Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Shepastor: "How Salty Are You?"

50 “Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it?[a] Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.” Mark 9:50 NRSV

13 “You shall not omit from your grain offerings the salt of the covenant with your God; with all your offerings you shall offer salt.” Leviticus 2:13 NRSV

The young people of today have a phrase, “Ahh he or she is ‘salty!’” When they say that, they are suggesting that the person is upset or “ticked off” because of this or that.

In Mark 9, Jesus was telling his followers to be “salty…” Not ticked off, but filled with the flavor of God in the midst of a tasteless world. Jesus used salt to illustrate three qualities that should be found in God’s people:

(1) We should remember God’s faithfulness. In Leviticus 2: 13, God’s people were instructed not to bring a sacrifice without salt. Salt was a reminder of the Covenant God had with His people. In Arab countries, an agreement was sealed with a gift of salt to show the strength and permanence of the contract. Salt was used to remind God’s people that they were one with Him – a covenant people who actively help to preserve and purify the world.

Salt was also a symbol of God’s activity in their lives because it penetrates, preserves, cleanses and aids in healing. God wants to be active in our lives. He wants to become a part of all that we are. God wants to penetrate every aspect of our lives, preserving us from the evil, corrupt, tasteless and destructive ways of the world. As does salt, God wants to heal and cleanse us from our own sins and shortcomings.

(2) The second quality that Jesus suggests should be found in God’s people, using this illustration of salt is we should make a difference in the ‘flavor’ of the world we live in. Just as salt changes meat’s flavor, our presence, our attitude, our behavior should make a difference for the better wherever we go. Where people are complaining and arguing, our presence should influence grace and peace, level headedness and calm. Where there is worry and fear, our presence should bring faith, hope and God’s blessed assurance. Where there is hatred and bitterness, our presence should influence love and forgiveness. As the people of God, our “flavor” should make a difference in bland and tasteless places.

(3) The third and final quality using this illustration of salt given by Jesus is the people of God should counteract the moral decay in society. Just as salt preserves food from decay, we are to “salt” the world with the message of God’s love, God’s grace, and God’s redemption made available through Jesus. Jesus is saying to us when we no longer give that message, live that message, show forth that message with our lives, we become useless to the Kingdom of God. In other words, if we lose our unique character as a Christian, if we blend right in with the rest of the world, if we are ashamed to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ, if we walk, talk, live, behave, sin, cheat, lie, steal, fornicate, adulterate, gossip, slander, abuse, mistreat, hate, cuss, you name it like the world – just like the world, no different than the world, then we are useless to the Kingdom!

How salty are you? Are you salty like the kids describe – easily offended, easily angered, twisting and bobbing your head ready to tell folks off salty? Or are you salty like Jesus suggests – living your life like a Kingdom citizen, showing forth the fruit of the spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, humble, not easily offended or angered, persevering, enduring.

How salty are you?

Post a comment or send me an email at

Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Shepastor: "A Fitting Tribute From a Wife for Her Husband..."

11 The heart of her husband trusts in her,
and he will have no lack of gain.
12 She does him good, and not harm,
all the days of her life. Proverbs 31: 11-12, English Standard Version

In 2006 three churches in our American Baptist region called new pastors…
Lakewood Baptist Church, Covenant Baptist Church and First Baptist Church of Greater Cleveland. We (the three pastors) called ourselves the “Three Musketeers.” The pastor of First Baptist, The Rev. Martin Rolfs Massaglia became my “Big Brother,” and I became, “Li’l Sis.”
For several years we worked together closely as officers of the Cleveland Baptist Association. During some of those long intense board meetings, Martin would hold his cell phone under the table and nudge me to look…he’d have pictures of his beautiful grandchildren to show off. We’d both laugh and struggle through the rest of the meeting!

Martin was dear to me for many reasons. He was kind, compassionate, level headed and a family man. He always made it clear that Thursdays were off limits for meetings. Thursday was “Family Day.” He loved his family dearly. His wife Kay was the apple of his eye.
He proudly talked about her gifts of banner making and her creativity in making delicious vegan meals, snacks and deserts!

Martin, however, would not be long for this world. He carried in his body a rare disease that eventually claimed his earthly life. Our beloved friend and brother, however, will never be forgotten. In tribute to the beauty of his life, his loving wife, Kay Rolfs Massaglia transformed biting grief into stunning tapestry that commemorates the life and legacy of her husband. Below are the words used to explain the symbolism of a banner she created in honor of Martin…

Words for Plaque for Banner for Martin

The banner displayed is created and sewn to honor Martin Louis Rolfs Massaglia for his 8 years of service to this church as Senior Pastor from 2006-2014. The design and assembly was done by Textile Artist, Kay Rolfs Massaglia for her husband. The women of this church helped her to sew on the pieces. It was dedicated on the occasion of The Festival of the Arts, November 22nd, 2015. It is hung here in the Tower, so it can be seen as one leaves the sanctuary. After all, it is the benediction, chosen from Romans 15:13, with which Martin ended each service during his 33 years of Pastorate.

