Pulpit Notes: Lord, Open Our Eyes

A widow, an orphan, a homeless person with a bedroll in tow — Lord, open our eyes.

Jesus sat down in the Temple and watched, and then called His disciples. Call us, Lord. Help us to train our eyes and hearts to observe those we so easily overlook, that we may be drawn by Your Spirit to faith, to love, to a community that truly demonstrates the compassion of Christ, for it is in His name we pray.  Amen.

Soli Deo Gloria,
Conrad

Reverend Dr. Conrad C. Sharps
Senior Pastor

Pulpit Notes: Prayer for the Beginning of Lent

Heavenly Father, grant me the wisdom to turn to You during the season of Lent. When I do not have the answers that I feel I need, and when the direction seems uncertain, help me remain silent and open until Your Word and Your Spirit reveal a way.

In the midst of frantic, often unnecessary activity, help me remain calm and whisper to me the assurance of Your presence. Help me to seek a place and time of quiet rest this day, and grant my heart, mind, and soul regeneration, in order that I can imagine a life fulfilled, a better way, a community where the love of Christ is known by all and the Holy Spirit binds and heals Your people from all that breaks and separates us from You. In Jesus’ name I pray.  Amen.

Soli Deo Gloria,
Conrad

Reverend Dr. Conrad C. Sharps
Senior Pastor

Pulpit Notes: Struggles Lend Insight of God’s Mercy

Father, for all my supplications to be released from temptation and strife, each struggle I endure provides insight of Your mercy that helps to specify the boundaries of a holy and righteous life.

I sometimes fail, I often stumble, but Your Spirit illuminates Your Word and gives wisdom and direction. Write Your truth upon my heart, O God, and guide me; turn the bitterness of sin into the sweetness of grace. It is the life of reconciliation, the forgiveness of sins, the proclamation of Your mercy to which I am called this day. Mark then Your path for me, O Lord, and permit every strife and temptation to humbly point me home. In Jesus’ name, I pray.  Amen.

Soli Deo Gloria,
Conrad

Reverend Dr. Conrad C. Sharps
Senior Pastor

Pulpit Notes: Receiving the Holy Spirit

Divine Word, which no page can fully contain and no mind fully comprehend, we scoff at the thought of secret things. Yet Scripture reveals countless mysteries and revelations to those with hearts humbled and prepared to receive what Your Holy Spirit is prepared to share. Therefore, we ask with confidence in the name of Jesus that wisdom through discernment be granted.

Lord, equip us spiritually as well as You have endowed us with intellect and with human cunning. Our self-sufficient and heightened view of human talent and all the resources we have stored have left us dissatisfied. It is holiness and peace we seek. Nourish us with Your truth, then, and help us. Prepare us spiritually for the battles within our own lives as well as within our world. Grant us a spiritual liberty that no human government can grant, and bind us to Christ that we may be truly free.  Amen.

Soli Deo Gloria,
Conrad

Reverend Dr. Conrad C. Sharps
Senior Pastor

Pulpit Notes: Prayer for Spiritual Transformation

Cover me with your Holy Spirit, O God. Draw me to greater faith in Him who is able to do all things. According to Your eternal mercy, establish, strengthen, and reconcile me in Christ. Transform me and permit me to set my mind on things above, according to the revelation of Your Word and Spirit. Move me through the study of Your Word to engage my life and this world with integrity; not as I would have it, but as You command it. You have not dismissed this world, O God; You have placed it in the hands of Your stewards. Grant me wisdom, then, that I might bear fruit to nourish Your people and further the Kingdom of Christ my Lord.  Amen.

Soli Deo Gloria,
Conrad

Reverend Dr. Conrad C. Sharps
Senior Pastor

Pulpit Notes: Promise of Eternal Life

Known to all as a brilliant scientist, Thomas Edison was also known by his closest associates and family members as being very precise in his observations and statements. I find this very intriguing because on the night of his death, Mrs. Edison leaned very near to her husband because she sensed he wanted to tell her something. There, with great radiance in his smile, Thomas Edison assured his wife, “It’s so very beautiful over there.”

