The Beatitudes: Blessed are the meek

Image of lamb and lion by Jeff Jacobs from Pixabay

Editors note: This is the third in an Adult Forum series on the Beatitudes, a class with Pastor David E. Mueller. We meet at 10 a.m. on Sunday (between the 9 a.m. service and the 11 a.m. service) through mid-December and then again after the holidays. Join us in the Great Room for the class and check out the text on our website if you miss any sessions.

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5)

A series allows us to dig deeper and look closer at a section of Scripture than is otherwise possible. I have taught on the Beatitudes as a whole, but eight lessons are more instructive and inspirational if the listeners and (or) readers keep up. Each Beatitude leads into the next one. We need to grasp grace in each and all of them.

We started out “poor in spirit” that we might become enriched. We then mourned the loss of whatever spiritual baggage we had left behind. While the mood was somber, we heard Jesus say: “Happy/blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted.”

Today the mood is restful, relatively relaxed, tranquil. This is what often follows mourning. Once grief and loss are adequately attended to, there is a sense of calm. The wind and rain come and batter our spirits and then the sun shines again. If you appreciate the calm, then hear Jesus: “Blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth.”

We climb higher today. When we reach the top in a few weeks, we will be higher than Mount Everest. Yet we need no ropes, pulleys, hammers and spikes. Those of all ages and physical capacities can make this exciting climb as we are all God-led and lifted, God fed and filled. Today, those who truly desire spiritual wholeness and are willing to trust will be separated from those who are playing spiritual games and cannot last.

I readily admit to having my own difficulties being genuinely meek while trying to preach and teach about being meek.

Meekness is presented by Jesus as a blessing against the background of all its opposites in the world at any given time: wars, skirmishes, conflicts, tensions, sin.

MEEKNESS, PLEASE NOTE RIGHT NOW, IS NOT WEAKNESS.

Weak and not meek men harm their wives. Meek men die for their wives, while weak men kill. (See Ephesians 5:21ff.) The weak and not meek harm children. The tranquility of meekness is contrasted with the tension of weakness. The militancy of the moment, horror of the hour, however constituted, is contrasted with genuine meekness. Why? Because the earth belongs to the meek. Their names are on the deed. We simply do not have to fight and scrap, cheat and steal, for that which is already ours. That changes everything!

The world context in which Jesus speaks is a context of war and human passion for fighting where strength is thought to be in iron: spears, arrows, chariots. Humanity, by our time, has advanced within the realm of iron to tanks and missiles but not beyond it. Iron is still used far too often to destroy.

Meekness in Matthew and Paul (Mark and Luke do not use the word) is to be viewed as gentleness. Paul asked the Corinthians: “What would you prefer? Am I to come to you with a stick, or with love in a spirit of gentleness?” (1 Corinthians 4:21) Here “gentleness and meekness” is the same word. Weakness is not implied in either case. We might think of meekness as “quiet strength.” It is active and not passive, deliberate and not reluctant, acceptance even of seeming injustice or harsh reality. Again, why? Because the earth is the Lord’s (Psalm 24) and He has promised it to the meek.

Decades ago, one commentator, whose name escapes me, thought of meekness as descriptive of the frontal of a war chariot, which, even if decorated, needed to pass the 25 mph crash test, withstand battering of all sorts and protect the rider. It was not a moving but strong and stable part of the chariot. It was neither fancy nor noisy. Meekness is quiet and gentle strength. Weakness is the squeaky wheel or the noisy or broken part.

Footwashing scene on a door, from Pixabay

People not on this holy hike with us may think of us as tetched, just as those who are perishing see the Cross of Christ as foolishness (2 Corinthians 4:1-5). In his letter, the Apostle James (1:21) wrote: “Therefore rid yourselves of all sordidness and rank growth of wickedness, and welcome with meekness the implanted word which has the power to save your souls.” To keep the wickedness is to welcome the weakness.

Faith is seasoned here with redeemed intelligence. Why participate in the craziness of the world’s way of doing things, warring, wickedness, wantonness, worry, and the like, when it is all going to be ours in the end anyway? We are far enough up the mountain to be able to notice below the fruitlessness or utter failure of so much back down there. Isaiah (29:19) reminded his hearers: “The meek shall obtain fresh joy in the Lord and the neediest of people shall exalt in the Holy One of Israel.”

