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We are a biblically-based Presbyterian church seeking to experience and share God’s love to transform our homes, community and the world. We hope you will join us.

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June 2023 Pastor’s Corner – Always Only Jesus

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. — Hebrews 1:1–4

I had a conversation with a friend a few weeks ago about faith and spirituality.  He was sharing with me the story of his own faith journey and how he’d come to believe in the divine spirit, that sense of love, peace and acceptance that is so essential to human existence.  It was an impersonal spirit that accepts no matter who we are, loves no matter what we’ve done, is always present no matter how far we run.  It was an interesting conversation because it was so full of half truths, while missing some of the most important truths of all.  It’s actually kind of marvelous, because you get all the benefits of a personal relationship with God, without any of the pesky things that come along with a God that is actually intimately, personally present in our lives and actually expects anything of us.

We live in a time where “spirituality” is perhaps more important to people now than ever before.  It’s a somewhat unexpected development, given modernity’s efforts to eradicate the spiritual from all areas of life.  Where many feared what postmodernism might do to matters of faith, it turns out that the door has been opened in many unexpected ways.  The door hasn’t just been opened, it’s actually been flung wide, so that it’s almost an “anything goes” spirituality.  When people talk about their faith and spiritual journey, like my friend above, it’s almost always a belief in a non-specific, impersonal “deity” that only loves and never rebukes, always accepts and never holds accountable.  If we’re honest, many of us have allowed these kinds of ideas to get woven into the fabric of our faith as well.  While we say it’s “always only Jesus,” in practice our faith is a lot of “Jesus and…”

That’s why the Letter to the Hebrews was written.  As Eugene Peterson writes, 

In the letter, it is Jesus and angels, or Jesus and Moses, or Jesus and priesthood.  In our time it is more likely to be Jesus and politics, or Jesus and education, or even Jesus and Buddha.  This letter deletes the hyphens, the add-ons.  The focus becomes clear and sharp again.  God’s action in Jesus.  And we are free once more for the acts of faith, the one human action in which we don’t get in the way but on the Way.

This summer, we’re going to get back to Always Only Jesus, with the book of Hebrews as our guide.  We’ve all added on to our faith, probably without even realizing it.  Let’s shed the extra baggage and get back to living the free and light life of faith Jesus died to bring us.  We look forward to worshipping with you.

Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. 

— Hebrews 13:20-21


Rev. David Garrison


May 2023 Pastor’s Corner — The Valley of Death

 Even though I walk through the valley
      of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil,

for you are with me;

your rod and your staff,

they comfort me.

— Psalm 23:4

The last week of April was bookended with memorial services.  I officiated a funeral on Monday, and attended my uncle’s memorial service on Saturday.  Not surprisingly, I’ve been thinking about “the valley of the shadow of death” quite a bit.  Pictured to the right is the Wadi Qelt on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho, which is likely the inspiration for the Psalm.  Notice the depth of the gorge and the dark shadows toward the bottom.  It is a visceral experience of “the valley of the shadow of death.”

Often we think of “walking through the valley of the shadow of death” during seasons of grief and loss, such as when a family member or dear friend passes away.  That is certainly a time when we are in that valley.  In addition to the inevitable sadness, the loss of a loved one is a reminder of our own mortality.  As Psalm 103 declares, “As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more.” (Psa. 103:15–16)  Knowing that God is present with us in our grief, actively and proactively comforting us, is a great assurance during these seasons.

There’s more to the valley of the shadow of death.  As many of you know, my uncle took his own life a month ago.  For many, including my uncle, to “walk through the valley of the shadow of death” is to wrestle through seasons of depression and sorrow, where the shadow of death whispers our fears of inadequacy, unworthiness, failures, and brokenness.  It offers seemingly sweet promises of relief and peace, the tender lie that one’s family and friends would be better off without you.  When we are in this valley, it feels as if the darkness of the shadow of death is our only friend; all we can see and hear are our fears.  But the Psalm reminds us that even in this valley we are not alone in the shadows.  Even when the whispers of the shadow of death speak louder than anything else, we are not alone; we need not be afraid because God is with us.