Very near the beginning of His ministry, Jesus read from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19)

I believe that from the very beginning of His ministry, Jesus knew where His journey of obedience and faith would lead. Jesus knew the cost of obedience.

Why then did He go? Because He knew it was His Father’s will, and because He knew there was more to this life than we can ever know or even begin to comprehend. He knew that all of life belongs in the hands of the Creator who has a plan for your life and mine. He knew of the beauty of the Kingdom of God.

What do you seek today? Do you seek good news? Do you seek to know that your brokenness is not in vain? Do you seek freedom from all that imprisons you or oppresses you in this life? Do you seek favor from the Lord, or comfort from all that causes you pain or grief?

If you seek something this world cannot offer you, then rejoice, for today is the Lord’s day. It is a day acceptable to the Lord — a day of possibilities which can be lived with an overwhelming confidence in the salvation and forgiveness and redemption of Jesus Christ made available to you and me. Today is a day in which we can joyfully serve God and humanity, certain of the eternal glory that awaits those who put their trust in Jesus.

In Christ we can look at life and death, and everything in between, with a confidence and hope which this world can never understand. Indeed, we have hope, for Christ has not only come, He will come again! Today let us strive to witness and to serve as obedient disciples of our Lord ever confident of His promise of eternal life.

“And this is what He promised us — even eternal life.”  (1 John 2:25)

Soli Deo Gloria,
Conrad

Reverend Dr. Conrad C. Sharps
Senior Pastor

Guest Speaker on February 4

Reverend Dr. Andrea Zaki
Reverend Dr. Andrea Zaki
Welcoming the Reverend Dr. Andrea Zaki

Shadyside Presbyterian Church welcomes the Reverend Dr. Andrea Zaki, President of the Protestant Churches in Egypt and Director of the Coptic Evangelical Organization for Social Services (CEOSS), as our guest preacher during worship on Sunday, February 4, at 11:00 a.m. Prior to the service, Dr. Zaki will participate in a question/answer session in the Chapel beginning at 9:45 a.m. Please join us in welcoming him to Shadyside.

View a video highlighting Dr. Zaki’s ministry with CEOSS as a Langham Scholar, and read more about him and his work below.

About Dr. Zaki

The Reverend Dr. Andrea Zaki is the President of the Protestant Churches of Egypt and General Director of the Coptic Evangelical Organization for Social Services (CEOSS). He also serves as the President of the Fellowship of Middle East Evangelical Churches and is a lecturer at the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo, Egypt. Dr. Zaki’s educational background includes a Ph.D. in religions and politics from the University of Manchester, United Kingdom (2003); and a Master of Arts in theological studies from Eastern University in West Chester, Pennsylvania (1994). He also earned a diploma in social development from Coady International Institute, St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia (1988); and a Bachelor of Theology from Cairo Evangelical Seminary (1983).

About HANDS

Hands Along the Nile Development Services (HANDS) forges lasting partnerships between Americans and Egyptians in order to increase intercultural understanding and support Egyptians in their efforts to raise the quality of life for the most under-served members of their society. To these ends, HANDS facilitates cultural exchange programs and partners with organizations on the ground to empower disadvantaged Egyptians to raise themselves out of poverty.

HANDS was founded in 1989, by the Reverend Dr. Samuel Habib and some American friends with the primary purpose of supporting development work in Egypt. HANDS’ roots are in the Presbyterian communities of Egypt and the United States, which maintain a long history of partnership in raising the quality of life for Egyptians of all ages, genders, and religions.

One of HANDS’ major partnerships in Egypt is with the Coptic Evangelical Organization for Social Services (CEOSS). This organization, which started as organized literacy classes, now reaches over two million people in 150 communities each year through its comprehensive village development programs and interfaith dialogue efforts. HANDS also has begun partnerships with almost thirty other organizations in Egypt, including clinics, an orphanage, and a job skills training center for women.

