The First Church in Albany. Rooted in Jesus Christ and committed to the city and the people of Albany, New York. Come worship with us.
First Church in Albany
Beloved Congregation of Jesus Christ,
Last Monday evening I returned home after nearly two weeks in Israel and Palestine. When asked, “How was your trip?” a whole string of adjectives comes to my mind: rewarding, informative, challenging, sobering, inspiring, heart-breaking, difficult… I am grateful for your interest, and especially for your prayers. I look forward to being able to share some of my experiences with you.
As many of you already know my return home was delayed and I was re-routed through Geneva, Switzerland. There I had just enough time on Sunday afternoon to visit St. Pierre’s Cathedral, the church where John Calvin preached and taught during the Protestant Reformation. At about the same time that you were gathering for worship in the First Church sanctuary I was sitting in St. Pierre’s looking up at the pulpit and thinking about how much my faith and my values have been shaped by the Reformers of nearly 500 ago. The Reformed faith emphasizes God’s sovereignty over all life. Love of God and love of neighbor are not confined to personal and private life but are to be lived out in the public sphere-- in the world of business, science, art and politics.
In the baptismal liturgy of the Reformed Church the first question asked of the candidate is, “Do you renounce the power of evil in your life and in the world?” I witnessed the effects of the military occupation of the Palestinian people and I can say without hesitation that it is an evil that must be resisted. But how?
The next question of the baptismal candidate is, “Who is your Lord and Savior?” Jesus is my Lord and Savior—the same Jesus who was a Palestinian Jew who lived under occupation.
There were several possible responses to the Roman occupation during Jesus' time: A. Take up arms (the way of the Zealots) B. Withdraw from the world and focus only on the interior life (the way of the Essenes) C. Collaborate with the oppressors in order to survive and maintain at least some power (the way of the Sadducees) D. Reduce faith to a concern for strict personal morality and ritual purity (the way of the Pharisees)
Palestinian theologian Naim Ateek (A Palestinian Christian Cry for Reconciliation, Orbis Books 2008) notes that Jesus rejected each of these options and showed another way:
--He stood for truth and justice without taking up the sword;
--He rose above the ways of the world but without abandoning the poor and the oppressed;
--He sought the humanity of his oppressors without losing integrity through collaboration or appeasement;
--He loved and worshipped God without adhering to a strict or narrow religion.
Jesus resisted the occupation and showed the way of love.
Because I am a baptized Christian I am called to resist evil in the world, and that includes active resistance to all forms of oppression. Because Jesus is my Lord and savior I am called to follow the way of love. Jesus’ way of love rejects the ways of the world without abandoning the world. Jesus’ way of love shows a special concern for the oppressed and the poor, but without ceasing to love the oppressor. Jesus’ way is a difficult way. “The gate is narrow and the road is hard…, and there are few who find it.” But it is the way to overcome evil; it is the way that leads to life.
Fourth Sunday in Epiphany January 31 10:30 am
in the Sanctuary
Children & Worship
Coffee and Conversation
Monday 2.1 9:00- 11:30 am
Food Pantry Open
Tuesday 2.2 12 Noon
Wednesday 2.3 9:00- 11:30 am
Food Pantry Open
Thursday 2.4 5:30 pm
Overflow Shelter Meal
Saturday 2.6 9:00 am
Albany Classis @ First Church _____________________
Looking Ahead: Sunday, February 7
9:40 am Car pool leaves First Church parking lot
Transfiguration Sunday 10:00 am
Combined Worship Service
at Westminster Presbyterian Church
Coffee & Conversation
Wednesday, February 10 7:30 pm
Ash Wednesday Service