Sunday, January 30, 2011

God is strong, and that is reason enough to tell the story!

There are a lot of things running through my mind today.  I have no idea where this blog may or may not go.  I just know I needed to write.  It was an emotional week, there were ups and there were downs, there was no consistency to the days and that was even true of today.  

I had a busy week, PantherPack prep session and stuffing/delivery took place, I had a nice chat about boundaries with friends who are dependent on my being there and "helping" them with their problems (which turned into a discussion about why I should be angry?), and then I drove 4 hours to Urbana, IL for a Synod meeting.  I heard a great sermon on Friday with a beautiful one this morning as well. I had a friend turn 21 yesterday and I had some heartfelt discussions about things that frustrate me in this world which reminded me of the discussions my Papa and I used to have.  

The amazing thing about this entire week was how much God's word was made alive and brought to light and sent into passion through two great ministers preaching.  The first was from the outgoing moderator of the Synod who preached from Romans 12:1-2.  He preached a sermon titled "Why must we Change?"...the highlights of his sermon were that we change because it is God who is at work reforming and renewing us with God's own word.  It is not that we change ourselves but that God transforms us to be like Christ.  The context in which it was preached was in a Synod that is doing great work to be relevant and active, but the sermon also spoke to us as Christians in churches and in our lives where we get caught being complacent and comfortable scared even terrified of change.

This mornings sermon was a beautiful reminder that while Christ was at his lowest God was strong in Christ and the same is true for us. While we are low, vulnerable, and weak God is strong in us. 

What I have found absolutely awesome about this entire week is that the message of the cross is not a horrible death because God didn't let it end there.  The message of the cross is power because it ends in resurrection and new life!  It is power because it breaks barriers of age, race, gender, and social class (unless we get in the way).  It is power because it speaks when we cannot. It loves when we cannot. It carries us when we cannot carry ourselves.

On Friday afternoon I sat along side an 83 year old woman who I just love.  She told me story after story of her fighting for rights of those who could not fight for themselves.  Of sheltering those who needed a place to sleep.  Of breaking social barriers that were in place for no good reason.  In the eyes of this woman, I saw Jesus Christ.  I saw the power of the cross at work through her life, and this gave me great joy.  The more I think about my new friend the more I think about Christ and the more I want to follow the theme of telling the story.  We all have a story, it may not seem as great as Millie's but God is strong in each of our stories and that makes them worth telling.

This week may have been a struggle, but how great is God to remind me that the darkness does not overcome the light.  I think there are 5 or 6 sermons in this weeks lessons on life.  Maybe I will have to keep telling the story.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Keep Doing BUT Dare to do MORE

 Krista Phillips

Hanover College Chapel


Text: 1 Corinthians 1:10-18 and Philippians 2:1-11

                                                                Keep Doing, but Dare to Do More!


There was an elderly man in a nursing home who lost his dentures.  That night went around with a pillow case collecting everyone else’s dentures from the glasses alongside their beds. After collecting all the dentures he tried them all on until he found some that fit him and then he took the pillow case around putting the teeth back in everyone’s bedside glasses (of course not their own teeth in their glasses). The next morning everyone woke up and began to put their dentures in, only to find that they didn’t fit!  And so they tried to function as the nursing home sought a solution to the problem, all the while struggling because their teeth didn’t fit. 

How many of us walk around this campus trying to function but feeling like our theology doesn’t fit? How many people on this campus feel alienated because their theology doesn’t fit? 

In verse 11 of today’s text we hear the church being called out because there has been what the NRSV translates as quarrels among the people within this church, the translation of the word into quarrels doesn’t do the Greek justice because the Greek word can be translated into strife, contention, or dissention. A division is rising up and Paul says people are taking stands and choosing sides by saying “I belong to Paul” or “I belong to Cephas”  today we might say “I belong to Luther” or “I belong to Calvin” or dare I say “I belong to Laura”.  What does it mean to belong to someone, to agree with their theology? Does it mean your allegiance is to them?  The next question posed in this passage by Paul is one of my favorites.  He asks “Has Christ been divided?” 

