Heavenly ride

Saint John’s Presbyterian Church

A group of children from the church’s Vacation Bible School sings for the congregation at St. John’s Presbyterian Church.

A group of children from the church’s Vacation Bible School sings for the congregation at St. John’s Presbyterian Church.

Photo By D. Brian Burghart

St. John’s Presbyterian Church

1070 W. Plumb Ln.
Reno, NV 89509

(775) 826-0990


This being our bike issue, I was looking for a service neither I nor my esteemed colleague Scott D.F. Reeves had covered that was within easy biking distance of my home, which is off Cashill Boulevard up near South McCarran Boulevard. Turned out, I got it half right, D.F. had hit the 11 a.m. service at Saint John’s back in June. It also turned out, part of the two New Testament readings seemed peculiarly appropriate to the issue at hand. Funny how things like that work.

I’ll leave to the reader’s imagination my 30 mph ride down Skyline Drive on my chunky, green 27-speed commuter bicycle.

The service began as so many services begin across this country: Friends and family greeting one another with warm regard. They included in their good wishes the tall bald stranger who rode in on a bicycle. At the stroke of 8:30, the organist played the meditative prelude.

The service proceeded as Presbyterian services do, almost every word of which was contained in the bulletin. The reading from the Old Testament was Isaiah 55:6-11, a short passage explaining God’s infinite forgiveness and incomprehensibility to the mind of man—a theme that ran through the readings.

The New Testament readings included Matthew 13:31-33 and 44-52, which contains five metaphors describing the kingdom of heaven in words we Earthlings can comprehend: The mustard seed, the leavening of bread, a treasure in a field, the pearl of great price and a fishing net that captures the good and bad catch.

The second New Testament reading was 1 Corinthians 4:1-2: “Think of us in this way, as servants of Christ and stewards of God’s mysteries. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they should be found trustworthy.”

Following the readings, a group of young members of the congregation came out in their matching green “rainforest adventure” shirts and sang two songs. Although I don’t know the names, the first had the refrain “Grow and be happy in your faith,” and the second was, “We grow like the mustard seed.”

Do you begin to see the connections between the idea of using more sustainable transportation, Paul’s call for trustworthy stewardship and children’s place in the world and the congregation?

The Rev. Dr. Richard Wiggers, an affable and gracious man, spoke on the topic, “The Kingdom of Heaven is Like …” He talked about the purposes of Jesus’ parables: “How do we describe a belief to which they have no frame of reference?” He began the sermon with a quick story about a Presbyterian minister who visited China. During his travels, this minister came to know a man who was curious about what he did in the United States. When he explained his job to a communist—introducing people to God—the man asked, “What is God?”

Talk about an awesome question.

“The kingdom of heaven is surprising and potent and more than meets the eye,” said the minister. … When it comes right down to hunting for the kingdom of heaven, where are we to start?” … It’s in the ordinary circumstances in the days of our lives. The kingdom of heaven is right under our noses.”

He ended his sermon with the words of another minister friend: “That’s good news for me; that’s good news for the world; and that’s good news for you. Thanks be to God.”

As the comfortably familiar service came to an end, and I pumped out my 4.2 mph ride uphill and back to my house, I thought about the power of mystery and how if heaven were a place we could ride (or drive) to, we’d probably all just go there. But somehow, life’s far more interesting as an uphill ride.