Creating a Future – August 2021 Lectionary Preview

July 19, 2021 by Glen Bell

Think of all the images.

“We must no longer be children . . . but speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.” (Ephesians 4:15-15)

“The whole body [is] joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.” (Ephesians 4:16)

“Live as children of light – for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true.” (Ephesians 5:8-9)

“Put on the whole armor of God . . . Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace.

With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Ephesians 6:10, 14-17)

How do we restore our spirit of creativity? How do we reimagine a lively faith, personally and communally? Hundreds of years ago, Augustine, the bishop of Hippo and author of The City of God and Confessions, wrote, “Salvator ambulado . . . it is solved by walking.”

I have taken his guidance to heart through my daily routine.

Each morning I walk three miles, a mile and a half to the local Heine Brothers Coffee and then a mile and a half back home. The path curls out of the neighborhood onto Moser Road, where it crosses Chenoweth Run.

Some mornings the creek is only a trickle, the rippling water reflecting the sunlight, the flow barely audible above cars passing by. Other mornings the run is swollen with rain, dark, fast and angry. A bit further, the route leads into the woods. The sidewalk ends. Spiders cross the path. There are deer.

I look and listen, sniffing the earth, tasting the air, hearing birdsong. I grew up east of here, far beyond the borders of Kentucky. One of the ways I discovered this place might become home was the smell of the dirt, the texture of the grass, the dogwood blooms. We are hundreds of miles from where I was raised, but the latitude is right.

Morning walks slow me down. They open my heart. Walking invites me away – at least for a few minutes – from the promises and temptations of technology. Walking puts me back in my body. The experience points me to the One, the Creator, whose goodness and beauty surround every step.

The poet’s invitation is clear: “Take refuge in your senses, open to all the small miracles you rushed through, become inclined to watch the way of the rain when it falls slow and free, draw alongside the silence of stone.” My very best photo from all these morning rambles is a simple scene of the sky, scattered small clouds speckled high against the cerulean blue. That sky holds the companionship of goodness. It proclaims the promise of ruach.

I trust that walking will lead me to beauty, images and ideas to renew my faith. Each life step invites you and me into a whirl of creativity, reflecting awe and wonder in God’s creation.

The Ephesians readings in the August lectionary overflow with rich imagery. The community is a body, bursting with gifts, wildly complex and diverse. This Word vision invites us to expand our dreams, not only witnessing the joys around us, but also bringing to mind and heart the burdens we are called to shoulder. This expanding vision fills our hearts, guiding us deep within ourselves and deep into the needs and gifts of our neighbors.

In the new book, Crisis and Care: Meditations on Faith and Philanthropy (2021, Wipf & Stock), editors Dustin D. Benac and Erin Weber-Johnson write, “For some, the pandemic feels like the unraveling of time, an unshakeable encounter with an uncertainty that renders us unable to imagine future possibilities. For others, the pandemic brings with it expanded possibilities, an invitation to work for and implement change . . . We are mindful that this particular moment discloses what has always been true about our communities: they are at once more fragile, more resilient, and more beautiful than we could ever imagine.”

The beauty of God’s creation discloses the robust goodness of providence and grace and church at every turn. Each new moment becomes another opportunity to dream, imagine, envision and picture the Holy Spirit’s lively presence in and through us.

The invitation in the imagery of Ephesians is the opportunity for us to dance with the community of faith, leading, following, learning new steps with both hesitancy and joy, tripping and even sometimes falling. In this dance, something new is experienced. Something new is created. Something new rises as a blessing for us all.

Rev. Dr. Glen Bell joined the Foundation in August 2020 as Senior Vice President of Development. Before joining the Foundation, Glen dedicated 30 years as a pastor in a wide variety of Presbyterian Church (USA) congregations, serving churches in North Carolina, Indiana, and Florida, including serving as executive pastor of Second Presbyterian Church, Indianapolis, Indiana, and pastor/head of staff, First Presbyterian Church, Sarasota, Florida. You can reach Glen at glen.bell@presbyterianfoundation.org.