First Presbyterian Church of Perth Amboy
45 Market Street, Perth Amboy, New Jersey
Who are we? As Christians? As Presbyterians? As Reformed? To be American is not to be automatically Christian and to be Christian is CERTAINLY not to be automatically American. But in this nation, in this day and age, there is a strong cultural narrative that they do, in fact blend.
So, we are the Presbyterian Church (USA). This is not because the Presbyterian Church in inherently American, but because there are Presbyterian Churches in Canada and in other nations around the world. We hold in common a theological, a confessional, an organizational, and a governing system. But what does that really mean?
From the lectionary, we are drawing, in the sermons of the church, on the gospel teachings. Our primary focus is on Jesus-always a good way to begin something. But our secondary focus is on how Jesus speaks to the high points of Presbyterian and Reformed theology. Beginning this focus in the fall, we spent a number of weeks on Jesus’ parables and debates with the leadership of the Jews in that latter part of Matthew with ‘the Kingdom of Heaven’ as our frame of reference of Jesus’ teachings. Does it exist? What is it? What does it mean?
Through to the end of this lectionary cycle (which ends with the beginning of Advent in only a couple of weeks), we have been considering ‘sanctification’. Unlike the ‘Kingdom of Heaven’, sanctification does not have the same level of focus in the words of Jesus. It can be found in the New Testament, but it is ‘one of those words’ that feels more like theological techno-babble rather than a term whose meaning can be teased out of its structure.
Sanctification, simply put, is the expression of God’s holiness in us. This holiness is imputed, is given to us, by God through the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. It governs the actions we do as we render unto God what is God’s, as we live out the whole law, love God and love neighbor, as we come humbly to the throne of grace, as we consider how, in sanctification, we do not simply “talk the talk”, but we “walk the walk” of the love of Christ expressed in our lives.
How then shall we live as Christians? That is the question that, for me, lays behind this sermon series. It is pivotal to how we express our faith.
As we enter Advent, we are going to focus on finding meaning and delight in the Christmas Story as people of faith, returning to the high points of our beliefs in the new year.
Rev. Peter Hofstra