This also means that the meek are free to be generous of themselves and their resources. If we are not expending energy and effort to keep what we have or to gain even more, we are free to give all the more. Giving is living; taking is fooling, forsaking and killing self.

When it comes to banks, Wall Street and other institutions economic, where is the meekness? There is none! Should there be? Or is that which masks and presents itself as success weakness or worse? “Woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.” (Luke 6:24). “At the end of the day” (I hate this overused expression), it all belongs to the meek.

It is an extremely unfortunate reality in our day that there is so much non-meekness, to put it kindly, utter weakness, to put it honestly, masked as righteousness. Those who, for instance, are either for or against war or corruption or greed can both be utterly secular even if they employ religious language to state their case. Look for meekness.

We will be speaking to genuine peace-making in a Beatitude on our way back down the other side of the Mountain. In the meantime, when it comes to meekness as blessed/happy, we are called upon by the Son of God, whose word, way and will neither I nor you can discount, to refuse to let temporal circumstances define us or tempt us away from our walk/climb. One of the great and grave dangers for Christians these days is falling into the trap of becoming like those who hate us. Hate militant Muslims, even if they hate us, and we lose!

None of this, for holy hikers, precludes the support of their Nation, when for just reasons, it goes to war. Nor does war for us, dilute our meekness. The more significant war we must wage is a spiritual one. It is with spiritual and not iron weaponry that we fight it.

I sensed last week a breeze, a holy breeze, holy wind, Holy Spirit. It is fascinating that the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) is: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness (MEEKNESS), self-control.” This is to be contrasted with the “works of the flesh” (Galatians 5:19-21), which include such things as: “… enmities, strifes … quarrels, dissensions, factions….”

Is a Holy or unholy wind directing us? Meekness is fruit of the former; may the latter not be happening among us! The Earth belongs to those who preserve it, not those who destroy it! It belongs to those who live for each other and not to those who kill each other. It belongs to those who believe in Jesus, yet those who believe in Jesus will be patient and meek with those who do not.

A few years back, Bill Moyer, commentator and ordained Christian minister, offered the baccalaureate address at Hamilton College in Clinton, New York. He shared the Jewish tale of Shalom Aleichem, who lived the “Jobian” life of misfortune and tragedy, but who always went about returning good for evil. He died and even the angels of heaven rejoiced to see him. The Lord told him he could have any special favor he wished. He asked only that each day could begin with a hot buttered roll. Then, even the Lord wept! (The Christian Century, June 13, 2006). I am humbled profoundly that this was published on the 35th anniversary of my ordination. I have not become that meek. I, like you, have a long way to yet climb.

In Luke’s Sermon (6:17-49), we are reminded (commanded?) to “love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also….” (6:27-29a) Tough stuff? For the weak, yes; for the meek, no! For, indeed, we have a Holy Wind directing and empowering us and the love of Jesus forgiving us.

“Blessed/happy are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”

The Beatitudes: Blessed are those who mourn

Photo of a rose growing through a wire fence

Editors note: This is the second in an Adult Forum series on the Beatitudes, a class with Pastor David E. Mueller. We meet at 10 a.m. on Sunday (between the 9 a.m. service and the 11 a.m. service) through mid-December. Join us in the Great Room for the class and check out the text on our website if you miss any sessions.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4)

We began last Sunday at the foot of a mountain. I truly believe that thinking of the Beatitudes as a hike up and back down a mountain is the best way to experience and understand them. We started out naked, bared not so much in body as in soul, as Jesus invited: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for there is the kingdom of heaven.” We must shed ourselves of all our spiritual baggage for no one can ascend a mountain so encumbered. We began spiritually impoverished in order to become spiritually enriched.

We are now at the first plateau. We have not come very far yet. The steepest part is still ahead. One might expect a minimum of wear and tear and some remnant of the excitement and challenge that accompanied having made the decision to come along.

The scene, however, is quietly ominous. The hikers are depressed, despairing, dulled in mind and spirit. The tears from much weeping form a waterfall rolling down the mountain. If we are typically human, you and I are not looking up and ahead, but down and back. Already there is a sense of “Hey Jesus, what have you gotten us into?” And Jesus says: “Blessed are those who mourn….” Everywhere up and back WE WILL NOT be dealing with life as we normally would. Jesus is calling us to faith.