John Calvin puts it this way,

For no hope of future inheritance remains to us unless we have been united with all other members under Christ, our Head. The church is called 'catholic' or 'universal' because there could not be two or three churches unless Christ be torn asunder which cannot happen! (Institutes book 4)

In other words all of the quarreling that goes on within the church based on who we claim to follow, besides Christ that is, is all nonsense because Christ is the head of the church and Christ was not divided into pieces or split into factions!  Therefore the church is called to unity in mission.  In the end who are we here to serve?  What is it that we are all working for?

If there is one thing this chapel community does well it is that we do not let our differences of theology get in the way of us being a supportive and loving community.  Some of us like Maria focus on how God’s love relates to our everyday lives, how we come to be transformed and live as a transformed people.  Those like Scott are wicked smart and have crazy formulas that end with the bottom line that God’s grace is super fantastic!  Daniel likes to keep it simple stupid and let us know that because of Christ we can be in the presence of God.  Laura believes the church is a support system, scripture is truth and nothing can separate us from God! Eric believes God loves everyone, even those who are his enemies! Rosa believes that we are the hands and the feet of Jesus in the world around us and therefore we do the work of Christ that reaches out to all people.  And mine, we should just be like Jesus. Period.

And I could separate these theologies that we have submitted (if you haven’t given one to Laura see her after chapel and you will get a colored piece of paper and have your opportunity). I could separate them by content, by diagrams, by pictures, by many different things because though our theologies may seem to differ, at their core they all share the same mind and purpose that God has created a world and a people that need to be cared for and welcomed in. God is love and we are to be love on our campus and in our world! What a powerful message from this small community of folks from different backgrounds and traditions!

I paired this passage from 1 Corinthians with one of my favorites from Philippians because of this affirmation for our community.  To let the same mind be in us that was in Jesus:

Who though he was in the form of God did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death-even death on a cross.  Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend in heaven and on earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Within our chapel bubble, which is even smaller than the Hanover bubble, we do a great job of being in the same mind as Christ.  Serving one another, putting each other before ourselves, we have this down! 

Most of you who have heard me preach before know I can’t just end here, though it is a high note, I do not believe we can read scripture and walk away simply feeling like we can pat ourselves on the back and say job well done.  The Holy Spirit is always at work challenging us to see with new eyes, hear with new ears, and go out with new hands and feet to serve in a different way.

So now that we’ve patted ourselves on the back and come far enough to say we are a supportive and loving community that loves to do the work of Christ, let’s take a look at this text and see what is in store for the future of this community.

There are some key points in the text that raise good questions for us to ponder and answer, maybe not today, but as we grow and continue to reach out to our brothers and sisters on this campus, in E. KY, in Nashville, in Haiti, or wherever we may go.

While we have seen that divisions are harmful to the unity of a community or congregation, I think this text also challenges to take a deep look at what we do and do not believe as individuals.  These individual beliefs often effect how we live in a community of faith.  Do I believe that there is no way God could punish a person, made in the imago dei or image of God, by sending them to hell? Do I believe that hell is real and people end up there?  Do I believe baptism is necessary for salvation? That it is merely an outward expression of an inward commitment? Do I believe that baptism signifies my presence in a community of faith? Or one of the other possible beliefs on Baptism? What do I believe about the Lord’s supper, or communion, or the Eucharist? Do I call it the Lord’s table or the altar? What do these things that I believe have to say about how I live in community with those here in this room and those who do not come into this sanctuary?

What does it mean to me for the message of the cross to be power to the saved? What do I believe about being “saved” and what does that mean? 

What is our purpose as a community and what are we doing to make sure we fulfill that purpose?

Are these questions that we as a community answer or do we do so as individuals?

The question I would like to pose to this community is a tough one for myself and it may be a tough one for the community but I see the same faces here week after week, what are we doing to make sure that our brothers and sisters on this campus are feeling welcome in this space?  What are we doing to make sure that peoples theologies are not being alienated,  that they are not walking around feeling like misfits, but instead feeling the love and service of those who are here today?

