Tag Archives: Pastors Corner

The Pastor’s Corner, June 2014

Pentecost is an event about power—God’s power! In the Acts chapter, we see that the event we know as Pentecost is ushered in by foreboding, visceral imagery as “violent winds,” and  “tongues of fire.” At first read, it is easy for us to shy away from this story, and see it more as an apocalyptic event that arouses fear in us. We are not used to coupling celebration and frightening visceral imagery. We may be able to deal with the blast of fireworks on Independence Day or the shouting of young children on birthdays, but none ever seem to measure up to a “violent wind.” Most often, we like to think of the coming of the Holy Spirit as a gentler event. But in Acts, we see that foreboding imagery found in the Pentecost story, is one of the most profound ways that God captures our attention.

Living in a world where we see images of bombs, explosions and other machinations of terror, “violent winds” can seem terrifying. We have become far too accustomed to seeing apocalyptic images in all types of media. But whether we like to accept it or not, loud noises certainly do capture our attentions; they disturb our lives and unsettle our everyday routines, and many times this is what the Holy Spirit is like for us as well. Unlike the bombs we hear around the world, God’s noise comes to bring life. But in the process we are shaken and it may be necessary to stop all the other things that we are doing so that we can clearly hear God. It is far easier and more palatable to want the Holy Spirit to come to us in a gentle whisper, but truthfully, we are not always prone to listening for it. This is what makes Pentecost both powerful and profound. We find that whether we like it or not, God, through the power of the Holy Spirit has to be demonstrative to us – God has to get our attention!

In many ways, the Pentecost experience is God’s way of letting us know that living and sharing the good news of Jesus Christ is an urgent and immediate undertaking.  In verse 11, we find those who are touched by the Spirit are speaking of God’s “deeds of power.” This is an interesting phrase because “power” in Greek is called DUNAMIS(doon-a-miss), and we get the word “dynamite,” and “dynamic” from this word. What is exciting about this is the emphasis on the contagious energy that is involved in the Pentecost event. It is almost as if God, through the power of the Holy Spirit lights our fuse so to speak, so that our creative faith and potential in the Spirit can be released into the world.

​But in addition to challenging sights and sounds, the Pentecost event presents us with a larger challenge –  the challenge of witness. Pentecost does not just commemorate the “birthday of the church,” I believe that it also celebrates a “birthing” day, where we are challenged to live in the newness of the spirit. It is a day that challenges us to use our faith to make new relationships happen and to be witnesses to the loving and transforming power of Jesus Christ to all around us. It’s a birthing because we are called to use our strength, gifts and bodies to bring about substantive change in our lives and life around us. Pentecost is a time for us to be the very people that we are called by God to be. Quite some years ago, the U.S. Army had a catchy slogan “Be All That You Can Be!” I believe that Pentecost beckons us and inspires us to do so.

As we are called to live Pentecost in our lives, we find that God’s fire does not consume us, we are warmed and comforted by it. As God’s community of faith, we are also melded together by it. It is here when we carry the torches of Pentecost in our lives, we begin to celebrate what God is doing in our midst. We see reflections of the Holy Spirit in our everyday church programming as well as our worship. Here we find that our faith is not about well wishing, passing out tracts or throwing pamphlets into the wind. Pentecost shows us that our faith calls us to engage and interface with others and with our world. As you reflect on ways that God calls you to witness and carry the torch of Pentecost in your life, I leave you with a quote from Ted Loder’s book Guerillas of Grace that in many ways sums up what our dealings in the Holy Spirit mean:

“Take a few minutes and pray.
I would be silent, now,
Lord,
and expectant…
that I may receive the gift I need
so that I may become the gift others need.”

Rev. Johnson

Rev. Alonzo T.  Johnson was Pastor of Oak Lane Presbyterian Church from 2003 to 2014.

The Pastor’s Corner, May 2014

Halleluiah, Glory be to God! Springtime is here, and I am pretty confident I can get a chorus of “amens” when I say this because we are more than ready for a change of seasons. Although I must admit, the recent morning chill does seem to feel as if winter still has us in its grip. Nonetheless, we know a new season is here because the trees are budding, flowers are beginning to bloom and for some of us, unfortunately, our allergies are starting to kick in. All of this magnificent growth is reminiscent of the new life that we, as believers find in celebrating Christ’s resurrection.

Emerging from the tomblike character of this brutal “storm-a-week” winter, I believe that Spring is a much anticipated symbol of resurrection and “new time” for us. This new time is a crucial time for us to take advantage of the opportunity to make our presence and ministry known in the community. In saying this, I am advocating something I call “full tilt” discipleship. Of course “full tilt” means pulling out all of the stops and giving our all to serve Jesus Christ and live out the Great Commission. Because we love this ministry and  believe in this church, it is essential for us to spread to word to everyone we know that OLPC is a place of redemption and blessing for them. Of course, the key here is that we must believe it ourselves. As a resurrection community, we must understand that the risen Christ must be our motivation to rise in faith. In the coming days, I challenge you as disciples to be bold in inviting folks to church. We are called to do this not so folks can come “pay our bills” but so that folks can be part of a community of faith that knows that support, prayer and love come through our relationships with each other and most importantly with Jesus Christ. As we seek to do “full tilt” ministry, I share this poem which is simply titled A Prayer by Guatemalan poet and spiritual catalyst Julia Esquivel. I share this piece in hopes to inspire you to remember that ministry is a challenge that can be well met with God’s leading and power.

Jesus said,
“You ought always to pray and not to faint.”
So we do not pray for easy lives;
we pray to be stronger women and men.
And we do not pray for tasks equal to our powers,
but for power equal to our tasks.
Then, the doing of our work will be no miracle
– we will be the miracle.
Every day may we wonder at ourselves
and the richness of life
which has come to us by the grace of God. Amen.

Rev. Alonzo T. Johnson

Rev. Alonzo T.  Johnson was Pastor of Oak Lane Presbyterian Church from 2003 to 2014.

Pastor’s Corner, April 2014

Double Dare You to Hope! (The Remix)

 I share this reprinted article with you because it means a lot to me. I wrote it in 2010, not really thinking about the fact that in many ways, much of it has become a litany of hope for me. I do not share this article with you again because I think that it is good, I share it because I think that it is real – and in these tense days, I need Easter’s consolation and promise that new life, new time, and new hopes are on the horizon. I pray that you indulge me in sharing this reprinted and “remixed” article with you, for I need the “gumption,” and “guts” to face the cross. 

​The Empty Tomb, can you imagine the awe and blessed surprise that the disciples experienced when on the third day, they discovered that Jesus was not there? Can you also imagine the sense of confusion and fear experienced by the disciples, who were there and witnessed the grisly and sordid turn of events that ultimately resulted in the crucifixion of Christ, only to find that his physical death was not the last story? Easter amazes me. I say this because it is a profound statement of who God is and what God can do in the most grievous of circumstances. I am also amazed by the dynamic power of the story of Easter, because Easter is daring! I say this because the resurrection let’s us know several things about God. First, it lets us know that there is an existence with the living God beyond this life. Second, the power of the resurrection and the image of the empty tomb lets us know that God dares us to live in, and be practitioners of hope in this life. It is the audacity, the gumption, the guts, and the courage to be hopeful and faithful in the face of trouble.

​On Golgotha (Place of the Skull), where Jesus was crucified, many, including his followers thought that this was indeed the final chapter in the life of Jesus (and maybe even the final chapter of their lives also!). For many, the crucifixion was a definitive death blow — it meant that all was lost, it meant that the violence and brutality of the powers and principalities of the day wins — it was the ultimate death penalty. At the same time, in the cross we see audacity in action. The cross shows us a God whose power is not found in the violence of sword wielding, defamation, and political corruption. In the cross, we see a public statement, a protest against violence. Simply, the cross has a fascinating audacity to show us that violence and violation of people and persons is wrong. It also has a sobering quality of being a mirror that bears a disturbing image as to who humanity is when we distance ourselves from God.

​Easter shows us that God in Christ has a way of life that is larger, more fulfilling, healing and hopeful than what we see on Golgotha. The empty tomb not only shows us that this life is not our final destination, it also beautifully communicates to us that, despite negativity and skepticism (alive in our churches also), we are called to be audacious in bearing hope right now. Easter calls us to be resurrection and reconciliation people. It means that even in the presence of an uncertain and unstable world, hope is still alive. It shows us that even after the conflicts and devastations in the Middle East, Ukraine, Washington State (recent mudslides), and  Malaysia, hope is still alive in how we respond and continue to care with our hearts, prayers and resources. Better yet, it shows us that the gift of hope is alive in us, and we are, in this case double dared to do God’s will.

​So as we emerge from the icy tomblike winter that we just experienced, let Spring be a time for renewal. As the flowers bloom and things begin to get green and lush around us, let these wonders inspire us to take heart, not give up, and be audacious with our faith and the hope that lies within it. Let Spring remind us of renewal and the hope it brings so that our lives can attest to the words of that wonderful hymn Every Morning is Easter Morning!

Christ is Risen, so shall we rise!

Rev. Johnson

Rev. Alonzo T.  Johnson was Pastor of Oak Lane Presbyterian Church from 2003 to 2014.

The Pastor’s Corner, March 2014

Dear OLPC Church Family,

As we enter the month of March, we commemorate the 40 days of Lent.  Traditionally, this is a time of prayer, meditation and spiritual renewal. Lent also presents us as a people of faith with a challenge–one that directs our attentions toward God in spite of the everyday chaos in our lives and our world. In the Lenten Season, we are also called to a time of penitence, introspection, and realization of our humanity. This means we must confront guilt and failings in our lives, as well as work on mending our broken relationships with God and one another. The Lenten season should be one that assists us in recognizing the presence of God’s hope and love in the crevices and gaps of life.

​Lent is a journey. Sometimes it’s one that we don’t want to take. Often, the sheer ritual of Lent makes us feel more obligated than committed. But I believe what theologian Renita Weems states in her book, Listening for God: A Minister’s Journey Through Silence and Doubt.  Weems states: “Rituals are routines that force us to move faithfully even when we no longer feel like being faithful. Until our heart has the time to arouse itself and find its way back to those we love, rituals make us show up for duty.”  It is a journey of renewal that beckons us away from our fast-paced lives, and prepares us to “slow down” and focus on God’s redemptive light in a seemingly chaotic world – – it shows us how important it is that in this chaotic world, we as God’s people are required to “show up for duty” and be ready to work when it comes to living out what God requires of us. Lent also gives us time to concentrate and be more receptive to the ways that God speaks to and through us. Despite the world’s horrors and shortcomings, Lent calls us to experience God’s new possibilities of redemption and spiritual growth so that we as disciples can face a hurting world with strength and powerful witness. As a family of believers here at OLPC, let us take this journey together knowing that God seeks to bring us to new vistas of faith.

​March is also Women’s History Month, and it marks the celebration of biblical, historical and contemporary women who have responded to the call of  peace, justice, equality, and humanity in the world. This month should also be a reminder that the celebration of the manifold gifts and contributions of women should not be limited to one month—or set time, but all the time. Women’s History Month is also a time of celebrating and acknowledging the ways that women both locally and globally, inspire, transform and enhance our lives.

In Christ,
Rev. Johnson

Rev. Alonzo T.  Johnson was Pastor of Oak Lane Presbyterian Church from 2003 to 2014.

The Pastor’s Corner, Winter 2014

There is something incredibly mesmerizing about snow, and lately we have had so much of it, it is actually starting to feel much like the winters of my youth. Of course being young, there was, with every snowfall, a hope that there would be no school the next day. Of course I didn’t have to drive or travel in it. It would be much later in life that I would begin to understand the strange look on my mother’s face every time the snow fell. It was a look of foreboding and dread which would only mean two things: one – that she would not be working the next day (therefore she would not be paid for that day) and two – that she would have to travel on public transportation in the arctic cold and snail-paced, slippery traffic. I don’t know about you but I like snow, but I do not necessarily like what it does. In this I mean that everything slows down, and after big storms, I feel somewhat left behind. Like the ground, my agenda freezes up. The cancellation of things just seems to set me back. In many ways life is like these storms, it blankets us, slows us down and makes us wait. Sometimes the waiting is excruciating, some of us are waiting for God’s confirmation that all will be well. Some are waiting with bated breath to hear a good medical report. Some of us are waiting to hear God’s good news that our finances or our relationships will be better, especially in a new year. Concomitantly, like Terry McMillan, some of us are just “waiting to exhale,” to find space for breath and rest from a stressful season and stressful year.

Wherever we are, we are always challenged to be prayerful and centered in Christ as we wait. As life sometimes blankets us, it is the power of the Holy Spirit that helps us endure. It is no surprise that the New Testament Greek word for spirit is pneuma – which also means ‘air’. It is God’s spirit that gives us breathing space especially when the shadow side of life seems, like snow, to cover everything, including our hopes and dreams. As Christians we are reminded by the apostle Paul in his first letter to the Thessalonians to “Pray without ceasing,” and to “give thanks” for God’s power in “all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:17-18).

There is a great quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that in many ways is descriptive of the anticipation and uncertainty that comes with a new year, the quote is as follows: Faith is taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase. In many ways the new year almost functions like a tabularasa, or clean slate where we can start over. In this new time, what will our resolutions, promises and steps of new faith look like? What will our centered prayers and hopes sound like? As people of faith, how will we be replenished, refreshed and ready to start anew? What will the new season reveal to us? Be open and centered so that the Holy Spirit can blow through us, replenish us and give us the space to grow in Christ.

In Christ,
Rev. Johnson

Rev. Alonzo T.  Johnson was Pastor of Oak Lane Presbyterian Church from 2003 to 2014.