One of those listening [to Paul and Silas] was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in fine purple cloth from the city of Thyatira who was a worshipper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s preaching. After she and her whole household were baptized, she invited us to her home.”
-Acts 16:14-15

This Advent/Christmas Season we are invited to open our homes and our hearts to God. It is often the practice at the Holidays to be with family, to eat together and exchange gifts and have fun. There is something so inviting about being in a warm home, with fun and laughter and good food. This opening of your home, of offering food and welcome, of giving warmth in terms of temperature and temperament—this concept in the Bible is called Hospitality. The Advent Season has been one of not only welcoming Christ
into our homes but of opening homes to practice this mark of God’s people just as the lights and gifts are.

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.
My command is this: love one another as I have loved you.
- John 15: 9, 11-12

I went to a workshop in early October presented by the Lakeshore Center (Camp) and the Presbytery. It was entitled Congregational Vitality 101. We talked about what research said was present in congregations that are healthy. It is true that no one congregation has 100% of these markers, but the more you have the better. As you read this list consider which are strengths and which need some growth here at First Presbyterian Church in Lake Park:

Is This the Best We Can Do?
August 6, 2018 from used by permission by Rev. Paul Hooker, Associate Dean for Ministerial Formation at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary.

When I was young in ministry, the session of First Presbyterian of Kingsport, TN where I was associate pastor would debate some important matter until it appeared everything had been said that needed saying. Then, just before the moderator called for the vote, from the back of the room, Ernie Blackard would raise his hand, and when recognized, ask, “Mr. Moderator, I’d just like to be sure: Is this the best we can do for Christ and his Church?” There was, as I recall, never any answer to that question but silence. But there was always a silence, during which we all asked ourselves whether the vote we were about to cast served any purpose other than the advancement of our own interest or agenda. Ernie is long dead now, but his question echoes in my head every time I prepare to cast a vote.

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