We need to discover what the mourning is all about, how the premise and the promise of Jesus differ so dramatically from what we are used to.

In Matthew 7:24-27, a little later in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus reminds us to build our house on a rock and not sand. He suggests that there will be wind and rain threatening us, but shares how to withstand those forces. Jesus is Himself the rock. On Jesus we build our relationships with family, friends, job, career, economics, politics, and all else. If any of those things comes tumbling down, the house stands because it was built on THE ROCK. If lives have been built on family, fun, or finance, then a bad cardiogram, a shift in the stock or job market could bring down the whole life. This is why I mentioned last Sunday that if you believe yourself to be spiritually adequate or abundant, you would not make it to this week. Today’s Beatitude could pull the rug out from under a false sense of spiritual security really quickly.

The scene is sad with a profound sense of loss looming over everyone and everything. Mourning is the natural response to death or loss. The people with you on this journey are mourning and in their mourning are blessed/happy? Hard to believe? Absolutely!

For some years now, our world has been referring to death simply as a part of life. Human beings have developed practices, especially in recent times, to soften the blow: Funeral parlors with posh appointments and subtle lights. The old pine box has given way to shiny metal or expensive woods with crushed velour upholstery. Embalmers became cosmetologists and bodies get to look like someone out of Esquire or Cosmopolitan magazines so that family can feel better and friends can observe how well so-and-so looks. This all has gotten terribly expensive even if cremation lowers the financial blow for some. In either case, ashes to ashes….

Jesus’ message is different on the matter. On the one hand, death is NOT a part of human life, but the “wages of sin,” (Romans 6:23). It is a painful disruption, an unnatural end. We, too, play the cultural game, however, and preserve some fluff to go with the faith.

Grave markerOn the other hand, the wisdom literature of the Hebrew Scriptures makes some odd claims. I re-read Proverbs and Ecclesiastes this past week because so much of the Sermon on the Mount is rooted there. “A good name is better than precious ointment.” (Ecclesiastes 7:1a). We can agree with that one. “And the day of death than the day of birth.” (7:1b) That’s tougher! “It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting….” (7:2a) Tougher still! “Sorrow is better than laughter” (7:3a) Ah, come on now! “The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.” (7:4) “Better is the end of a thing than its beginning” (7:8a). Now that is totally absurd! “Blessed are those who mourn!” There would seem to be in all this a celebration of death, a morbid festivity. Not quite!

Much of the world, though verbally referring to death as a natural end, in practice seeks to cover it up. Experts believe when done appropriately grieving will take six months. During that time friends will tell you to keep your mind off things (wrong!); keep busy; (“wronger!”); take the trip you always wanted to take (“wrongest!”) The doctor will prescribe whatever it takes to keep you calm and the insurance agent will assure you that you were prudent in increasing the life insurance policy a few years back.

In Jesus’ day, everything came to a grinding halt and for six to 30 days people took to the streets, whined, wailed, threw dust on their heads, ripped off their sackcloth not because of discomfort but disgust, defeat, and despair. That is blessed! It neither runs from nor covers up the truth of it, but neither is that truth the last word. The blessing is in facing the terrors head on!

By implication, Jesus is speaking of all losses: job, dignity, freedom, our dream of what we thought life was supposed to have been. If this hike is going to be holy, then we are bound to grieve the loss of the less than holy we left behind at the foot of the mountain: the nice soft bed; economic security, if there is such a thing anymore; family life even if it was dreadfully imperfect or possibly dysfunctional; availability of various forms of entertainment; the challenge of the more typical human responsibilities. When we look up at the trip ahead, we are tempted to look back and to go back, back to the way it was, imperfect, wrong, even unhappy but predictable, comfortable, typical. Enough!

Jesus knows well that it would be silly to go on if all we did was wish we hadn’t. There is blessing/happiness in attending honestly with our grief over losses taken in following Him. Mourn that stuff, miss it and then dismiss it, get it out of your system and bury it. If you are not grieving and mourning, you have probably not given up much yet, still committed to and saturated with what was and not actually open to what is and what will be. There are risks on the mountain too, by the way. People die along the way, fall by the wayside, fall into the precipice. Listen to Jesus in Luke for a moment: “Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn.” (6:25b) We need to mourn what was left behind, all of it, and move on. What is to be is far better, if not yet!

