Author Archives: Forrest Claassen

Airplane Seats and a Cross-Shaped Life[1]

By the time you read this, I will be in St. Louis for the annual meeting of Presbyterian bureaucrats. Officers and staff of General Assembly, synods, and presbyteries will gather to talk about everything from the future of ministry to child protection policies. But first, we will have to fly to get there. I hate flying. When the person in front of me leans back, I can no longer use my laptop effectively. If you … Read More

Recharging Our Deep Wells

Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God; you shall not do any work—you, or your son or your daughter, or your male or female slave, or your ox or your donkey, or any of your livestock, or the resident alien in your towns, so that your male and female slave may rest as well as you. Remember that you were … Read More

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