Illinois claims Abraham Lincoln as a native son, because even though he was not born in the state, he settled in Springfield, which is where he practiced law, entered politics, married and raised his children. We Presbyterians like to claim him too, though he never formally joined a church and his parents were Separate Baptists.
It seems strange to be reading a tough text like Luke 9:51-62 during
the gentle days of early summer. Most of our congregations are in
relaxed, vacation mode. And into these mellow summer days is shoved a
gospel that speaks of the stark demands of discipleship. Jesus has set
his face toward Jerusalem, but he is no passive victim of
This passage has all the elements of a scary story. Jesus and the
disciples get into a boat and a horrible storm comes up. The disciples
scream that they are going to die, reach the shore, step out onto
land—and find themselves in a graveyard where a naked demon-possessed
man is wandering about.
It is instructive and ultimately very encouraging for an American churchperson to get a glimpse of the global Christian enterprise. I had a chance to do so recently at a pastors consultation sponsored by the World Alliance of Reformed Churches in Geneva, Switzerland. The alliance is a loose affiliation of 216 Reformed and Presbyterian denominations.
James Fenimore Cooper Jr. and Margaret Bendroth are rummaging through church attics and basements in the New England states, especially Massachusetts, looking for records of early American life. Some churches are reticent to part with old documents, but the two historians point out how vulnerable the documents are and offer to keep them in a climate-controlled rare book room at the Congregational Library in Boston. Among their findings: a church in Middleboro possessed an application for membership submitted in 1773 by a slave (New York Times, July 29).