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Let’s be honest...explaining to others who we are as a church is not always an easy task.  With a name like “Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)”, you’ve said a mouthful, but you might find people looking at you like you haven’t clarified anything; or worse they may get the wrong impression.  I remember speaking with a woman about my church – upon hearing that we were part of the Christian Church (D.O.C.) she exclaimed, “that sounds like one of those ‘bible-thumping’ churches!  Are you one of those ‘bible-thumping’ churches?”  I explained that yes, we do believe in the Bible, but no, we probably are not the stereotypical ‘bible-thumping’ church that she is thinking more


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The Meaning of Fellowship - Rev. Dr. David Chisham

We probably all have the impression that Christian fellowship means coffee and hot biscuits.  Every Sunday morning, at the end of first service, I invite the worshippers to the Fellowship Hall to continue their fellowship over food and drink.  And every Sunday morning that I do that, I also think to myself that I’m not giving the whole picture of fellowship.

In Acts 2:42, we hear that the early Christians devoted themselves to the learning from the Apostles teaching, to fellowship, to breaking bread, and to prayer.  While fellowship and breaking of bread are next to one another in this list, we should see that they really are two different things.

Turning to Philippians 1:3-5, we read about Paul’s ‘fellowship’ with the Philippian church.  In the NRSV, it reads, “I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing [fellowship] in the gospel…”  Paul is commending the church for their partnership in the common work of the sharing the Good News.  Paul isn’t talking about a pot luck meal!  Koinonia is the “give and take” of life lived in community.

The Greek word we translate as fellowship is “koinonia”, which has the general meaning of a partnership or a common work that people share.  Two fishermen who work together on a boat are characterized as having “koinonia”.  It can be used in a negative sense—Paul warns us not to have “koinonia” with demons in 1 Corinthians 10:20.  But throughout the New Testament, we see koinonia is an important characteristic of a vital Christian life.  Christians don’t exist individually, under a bubble—we are to be partners in a common work.  There is no “fellowship of one”.  A Christian who avoids shared work will soon find their faith devitalized.

This Sunday we will ask you to give us a clear indication of how you wish to express your koinonia with First Christian Church in the coming year.  During worship we will distribute interest surveys for the various activities in our congregation.  These surveys aren’t simply about doing things where you’re gifted by God—they’re also about the everyday ways that you can support the shared work of building up the Kingdom of God.

I remember having lunch with Rev. Michael Elmore, talking about some of the things I found tedious in ministry and life.  He said, “you do those things to ‘pay the rent’, but having paid the rent, it frees you to do the things you’re passionate about.”

This Sunday, you’ll see a whole list of things we hope to do this next year; hospitality meals, serve on a committee, help with maintenance on the property, participate in worship, etc.  Some of these tasks will excite you and some may look a little tedious.  My prayer is that you will see the entire list as our shared work for the Kingdom.  Please choose some things to participate in that get you excited and where you can express your gifts.  But please choose some things to help out with because of your commitment to the koinonia we share in the Lord.

“I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayer for all of you, because of our fellowship in the gospel!"

Peace in Christ,




SUM ZERO - Rev. Dr. David Chisham

Last night I attended a dinner gathering that gave me a significant question to ponder.  The gathering was at Beth Shalom Synagogue, and the guests at the meal were Christians, Jews and Muslims—it was billed as a meal for people of Abrahamic faith; Christians, Jews and Muslims all trace their faith sources back to Abraham, who received the promise of God that all families of the earth would be blessed through his line. 

The theme of last night’s gathering was inclusivity—this was an effort to begin a grass roots dialogue between these great religions and how we can encounter one another in a positive way here in Baton Rouge.  There were no great policies debated and we didn’t try to solve any of the world’s problems, which are many and great.  However, there was one question that stuck in my mind; how we can move beyond the “zero sum” scenarios that play out all around the world?