During these 33 years, every sermon Martin preached had to pass the “So What?” question, and this banner did too. What follows is the answer to that question, as interpreted by the artist. The sun in the upper left hand corner represents God. Inside that sun is another sun in red. Why? On the sidewalk outside the church between the Tower and the Main Entrance to the Sanctuary, is a crack. Intrigued by this crack for many years, Kay decided to use it to symbolize FBCGC. It represents how God takes our brokenness and shows us a way to healing and peace. We come here: to be inspired, to listen, to be encouraged, taught, empowered, stretched, supported, validated, educated, challenged, to laugh, to learn what community is about. Obviously this becomes possible as we know ourselves and the love of God better.

As we experience these blessings, it is suggested that we become the bridge to the neighborhoods. This is noted by a bridge to the city of Cleveland which represents all neighborhoods near and far. We bring with us: our voice, our energy, our wisdom, our generosity, our peace, our kindness, our truth, our skills, our enthusiasm, our resources, our leadings, our leadership, our power, even our brokenness, but mostly God’s love. In fact, in the sharing of the Great Good News, as Martin so frequently called God’s Message, we develop even more of the qualities learned in this Holy Place called FBCGC. We cross that bridge not only to share, but to receive, to learn, and to invite. In fact we come to know God and who we are in God as we share the Message.

Another symbol is the vertical panels in the background. Although we have had 24 Senior Pastors since 1833, we have had 8 in this church building. Therefore the 8 panels which grace the background in subtle different colors and fabrics represent all Senior Pastors at this church. Fall colors were chosen for the leaves on the trees because that was hands down Martin’s favorite season, and one other fun fact is that the banner contains fabric from 3 items of Martin’s clothing, 2 sweaters and a pair of pants. See if you can find them!

So there you have it! What the banner means. It was made with love and devotion to Martin and to God by many hands, and will be a symbol for years to come, not only of his ministry here but his desires for FBCGC. Now it is up to you to keep the bridge full and busy as you carry on in God’s name.

Thank you Kay for sharing your beautiful gifts with us!

Post a comment or send me an email at
Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Shepastor: "Lessons Learned From a Fool..."

David, Nabal and Abigail
1 Samuel 25: 28-39, NIV
28 “Please forgive your servant’s presumption. The LORD your God will certainly make a lasting dynasty for my lord, because you fight the LORD’s battles, and no wrongdoing will be found in you as long as you live. 29 Even though someone is pursuing you to take your life, the life of my lord will be bound securely in the bundle of the living by the LORD your God, but the lives of your enemies he will hurl away as from the pocket of a sling. 30 When the LORD has fulfilled for my lord every good thing he promised concerning him and has appointed him ruler over Israel, 31 my lord will not have on his conscience the staggering burden of needless bloodshed or of having avenged himself. And when the LORD your God has brought my lord success, remember your servant.”
32 David said to Abigail, “Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel, who has sent you today to meet me. 33 May you be blessed for your good judgment and for keeping me from bloodshed this day and from avenging myself with my own hands. 34 Otherwise, as surely as the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, who has kept me from harming you, if you had not come quickly to meet me, not one male belonging to Nabal would have been left alive by daybreak.”
35 Then David accepted from her hand what she had brought him and said, “Go home in peace. I have heard your words and granted your request.” 36 When Abigail went to Nabal, he was in the house holding a banquet like that of a king. He was in high spirits and very drunk. So she told him nothing at all until daybreak. 37 Then in the morning, when Nabal was sober, his wife told him all these things, and his heart failed him and he became like a stone. 38 About ten days later, the LORD struck Nabal and he died. 39 When David heard that Nabal was dead, he said, “Praise be to the LORD, who has upheld my cause against Nabal for treating me with contempt. He has kept his servant from doing wrong and has brought Nabal’s wrongdoing down on his own head.”

“What a fool!” This phrase is often used when we hear of someone doing something, well, foolish! When someone passes up a wonderful opportunity or makes a silly decision that has major negative consequences, this phrase may be uttered. This passage of scriptures offers lessons from a man in scripture whose name means, “Fool.”

