Summer Update

After the semester ended, we packed our bags and headed south.  We had a busy summer ahead of us: a 2 week June-term class, Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE), and a summer internship in Beaufort, SC.

Being back in the salt air of the lowcountry was a comfort I didn’t realize I needed.  Wading through 100% humidity felt like a salty hug from home.  Cory, in her 3rd trimester, felt much differently about it than I did…

We spent some time in Charleston before getting the family settled in to what Grace dubbed “the Beaufort House.” It was a great little place with everything we needed, just a 2 minute drive from the church and the water.  We are so thankful to the generosity of the people of St. Helena’s who took us in, provided for us, and cared for us so well over the summer.

Strawberry picking at Bugby quickly became strawberry eating.

After a quick 2 week trip back in PA for my last Greek class, I drove back to Beaufort and began my internship the next day.  My time was mainly split between 2 things: pastoral care and teaching.  Well, there was a third thing as well–8 hours a week of video conferencing for CPE, a chaplaincy training program.

CPE was full of challenges.  As an inter-faith program made up of a very diverse group of individuals focused on critiquing each other’s pastoral care through case presentations, it probably deserves its own post.  I will say, though, that through the challenges God made himself known, and I gained abundant insight into how I function in various pastoral settings.

This particular CPE program allowed me to do this work in a parish setting, as opposed to a clinical setting like a hospital or hospice, which I greatly appreciated.  After being in an academic setting for a year, it was a relief to be back in the church doing pastoral care. I spent time in assisted living facilities, bringing communion to the sick and to shut-ins, and in the hospital. It was humbling to step into people’s lives at significant moments, to hear their stories, and to encourage their faith with the hope only Christ can provide.

My view driving to work every day in Beaufort, SC.

In a different way, I was richly rewarded in the teaching series I led titled The Gospel According To Exodus. I enjoyed the process from beginning to end of developing a curriculum and presenting it over the course of a month. Since we had 40 chapters to go through in only four 45 minute sessions, I focused on presenting the majors themes of Exodus that connect to Scripture’s overarching redemption narrative, pointing towards the fullest revelation of God in Jesus.  (All four classes and notes can be found here.)  I also preached on my last Sunday with St. Helena’s. My experience left me excited about future opportunities to continue teaching and preaching.  While Anglicanism does historically have some gifted preachers and teachers, it has entered into a dry season in the post-modern age.  I’m thankful to have been trained by people seeking to change this reality, and I’ve grown convicted of the need to join their ranks.  (Audio and a transcript of my sermon can be found here.)

We are now back in Ambridge, eagerly awaiting baby boy Prescott who is due on August 29th. Classes start back on August 27th, so this semester will look and feel much different from last year. Thank you for your prayers and your continued support of our growing family!

God Came Down

 

Note: I had the privilege of preaching in chapel the other day.  In true Anglican fashion, I was given 7 minutes!  The following is a transcription of my mini-sermon, and the audio can be found at the end.

 

Our passage today covers a pivotal moment in the relationship between God and his chosen people. God is enacting the Mosaic Covenant, which holds 5 promises that God makes with Israel.  Three come from Exodus 19:5-6, one comes from Exodus 23:22, when the covenant is first ratified, and one from Exodus 34:6-7, when the covenant with Moses is renewed:

  1. Israel will be God’s prized possession.
  2. Israel will be a Kingdom of Royal Priests.
  3. Israel will be a Holy Nation.
  4. God will defend Israel from All her enemies.
  5. God will be merciful, gracious, and forgiving.

Then he said to Moses, “Come up to the Lord, you and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and worship from afar. Moses alone shall come near to the Lord, but the others shall not come near, and the people shall not come up with him.”  -Exodus 24:1-2

Our passage picks up the story in the build up to the moment when this covenant is enacted.  God tells Moses to bring the leaders of Israel up on the mountain.  In preparation, Moses writes down in a book all that God had told him up to this point concerning the covenant, and he begins the covenant-making process where he reads this book aloud for all to hear, and he sacrifices some oxen and takes their blood and throws it on the people.  The implication is that a covenant has been made, and the consequences of breaking it are that blood will be shed and it will be on the heads of the people.

And Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and half of the blood he threw against the altar. Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.” And Moses took the blood and threw it on the people and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.” -Exodus 24: 6-8

Reading these words, we that know the story of Israel can’t help but to think forward to the golden calf and the broken promise, before the tablets can even be completed.

Then Moses and Aaron and the elders head up the mountain and meet with God, and God in his immense majesty and glory is at least partially revealed to them, and we get to verse 11, and this is where I want to ask a question.

Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up,  and they saw the God of Israel. There was under his feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness.  And he did not lay his hand on the chief men of the people of Israel; they beheld God, and ate and drank.  -Exodus 24: 9-11

Here’s my question: How is it that a just God can remain in the presence of a duplicitous people while they eat and drink, and celebrate their good fortune?  Put another way: how can he withhold his power and extend grace in this moment, when he knows that this very covenant will be broken within 40 days, before Moses can make his way back down the mountain? 

This is the only question I will ask of this passage, because it is so important that we get this right. 

Here is the answer: God choosing us is much different than us choosing God. We choose God for a moment; God chooses us for eternity.  God extends grace in this moment just as he did when he made a covenant with Abraham, and with Isaac, and with Jacob, by looking forward to the covenant that is to come, the one sacrifice capable of providing true satisfaction, true reconciliation, true redemption.  God withholds his power on Mt. Sinai so that it can be displayed on the mount of Transfiguration, and on Mount Calvary, when the Son of God will come down again to meet his people, to shed his blood, and to cover them with it–not to condemn, but to claim.

Friends, consider the implications of this truth in your life: God came down. He came down to extend grace to the people of Israel, and through his incarnate Son he came down to extend grace to you and me.  You are his special possession.  You are a kingdom of priests.  You are a holy nation.  It is your enemies that God opposes, and it is to you that he will be “a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.”

 

Thoughts From Seminary On What’s Important

A speaker at the school recently said something along these lines: “there are plenty of things you have to read for seminary, but I hope you have learned the difference between what is assigned and what is important.”

He was not justifying laziness with our work, but instead reminding us of our purpose. I have been called here to learn as much as I can about God so that I may reflect his beauty and proclaim his loving truth with every breath and action.  The best source we have about God is that which he has written himself, Scripture. Reading 1000 theologians cannot affect the heart like an encounter with the living God through the living word. Theologians have value, but they do little more than polish the gem that God has placed in our hands. I pray that you treasure it, read it, and live it daily!

Quote of the Day

You have enemies. For who can live on this earth without them? Take heed to yourselves: love them. In no way can your enemy so hurt you by his violence, as you hurt yourself if you love him not.

AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO

Abundant Love

And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.

genesis  12:2


Four years ago, The Espino family welcomed their beautiful twin girls into the world, 15 weeks premature.  Due to complications at birth, one of their girls, Gabriela, suffered a severe brain injury resulting in a diagnosis of cerebral palsy.  The doctor’s initial prognosis was that Gabriela would not be able to see, hear, talk or walk.  Thanks be to God, she can see and hear.

So began the opening sentences of a recent fundraising campaign organized by Church of the Good Shepherd on behalf of a new member family.  Those words, written by Gabriela’s father, Damian, paint a grim picture with brushstrokes of hope—hope that God’s glory would once again be made known through the blessing of his daughters, Gabriela and Angelina.  In just a few week’s time, that hope became reality: the campaign, promoted solely through Facebook and the church’s newsletter, raised over $7,000–double its initial goal of $3,500. Continue reading “Abundant Love”

The Other Cor(e)y

Whenever Cory and I meet someone new, there are certain reactions and certain questions that we’ve come to expect.  So far, Ambridge has been no different!  We have met some very nice people, from our neighbors to other seminarians, and even the guy down the street with the commercial kitchen space, and each time I chime in with “and I’m also Corey”, the reaction is always amusing!

The first question we get is almost always “Are they spelled the same?”  One of those questions we always get: is it weird having the same name as your spouse?  If you’ve always wondered but never asked, here’s your answer! Continue reading “The Other Cor(e)y”

The Call

Some have wondered why and how I find myself doing the one thing I was adamant I would not do.  The quick answer is to say that God has a sense of humor!

The truth is, I actively resisted any sense of call to ordained ministry until I realized through a trusted friend’s forceful back-hand that my calling has much less to do with me and much more to do with him who calls.  I am not unique or special; he is.  And he has presented me with a question that I can’t answer alone: how can I best serve his church?  An honest pursuit of this answer has led to this calling.
Continue reading “The Call”

Our Story

Cory and I are thankful that God’s work has been evident in our lives since he brought us together.  We were both delinquent Christians when we started dating, before God sent us a clear message: “you are screwing this up!

I remain thankful for this wake-up call, and our relationship is a constant testament to God’s faithful pursuit of us, despite us.  Since then, we have both sought to honor God in our lives and in our relationships, especially our relationship together.

Continue reading “Our Story”