Monthly Archives: May 2020

May 29 – Confessions of a Displaced Preacher

We number in the thousands.  Displaced preachers.

We were beginning to look toward Easter and the crowds that would pack our lily-filled sanctuaries.  Lectionary preachers were already studying John’s account of the day of resurrection. I had decided to reflect on Luke’s telling of the story.  But then, just two weeks after Ash Wednesday, our screens began to light up with talk of shutdowns and quarantines.  For many of us, March 8 was the last Sunday in our pulpits, and even then we had no idea of what was coming.

Sunday, Pentecost Sunday, will be the twelfth Sunday of Lockdown. 84 days since we last took to the pulpit and looked out over a sea of familiar faces. 84 days since we preached the word to understanding nods, a few frowns, and the usual suspects nodding off into a morning nap.

I miss preaching. I miss the high honor and heavy responsibility of bringing God’s Word to a beloved flock.  I miss the ordinary and familiar, the well-rehearsed routine of being ready for Sunday morning.  I miss the “nice sermon” comments at the door and wondering what was nice about it.

Twelve weeks, 84 days (and thanks, Tyler, for the day off a week ago), of talking to a screen, putting images and video and audio recordings on a storyboard and waiting, waiting, while the computer grinds and churns and turns it all into a YouTube video, posted Sunday morning by 8:00.

Sometimes old dogs must learn new tricks, and they say acquiring new skills is good for brain health. Still, I don’t much like talking to a screen and then calling the result a sermon, placing images and video and sound on a storyboard and calling the resulting collection of bites worship.

Of course, if you’re going to live in lockdown, being a resident of the digital age makes it easier. They didn’t have to move many of the displaced pastors to refugee camps. We had plenty to do in climbing the steep curve of learning cyber skills and digital tricks.  As with many things in the time of lockdown, we don’t yet have enough data (as if data solves problems), but early indications are that our very real God has used our virtual efforts to his glory.

To be sure, some of us haven’t opened a Bible, sung a hymn, or listened to a sermon since March 8.  Twelve weeks is plenty of time to develop new habits, bad habits, and some of us are going to like the (bad) habit of a church free, God-absent life.  But be careful, there’s plenty of data that shouts in a loud chorus, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some.” (Hebrews 10:23-25)

June has four Sundays.  As far as I know – and only in the sense that lockdown has been a good reminder of James’ wisdom, “you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that” – the last Sunday in June will be my last Sunday at LPC.  Four more virtual sermons?  Chances are…

It is what it is. Who knew I’d end this run as a displaced pastor. At least they didn’t send me to a refugee camp.

See you, but not really, Sunday.

May 22 – The Keys of the Kingdom

It was a big old house and originally the Gillam Avenue eastside next door neighbor of LPC, back when LPC was not much more than what we now call the chapel.  In time the LPC building began its slow creep eastward, and in time the church bought the old house. At first it served as a manse – a parsonage, the pastor’s house, and later as an annex for Sunday School class rooms and church meetings.  We called it Cunningham Hall, I suppose after the original owner.  One of you can set me straight on that.

Sometime in the late 1950s, certainly before the current Sanctuary was built in the early 1960s, Cunningham Hall, the old house, was knocked down to make way for a parking lot. That’s what Americans did in the 1950s.  Some of us have parked right on top of the spot where the old house used to stand, and, who knows, maybe the pastor’s office is where the old front porch used to welcome passers by. Continue reading

May 15 – Welcome Eric and Jess

Jeremiah advised the Exiles to build houses and plant gardens.  They weren’t to begrudge their circumstances, rather, they were to ready themselves for the plans God had for them – plans to give them a future and a hope.

The word to the Exiles has been a lesson for God’s people ever since. However discouraging our circumstances, however bleak the world our eyes perceive or our ears hear, God is at work, often unseen, unheard, his plans and purposes to fulfill.

Even during lockdown, even in the age of pandemic, God is calling LPC to place its lamp on a stand – hide it under a bushel? NO! We’ve talked about transitional leadership after Becky and I retire: Tyler, Brian, and Casey overseeing our ministries and helping us stay focused on the elders’ vision for work.  We knew that shifting responsibilities would leave some gaps in the vital areas of youth and children’s ministries, ministries that have continued strongly, and, especially in the case of youth ministry, even thrived during lockdown. Continue reading

May 8 – He Has Set His Bow in the Sky

And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.”  Genesis 9:12-16

The photo at the head of this post was taken at Kibuye, Burundi, East Africa, April 26.  The photo at the foot of this post was taken in Langhorne, Pennsylvania, USA, April 27.  A (double) rainbow over the mission and medical compound that is Hope Kibuye.  Twenty four hours later a rainbow arced over LPC on a cloudy spring evening.

We love rainbows. Continue reading

May 1 – The Birds Their Carols Raise

This is my Father’s world,

the birds their carols raise,
the morning light, the lily white,
declare their Maker’s praise.

The old hymn first sings of a common grace, what we call general revelation.  The created order gives witness to its creator.  With eyes to see and ears to hear, the human creature, above all others, is made to know its Creator.  The Apostle Paul puts it this way in Romans 1 when he speaks of all humanity: For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

In the midst of lockdown, grieving, pain, and sorrow, this spring has been, remarkably so, a common grace spring. All nature sings and round me rings the music of the spheres. Continue reading