Christianity has a long history of being a very exclusive religion.  You have to believe a certain way to be in and if not you are out, but I’d like to see more communities like this.  Ones where folks set aside differences to exemplify love, a word that my not so stuffy dictionary of theological terms defines as

Not a thing that is blind but the act of actually seeing the needs of others and putting their needs higher than yourself or your needs. (Crazy-Talk)

But I’d like to see the same community exemplifying love refuse to become complacent, to refuse to settle as if what they are doing is enough, because when I look out into the world I see people wandering around with their heads down feeling as if they just don’t fit in.  May we challenge each other and ourselves to reach out to those who are not like us, those who we know need someone to welcome them in, those we know who are still figuring out exactly what it is they do believe.  Because let’s face it, how many of us 10 years from now are going to have the exact same theologies that we do now? 

Keep loving each other.  Keep setting aside your differences to stand on common ground.  Keep supporting one another, but dare to reach out.  Dare to break down barriers that society has built up.  Dare to be Christ on this campus.  Dare to love radically.  And dare to dream a vision of a chapel community without walls, so that all may come together to celebrate and proclaim the good news!

In the name of the Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer. Amen.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Reflecting On the Mountains

Sunday morning we woke up in Hazard and headed for Buckhorn.  We met a guy at the gas station (from WV) who had a story about losing his job and his wife and he was headed west (if you want to know the entire story just's sad but some of it is funny too)...

We drove down one of the most beautiful roads I have been on, curving back into the mountains.  Stopping at a couple of pull offs to take pictures and eventually making it to Buckhorn KY.  

I attended Sunday School and Church at Buckhorn Lake Area Presbyterian Church.  I had met a couple of people from this church at General Assembly and decided that  while I was down that way I should go and visit!  

It was a great Sunday to visit, I enjoyed the fellowship and worship and truly felt welcome there.  I also had the chance to do a lot of reflecting both on the sermon and worship service.  They were installing new Elders during worship and I couldn't help but to think back to the day I was ordained/installed as an Elder.  I couldn't help but be renewed by hearing those questions that I have heard time and time again.  As the two men stood and were installed and the Elders came and laid hands on them, I was once again reminded of how interconnected we are as a church.  How we are all called to serve one another.  How we are all working together for the common good.  

As we were leaving (again after a GREAT time in worship/fellowship) I couldn't help but smile, to be joy-filled, to want to stay longer.  Each time I go to the mountains I meet some awesome people.  So hospitable, so loving, so caring, so Christ-like.  Each time I leave knowing I have seen Christ, knowing that the people I come in contact with are brothers and sisters separated by a couple hundred miles and a few mountains. 

We stopped in Berea to see my friend Ethan.  Ethan was so gracious enough to answer some of my curious questions, listen to my stories, and make me go buy fudge :-D!  Then I headed off to Lexington to see another friend, Amy.  She's been back to KY for a couple of months now and we had yet to meet up.  It was great to visit her even if it was for such a short time.

In all, the weekend couldn't have been any better.  I stood on the edge of mountains and as at peace.  I sat on stones and peered out over miles of hills and knew that God was with me.  I met new friends and old friends and saw the face of Christ shining back to me.  I said "goodbye" knowing that it was really a "see ya later" because there is something or someone (God?) drawing me back to these mountains to continue building relationships/friendships that are going to last a lifetime.  

I can't wait to get back to the place I've come to love.  



Saturday, January 15, 2011

You are just here to be here?

As I traveled around a small portion of Eastern Kentucky today, I spoke to a few people and as they asked where I was from and what in the world brought me to the mountains at this time of the year I explained that I just wanted to be here.  I love the mountains and I love the people I meet here.  It seemed like each time we spoke to someone they were shocked that we loved the mountains, that we wanted to drive 4 1/2 hours south to spend a weekend here instead of at school with our friends.  

