A MESSAGE FROM REV. J.C. AUSTIN: An Inquiring Faith
One of the four Core Values we have identified for First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem is having “an inquiring faith.”
In one sense, that shouldn’t be a surprising value for Christians to have. As I mentioned in the sermon series I did last year on our Core Values, one of Jesus’ defining characteristics in Scripture is asking questions, including often answering a question with a question. And even Jesus’ teachings often provoked more questions than they provided answers.
And when it came to calling disciples, Jesus never gave them a licensing exam that they had to pass before they could become a disciple. No, the test he gave was simple: “follow me.” Intellectual understanding, belief, and theology are quite important to Christian discipleship, but as a means of helping us follow Christ more faithfully, not as a substitute for it. That’s part of why we identified having “an active faith” as a crucial Core Value of this congregation, as well. Inquiring and acting are partners in our faith journey, not rivals.
This Sunday, the sermon will “inquire” into one of Jesus’ teachings that has provoked many questions throughout the centuries: a parable that is often called “The Parable of the Unjust Steward” or “Dishonest Manager.” I encourage you to find at least ten minutes before Sunday morning to read the story, which is found in Luke 16:1-13. Read through it and note what questions arise for you in terms of how to understand it (“inquiring faith”) and how to respond to it in following Christ (“an active faith”).
Also remember that we are on a slightly modified schedule for this Sunday; the 9 a.m. Contemporary Service will proceed as usual, but following that service we will move quickly to the Sanctuary for a Special Congregational Meeting at 10 a.m. where we will elect a new Elder to fill an unexpired term on Session, a new member of the Congregational Nominating Committee to help nominate leaders for the congregation at the Annual Congregational Meeting this winter (see below to meet those nominees) and a recommendation from the Session to reestablish a separate Board of Trustees to manage the property and investments of the church on behalf of the Session. I will also offer a “Mission and Ministry Update” as Pastor and Moderator of Session, and there will be time for questions and feedback as a part of that.
The Traditional Worship Service will begin with a short prelude at the end of the Congregational Meeting, during which attendees of the 9 a.m. service can excuse themselves, and then we will hold the Traditional Service, probably starting around 11 a.m. Sunday School will run concurrently with the worship services as usual, and there will be only one Hospitality Hour, following the Traditional Service.
See you on Sunday!
Grace and Peace,