’t tended, then it dies.  Let us begin to talk and think about stewardship.


Morning Worship, 4/29/12

When a shepherd leads the sheep from the front, that allows the sheep a certain amount of freedom.  They could go in any direction they please.  But if the sheep want to live, they follow the shepherd.  Not the sheep in front of them.  Not the sheep to their left or to their right.  If they want to live, they follow the shepherd.  


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Call for prayer: West Gereif Bible School and Sudanese Presbyterian church destroyed in attack

In addition to the continuation of serious inter-ethnic conflict in the newly formed Republic of South Sudan, increased tensions between the Republic of Sudan and South Sudan have led to fighting along the border, and now a global partner of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has seen its Bible school and church attacked and destroyed. According to the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church (SPEC), a group of individuals has demolished the West Gereif Bible School, a Presbyterian church, and two independent churches.
Presbyterian World Mission has been in communication with the leadership of SPEC regarding this incident, and a statement from the Moderator follows below. Presbyterian World Mission does not have any mission co-workers serving in the Republic of Sudan.
Presbyterian World Mission and the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church ask all Presbyterians in the United States and Christians everywhere to continue to keep the PC(USA)'s global partners and all the people of Sudan and South Sudan in your prayers.

Statement from the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church
22 April 2012
Dear members and leaders of Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.),
Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. I am here to inform you briefly about the news from Sudan concerning the burning and destruction of one of the most important places of the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church (SPEC). This occurred yesterday when more than 500 people from Ansaar Alsoona, which is a fundamentalist Islamic group, announced a jihad against Christianity and immediately attacked the Gereif Bible School and the West Gereif SPEC church on that same compound, as well as two independent churches in West Gereif. The group burned, destroyed, and looted everything in the churches and the Bible school including books, air conditioners, computers, photocopy machines, refrigerators and many other things. They even took the students’ things like books, bags, and clothes, and they burned them, as the students were not there.
SPEC Christians are assembling this afternoon (Sunday, 22 April 2012) at the West Gereif compound, which includes the Gereif Bible School and the church. So please, we need your prayers and the prayers of all churches in the United States, and even all the world.  
Rev. James Par Tap
Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church

Monday, April 23, 2012

Morning Worship, 4/22/12

Today, we celebrate the ancient rite of "Bright Sunday," or "Holy Humor Sunday" as it's now called, joyfully expressing our thanks for the good news of the resurrection! Come...and share a laugh, share a joy, share a smile with us and our risen savior. 


Morning Worship, 4/15/12

In a single week, the disciples had…entered Jerusalem as kings and queens, been adored by the masses, betrayed by their own, arrested, executed by the state, and scared into hiding.  It was the worst week.  Everything they thought they knew had been yanked out from under them.  And now, as if that wasn’t enough, it was happening again.  Just when they were beginning to make peace with the death of their teacher, rumors started to fly.  People said he was alive.  The women said the tomb was empty.  A boy said he had been raised from the dead.  Would you have believed the rumors?


Monday, April 9, 2012

Morning Worship, 4/8/12

“And they lived happily ever after.”  Many stories end like that, even if they don’t use that line, right?  Stories like The Lion King end when the main character, who is good, overcomes the odds and defeats another major character who is bad.  Boy meets girl, they fall in love, all is right with the world…“and they lived happily ever after.”  Is that the way the Jesus story ends?  Not according to Mark.  In the oldest manuscripts, the story ends after verse eight, with Jesus raised but his disciples confused and afraid.  The literal translation of the last verse is, “...and no one anything they told, they were afraid for...."  What does that ending mean?


Good Friday Service, 4/6/12

For whom would you be willing to die?  Death is not a topic we discuss often.  It scares us. With good reason.  Death scares us because death is unknown.  We fear that it may bring us pain, suffering, or separation.  So much so that we stop using the word.  We say phrases like, “passed, gone to be with the Lord, moved on” instead.  We distance ourselves from death in all sorts of ways.  Today, we do not have that luxury, for today Jesus dies.  And his death on the cross is filled with all the aspects of death we fear the most--pain, suffering, and separation.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Morning Worship, 4/1/12

Guest speaker Becky Williams, a student in the Presbytery's lay ministry program, preaches on Mark 1.9-15.


Morning Worship, 3/25/12

“Take up your cross.”  The cross was a powerful symbol in ancient Israel.  The Romans used the cross to kill people who had been convicted of crimes.  So when Jesus says take up your cross, he is saying, “Take up that which would bring you death.”  What’s your cross?  What would bring you death?


Monday, March 19, 2012

Morning Worship, 3/18/12

Just so there's no confusion or awkwardness about the punchline, let me say it from the start--this scripture contains a joke. When you understand the cultural cues, it's actually a pretty funny joke. But that doesn't mean the point is not deathly serious.


Thursday, March 15, 2012

March 15, 2012--Letter to the Presbytery

*As a means of staying connected with folks across the Presbytery in my capacity as Moderator this year, I plan to regularly post “letters” to the Presbytery.  Your responses are not only welcomed but encouraged via phone, email, letter, and Facebook! 

March 15, 2012

Dear Friends,
As we gathered for Sunday School at the Ronceverte Church this past week, someone asked our elder commissioner how Saturday’s Presbytery meeting went?  She said, “Good…bad…and good.”  I think that sums it up fairly. 
The morning hours featured a powerful worship service and an educational training session.  “Good!”  After lunch there was a period of significant debate surrounding three Committee on Ministry (COM) recommendations, relating to a few churches who are leaving the denomination. “Bad.”  Finally, we heard good news from the pews and an inspiring testimonial on Bluestone.  “Good!”  (By the way, this was the first time we tried the new meeting format approved overwhelmingly in December by the Presbytery based on the Jeremiah 29:11 report, which worked very well!)
But I admit that the afternoon controversy captured much of my attention.  I woke up at 4:30am Sunday morning troubled, not by the debate itself, but by its tenor.  My soul ached as the debate replayed in my head.  Ached. 
Throughout this week, I’ve wondered: Where do we go from here?  As much as I would like for the entire family to be united in our relationship with Christ despite our theological differences, the chances for our family to remain fully together right now seem slim.  A few churches will probably petition the Presbytery to leave under the policy we adopted in December. 
If those few churches do so, for goodness sake, let’s conduct ourselves honorably and gracefully.  Let’s treat each other with the dignity we all deserve as children of God and members of the Christian family.  For the sake of tender believers.  For the sake of our children.  For God’s sake, since this is God’s church, not ours. 
Presbytery of West Virginia, I implore you to join me in prayer for our Presbytery as Paul instructs the church in Colossae (Col. 1:11-12):  May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from God’s glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light.
Please also know that our Presbytery leadership is prayerfully acting in response to last weekend’s meeting.  I’ve been in touch with the Chair of the Committee on Ministry, the Interim Executive Presbyter, the Acting Stated Clerk, and the Chair of Council.  We all are working to ensure that the Presbytery learns from the past so that we are better prepared for the future. 
May God bless you, your family, your church, and your Presbytery of West Virginia. 

Grace & peace,

Rev. Stephen Baldwin, Moderator of the PWV

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Morning Worship, 3/11/12

There’s a big debate in the church at-large today about how we should and should not behave like a business.  Villanova University’s School of Business even has a center for the Study of Church Management. On one hand, the church is like a business in many ways.  We have employees and budgets and legal liability, right?  We have to maintain the building and run websites and advertise programs.  But…on the other hand, we aren’t selling a product and we could care less about making a profit.  We are a church, not a business.  For me, the biggest difference between being the church and being in business is evident in today’s Scripture.


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Morning Worship, 3/4/12

If I asked you who was in your family, who would make the list?  Blood relatives?  Your parents and your children, your brothers and your sisters, your cousins?  Would it stop there, or would you continue, with your dog and your cat, your best friend, maybe your pastor, the person who is sitting to your left or your right at church?  Would it stop there, or would you continue, with people of deep faiths other than your own—Jews and Muslims who sought do the will of God?


Morning Worship, 2/26/12

The spirit and letter of the law don't always match. We know that from everyday life. Have you ever been forced to break the letter of the law in order to comply with its spirit?  Have you ever had to speed following an ambulance to the hospital?  Or lie to protect the truth?  Have you ever had to get away from church to find God?  


Thursday, February 23, 2012

Morning Worship, 2/19/12

Levi was not just a tax collector; he was a traitor. People loathed him. Why, then, did Jesus share a meal with him and other "sinners?" What was his point?


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Morning Worship, 2/12/12

In today's story, a leper approaches Jesus and awkwardly asks for help. What motivates Jesus to help him, and what are the consequences of the decision Jesus makes? The answer may surprise you.


Monday, February 6, 2012

Morning Worship, 2/5/12

After a chance encounter with a dog carrying his broken chain, I began to wonder if put God is the same position--do we keep God on a chain, forcing God to break free to track us down in the streets?


Monday, January 23, 2012

Morning Worship, 1/22/12

At this stage in Jesus' life, he is self-assured and completely confident. He calls his first disciples, and they follow...immediately. Do you know that feeling of confident, self-assurance? Have you ever waken up full of awesome? Has it been a while?

*This sermon relied on visuals in the sanctuary (pictures of the congregation showing their "awesome" side), which will be lost on this audio recording. Sorry...


Morning Worship, 1/15/12

When Jesus emerges from the River Jordan after being baptized by John, God greets him with a mighty affirmation: "You are my son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased." Surely, that made Jesus feel good, didn't it? How does it make you feel when you are affirmed? How do you affirm others?


Monday, January 9, 2012

Morning Worship, 1/8/12

Does the story in today's scripture about a boy, a king, and a threatened life sound familiar to you? It should. It certainly would have to the ears of first-century Jewish hearers. And therein lies its meaning.


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Penny Lane & Buddy stop by for a visit...

Our good friend Penny Lane and her little brother Buddy, whom we learn about and from every week in the children's sermon, stopped by over Christmas to say hello. Take a look...

Morning Worship, 1/1/12

This time of year, folks often make resolutions. Can you think of some common ones? Don't most involve doing more? What if we resolved to do less? What if, like the child Jesus in the temple, we used our freedom to sit with God and listen and learn?

*A classic moment unfolded in the Children's Sermon this Sunday. I pointed to the manger scene, which was full last week but now had only a shepherd and a few animals, and asked the children, "Where is Jesus now that he's gone from the manger?"  Check out the audio about 20 minutes in to hear the response.

Audio System Fixed!

You may have noticed when listening to our services online, or especially through headphones, that the sound was only being played back on one side. Thanks to the talents of audio engineer Craig Johnston, our problem is solved! You can now listen on your computer, stereo, or iPod with sound in "stereo," coming through both sides loud and clear!

Thanks, Craig!