Pulpit Notes: Spiritual Wealth

O Jesus, who became poor that I may be rich, make me rich not in wealth but in the gold of reconciliation, the platinum of forgiveness, the silver of fellowship that honors You and builds community where Christ is known and served. The true desire of my soul, O God, is to recognize my total dependence upon You; to be released from the prison of human idolatry that wealth, power, possessions, and fame guard. Free me, Lord, that I may be bound only to You. Use me, and every resource at my disposal, to Your redemptive glory: a free gift that none can afford, but all are free to receive from Christ the Lord.  Amen.

Soli Deo Gloria,
Conrad

Reverend Dr. Conrad C. Sharps
Senior Pastor

Celebrating Jacqueline Spycher’s Ordination

Jacqueline Spycher
Jacqueline Spycher

Please remember in your prayers Jacqueline S. Spycher as she is ordained in an afternoon service of worship on Sunday, January 14, at Northbrook Presbyterian Church in Beverly Hills, Michigan, where she currently serves as a Pastoral Assistant.

Previously, Jackie twice served Shadyside Presbyterian Church as Director of Youth Ministry, from 2002 to 2005, and from 2010 to 2012. In addition to her ministry among us at Shadyside Presbyterian Church, Jackie served in a part-time role with Young Women’s Leadership Development through the Presbyterian Mission Agency of the General Assembly. Between her terms of employment at SPC, she also worked with Sojourners in Washington, D.C., and as a teacher in Michigan. Following her departure in 2012, she pursued full-time seminary education through the Divinity School at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, and completed the inquirer’s process for ordination in the Presbyterian Church (USA) through her home congregation in Michigan.

We are grateful for Jackie’s ministry among us in the past – for a combined total of ten years as a volunteer, intern, and program director – and especially for her spiritual care of our youth and their families during her multiple tenures at SPC.

As a previous member of our church family and our church staff, Jackie is a ministerial daughter of Shadyside Presbyterian Church, and we rejoice with her as she celebrates the beginning of her ministry as Minister of Word and Sacrament. We thank God for the blessing Jackie has been to our congregation and for calling her into ministry. Please join us in praying for God’s continued blessings upon Jackie.

Pulpit Notes: Childlike Faith

How often I have stood with great certainty and urged others on to spiritual maturity, and yet here is the strong teaching of Jesus (in all three of the Synoptic gospels — Matthew, Mark, and Luke): to receive the Kingdom as a child. How then is one to achieve spiritual childhood?

I imagine many of you can identify with the responsibilities of a pastor because your own experience of vocation brings with it things which can never be far from your attention. There are deadlines, quotas, staff to manage. There are economic trends to follow, predictions to be made, and, all the while, you are responsible for the direction, tone, and productivity of your company or organization.

To live, then — to strive for the Kingdom — as a child, I find myself praying not for strength to endure, but for strength to submit. In prayerful submission, I believe God will help us to see the world from a new perspective. The Holy Spirit will help us to resist impure motives such as achievement, power, and authority, and to live more as humble children who gather with many others around Jesus. Jesus does not fret, nor push, nor pit us against the world or one another. He invites us to His side, to help Him, to find joy in His presence doing the work of God.

To be successful and to achieve as this world often defines success, we feel the need to get tough; to grow thick skin; to advance through knowledge, skill, and strength. Children, on the other hand, readily shed their tough exteriors and expose their hearts and their feelings: what makes them happy, sad, and even fearful. But with this vulnerability, one also expresses the desires of a child’s heart, which coincide nicely with those of the kingdom: peace, unity, justice, joy, and love.

Perhaps I should approach the serious business of adulthood with the heart of a child who wants to be a part of something so much larger than he or she is. With innocence and enthusiasm, we join our brother Jesus in His tasks and, through nothing but pure imitation, we find our greatest joy. It is not so much a matter of doing but a matter of being what and who we were created to be: children, brothers and sisters gathered around Jesus, who is engaged in the work of our Heavenly Father. By His side, we are never in the way — we are blessed beyond human comprehension.

Perhaps a simple prayer can help turn the mystery and awe of childhood into reality.

“O God, may our only strength today be that of faithful obedience — as children who gather around Jesus in the work of Your kingdom.”

Soli Deo Gloria,
Conrad

Reverend Dr. Conrad C. Sharps
Senior Pastor