February 21 – In Non-Essentials Liberty

On Wednesday we will gather at the Table and in worship to mark the beginning of the Lenten season.  Ash Wednesday we call it.  I like this service and its somber and simple mood. I hope you will join us.

Among its lesser attributes, our Ash Wednesday service is an exercise in what the Evangelical Presbyterian Church calls liberty in the non-essentials.

Sixty years ago, no self-respecting church calling itself Presbyterian or evangelical would have thought of holding an Ash Wednesday service.  That was the stuff of papists and their too-close-for-comfort Episcopalian friends.  What was the Reformation about, anyway? Vatican II changed all that as we learned to be less suspicious of others in the holy catholic church. While eschewing any sense of penitence as righteousness-inducing work, many mainline Protestants and some Evangelicals, found Ash Wednesday observances and Lenten discipline to be spiritually helpful practices. Continue reading

February 14 – Speak, O Lord

We have been using a not so new Keith Getty and Stuart Townend hymn, Speak, O Lord, in our LPC worship. Getty and Townend wrote the piece to be sung in worship as a prayer in preparation for the hearing and the preaching of the Word.

Speak, O Lord, as we come to You
To receive the food of Your Holy Word.
Take Your truth, plant it deep in us;
Shape and fashion us in Your likeness,
That the light of Christ might be seen today
In our acts of love and our deeds of faith.
Speak, O Lord, and fulfill in us
All Your purposes for Your glory.

God speaks to us most clearly and most reliably through the words of Scripture. In worship together or in our own reading of the Word, what do we hear as God speaks?

I begin most days with the Psalter readings from the Daily Office in the Book of Common Prayer. Every psalm read every seven weeks, in what appears to be some random order; I don’t know what to expect each day – lament, praise, thanksgiving, supplication.

The first reading for this morning is Psalm 88, a bitter lament. It frightens me.

The psalm is a psalm of the Sons of Korah. It is written in the first person. Which son of Korah was this? What had happened to him?  His bitterness is more than I want to hear. Why would God give us this Psalm? Speak, O Lord? What are you saying? Continue reading

January 31 – Viagem Missionária Guatemala

Our Guatemala Mission Away Team leaves for leaves for the “land of eternal spring” tomorrow afternoon.  It will be my twelfth and certainly my last trip to Guatemala with good friends from LPC.  That’s another story for another time.

As with last year, our North American team members will join a contingent of South American team members as we respond to God’s call to serve in Central America.  That’s a story for now.

Ademar, Michael, Raissa, and Juninho form the Brazilian contingent of our team.  Each of them is a returning veteran of Guatemala mission.  I have known Ademar for nearly twenty years – he was a young university student when we met.  Raissa was one of the kids in a VBS program our church in Western PA helped run when I first met her over 15 years ago, and I’ve known Juninho about as long.  Pastor Michael has been at IPJA for seven years and I liked him the minute we met.

All friendships are a gift from God, but these four seem especially so. Continue reading

January 24 – My Pain in the Neck

I have a pain in my neck.  And thanks for your advice on what ails me, but it’s being taken care of.  The practitioner who’s helping the pain go away thinks it is stress-induced.  He barely knows me.  Unfortunately, I know me, and I think he may be right.  And, again, thanks for your advice on what ails me, I’ve already received the best advice available. Continue reading

January 17 – Megxit: O Canada

How can we worry about impeachment when the Megxit story continues to unfold?

In case you have been off-planet for the past few weeks, Britain’s Prince Harry and his wife Meghan have decided to call it quits on cutting ribbons and waving to crowds.  The press has dubbed it Megxit. Oh, the pay is good and the hours aren’t bad, but it’s a younger brother job and there’s not much future in it. Harry and Meghan want out.

Apparently, the prodigal prince plans on gathering his young family and the bit of the inheritance he calls his own and taking a journey into a far country.  It turns out that Canada is the far country of choice. But not all Canadians are sure they should welcome Harry, Meghan, and the no longer senior royalty entourage. Maybe Canadians just don’t like the prospect of reckless living. Continue reading