A Columbus Pastor’s Perspective: First Presbyterian is branching out

August 30, 2018


At least for a day we will be one church in three locations, all in Columbus. Our main building and worship center is at 157 N. Spring St., and our Christian Education next door, at 321 Spring St. But for one day only, Sept. 9, we relocate to Avalon Park, 611 Avalon Road.

This outdoor worship experience will be at our usual time (10 a.m.), followed by a community-wide picnic. Please join us to refresh your soul and palate with worship & food.

We choose Avalon Park for our first outdoor worship in recent memory, in part because a specific tree was planted here to honor our 150th anniversary of worship in Columbus. Ironic, as after Sept. 9, we can no longer say we’ve worshipped on “one site” for 150 years in a row.

Many churches experiment with outdoor worship, but our church, like others founded 150-plus years ago, began with outdoor worship. Back then we were known as “the log cabin church,” as our walls and pews were hewn from logs. Guests had to bring their own log when they joined the church. No portable chairs back in the 1850-60s.

Once again, we ask you to bring your own portable chair and a dish to pass, this time to Avalon Park. We will supply everything else, even the Tree of Life. “Tree of Life” symbolizes four values we hold near and dear at First Presbyterian: Fruitfulness, Wisdom, Hospitality, and Healing. Allow me to play with this metaphor.

Fruitfulness will become us, as people who delight in the law of the Lord. Then we will be “like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither” (Psalm 1:3). A tree is recognized by its fruit; in our case, spiritual fruit—such as love, joy, peace, and patience. Yes, that means I am a fruit case. As for tree planted at Avalon Park, it eventually yields tiny red crabapples.

Likewise, Wisdom is a “tree of life” to all who “embrace her” and are blessed by her (Proverbs 3:18). True wisdom is not philosophical or age-related, so much as practical, moral and fruitful. Another proverb affirms: “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he who wins souls is wise” (11:30).

Hospitality is our third hallmark. In this regard, we are encouraged by Jesus’ parable comparing the kingdom of God to a mustard seed that starts out small, like us, but grows into “the largest of garden plants,” eventually sheltering many different birds (Matthew 13:31-32). Diversity in branches—we’re not there yet, but we seek to be.

Healing, a fourth value we aspire to, is epitomized by the Tree of Life at the end of history. In Revelation, the last book in the bible, we see the end game. This tree of life in paradise will bear “twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations” (22:7). Imagine that, how can that be? So I read on: “To the one who overcomes, Jesus will give the right to eat from the tree of life” (2:7, also 22:14,19).

Among the prettiest fall color trees are oaks. God’s people are likened unto “Oaks of Righteousness.” These oak trees are not found in any fall color tour or field guide. But rather in the prophet Isaiah: “God’s people will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord, for the display of his splendor” (61:3).

Becoming “oaks of righteousness”—that is, people of substance who glorify God—that is our goal, as we at First Presbyterian branch out, and as I preach through Isaiah this fall. Come just as you are, without one pew. We have plenty.

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