One of the first lessons we can learn from this passage is, Do Good When it is Within Your Power to Do So. Nabal was wealthy. God had blessed he and his entire household. He was a Calebite. He was a descendant of Caleb…one of the two spies that entered the Promised Land when thousands of other Israelites perished in the wilderness. He had a lineage of greatness. But the text says that he was wicked, evil and foolish.

There are some people for whom God has done so much, given so much, blessed so much but they are selfish and wicked. They refuse to open their hands to help others. They refuse to give unless they are certain that they will get much in return. They refuse to be generous. They will see a need and will keep their hands closed and declare, “That’s not my problem…that has nothing to do with me.” They have no idea that just as God gave them all that they have, God can and will surely take away all that they have and give it to someone more deserving.

Proverbs 13:22 declares, “A good man leaveth an inheritance to his children's children; but the wealth of the sinner is laid up for the righteous man.”

When it is within your power to help others, do it. God will reward you greatly. Blessings will be heaped upon you. When you give to others, when you help others, when you see a need and do what you can to meet it, God will look upon your life with favor. Every time you open your hand to help someone in need, the Lord restores you many fold. You cannot beat God’s giving no matter how you try. You don’t have to be wealthy. All you have to be is willing and God will honor your kindness. Not only will the Lord remember you personally, God will remember your household with favor.

Now let’s look back at David. Scripture refers to David as "A man after God’s own heart." In previous chapters, David has been merciful and just spared Saul’s life when he had it within his power to kill him. Saul was sleeping in a cave, in pursuit of David’s life. David and his men happen to come upon him, sleeping unguarded by his soldiers. David’s men urge him to go in and kill Saul.

David walks up on a sleeping Saul and cuts off the edge of his garment and his heart convicted him. He was so convicted by God that he backed off and left him alone. He said, “God forbid that I should touch the Lord’s anointed! God will judge between he and I but I will do him no harm.” David trusted God to take care of his enemies.

But even David got tired of being the “good guy.” Having just spared Saul’s life and still had to remain on the run, even though Saul honored him momentarily for David sparing his life, David is almost depleted of being merciful. Like David, at times we feel depleted of merciful attitudes. It can be wearying to keep looking the other way, turning the other cheek, keeping your tongue with a bridle, withholding your own type of vengence…Sometimes like David, you’ve just had enough!

David did not make his intentions to take revenge on Nabal a secret. He let it me known that he was coming after Nabal. Nabal’s servants got busy. They knew the good that David and his men and done for them while they were among them. When they heard that David was about to come and massacre all the men in the land because of Nabal’s foolish ways, they ran quickly to his wife Abigail to tell the story and ask for help.

The text says that Abigail was a “beautiful and intelligent woman.” Abigail, understanding the danger facing her community called her servants together. She told them to pull together all of the resources possible to take David and his men. Verses 18-19 declare…

Abigail acted quickly. She took two hundred loaves of bread, two skins of wine, five dressed sheep, five seahs[b] (60 pounds) of roasted grain, a hundred cakes of raisins and two hundred cakes of pressed figs, and loaded them on donkeys. 19 Then she told her servants, “Go on ahead; I’ll follow you.” But she did not tell her husband Nabal.

Abigail did not drag her feet. She didn’t sit back and start crying and wringing her hands. The text says “Abigail acted quickly!” When you see trouble on the horizon, when God has blessed you to hear about danger coming, you’ve got to get up and act quickly. Abigail did what she had to do to protect her family and her community.
Abigail used wisdom, humility and courage when she approached David. By bringing the resources, she used wisdom because she was giving him what he and his men deserved and needed. She used humility because she bowed before him and addressed him with honor. The Proverbs 15:1 declares, “A soft answer turns away wrath.” Proverbs 25:15 declares that “a soft tongue will break a bone.” Abigail used courage because she didn’t know how David would react to her upon seeing her, but did what she could by faith. You can never know the outcome of your courageous acts. All you can do is move out by faith and trust God to move on your behalf.

Abigail appealed to David’s integrity and heart. In the midst of his frustration, in the midst of his anger, in the midst of his “Popeye,” “I’ve stood all I can stands and I can’t stands no more” demeanor, Abigail appealed to his integrity and his heart. In so many words she said, “Look David, we’ve heard about the great man that you are. We heard how you spared King Saul’s life when it was in your power to kill him. We know that God is with you…that God is for you…that God has already anointed you to be the next King of Israel. Don’t throw away your blessings, don’t get your hands dirty with blood, don’t lose the thrown of Israel over this fool! The Lord will take care of him. The Lord will fix it for you!”