You may remember Lot’s wife! What did she do? She looked back and became a pillar of salt. She was rendered paralyzed, useless. Are you in the paralysis of analysis, wanting to go on but wishing to go back, wanting to have your cake and eat it too, and really getting neither?

Remember at this point that you are not alone! “Blessed ARE THOSE who mourn….” This holy hike, an image of the Christian walk, is communal. We clearly need Jesus, as personal Savior, an utterly essential matter about which we will deal more intensively later in the series. We need Jesus, also as Lord, our collective leader, whose purpose, especially in this Sermon on the Mount, is to draw us together with Him and each other. This is also what makes this holy hike so very important for Christian people right now… You need to mourn the past, righteous though it truly was in large part, and move on into your future, together with Jesus and each other.

In almost every cultural and religious context, death or some other loss tends to draw the support of one’s family, friends, and neighbors, like nothing else can or does. That is a blessing to be sure. Here, however, the blessing is assured because of ultimate comfort. “They shall be comforted.” The blessing is in the mutual circumstance shared and the mutual promise heard. God, in God’s time, will offer ultimate hope fulfilled to the group. In the meantime, we cry together, embrace together, and share together what God will do.

In the first, eighth and ninth Beatitudes, which offer the “kingdom of heaven,” the tense is present: “for theirs IS the kingdom of heaven.” Beginning with the second Beatitude today, including the next five, the tense changes to future: “for they will….” Some of the promises of God are experienced immediately; many are future. Just wait and see!

I sense a slight breeze blowing up here already, a holy breeze, holy wind, the Holy Spirit. My hunch is that we can anticipate more of the Holy Wind, not wind which batters us but Wind who blows to make faith happen in us.

In faith, push on, live on and do so together. We will experience, if we have not already, how a truly festive spirit develops among those making this holy hike. Looking up and on becomes not an escape from the present painful grieving moment, but a moving beyond and through it. Blessings to all of you as you mourn! As Jesus, in Luke, puts it in effect, “The last laugh will be yours.” In the name of Jesus.

The Beatitudes: Blessed are the Poor in Spirit

Image of a man bowed in prayer

Editors note: This is the first in an Adult Forum series on the Beatitudes, a class with Pastor David E. Mueller. We meet at 10 a.m. on Sunday (between the 9 a.m. service and the 11 a.m. service) through mid-December. Join us in the Great Room for the class and check out the text on our website if you miss any sessions.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3).

For Christians, it begins with baptism, even though there are conflicts among us as to when baptism is to take place and how much water is to be applied. My hunch is that a far more important question is how much water is experienced in the Christian swim (or “walk”) throughout life. Clearly there are those, perhaps many, who long into the Christian experience are still splashing away in the wading pool. Are we willing in faith to grow up and swim out into the deeper waters of grace?

Already, I must switch metaphors. We may just be moving from hydrophobia (fear of water) to acrophobia (fear of heights). I invite you to come on a wonderful climb with me for eight or so Sundays.

The “Sermon on the Mount,” more accurately, “The Sermon on the Mound or Knoll,” represents a Christian faith climb. The reference is Matthew 5-7. The “Beatitudes” fall first in Matthew 5:1-12. Please read those few chapters each week to gain a sense of the larger picture. You may also wish to read Luke 6:17-45, where Luke presents similar material.

This is going to be a happy trip. The Greek word “malaria’s” translates as “blessed/happy.” Happiness, however, is not as in the Bill of Rights’ “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Nor is it what most human beings think happiness is. It is happiness by the definition and description of Jesus. Along the way, happiness will seem at first odd if not the very opposite of what we otherwise pursue.

This is going to be an exciting trip. We will be climbing to the very top and there see God—the high point, but not the main point of the journey. It will not be an easy trip. If it were easy, it would not be exciting.

This is going to be an incremental trip. As with a physical mountain hike, we will be stopping along the way. We cannot move up and on without appreciating each stop. There is no skipping any of the five stops up and two back down the other side.

This is going to be a social or communal trip. Despite notions to the contrary and that each individual must believe for herself or himself, Christianity is a communal faith. We need each other. The language is plural: “Blessed are … for theirs or they ….”