So our day consisted of waking up around 10am (yay for sleeping in!) and going to Hindman KY to the Appalachian Artisan Center where we had lunch and bought some goodies (including a Rich and the Po Folks CD).  We spoke with the women who were working and then walked around in Hindman before heading back to Hazard.

Our second adventure was to Kingdom Come State Park.  At first we thought this was an epic fail because after driving a little over an hour, we learned that the entrance (2 miles long and uphill or...up mountain) was covered in ice/snow.  So after failing to get even slightly up the hill (yes I still tried in the Lincoln) we just kept driving over the mountains.  Eventually we made it to Cumberland KY and I recognized a few places, then saw the sign for Benham and realized we were close to the KY Coal Museum.

We stopped in the Coal Museum to stretch and give the Lincoln a break.  The lady there (I'm awful with names) had us cracking up for a good 20 minutes telling stories.  Then she told us that folks from here are Mountain folk, folks from TN are hill folk, and folks from WV are country folk.  I don't know how true that is but the way she put it made me appreciate that she wanted to take the time to explain to me how different folks are.  She even went into the difference between folks on "her mountain" and "the next mountain over"...I truly appreciated her time and willingness to share with me.

As we came back over the mountains and headed towards Hazard (without directions...haha) we stopped a couple of times to take pictures and just sit, staring off into the mountains that seemed as if they would never in.  

As I took a few goofy shots and some more serious ones, I sat and stared off into the majestic and powerful ancient mountains.  They are covered in snow, we were folded in, and the the sun kept peaking through the clouds.  It was beautiful....I was telling a friend today, that I feel God and see God so much in these mountains.  In the people I meet.  Not that I don't see God and feel God in other places, but it's different here.  I can't explain it.  But it is a holy place for me.  I see Christ in the way people take care of one another.  In the patience they show to one another. In the hospitality I have received.

And so, I am here just to be here.  To visit old friends and  make new ones.  To laugh, to cry, to relax, to explore.  I am here, just being.

May you find a place to go and just be,


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Preaching, Papa, Nanny, what a week!

This time last week I was settling down after a day of hearing great preaching and enjoying a night of Kentucky awesomeness (especially the bluegrass).
Tonight as I continue to reflect on the Festival of Young Preachers that took place in Louisville, KY (Jan. 6-8) I also reflect on how I came to be at the Festival. If you read a couple of entries back you will see something very similar to what I said Friday night in worship as I spoke about my call to vocation. In this I did not mention one very important aspect of my call, that is my Grandfather, Papa. Papa passed away 7 years ago on Jan. 9. The day after the festival ended I remembered the man who influenced my faith more than anyone else.
You see Papa was the reason I became Presbyterian. Through his side of the family I am a 5th generation Presbyterian. It was Papa and my Grandma who made sure I was at church on Sunday mornings. It was Papa who would take me up to the choir loft and sit me on the edge letting me look out over the empty sanctuary in awe of the architecture and beauty of God's house.
It is Papa's choir cross that I wear (almost) every time I preach. It is the gentleness, kindness, humility, and love of Papa that showed me what it was to be Christ-like. It is Papa who would sit in the basement and let me sneak down the stairs to startle him and then hold a conversation with me no matter how young I was, treating me like an adult. It was Papa who taught me respect by example. It was Papa who taught me dedication and hard work.

So as I look back I remember that I was raised by a man with outstanding Christian character, teaching me by the way he lived. Loving me and it is he who would be proud of me this day.

Tonight I stand 8 hours from it being 1 year that my Great grandmother passed away. I was waking up at the exact time that she passed away. I was preparing to head to Louisville that afternoon to say goodbye...and I didn't make it. So when my great aunt and uncle asked me to put together and do her funeral that I humbly and fearfully took on the task. Recruiting the help of my Pastor at the time (to do all the official stuff) I picked hymns/songs, scriptures, wrote a homily, and put everything together. I stood before family and friends, grieving and broken, leading a service to remember and honor a woman who was gentle and loving. A woman who gave all that she could to the people she loved. A woman who was strong willed and soft spoken, fearless and fearful, loving and patient, funny and witty, hard working and peaceful.