Of course sometimes the valley of the shadow of death comes during seasons of trial and tribulation, when it feels like every one and every thing is attacking us.  In Psalm 18, David says, “I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.  The cords of death encompassed me; the torrents of destruction assailed me.” (Psa. 18:3–4)  The shepherd uses his rod and staff not just to guide the sheep along safe paths, but also to beat off wild animals that attack the flock.  Even then, God is present with us, protecting us from that which would bring us harm, saving us from our enemies.

The thing, though, is that God’s presence with us in “the shadow of the valley of death” does not necessarily mean that we won’t die while in the valley.  That might not seem like much comfort, but that’s only because our faith is so small.  We forget where we started, that our bodies are mortal and temporary things.  What’s ultimately at stake isn’t our physical bodies, but our eternal souls.  God will be present with us, up to and beyond the point of our physical death.  This should not fill us with fear or dread either, because of what we talked about last month.  Since Christ has been raised from the dead, the power of death is broken.  We can rest assured that we too shall be raised with Christ! After we shed our mortal coil, we will then see God face-to-face and He shall wipe every tear from our eye.  Death does not, and can not, have the final victory.  Praise be to God through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 

— 1 Peter 1:3–5


Rev. David Garrison


April 2023 Pastor’s Corner — The Only Difference That Matters

Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.
— 1 Cor. 15:12–19
There are a lot of things about the Christian faith that are unique and special, that differentiate it from all of the other religions and philosophies throughout history. But nothing is more important than what we celebrate on Easter Sunday. It is the resurrection of Jesus Christ that makes all the difference. As Paul writes in the passage above, if Jesus Christ wasn’t bodily raised from the dead on Easter, then everything we believe as Christians completely falls apart. Even more, our eternal hope disintegrates. It’s easy to become complacent about our Easter celebrations, but we should make the effort to avoid falling into that trap.
In the fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians, Paul explains so well how essential the resurrection of Jesus Christ is to our faith. As quoted above, he first says that if Christ wasn’t raised from the dead, then our faith is futile. He then points out that Christ has, in fact, been raised from the dead so that “as in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Cor. 15:22). It is because of the resurrection that we are baptized, which is a symbolic dying and rising again. It is because of the resurrection that we are able and even willing to endure hardship, persecution and suffering for the sake of Christ.
Paul then describes what the resurrected body will be like: a very real body, but also a spiritual body. All of the weaknesses and imperfections of the natural body replaced with the perfection and strength of the spiritual body. It is because of the resurrection of Christ that the power of death has ultimately been broken. What causes fear for the unbeliever is the source of our greatest hope.
We are all looking for God to restore and redeem our lives. What we’re looking to have restored varies from person to person. It might be mental, physical, or emotional restoration, but it’s certainly spiritual as well. Christ’s death on the cross provided for our spiritual redemption. Christ’s resurrection from the grave promises our eternal restoration. Sometimes, God brings restoration to us while we’re on this side of glory. Whether He does or not, because of Easter Sunday, we can know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that one day our restoration will be full and complete, because if Christ rose from the dead, so shall we. Praise the Lord!
When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
— 1 Cor. 15:54–57
Rev. David Garrison


March 2023 Pastor’s Corner — Stay Thirsty

 “As a deer pants for flowing streams, 

so pants my soul for you, O God.

 My soul thirsts for God,

for the living God. 

When shall I come and appear before God?” 

— Psalm 42:1–2

As many of you know, I am an avid coffee drinker.  While medical tests have never proved it, there have been times I’ve been pretty sure there’s more coffee running through my veins than blood.  It’s not so much about the caffeine (caffeine doesn’t really wake me up, it just keeps me from going to sleep), I just simply love the taste and the smell.  

For no particular reason a couple of weeks ago, I didn’t drink any coffee for three or four days and instead drank several glasses of water.  Just water, with nothing added.  A few days later, I noticed that my quality of sleep had significantly improved and that some of the aches and pains that come with middle age had lessened.  The only thing I had changed was decreasing the amount of coffee consumed each day.  It’s not that I had been dehydrated; I was definitely getting plenty of fluids.  There’s simply no substitute for a nice, cool glass of perfectly mixed dihydrogen monoxide.

