Good Friday

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Holy Sonnets: “Death, be not proud”
By John Donne

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee 
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so; 
For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow 
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me. 
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be, 
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow, 
And soonest our best men with thee do go, 
Rest of their bones, and soul's delivery. 
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men, 
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell, 
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well 
And better than thy stroke; why swell'st thou then? 
One short sleep past, we wake eternally 
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.

Maundy Thursday

We welcome all to join us for an observance of Maundy Thursday tomorrow at First Presbyterian Church. We will meet at 6:00 p.m. for dinner, followed by the Lord’s Supper, in the Fellowship Hall. After this (probably around 7:00), we will move into the sanctuary for a brief service of worship.

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The name “Maundy Thursday” comes from the Latin mandatum novum, referring to the “new commandment” Jesus taught his disciples (John 13:34).  This is a sacred and a somber time, yet it is not a time without hope, for we know that out of the darkness of the tomb will shine the brilliant light of resurrection on Easter morning.

Click this link to learn more.

Cornerstone Update 3/19/2019

Lent is here, spring is right around the corner, and we are making good progress with our Cornerstone project! The Mary Jay Patten Center continues to change, with finished siding, insulation and drywall, and a new entryway. Next we will see paint on the outside and inside of the building, light fixtures, and carpet.

Have you given to support this campaign? If so — thank you! If not, we still need your help to reach our final goal. Please click the button above to give online, and visit sylvapres.org/cornerstone for even more information. And check out the most recent pictures below.




Service of Lament for Victims of Gun Violence

Every year thousands of people die due to gun violence in the United States. While few of these deaths make headlines, each represents a life mourned by others, a life of unmet possibilities, a life of a beloved child of God. As a community of faith, it is right that we should gather to remember the sacredness of those lives and to reflect on the loss they mean to us all. The downtown Sylva churches invite you to join us on Thursday, April 4 at 12:00 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church of Sylva for a brief service of lament, prayer, and hope.

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A Blessed Lent

Today is Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of the season of Lent. If you didn’t grow up with Lent (and I know many of you didn’t, myself included), here’s a bit of background. The word “Lent” comes from the Old English word for “springtime.” It refers to the length of time before Easter, traditionally forty days, when the Church prepares to commemorate Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. Just as Advent helps us prepare spiritually for Christmas, Lent helps us prepare spiritually for Holy Week and Easter.

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You may be asking, Do I have to observe Lent?  The first answer is, Of course not. But the second answer is, Why wouldn’t you?  This season is a gift to us in which we may pause and reflect on our lives in light of Jesus Christ. So, I encourage you to observe it this year. Typically folks use this time as a chance to give something up: certain foods, certain media, certain habits. In recent years it’s become popular to take something on: daily prayer, for instance, or journaling and letter-writing. Regardless, the goal isn’t self-promotion (pride) but self-effacement (humility). What will help you humble yourself over the next forty days, so that you can see Jesus more clearly? Whatever the answer is… do it.

For a special focus during this Lenten season, several of us here at First Presbyterian Church are watching and discussing the short film Godspeed. Click here to watch the film, and then explore their website for additional resources.

Cornerstone Update 2/5/2019

We are over a month into the construction phase of our Cornerstone Campaign building project. James and his crew continue to work hard on renovating and expanding the Mary Jay Patten Center. We now have a second floor! Once finished, this building will house all staff offices and serve as the administrative hub of the church. We will also have more meeting space for Sunday School and youth classes.

Why is this project called the Cornerstone Campaign? Because Jesus is at the foundation. Ephesians 2:19-22 tells us that Jesus has built his church on the apostles and prophets of old, and that he himself is the cornerstone holding everything together. Grounded in him, the church can grow and flourish as a dwelling place for the Lord. And that’s how we imagine ourselves at First Presbyterian Church.

Take a look a look at the pictures below, and learn more about the Cornerstone Campaign by clicking here.

Cornerstone Update 1/22/2019

Construction continues on the Mary Jay Patten Center at First Presbyterian Church. James and his crew are hard at work renovating this building to be ready by summertime. When finished, the MJPC will house our new staff offices — including a reception area in the center — to create a new administrative hub for the church. In addition, a second floor with several new rooms will be added to allow for more meeting space to accommodate Sunday School classes and other groups. We will also install an elevator, so everyone can have access.

Take a look at the photos below, and read more about the Cornerstone Campaign by clicking here.

Cornerstone Update 1/8/2019

Construction has begun at First Presbyterian Church!