Zero sum is a term used to describe situations where for one person to win, or have success, another has to experience loss.  We bristle at the thought of a tie in a football game—we like to celebrate the winner and dismiss the loser.  In economics, for one to earn a dollar means another’s wealth must lessen by a dollar.  And often times, in our society, we feel that for someone else’s voice to be heard, another voice must be silenced.  Giving someone else a “seat at the table” means that some person gets kicked out of the room.

Whether we’re talking about areas where Christianity or Judaism or Islam are oppressed implicitly or forcefully, these zero sum scenarios play out all over the world.

I began wondering if there was another way to begin thinking past this—are there alternative scenarios?  At that meeting Rev. Robin McCullough-Bade spoke briefly about Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  This was a challenge for Rev. King as well.  As a Baptist Christian, he had been told that talking to anyone else from any other religion meant that he would lessen his faith.  At some moment, I’m not sure when, he finally saw that that was not the case at all.  Rev. King realized that speaking with Ghandi did not make him any less of a Christian.  Rather than thinking that he was losing territory in these encounters, he saw God broadening his horizons.

It reminds me of the story of Jesus and the Syro-Phonecian woman.  She was a foreigner—Jesus all but called her a ‘dog’ and declined her request to heal her daughter.  With a profound faith, the woman responded that even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the table—even if she was an outsider, it didn’t lessen Jesus’ mission to the Jewish people to heal her daughter.  Indeed, it confirmed God’s will that his people be a light to the world.

St. Augustine famously said, “Truth is where you find it.”  My prayer is that, as we go about our lives and encounter others, we can have the same sense of God’s growing and abundant grace in the faces of others, whomever they may be.

Christ's Peace,




Pilgrimage is one of the most ancient ‘paths’ of faith expression.  Ancient Jews who had been strewn around the ancient world often made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to worship in the Temple on high holy days.  Muslims are to make the Hajj to Mecca at least once in their lifetime.  And Christians are well known for making pilgrimages to holy sites scattered all around the world.  Until the 19th century, these pilgrimages were made slowly, on foot.  A pilgrimage was not a vacation, but a holy trek of the faithful to a “thin place” where they might find God’s presence.

Unfortunately, for us, the ancient sense of pilgrimage has been mostly lost.  As Protestants, we usually leave such things up to others, such as the Roman Catholics or Greek Orthodox Christians.  Some of us may make a trek to see the homestead of Alexander Campbell in Bethany, West Virginia, but its likely to be out of historical interest, not seeking a religious experience.  And as denizens of the twenty-first century we’re entirely accustomed to traveling at high speed.  We could hop an international flight today, be in Jerusalem tomorrow, take a bus around Israel and Palestine to hit the tourist trap highlights and be back to work the following Monday saying that we’ve made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.  However, in its ancient experience, pilgrimage is equally about the time on voyage as it is about arriving at the destination.

There is a place, however, where people still take a long pilgrimage on foot.  It’s called the Camino de Santiago (translated as Way of St. James)—it’s an ancient pilgrimage route that has starting points all around Europe and North Africa, but the primary trail winds across northern Spain, beginning in Roncevalles on the border of France in the Pyrenees, and ending near the Atlantic coast at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in northwest Spain. Interest in this ancient pilgrimage route ebbed for centuries, but in recent years it has seen a sudden increase in interest. In 1985 less that 1,000 people made the 500 mile trek—in recent years 200,000 or more have completed the route.

On foot, the 500 mile Camino, at 20 miles per day, takes about a month to walk, one way.  And many pilgrims will walk the Camino “there and back”—1,000 miles.  That’s up to two months of walking.  One way or two ways, that’s a lot of walking!  That’s also a lot of time to think, to pray, to clear your mind, to experience the elements of nature in all their fury and grandeur, and to connect with other pilgrims on the way.  That’s what pilgrimage is about.