I’ve often said that going to church for Christians is the air we breathe.  I think that was the wrong analogy, because you can only go without air for a few minutes.  However, one can live and exist just fine without water.  As long as you’re still getting fluids (coffee, tea, your carbonated beverage of choice, so on and so forth), your body will continue to function, and probably fairly decently.  But if you want your body to be at its best, then we need water.  You don’t need water in order to be human (most any fluid will suffice), but the human body can’t be at its best without water.  For the Christian, going to church isn’t the air we breathe, it’s the water we drink.  Going to church won’t make you a Christian, but I don’t know how to be a Christian without going to church.

In the Psalm at the beginning, the psalmist is in exile in a far off land.  He is unable to worship at the Temple in Jerusalem; he hasn’t been able to go to church for a very, very long time.  As a result, his soul is drying up.  Three times in the Psalm he says his soul is “cast down within me.”  In addition to sleeping better and the aches and pains lessening as I drank more water, my mind also seems a bit sharper and clearer.  Who knew that sometimes depression can be eased by drinking water?  The same is true spiritually.  We were created to worship God, together, with the other saints, on a regular basis.  We need water daily.  Our spirit needs corporate worship at least weekly.

If your spiritual life seems a bit dry lately or if you’ve found your soul “thirsting for the living God,” maybe it’s because you’ve “neglected meeting together” (Hebrews 10:25) with the saints in worship, prayer and Bible study. I didn’t realize how much my body was craving pure water until I started drinking more.  Sometimes, we don’t even realize how thirsty our soul is until we gather together with other believers to worship the Lord and pray together.  We drink best from the well of living water when we do so together with other believers.

Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”  — John 4:13–14


Rev. David Garrison


February 2023 Pastor’s Corner — Winter Growth

 And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.” — Mark 4:26–29

It’s usually right about this time of year that most of us are getting tired of winter.  I say “usually” because we haven’t really had much of “winter” this year.  Other than the cold snap in late December, we’ve pretty much just had a long, protracted fall.  But whether it’s snowed or not, or if it’s been as cold as we expect, everything else is pretty much the same.  The ground is a bland brown, the trees are bare, and even on sunny days everything just looks kind of dead.

However, underneath that bland brown ground, inside those bare, grey trees, there are a lot of things happening.  What seems dead on the surface is full of life underneath.  Roots are spreading, seeds are sprouting, water is being absorbed, nutrients are being processed, new life is preparing to burst forth.  It looks like very little is happening right now, but in a few months our yards, gardens and trees will burst forth with new life.

Sometimes we feel like there’s nothing happening in our lives, our souls or in our community.  We might feel as dead or bland as the trees and ground in late January and early February.  In the midst of the cold days and long nights, we wonder if God has given up on us.  We look for evidence of spiritual growth in or around us, but can’t find anything at all.

Just like the flowers and grass in the winter time, just because you can’t see any evidence of God at work in your life, doesn’t mean He isn’t at work.  Sometimes, the work the Holy Spirit is doing is happening under the surface, behind the scenes of our heart and soul.  It’s necessary work that has to happen in order for the new spiritual growth to spring forth in the next season of life.

I think something very similar is happening in the life of Northminster right now.  Sometimes we look around and struggle to see evidence that God is still at work.  It’s easier to find things that look like death rather than life.  But just because we can’t see what’s going on doesn’t mean nothing is happening.  God is moving and working behind the scenes, working under the surface to prepare each of us individually and us as a community of faith for a new season of growth and life.  

Each spring, we take time to prepare our yards for the new growth that’s about to come.  We should be intentional about doing the same thing spiritually.  If God is in fact preparing a new season of spiritual growth and life, we should be preparing ourselves for it — as individuals and as a community of faith.  Let’s intentionally spend time in prayer and in God’s word, asking the Holy Spirit to prepare us for the work He is already doing in and around us.

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building. — 1 Cor. 3:6–9


Rev. David Garrison