Drawing of a climberIf we do not start out appropriately, none of the remainder of the climb will matter at all. Take an imaginary look up the steep grade and realize right off how ill-equipped you are for the hike. It starts with begging “poor in spirit.” You may be wondering whether or not you want to go on this trip. That’s OK! You may not wish to accept the risks. Good! You may think you do not have the stamina to go the whole way. Fine! You may be inadequately motivated to deepen or heighten your spirit. Let’s just leave this one for the more spiritual folk. Nah!

The ones who think or feel that they have it adequately or abundantly together spiritually; who know it all; who have their faith in great shape; who are on a spiritual high of some kind already; who believe they are so close to Jesus that there is no room for greater intimacy; these are the ones who had better just not come along.

For a minute, please go back to baptism. Whether three or 30 months, nine or 90 years, each and every Christian is poor in spirit anyway. It is on this that infant and believer baptizes can get together. However far along people may get spiritually, they are still poor by God’s judgment. Jesus alone is spiritually mature and fulfilled. All of us are far from his spiritual health, making each and all of us degrees of poor. Recognizing, accepting and acknowledging this truth is exactly where this holy hike begins.

This journey is for those who feel badly as Christians; for those who find themselves indifferent but open to surprises; for both those who have all or nothing of the world’s goods and in either case, feel there is something missing; for those who read their Bibles regularly, pray daily, attend worship weekly and serve faithfully—but know how much knowing and growing they have yet to do; for those who know what right, just and good are but have a terrible time avoiding what is wrong, unfair and bad. It is finally for those who are open to God-driven change. For this reason, the trip is for members of the Lutheran church. In this transition time especially, you need God-driven change, individual and communal change, not Mueller change, but God change.

It that is a bit scary, it is as it ought to be. We cannot take the Christian walk, hike, swim or whatever we call it too lightly. We cannot take the ministry we share here for granted.

Luke puts this differently. “Blessed are the poor.” “Poor” has no spiritual knighthood which comes with it; it is neither noble nor nice. Wealthy, however, is not condemned in Scripture, unless ill-gotten. There are many warnings especially in the Gospels and other Scriptures about wealth, however gotten. Jesus did comment that it was easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God (Matthew 19:24). Immediately prior to this statement, Jesus told the rich young ruler to give to the poor all his wealth and follow him (Matthew 19:16-22). In Luke, Jesus brings up the matter of money in parables and other illustrations quite frequently: the rich man and Lazarus, the rich fool, and others. The problem with wealth of whatever degree is the way in which wealth distracts a person from the greater and deeper things of the Spirit. Wealth is, all too often, in the way.

The camel illustration begs for a brief explanation. The eye of the needle is believed to have been a low opening in the wall of a city, too low for a horse to enter and relatively easy to guard against human entry. A camel can get down and with much coaxing inch its way through the “needle.” It is difficult, but possible. But it is still much easier than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God, the door and path of which is narrow. (Matthew 7:13-14). A rich man can get in, but not dragging all his distractions and possessions with him.

The point is that wealth affords far too many distractions of a legal and moral kind as well as illegal and immoral kinds. There are obviously more acceptable but still distracting behaviors that the poor cannot afford.

The poor person does not say no to a hamburger in favor of holding out for a steak. The need for food is immediate, essential and defining.

Now then, we must realize: “Poor in spirit” is immediate and defining in just as essential a sense. Whatever else is going on in your life, “poor in spirit” is who you are and how it is with you. Today, as we begin this holy hike together, it is time to shed ourselves of whatever distractions, positions or dispositions are in the way. They are, even if righteous, in the way.

We are hiking to the heights, not only of this mountain but of life itself. Indeed, “Blessed/happy are the poor in spirit,” the empty ones who are open to being full, the sinful ones who are open to being forgiven, the informed ones who are open to being informed and empowered. “Blessed/happy are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” We are being taken here to the very height of eternal life in and by Christ.

This, by the way, is the form in which the Beatitudes are all presented. The blessing is immediate, while the ultimate fulfillment is yet to come. We have only just begun. Please hang in there as we hike together and discover the surprises of grace.

This is Christ’s own sermon. We will listen to Him and follow Him together.

Welcome to an eternal way of looking at things and learning to live, love and be happy.