Starting Sunday, September 27, we will be making our own imaginary three month pilgrimage—a walk from Baton Rouge to Bethlehem for Christmas.  On the one hand, this is a congregation wide effort to inspire us to include more physical activity in our daily lives.  Everyone, young and old, is encouraged to participate—we will keep a running tally of our miles, while we explore spaces and places along the way.  We will accrue our miles by any kind of activity that gets us up and moving whether that’s walking, jogging, vacuuming our home, mowing the law, going to the gym, etc.  Hopefully by the time Christmas arrives we will have seen some of the health benefits that regular exercise and activity can bring. 

But, on the other hand, like those who make extended pilgrimage on foot, this is also intended to be a spiritual pilgrimage we make to Bethlehem for the birth of the Christ child.  There will be weekly prayers that we might recite on a daily walk, questions for reflection along the way, and, hopefully, a greater sense of God’s presence in our life’s journey.  

We are now signing up those who wish to join in the Walk to Bethlehem for Christmas—there will be a sign-up sheet in the narthex or, your can email Brenda at to sign up.  We will have some materials to give to you closer to September 27th, and you will receive weekly devotional and reminder to send in your mileage.  And we’ll look for opportunities to do some walking together.  You won’t be pressured to buy a gym membership or an expensive pair of sneakers or anything like that—you can complete your miles at your own pace.  If you have questions about the Walk to Bethlehem for Christmas, please speak to Pastor DavidWe will also have a movie viewing of a movie called “The Way”, starring Martin Sheen, about some pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago at 3pm on September 27th in the sanctuary.  I hope this movie will open our eyes and minds to the myths and realities of making a pilgrimage.  Tracy Shaffer will lead a discussion following the movie.  Parents, please be aware that the movie does have some content that may not be appropriate for children under 13 years-old.

As the crow flies, or a major airline carrier, Baton Rouge is about 6,900 miles from Bethlehem.  But we won’t be going direct (and we won’t try to walk on water across the Atlantic Ocean)—our route will zig-zag a bit to take us along some interesting points where we will learn about the people and places.  And our congregation’s miles will be combined with members of St. Paul Lutheran who are joining us for the walk, so we’re not walking alone.  I look forward to peddling my way toward Bethlehem, and I hope to visit with you along the way too!

I close with the greeting to pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago—

Buen camino!

Rev. Dr. David Chisham



The final verses of the Hebrew scriptures are some of the most wonderful and heart rending words—and, unfortunately, not many of us have ever heard them.  The book of Malachi chapter 4, the last book of the prophets in the canon, ends with this prophecy: “Lo, I will send you the prophet Elijah before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes.  He will turn the hearts of parents to their children and the hearts of children to their parents, so that I will not come and strike the land with a curse.”

Christians understand this prophecy as a foretelling of John the Baptist, who comes in the spirit of Elijah, just before Jesus’ ministry begins.  For us this prophecy also hearkens to a change of heart that God wishes to happen within his people—the transformation of the human family as hearts are turned back toward one another.

Fractures in the human family are easy to see.  Whether it’s big societal divisions like race relations, or the micro divisions we see happening between family members, hearts are often hardened towards one’s brother and sister, near and far.  Jesus sees this inevitably happening in families of early Christians as some became believers in Christ while other family members would not.  In Matthew 10 Jesus says he’s come “to set a man against his father and a daughter against her mother.”  Fractures in the human family go all the way back to the Garden of Eden—after Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit, God says that the relationship between them will become complex and stressed—the sad fruit of relationship stress is witnessed when Cain, in a jealous rage, kills his brother Abel.  Fractures have divided us for a very long time and even Jesus admits that divisions will happen, but is it God’s will that these divisions remain unreconciled?

This Sunday, as we turn to Ephesians again, we will see that God’s eschatological (end-time) goal is not a continued division of humanity, but a single humanity formed in Christ.  In chapter 2:1-10, the writer begins by describing God’s healing of our broken relationship with God through Christ.  In verse 11, the writer then addresses what this means to the deep and obvious division of humanity into Jews and Gentiles.  (Understand as well that the division ran the other way too—citizens of Rome thought all the world was divided into Romans and barbarians.)  Whatever the differences in our DNA or lineage or place of birth, the writer emphatically declares that in Christ’s flesh God made both groups into one, and has destroyed the wall of hostility between us (Eph 2:14).  Having abolished the Law, God has created one new humanity in place of the two.

Notice too, when we say that God’s eschatological goal is one new humanity, the writer of Ephesians understands that the end-times are already here.  In Christ’s death and resurrection, the last days were inaugurated, and that new humanity is not a hope postponed for one day in the future, but is a reality here-and-now.  The war between humanity and God is over.  So too, the wars, large and small, between humans should find their end in Christ.

It’s hard to see how that works out in our world as the media is filled each day with news of ongoing fractures in our own homes, our communities, our nation and our world.  And practical answer is that sometimes these broken relationships don’t get healed in our lifetime.  But this is why we walk by faith and not by sight. 

And because some choose to walk by faith, reconciliation happens.  In my time as pastor I’ve seen incredible examples of forgiveness between individuals, between families, between whole peoples.  It takes time and work, but as we learn to stop eating the bitter fruits of selfishness and jealousy, God will fill us with the fruits of His forgiveness and peace.

I pray that you will seek and find reconciliation in your life too.


Rev. Dr. David Chisham



This week I offer a short study of a Scripture that has been the subject of endless discussion.  It’s a text that has mystified me and many others—it’s a text that I have to preach about on Sunday.  From 2 Samuel comes a story that has angered many and made many others wonder about God’s sense of justice.  It’s so shocking that some skip it entirely.  In 2 Samuel 6, King David is in the process of moving the Ark of the Covenant from its former residence to Jerusalem.  On the way there the ark, which is riding on an ox cart, begins to slip, and a man named Uzzah tries to steady the ark from falling.  When Uzzah does what any person with common sense would do, Scriptures says that God’s anger burned against Uzzah and he struck him dead right there.

How could God have done that?  How could God have let his anger get away from him that way and strike down a man who was just trying to help?  In answer to those particular questions…I have no good answer.  Some have said that God’s anger was kindled because Uzzah was not a priest, and only the priests were to touch the ark.  Others have pointed out that the ark was being improperly transported—it was supposed to be suspended on two long roads carried by a team of priests on their shoulders, not toted about like a farm implement on an ox cart.  But according to those readings it makes God sound like he’s just a stickler for the formalities.  I think there must be something else going on.

I know this sounds harsh, but I don’t think the story is about Uzzah at all—I think the story is really about the relationship between Yahweh and David.  David had been king for seven years, and in a political move to solidify his reign, he makes a geographical move of the capital from Hebron to Jerusalem.  Further reinforcing his power, he also moves the worship of Yahweh, the God of Israel, to Jerusalem as well.  Prior to this Jerusalem had been a little village of little importance—now Jerusalem will become both the political and religious center of power.  While I will grant that David was a smart politician for centering all that power in one place, it is also clear that David is using the ark of the Covenant as a political tool for his own ambitions.  David is undisputed King, and he does God a favor by letting him nest his tent next to him.  Needless to say, God was not pleased to have his name and reputation used in that way.  Uzzah took the brunt of God’s anger, but I think that God is really trying to get David’s attention.

This dangerous abuse of God’s power which David fell into is one that happened time and again; God is put on parade as a mascot for our own reputation, then tucked away once we’ve achieved our ambition.  History is full of examples of this, and we still deal with this in our own lives as well.  However, as disturbing as it is, this passage can serve as an important reminder that God is truly free, and will not be confined by our purposes.  It’s a reminder to me that when I claim to speak for God, I must do so humbly, remembering that I do not control or direct God’s will.  Like David, I am the one who dances for God’s pleasure—God does not dance for my pleasure.


Rev. Dr. David Chisham