And the text says that her wise words and counsel impacted David in such a way that he relented. He changed his mind and in so many words said, “You are right. Go back home, the Lord will take care of Nabal.”

The last lesson for us to hear today, The Lord will fix it for you!
Don’t allow fools to make you so angry that you take out your own vengeance. God’s Word says, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay saith the Lord.” Don’t allow fools to cause you to lose all that God has prepared for you. Don’t allow fools to cause you to “fly off of the handle,” use your tongue to tell somebody off, walk off of your job and lose years of benefits, leave your home where you have been paying the mortgage!

Don’t allow fools to make you behave in ways that are out of your character, beneath your standards, not in line with your personality. Don’t allow fools to cause you to “lose your religion,” lose your cool, lose your integrity, lose your promises, lose your position, lose your blessings, lose your benefits…don’t allow fools to make you into a fool!

Instead, learn the lessons from the life of a fool… Let the Lord deal with your enemies. When it is within your power to do good, do good. When appealing to someone who “has had it,” speak to the integrity of their heart. Remember that soft words can turn away wrath. Don’t allow a fool to cause you to lose all the blessings that God has in store for you. Pray to walk in self-control and trust in the Lord. The Lord will vindicate your name. The Lord will repay you for your faithfulness and your enemies for their foolish ways!

Post a comment or send me an email at

Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Shepastor: "Judson Press Features Women Clergy Authors Writing About Women in Ministry..."

Join us for a FREE webinar series on WOMEN IN MINISTRY! During the month of April, we'll hear from leading female clergywomen including: PASTOR CHRISTINE A. SMITH, Covenant Baptist Church, Wickliffe, Ohio REV. MIHEE KIM-KORT, Clergy Commissioner to the General Assembly Mission Council (PCUSA) REV. GRACE JI-SUN KIM, Associate Professor of Theological Studies at Earlham School of Religion Webinar Schedule: REGISTER TODAY! Tues. April 19 Here I Am: Faith Stories of Korean American Clergywomen Register here: Thurs. April 21 Streams Run Uphill: The Pastoral Identity and Ministry of the Other Clergywomen Register here: Tues. April 26 Beyond the Stained Glass Ceiling Register here:

Posted by Judson Press - Christian Publisher since 1824 on Friday, March 18, 2016

She perceives that her merchandise is good...Proverbs 31:18

Over the next few weeks, Judson Press will hold webinars featuring female clergywomen writing about issues facing women in ministry. Below is a description of each. Please join us!

Join us during the month of April as we host a ‘Women in Ministry’ webinar series. You’ll hear from leading female ministers including: Pastor Christine A. Smith, Rev. Mihee Kim-Kort, and Rev. Grace Ji-Sun Kim.
To register, click on the webinar names below.

Tues. April 19 Here I Am: Faith Stories of Korean American Clergywomen
Join Grace Ji-Sun Kim as she shares theological reflections and faith stories of Korean American women in ministry that'll provide a window of understanding into the trials they face--a window that may serve as a mirror for other women who know what it is to be marginalized, overlooked, or prejudged based upon gender, ethnicity, culture or appearance. Gain a rare perspective from these stories that will encourage, inspire, and affirm women called to ministry, and surely prompt change in churches, communities, and homes.

Thurs. April 21 Streams Run Uphill: The Pastoral Identity and Ministry of the Other Clergywomen
Join Mihee Kim-Kort as she discusses the unique struggles and successes of clergy women of color in various ministry settings. Hear honest, encouraging, and edifying lessons to help you endure and surmount the uphill endeavor. Gain inspiration in your ministry, insights that affirm that you are not alone, and advocacy to support you as you grow in ministry.

Tues. April 26 Beyond the Stained Glass Ceiling
The reality of a stained glass ceiling is familiar to most women called to the pastorate. Despite being more likely to be seminary educated, female clergy constitute approximately 11% percent of ALL Protestant leading pastorates—and those who do hold such pastorates are generally paid less than their male counterparts. A 2015 study conducted by Duke University revealed that this figure has remained the same since 1998. In light of such statistics Rev. Christine A. Smith will explore how to overcome the challenges in breaking through the stained glass ceiling. She will discuss the necessary partnerships between women clergy and “power brokers,” and the role each must play in changing oppressive ecclesiastical dynamics.

Additionally, this webinar will examine the societal, psychological and theological factors that pull women towards “ceiling maintaining” mindsets such as low expectations. The concept of “holy ambition” will be unpacked.

For additional information, contact Linda Johnson-LeBlanc at

Post a comment or send me an email at

Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris