PRESBYTERIAN WOMEN, CULPEPER PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, CULPEPER, VA
Our study of the Beatitudes and the Acra Confession has given us, the women of the Culpeper Presbyterian Church, Culpeper, VA, a better understanding of how a confession of faith differs from the traditional confession for personal prayers of confession of sins and requests for forgiveness. A confession of faith assesses and acknowledges our faith position on issues we encounter in our daily lives.
Our confession of faith and commitment addresses the needs of the poor, hungry, physically and spiritually persecuted, and is our pledge to act in ways that will spread the gospel of Christ. We support the programs and missions of Presbyterian Women nationally, specifically those directed toward providing pure drinking water in the Sudan, fighting violence against women, and aiding women to become economically self sufficient. Our goals are to support actions to help women and families in the community, regionally, and globally.
Locally, our fundraising efforts contribute to the free medical and dental clinics, the Culpeper Pregnancy Center, Culpeper Young Life, and our own Manna Ministry which serves hot lunches three times a week for anyone in need who comes to the fellowship hall. This ministry has expanded beyond meals to offering such items as clothing, transportation, pastoral counseling, and spiritual support to help folks get through tough times. It has been our joy to offer our talents, time, and resources to programs and projects that stretch beyond our congregation and community. For example, we fund special needs identified by the Lynchburg, Virginia, Home for Children at Risk, and participate in Soles for Souls, the organization that collects shoes for disaster victims.
As we endeavored to produce our confession of faith, we examined ourselves in light of each Beatitude and what Christ was saying to the crowds and His disciples. We discussed how to activate our convictions and ignite our intentions to serve the physical and spiritual needs of our brothers and sisters in Christ, to spread the promise of salvation through God’s grace and love, and to fight persecution of believers, at home or abroad.
I. What are we doing for the poor? We sometimes find it difficult to grasp the hardships and struggles of our neighbors, near and far. We live in a society of above-average means; our needs are met. We don’t know what it is like to be truly hungry for even one day. We fail to notice how much food we waste because we don’t properly preserve it when it is not immediately consumed. We may confess to honor the destitute, but we are frequently too busy to stop what we are doing to assist those who need us, or rescue those who are left homeless by floods, tornadoes, earthquakes, hurricanes, and even by bank foreclosures. We see our unworthiness of God’s love when we fail to put our energies into service for the poor of this world, especially those in our own community. It is time for a change in our thinking and our responses to the needs we see all around us.
II. How can we bless those who mourn? People mourn privately and publicly for many reasons. We confess we are often uncomfortable in the presence of those who weep, those who use rituals and traditional postures to vent their grief and pain. Jesus understood grief, sorrow, and loss; He wept for His people; He wept over His city, soon to be destroyed; He wept as He saved the man on the cross next to him while He struggled for one last breath Himself. Teach us, Lord, to open our hearts to those who mourn, for whatever reason. Show us how to offer comfort in practical ways to alleviate the pain in their bodies and spirits.
III. Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful,” but our concept of mercy is dwarfed in His presence. We have experienced God’s mercy personally; we have begged for mercy in times of pain and distress. Yet, how vain and selfish of us to ask Christ to be merciful to us and yet not show mercy to others. Our demonstrations of mercy to those suffering from starvation, wars, and disasters of all kinds, are tempered by distance. We rarely observe such events first hand, so our mercy may be only words, without action. Lord, show us how to be merciful to others as You are merciful toward us.
IV. “Blessed are the pure in heart” convicts us of our sinful state. We do not always have pure thoughts, words, or deeds. It is easy to say that pure thoughts are the key to kind words, setting the stage for a pure heart, but we know hearts are unruly things. How can we control an unruly, impure heart? God’s word is the path to a pure heart and a right relationship with Him, and through it we will be able to form right and compassionate relationships with others.
V. Jesus said, “Blessed are the Peacemakers.” Do we qualify as peacemakers? We enjoy God’s peace in our closed circles and the comfortable places we find for ourselves, away from the tensions, mistreatment, and aggression imposed upon our brothers and sisters by hateful and greedy power mongers. It is pleasant to bask in wholeness, well being, and peace, passing a nodding shalom to our neighbors as we ignore the violence around us. In reality, we avoid the outrageous injustices all around us. We side-step situations where we should step in and offer a voice of reason and love. It is our responsibility and duty to demonstrate God’s peace, to speak out against injustice, and to offer help to those caught in the midst of it. How can we put our lives on the line for Christ? A place to start is by facing the guilt we carry for having kept quiet when our nation was torn with racial strife. That task is not finished. We can work to root out lingering acts of injustice and discrimination in our nation. Further, as a minimum, we can boycott businesses that exploit their employees and fail to provide fair wages and working conditions.
VI. The Beatitude that speaks to those who are persecuted for the sake of Christ’s name shows us how far removed we are from any form of persecution. We certainly did not consider we could be persecuted for our faith when we accepted Christ as our Savior. We pledged to follow His teachings and His will for our lives, while the joy of His promise of eternal life overshadowed all else at that moment. We must have overlooked this Beatitude about being blessed when “people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kind of evil against you because of Me.” Christ said “when,” not “if,” so we should arm ourselves with God’s word to be ready to respond to those who sling their hate at us for our belief in Jesus. We hear about Christians around the world facing dangers from non-believers who want to drive out Christ from their communities and countries. We may not be threatened with violence or death, but disdain for Christian principles is seeping into our daily lives and society in general. We routinely fail to respond to the insidious, but less obvious persecutions for our Christian beliefs, traditions, and teachings. Christianity is being diluted by opposition to its holy days, symbols, inscriptions, and its presence in official and public speech, all of which are foundational precepts of our culture and nation. Lord, we ask for the courage to speak out when non-believers oppose anything Christian in the public and educational spheres, and when weak officials give in to pressures from non-believers to diminish the voice of Christianity in our legal and social systems. Secondly, open our mouths in unfriendly crowds who criticize and ridicule You and Your Word. Strengthen our resolve to be an ever-present witness for Your Word in a world of hate. Keeping quiet is not an option.
VII. Stewardship of God’s Creation is the responsibility of every disciple of Christ. God’s commandments to care for land, waters, and air, were instilled at Creation itself to human beings entrusted with their use. We have an intellectual knowledge about God’s creation—the universe, sky, earth, and all the things that inhabit the world. We know how to nurture plants, animals, soil, and water, and to preserve these life-giving components of the universe. Yet, we are careless, even malicious, in our use of His gifts. Shame on us for assuming that God entrusted His marvelous works to us to use as we choose, without giving thought to its damage, deterioration, and extinction. How dare we buy what we do not need, and hoard for ourselves what others lack to sustain their lives, homes, and communities. It is time for a change in our thinking and attitudes toward the universe and its contents. We can begin with efforts to cut our ties to the god of consumerism. We can be smarter consumers by not buying items we don’t need from companies who harm the environment. We can recycle and use recycled products, grow more, share what we have with people in need, and look for ways to live more simply in order to leave a much lighter footprint on God’s world.
Lord, we ask for the will to adopt a new way of living that preserves rather than destroys, that gives rather than takes from the earth, and become better stewards of Your gifts. Do not let us falter in our resolve to be good caretakers of Your world.
As believers in Christ, we commit ourselves, as a group and individually, to do what we can, when and wherever we can, to move Your kingdom forward on earth according to Your will. Talents, abilities, time, and resources vary from woman to woman. We each have demands and responsibilities placed upon us by our family, work, and community. Please guide us through Your word to meet those demands and the needs of your children according to Your will.