“The year we got everything wrong.”

So read a recent headline on the CNN website. The article went on to explore reasons for the divisions among us.

And here we are again at Christmas, with all its promise of peace on earth and a fresh new year stretching out before us.

What exactly is the promise of Christmas?

Andrew Wilson, teaching pastor at King’s Church in London, writing in Christianity Today reminded us what the Christian faith teaches about the worth of each person. All human beings are to be treated with the same dignity, regardless of class, race, sex, and so on. We’re called to fight racism and oppression and injustice.

But the phrase “all men are created equal” is not in the Bible.

The Bible has a higher vision of equality.

The Bible says “all are one in Christ Jesus.” In Jesus’ great prayer in John 17, Jesus prays that the disciples “would be one, just as he and the Father were one.”

The great missionary, Paul, writing in Galatians 3:28, says “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male or female, all are one in Christ Jesus.” Paul uses the word “no” or “not” four times in that one sentence. Why? Because human categories are far less important to God than what God wants to do in all of us together.

Andrew Wilson says that “Equality in the modern sense is fundamentally individualistic: I’m equal with you, and you’re equal with me, no matter whether we are joined in any way. There’s no room for concepts like oneness, unity, and partnership.”

So the hope of Christmas is not that we’re all equal, the hope is that we’re all one in Jesus Christ.

Heart of the city

I often wonder if the folks who dedicated our beautiful church building could have imagined the changes the city has seen over the last 111 years. A century ago, the city was a dirty and gritty industrial giant. Downtown was home to factories and factory workers. Back then, they carved the worship times in stone on the front wall of the church, never imagining the day when faith would no longer be the center of civic life.

But today, Pittsburgh is back.

Over ten billion dollars in investments have poured into the area around this church in the last decade; over a hundred million this year.

Where else would you put a church today?

With faith no longer the center of people’s life, we have an amazing opportunity to live and speak God’s truth into the heart of the city. More than ever, people need to hear the Good News of the Savior’s birth, and the message that God is still making everything new.

Most livable city? For whom?

We’re proud that Pittsburgh continues to be recognized for things like the country’s “Most Livable City.” But there are still thousands all around us for whom Pittsburgh is not yet livable at all.

That’s why God has us here.

In the New Year, we hope to grow our ministries of service and compassion, and lift up the hurting people of Pittsburgh. As always, we will speak God’s truth in a thoughtful and winsome way.

Will you join us?


Dean Baquet, the executive editor of the New York Times, was interviewed last week on “Fresh Air” on NPR. The discussion was mostly about the relationship between the Times and then presidential candidate Donald Trump. Baquet defended the paper’s coverage of Trump, but said that one of his goals after the election is to better understand “the anger and disconnectedness that people feel.”

Baquet said the paper needed to be “more creative” in working to understand the country. One of the things they need to understand better is religion.

“I think that the New York-based — and Washington-based too, probably — media powerhouses don’t quite get religion. We have a fabulous religion writer, but she’s all alone. We don’t get religion.  We don’t get the role of religion in people’s lives.  And I think we can do much, much better.”

Should anyone be surprised? Lots of people don’t “get religion.”

But for those who do “get” what God is up to in Jesus Christ, Christmas is the best time of the year. Christmas is both a secular and religious holiday. Both the secular and religious celebrations share many of the same values. At no other time of the year, do Christians have a better chance to explain the real meaning behind the celebration and the hope that they have in the birth of the Savior.

Instead of feeling sorry for themselves that others don’t “get” them, Christians should look at this time of the year as the opportunity it is.

Most of the people around Jesus didn’t “get” him either.

Ugandan gold

Jill never expected to lose her husband and her job.

Neither did she expect to go to Uganda on a mission trip. But through that trip she met people with a unique coffee farm. Instead of exploiting its workers and keeping them locked in poverty, this farm fed its profits back into raising its workers’ standard of living.

The coffee is called Ugandan Gold, the farm is in Wambabya, Uganda, and the ministry that began there is called CEED, Christian East-African and Equatorial Development Trust, www.ceed-trust.org. Jill Whitecap is the sole US staff member for CEED; the other 60 workers are Ugandans. Jill was the speaker at our annual Women’s Christmas Breakfast last week.

CEED is a model for transformational mission partnerships. All the profits from the sale of Ugandan Gold go back into providing clean water, healthcare, and jobs.

With the profits from the sale of Ugandan Gold, CEED partners with local villages to meet needs identified by the locals. The most pressing need is for clean water. CEED keeps costs low by partnering with local people for labor and direction. The locals then know how to operate and maintain the well. If it breaks, local folks have the wherewithal to fix it (unlike what often happens when outside groups fail to consult the locals first).

But it gets better.

When there’s local ownership, not only do the wells keep working, but the profits from the sale of clean water go back to local businesses. People live healthier, better lives, and others start businesses of their own, which lifts up the whole village.

Even better.

True partnerships lead to deep and abiding relationships. When Jill was seriously ill, the local Ugandan church came together to pray for her.

Jill’s story was so compelling that one person at the breakfast made an anonymous challenge. This person would match donations to CEED up to $1000. Within minutes, others had pledged another $1500.

And so now our church is two-thirds of the way to funding a well ($3900) in another Ugandan village.

People love to give when it truly makes a difference.