And so I am who I am today because of these two wonderful people (and others too)...I am who I am because of where I've come from. I am who I am because God has created me and called me to be, and to love, and to serve.

Though I miss these two wonderful people more than words can express, though I sit here fighting back tears, though I sit here wondering what kind of emotions tomorrow will bring, I sit here knowing that God is good, that God has something in store for my life that is bigger than me. And I stand here excited. I stand here ready to live one day at a time to serve the Lord and the Lord's people. I stand here knowing that Nanny and Papa are proud of the things I am doing and that makes me happy. I miss them both, I love them both, and I can only hope that continue to remember the legacy they left behind and take it with me wherever I go.


Tuesday, January 4, 2011


Tomorrow evening I will meet up with my fellow members of the Leadership Team of the Academy of Preachers.  Thursday 129 young preachers from across the nation and across denominational lines will gather to celebrate gospel preaching...AND I'M EXCITED.  

I'm excited to meet up with folks I met last year.  Catch up and see where they are in school and in their ministry.  I am excited to hear them preach, to listen to their stories, to continue building relationships.

I'm excited to meet new folks.  To learn about their journey, how they have arrived at the festival, why they are here, what their expectations are.

I'm excited to see what God does over throughout the festival.  I'm excited to see denominational barriers dropped, the gospel preached, and for everyone to stand together on the common ground of Christ.

Did I mention that I'm excited? 



Sunday, January 2, 2011

Why do I preach?

 “Krista, you have a gift.  You should consider ministry as a vocation.” “You know KP you used your gifts today and you should think about the possibility of seminary after Hanover.” “Aren’t you under care of your Presbytery yet?” “Your pulpit presence is better than mine and I’ve been a pastor for years.”

                These are affirmations I heard and pushed aside many times before I decided to stop and listen to what they were saying. The first sermon I preached was youth Sunday during my senior year of high school, and I did it because no one else in the youth group would.  Well, and because all volunteered me to do it. I thought folks were just being nice by saying all of these things, and they were, but there was truth to what they were saying.

                When I did stop and take an entire summer as an intern here in Louisville at the church I grew up in, I found just how true those words were.  I found myself looking forward to Sunday’s where I got to help write the liturgy.  I loved interacting with folks in nursing homes and hospital rooms who were so happy someone had come to visit.  I experienced what it was like to participate in a funeral service and interact with a grieving family.  And then, I got to preach. 

                I have always loved scripture.  I don’t mean that in a ohhh look it’s the Bible I love it kind of way, but scripture has been and I pray it always will be for me a place that I go when  I am down and out and need a pick me up as well as when things are going perfect.  When parents are fighting, when tournaments were won, when friends abandoned me, when nieces were born, when loved ones passed, and when a friend needed help; I turned and continue to turn to scripture.  There were times I would run to my room and shut the door, face full of tears crying out for things to be different for violence to end, for peace in my house, for the sick to be well, for life to be different. And in these heartfelt moments of crying out I would crawl in bed and open my Bible and begin to read familiar texts in a new way. Brothers and parents would open the door and see me sitting there reading my Bible and they would quietly leave, I often felt in another world, I had found my peace.

                When the time came for me to preach during my internship I was excited.  As the sermon process was underway I truly felt as if it were an act of worship.  Spending time digging into the word of God and reading commentaries opened my heart and my mind to what God was doing and saying.  And when I stepped in that pulpit the final Sunday of my internship I was overwhelmed, I was overwhelmed because God was using me to deliver a message to God’s people and that was something far greater than anything I could do on my own.  And now, I love preaching almost as much as I love scripture.  I love spending time wrestling with a text, listening to the text, and being open to the Holy Spirit while learning along the way.

Each time that I preach I am just as nervous as the day that I first preached, but each time I am fully aware that God is at work in me, around me, and through me, bringing a message to God’s people that is not my own.  And so I stand before you today and like Paul, I do not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom. For I decide to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I come to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. My speech and my proclamation are not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.