Author Archives: Forrest Claassen

Sabbath-Keeping, the Year of Jubilee, and a Presbytery Anniversary

I had an “A-Ha” moment the other day. Or maybe it was more like a “Duh” moment. I’ll let you decide. I was talking with a minister member about her six years of service on CPM.[1] I observed that by now she probably needed a rest. That is when I had my A-Ha: Six years and then a rest! Just like in the Bible! The Sabbath Year Most of you are probably familiar with the … Read More

Why I’m Partial to Being Impartial

“For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and the slave does it” (Matthew 8:9). “Will you be governed by our church’s polity, and will you abide by its order?” (Book of Order, W-4.4003e). About a month ago I joined La Habra Hills PC for Sunday worship. The congregation’s … Read More

What’s Our Potlatch?

Since last September I have discussed the challenges of being financially faithful in Southern California. This month I plan to conclude the series. As a quick review: 1. High housing costs, cultural pressure to appear successful, and perceived scarcity make it difficult for Southern Californians to delight in God’s ways regarding money. 2. We counter the difficulties by (a) giving the first ten percent of our income (b) to the church structures to which we … Read More

A Week in the Life: From the Mundane to the Profound

The variety in our service together regularly surprises me. A few vignettes from the last week of March should give you an idea. A Taste of a Recent Week — A few Sundays ago (March 26), several of us helped install Rev. Huong “Cedar” Dang as Senior Pastor of the Vietnamese Presbyterian Church of Garden Grove. The day was extraordinary. Cedar’s installation reflects the patient work and careful judgment of the congregation’s leadership. It also … Read More

Per Capita: Why Do We Do This?

At the pastors’ retreat in mid-February, the Synod Executive handed me a check for funeral expenses from my fellow Presbyters. When I told my recently widowed brother, I loved watching his puzzled face awaken with understanding. Your love for me—and really, our love for each other—took specific shape. It was a financial reminder of a spiritual covenant. That reminder is a microcosm of the PC(USA). Some of you have recently asked about our per capita. … Read More

Thank You

I love the PCUSA. How often does your organizational headquarters send a regional flunkie a sympathy card with lots of handwritten love notes? Made me cry, you beautiful people (Karen Claassen, Facebook, January 23, 2017) Many of you have heard by now of the sudden death of my nephew and sister-in-law. My brother Gary, his wife Polly, and their eight-year-old son Trent were vacationing in Kansas with my extended family during the first week of … Read More

Ten Percent Giving: A Joyful Feast

  “Someone told me with great amazement that so-and-so gives a tithe. How shameful it is that what was taken for granted among the Jews has now become an amazing thing among Christians” (John Chrysostom, 4th century).[1] Over the past several months here I have sought to navigate the waters of faithful finances, even in a place as demanding as Southern California. I hope to have helped you “recapture a Scriptural understanding of money and … Read More

Beyond Voluntary Giving

Last month’s column generated an animated conversation among the e-News editorial board. We agreed that our first fruits belong to God (see my October column). But in November I argued that, according to Scripture, those first fruits belonged to God through the structures of worship. In Israel’s time, that meant the Temple system; in our time, the church. Not everyone agreed. Our discussion gradually turned toward, “Why should someone give to the Presbytery? Is it … Read More

Why First-Fruits Giving is Good for Your Soul and the Church

We may donate our second and third fruits where and how we please, but our first fruits belong to the church. More particularly, they belong to our congregations, our presbyteries, or our denomination. How have I reached that conclusion? Last month I observed that first-fruit giving defies our rational expectations. When we give away more, we do not have less. Instead, we flourish. I can attest to that in my own life and in the … Read More

In Pursuit of Financial Freedom

                  Last month I raised the challenge of financial faithfulness: “…the task before us is to recapture a Scriptural understanding of money and then put that understanding into practice, even as the realities of life in Southern California whisper that we are fools for trying.” How, then, are we to find release from the Southern Californian predicament? Scripture’s answer begins with the principle of first fruits.[1] Financial … Read More