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Midweek Meditation – December 1, 2021

Political and social unrest dominate the news, and economic distress grips the entire world. People are easily overcome with a sense of hopelessness and fear. As we approach Christmas this year, it seems appropriate to refocus our attention on the reason we celebrate at all. Christ entered history in times like ours: the Mediterranean world was under the occupation of the brutal Roman Empire. Corruption and abuse abounded. Taxes were high, the common man oppressed, the ruling powers capricious and often malevolent. Citizens were disillusioned; the nation of Israel had lost sight of their calling, having lost sight of the God Who had called them. The effects of wide-spread paganism were superstition, devaluation of life, and a lack of natural affection among men.

I wish to offer you a meditation from the Word of God on the coming of the Savior to earth. I invite you to see beyond the distress of an unsettled world and consider the words He spoke through His prophets and apostles, offering peace, joy, and hope of eternal life in Christ for all who trust Him. I Pray this meditation will bless you and bring you closer to the Savior Who came.

For God so loved the world:

“Therefore, my Lord Himself shall give to you a sign: Behold! the virgin conceives and bears a son, and calls His name Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14

“For a child is born to us; a son is given to us, and the government is on his shoulder. And his name shall be called wonderful counsellor, the mighty God, The everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there is no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to support it in judgement and in justice from now and unto forever.” Isaiah 9:6-7

Midweek Meditation – December 1, 20212021-11-29T11:59:53-05:00

Midweek Meditation – November 24, 2021

The church season of Advent begins this Sunday.

Advent is our opportunity to live in the tension between God’s presence and absence. It’s a celebration of a past event and an anticipation of a future one. It’s disappointment at the world’s darkness and hope for its light. It’s a season of preparing for something else, but also its own story. We live between disappointment and hope, waiting and working, trusting in the grace of God which is present and coming to us again in Jesus Christ. Karl Barth said “What other time or season can or will the Church ever have but that of Advent!”

 

 

This year, First Presbyterian Church invites you into the preparation: to sit in the darkness at the end of the year a bit longer, in order to prepare for the light. We invite the adults of our church to join us in the devotional reflections of the German Theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer in, God is in the Manger. And we invite families with young children to join in The Way to the Manger, by Jeff and Abbey Land. Bonhoeffer’s claim that we celebrate the season in “the ruins” is a promise—that no matter where we are in life or in our preparations for Christmas, God’s grace will be waiting for us just there: a light shining in darkness. You are welcome to take one of these devotional resources from the commons this coming Sunday, November 28 before or after worship.

God bless you in your preparing, your waiting, and in your receiving.

 

An excerpt from the Companion to the Book of Common Worship (Geneva Press, 2003, 96):

In Advent we expectantly wait for the One who has already come. We anticipate the promised justice of God’s new world, yet we praise God who raised the “righteous branch” to rule with justice and righteousness. We hope for the restoration of the afflicted, the tormented, and the grieving, yet we delight that healing has come in Christ. We long for the beating of swords into plowshares, yet we rejoice that the Prince of Peace has appeared. We yearn for the barren deserts of our inner cities to flourish, yet we laud the desert Rose that has bloomed. We dream of the land where lions and lambs live in harmony, yet we acclaim the child born to lead us into the promised land.

Christ has come! Christ is risen! Christ will come again! In Advent, we are living between the first and the second coming of the Lord. The dialectical tension of maranatha [alternately translated “Come, our Lord!” or “Our Lord has come”] — placing us between memory and hope, past and future — may strengthen our Advent liturgies. Perhaps we need to cling to the ancient cry of maranatha! and its paradoxical meanings so we may freely embrace “the new thing” prophesied by Isaiah (Isaiah 43:19) that God is doing among us right now. The tension and paradox we find in Advent shapes our celebrations during the season.

Midweek Meditation – November 24, 20212021-11-22T13:40:34-05:00

Midweek Meditation – November 17, 2021

 

Christ’s Unexpected Reign

Revelation 1:4b–8

Our Infinite God “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.

Revelation 1:8

 

“I Am That I Am” (Exod. 3:14, KJV). “I am the Alpha and the Omega” (Rev. 1:8). Sometimes the phrases used to describe God in Scripture are abstract and even confusing.

 

While Jesus sometimes uses more familiar images, like “Good Shepherd,” to describe God’s nature, other times the Bible can leave us scratching our heads as we encounter language that seems more cosmic than relatable.

 

The truth is, we worship a God who cannot be described in words, who is beyond the capacity of all our languages. Our human definitions, categories, and even metaphors fall short when it comes to describing God. Phrases like these try to get at the boundlessness of God’s nature. God is the beginning, the ending, and everything in between. God encompasses all of time and space. God is too infinite to be described or understood. But it is this expansive God who comes to be with us, who cares for us, and who saves us. We are not too small to be noticed; we are valued by the creator of the cosmos.

 

Almighty God, thank you for caring for all creatures, great and small. Amen.

 

Slats Toole, Minneapolis, Minnesota

 

From These Days, Daily 

Devotions for Living by Faith

A publication of the Presbyterian Church of the United States of America (P.C.U.S.A.)