St. Mark’s strategic plan in focus at leadership retreat, adult forum

Jim LaDoux of Vibrant Faith

More than two dozen people in leadership roles at St. Mark’s attended a half-day retreat on Saturday, April 13 to discuss the congregation’s strategic plan, now under construction. The plan also was the focus of the Adult Forum gathering on Palm Sunday, April 14.

Leading both meetings was Jim LaDoux, who works with congregations around the nation as a coach/consultant for Minneapolis-based Vibrant Faith. LaDoux has counseled the new St. Mark’s Compass Team, tasked with developing the plan, which will then be presented to the St. Mark’s Leadership Council for review and consideration.

Three congregational forums also are planned in May (see schedule at the end of the article), during which all are welcome to ask questions and share ideas with the Compass Team.

Participants at the Saturday retreat included Council members, committee chairs and ministry leaders. They heard more details from the congregational survey that was done earlier this year. Nancy Wilkerson, convener of the Compass Team, sketched out demographic data and summarized perceptions and priorities listed by the 70 people who responded to the survey. And they heard key insights from LaDoux about what makes for an effective plan.

Nichole Bishop
Compass Team member Nichole Bishop discusses a map showing where members of the St. Mark’s family live.

LaDoux said the strategic plan aims to help the congregation “create a culture of spiritual vitality” in a way that honors our calling and mission and helps us to bring our best to one another and to our community. That requires inspection and reflection, he said, and an embrace of adaptive change. What should we hold onto? What has been meaningful? We don’t want to lose that. What should we reconsider—perhaps celebrate its value in the past and let it go as something that accomplished its mission? Adaptive change can help to make room for new growth.

“If you want a deeper connection to the community, what does that look like?” LaDoux asked. “Maybe it is three signature programs. You can’t manage 15. To do your best might mean you do less.”

LaDoux said he sees great strengths at St. Mark’s—especially its caring and service-oriented atmosphere. He agreed with all who expressed desire for better communication and said he also sees an immediate need to better define and sharpen the church governance structure. He sees that as necessary before any expansion or new programs or ministries might be considered. He is collating material gathered in the discussion groups, will summarize that information and work with the Compass Team to bring further clarity to near- and longer-term goals.

“There’s a lot to celebrate here,” he said. “Every church has challenges. Sometimes we get so caught up in the challenges that we don’t see the strengths.”

Telling the stories of God’s work in our lives is a powerful way to develop the faith community, he said.

Coming soon:

• Three discussion sessions have been scheduled to give opportunity for all in the congregation to meet with members of the Compass Team, ask questions and share ideas. The schedule is as follows:
Sunday, May 5, 10 a.m. in the Seminary Room
Wednesday, May 15, 7 p.m. in the Seminary Room
Sunday, May 19, noon in the Seminary Room

The Compass Team includes Pastor Scott Maxwell, Nancy Wilkerson (convener), Nichole Bishop, Peg Bradley, Beth Miller, Dwight Novotny and Mike Patterson.

Vibrant Faith Goals

Jim LaDoux

Join us for a conversation with Jim LaDoux, executive staff with Vibrant Faith.

You may recognize Jim’s name, as he has been working with the Compass Team as a consultant on the strategic plan that team is working to develop. He is visiting St. Mark’s this weekend as part of a leadership retreat focusing on the work and communication that plan requires.

Today in our Adult Forum, Jim will talk about Vibrant Faith goals, including:

* Identifying your strengths and bright spots. Find ways to build on your strengths and use them to transform people’s lives and your community.
* Gain clarity about who you are, what you do best and where God is leading you.
* Create a plan. Develop a road map for moving forward that builds on your strengths and focuses your assets, actions and energies on the things that matter most in life and faith.
* Develop adaptive skills and strategies. Learn new strategies and approaches to address adaptive challenges facing the congregation.

Jewish-Christian Understanding

Peter Pettit

Peter Pettit, director of the Institute for Jewish-Christian Understanding at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pa., will visit to talk with us about efforts to build bridges of understanding between the Jewish and Christian faith traditions.

Dr. Pettit has been active in Christian-Jewish dialogue for more than 25 years, giving leadership in local, national and international settings.

He earned his Ph.D. and master’s degrees at Claremont (Calif.) Graduate University and a master of divinity degree from Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia.