Guest blog post by
Rev. Dr. Bill Smutz, Interim Pastor
First Presbyterian Church of Kirkwood

What to write?  What to write??  My Presbytery colleagues are a discerning audience, so I want my words to be worthwhile, even meaningful.  We’re almost a week deep into Lent, which is certainly a worthy topic.  Following Jesus and an inner examination of faithfulness are always good things!  We are all appalled and sickened and heartbroken by the carnage in Ukraine, and want it to stop, and want to help those who are suffering so relentlessly; and, for those in my age category, there are flashbacks to the demon role the U.S.S.R. once played in our country’s collective imagination.  We went mask-optional at church last Sunday as an acknowledgment of rapidly diminishing covid numbers.  Yet, to be honest, I’m still anxious about this decision.  I worry about our unvaccinated children and the immuno-compromised in our midst.  Those of us tasked by Session to provide guidance in this area desperately want to do no harm.  What to write?  What to write?

These days are so rich in potential topics.  There is a fullness in trying to be a disciple of Jesus.  And while I don’t want to appear callous or flippant or lacking in compassion or unaware of the purposes and priorities of God by not focusing in any particular direction, I think the fullness is the point.

Being a disciple of Jesus requires a willingness, even eagerness, to move in many directions mentally and spiritually and physically at the same time, jumping into the possibilities of God with arms open wide – our theological arms, our decent & orderly arms, our compassionate arms, our broken & sinful arms, our loving arms, our fearful arms, our listening-for-the-Spirit arms, our tied-behind-the-back arms.  Being a Presbyterian disciple of Jesus comes with the expectation that we can and will walk and chew gum at the same time……that we will take on all that God puts before us, without any expectation of perfections, and try our hardest to make a holy difference……knowing that we make the best differences when we try together!

Long ago and far away I was privileged to count Walter Brueggemann as one of my Bible professors.  Walt was fond of saying that scripture is polyvalent.  This is a scientific term for an atom that has more than one free electron with which it may connect to another atom.  Carbon has four free electrons for such connecting, making it polyvalent.  Scripture as polyvalent means that there is always a new place or way for us to plug into a particular piece of scripture and see fresh possibilities for serving others, glimpse unknown aspects of God, and discover new possibilities for discipleship.

As those who follow Jesus, particularly as Presbyterian followers, I think we are called to be polyvalent disciples.  To throw ourselves headlong into the many possibilities for serving God that are always coming toward us and plug into as many of them as our free-electron capacity will allow.  Sometimes, oftentimes, being polyvalent can be overwhelming and exhausting……but the days are never dull, and the joy of serving is always a gift……

What to write?  What to write??

Rev. Dr. Bill Smutz, Interim Pastor
First Presbyterian Church of Kirkwood




  • Posted March 8, 2022 6:53 pm
    Susan Andrews

    So real! And beautifully written. Thanks for affirming the complexity of these days.

  • Posted March 9, 2022 9:26 am
    Liz Kanerva

    Thank you for adding “polyvalent” to my vocabulary, Bill.

  • Posted March 9, 2022 9:56 am
    John Carothers

    Your honesty, insight and humanness are, as always, a gift. Thank you for the reminder that faithfulness is not a settled thing but a dynamic one that requires ongoing discernment, adaptation and choices. And thank you for the gracious reminder that our capacity for it may vary.

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