Midweek Meditation – November 17, 20212021-11-17T10:14:10-05:00

2022 Stewardship – Message from the Miller Family

 

Reconnecting Through a Bequest:

Jimmy and Marjorie Miller Still Giving to First Pres Dalton

 

The home place on Miller Street in Dalton has been sold.  The son and daughter who grew up there have moved on to other states, established careers, married and started families.

It is one of those families that, to the Daltonians who knew them, seemed to be a permanent part of our community fabric even though today the family is not physically present.

No close relatives remain in Whitfield County, but many close friends and at least one entity that tied them all together for decades remain.  That son and daughter made a pilgrimage to Dalton from Charlotte, N.C., and Lexington, S.C. respectively this summer to handle some family business.  In the process, they reflected on their upbringing in terms of their parents, their hometown and their childhood church.

“This past year has pulled people together in ways we haven’t been in a while,” Jim Miller, III, commented, referring to the impact of the Covid-19 virus.  Those words could have been spoken by his father, the late James D. Miller, a Dalton native who grew up on Miller Street and then reared his family on Miller Street.

Jimmy Miller, as he was known, made many contributions to his hometown and among those was his long-time tenure as an Adult Sunday School teacher and his service as an Elder at First Presbyterian Church of Dalton.  His daughter, Peggy Miller Torrey, remembered his usual Saturday routine of playing golf at the Dalton Golf and Country Club and then returning home to his Barclay Commentaries to study and prepare for his Sunday School lesson the next day.  His wife, Marjorie Soar Miller, focused her church work on nurturing children, but provided leadership and participation in many facets of the church as well.

Both Peggy and Jim talked about their spiritual legacy handed down by their parents.

“Church was a central part of their lives forever.  It was a loving expectation (of their children), but it was an expectation.  Both made clear to us that faith is important,” Peggy said. “And church and church work are as important as faith because they are the way you show your faith.  We were always told that you need to find a place to use your gifts and give back.”

Her brother Jim added that he and Peggy were taught by their parents that, “Work with and support of the church are among the top things that you do in life.  You make room for this.  It was expected and appropriate.”

The purpose of their trek to Dalton that day was to present a financial gift to First Presbyterian Church from Jimmy and Marjorie Miller, a bequest payable upon their passing.

“Peggy and I had nothing to do with this gift,” Jim stressed.  “It was important to (our parents) to do this properly and in order because that is a trait of the Presbyterian Church.

A small gathering of church members and friends witnessed the handing over of the gift, a generous token of the senior Millers’ gratitude for their long-time church home that served as a central gathering place for family and friends.

The apples did not fall far from the family tree.  Jim and his wife, Kay, are members of Myers Park Presbyterian Church in Charlotte where both are active.  Peggy married a Presbyterian , Dave Torrey,  and continued her Presbyterian path in South Carolina.

In addition to their dad serving as a life-long, active Presbyterian, their paternal grandfather, James D. Miller, was also an Elder in the Dalton church and their paternal great-grandfather, John Henry Miller, was a Cumberland Presbyterian Church minister.

“I love the Presbyterian Church.  It’s a nice blend of formality and reverence.  I love the blend of loving grace, reverence and awe,” Peggy volunteered.

“There is a feeling of connectedness and strength in the church,” Jim added.

That “connectedness” does not go away, as Jim and Peggy proved to themselves and others on their journey to Dalton to tend to their parents’ request.

No matter where you are or how long you have been gone, First Presbyterian Church, Dalton, invites you to Reconnect with your presence and your presents of time, talent and tithes.

 

Miller Family Presents Bequest to First Pres from Jimmy and Marjorie Miller Estate

From left, Lindsay Miller Socha, Peggy Miller Torrey, and Jim Miller with The Rev. Dr. Will Scott, Church Treasurer Bob Hubbs and long-time Miller family friend and neighbor Walter Jones.

Mrs. Torrey and Mr. Miller are the daughter and son of Jimmy and Marjorie Miller. Mrs. Socha is daughter of Jim Miller and granddaughter of the senior Millers.

 

 

2022 Stewardship – Message from the Miller Family2021-11-11T12:16:55-05:00

Midweek Meditation – November 10, 2021

Getting Comfortable 

Hebrews 10:11–18

 

Muscle Memory

“This is the covenant that I will make with them 

after those days, says the Lord: 

I will put my laws in their hearts, 

and I will write them on their minds.” Hebrews 10:16

 

Two decades ago, I bought a book and taught myself to knit. It took me months to learn. One mistake in knitting can make a whole project unravel. It was incredibly frustrating; I felt like I was doing the wrong thing every time I picked up my needles. Now, after years of practice, my fingers know the motion of knitting almost in the same way that my lungs know how to breathe.

 

The writer of Hebrews encourages us in our Christian life by reminding us of the promise that God’s law will be in our hearts and written on our minds. We can live our lives without the shame and anxiety of sin because we live in the knowledge that we are forgiven, that Jesus’ work has already perfected us. Even when we do make mistakes, we are freed to live in this new reality where doing God’s will is written on our hearts, part of our muscle memory. 

 

O Lord, may I live as one who is freed and forgiven, with your law so close to me that it is part of who I am. Amen. 

 

Erica L. Schemper, Saint Paul, Minnesota

 

From These Days, Daily 

Devotions for Living by Faith

A publication of the Presbyterian Church of the United States of America (P.C.U.S.A.)

Midweek Meditation – November 10, 20212021-11-10T10:43:37-05:00
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