A new bathroom was recently installed upstairs in the main building, which will benefit our children and balcony-users for years to come.  In addition, work has started on the Mary Jay Patten Activity Center next door to build an addition and to create new office space.  Due to this, all classes and programs that typically take place in the MJPC will be relocated to the main church building, and the MJPC will be closed.

Check out the photos below, and read more about the Cornerstone Campaign by clicking here.

Photos will be posted here on the church blog, so check back soon for more updates.

Give Thanks

Grace and gratitude belong together like heaven and earth.  Grace evokes gratitude like the voice an echo. Gratitude follows grace like thunder lightning.  Not by virtue of any necessity of the concepts as such.  But we are speaking of the grace of the God who is God for man, and of the gratitude of man as his response to this grace...

Radically and basically, all sin is simply ingratitude — man’s refusal of the one but necessary thing which is proper to and is required of him with whom God has graciously entered into covenant.  As far as man is concerned there can be no question of anything but gratitude; but gratitude is the complement which man must necessarily fulfill.

- Karl Barth

Why Study the Old Testament?

Our new sermon series on the life of David gives us a great opportunity to renew our love for the Old Testament. This too is the Word of the Lord! For further thoughts, check out Matt Meyer’s post below:


Why Study the Old Testament?

By Matt Meyer for InterVarsity

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The Old Testament can be kind of a pain. It prompts debates about evolution. It’s full of obscure laws that we don’t even bother to follow, difficult-to-pronounce names, and hard-to-understand poetry.

And what do we even begin to make of the portrayal of God in the OT? In The God Delusion, evolutionary biologist and author Richard Dawkins writes:

The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.

Yikes. I mean, sometimes it seems like the Old Testament is more trouble than it’s worth. Maybe it’s best to sort of just forget about it or gloss over it on our way to the important part of the Bible. You know—the good part. With Jesus.

Is the OT really worth the effort it takes to read it?

Faith, Love, Jesus, and Donkeys

The more I’ve studied the Old Testament the more I’ve come to see how important it is for Christians to understand it and how tragic it is that the OT can be so neglected and underappreciated. So here’s my list of why I think we as Christians should become OT experts.

1. The OT reveals God’s patient and tenacious love. The OT unfolds over thousands of years. (The New Testament, by comparison, spans less than 100 years.) And in the OT we encounter people who are a lot like us: sinful, stubborn, prone to wander away from God and to make stupid choices. And yet we see a God who chooses to stick it out with this messed-up group of people.

Reading through God’s interactions with his people in the OT helps me remember just how steadfast God’s love really is.

2. The OT helps deepen our faith. As Richard Dawkins points out, the picture of God in the OT can be troubling and confusing. But instead of running from the questions the OT raises for us, we have an opportunity to dive head-first into the questions.

In fact, the OT is filled with examples of people who have plenty of their own questions to hurl at God: Job, Elijah, and Jeremiah, just a name a few! Dealing with the sticky issues helps our faith grow and mature, and it shows us that we’re in good company when we ask tricky questions. If God can handle the questions that came from those folks, God can handle our doubts and questions too.

3. The NT tells us to know the OT. Ever read 2 Timothy 3:16-17? “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” Paul wrote that before any of the NT was Scripture—in other words, back when the only Scripture in town was the OT. So we can take these verses as a strong exhortation to get to know the OT.

4. It’s fun! Bears tearing young hoodlums to pieces? Family drama that could rival any soap opera? A talking donkey? All these stories and more are treasures to be found in the OT.

5. The more you understand the OT, the more you will understand Jesus. We often forget that Jesus was thoroughly Jewish. He was immersed in the world of the Hebrew Scriptures. In fact, it’s hard to overstate how much the OT shaped his life and mission. If we want to become like Jesus, we can’t get around the OT.

Is the Old Testament sometimes tricky? Yes. Maybe even boring in spots? Yeah. But growing in our faith is worth the hard work of poring through the OT and discovering the riches it contains.

See also: Jesus on Every Page: 7 Reasons to Study Your Old Testament by David Murray

Strange Surprise

"Strange Surprise" by Malcolm Guite

None of this need have happened, all of this,
These unexpected gifts, this overflow
Of things we know, and things we'll never know,
None of this had to be, but here it is,
The here-and-now, in all its strange surprise;
A space to be ourselves in, and a grace
That spins us round and turns us to the source
Whence all these gifts and graces still arise.

And now the one through whom all this was made,
Whom we ignore, on whom we turn our back,
Whom we denied, insulted and betrayed,
Gathers and offers for us all we lack,
Voices on our behalf creation's praise,
And calls us to become the song he plays.