June 28 – When The Odds Are Not in Your Favor

Even at six million to one, I don’t like the odds.  Not when you’re talking about eternity.
I will be speaking at the Men’s Breakfast at a neighbor church on Saturday morning.  We’ll be thinking about the ways that confidence beats certainty every time – in fact, the futility of certainty and the wrongness of being right. 
I will save that message for Saturday morning, but my preparations got me thinking about certainties and probabilities and odds. One thing led to the next; this article and then that post and one of them mentioned an intriguing travel app, and, well, I had to download it to my phone. 
Am I Going Down? (available for Android or Apple) is a fear of flying app. You enter your route and the type of aircraft and then the app tells you the odds of crashing and how many flights you’d have to take before you’d have to start getting nervous.
Becky and I are flying out to Washington state later next month, so I entered our information. and Am I Going Down calculated our odds.  We have a 1 in 6,333,688 chance of having our flight crash before we debark in Seattle.  The app adds that we could take that same flight every day for 17,353 years before we went down. 
The odds are meant to comfort the fearful flyer. I got pretty anxious thinking about going through airport security every day for 17,353 years. 
Certainties and probabilities are fact based. The maker of Am I Going Down tell us “10 million routes can be assessed using actual data from sources such as the Geneva-based Bureau of Aircraft Accidents Archives, the United States National Transportation Safety Board and the Montreal-based International Civil Aviation Organization.”
It turns out we could have gotten 379 additional years of daily flights if we had booked on United instead of Alaska, but that flight has a layover in Denver, and we think the non-stop is worth the risk. 
Confidence is not about facts or a massive data upload.  It is about faith and believing a story unlike any story ever told, the story of Jesus and his love. You can’t prove it and no data dump is going to improve the odds of it being true. In fact the odds of it being true are not good at all,  Foolishness, the intelligentsia among the Greeks called it. But you can believe it and then find the improbable and unprovable  – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control suddenly showing up at the least expected times.  
With “proper confidence,”  author Lesslie Newbigin’s wonderful phrase, we boldly sing, “When we’ve been there 17,353 years, long past TSA, we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we first begun.”
See you Sunday Continue reading

June 22 – A Very -ful Week

The flight from Denver arrived in Philadelphia around 11:30 last night, just a little late.  Our EPC General Assembly came to a close less than 24 hours ago, and it was so full.  There’s not been nearly enough time to even begin to put all the pieces of the week together in a way that paints a picture of what the week was all about for our denomination and for those of us privileged to be a part of the time at Cherry Creek Presbyterian Church.

Here are some of the “-ful” pieces that will fit together into what we will understand better in time:

  • Wonderful worship.  What more can we say about 1,000 voices singing “Great is Thy Faithfulness” or “Ten Thousand Reasons”
  • Faithful preaching from Andrew Brunson, Léonce Crump, and others
  • Helpful seminars on leadership, ministry, and theology
  • Hopeful presentations on the future direction of the EPC as we seek to be Christ’s church in our complicated world
  • Joyful connection with friends and colleagues, old and new, from around the church and around the world.

Elder Don Reimold and I will give an initial report on the Denver GA to the elders at Monday evening’s Session meeting.  We will keep you posted on ways we might let the entire congregation hear more about his very “-ful” week.

See you Sunday!

June 14 – An Oxymoronic Reality

I am attending the meeting of the General Assembly next week. And I am looking forward to it.  Whoever thought I might put those two sentences back to back. An oxymoronic reality.

A little background before I get on the plane to Denver early Monday evening.

General assemblies are Presbyterian things, a court or council of the larger church.  In our former denomination the general assembly was the highest court of the church with synods, presbyteries, and sessions further down the food chain. Its meetings could be cumbersome and bureaucratic, outsiders not to feel much welcome. The EPC has wisely nixed the archaic synod, so by Book of Order definition, “The General Assembly, composed of all the courts and local churches of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, expresses the unity and relatedness of all the parts. It has the responsibility of overseeing the total work of the Church.” Pastors, elders, and visitors alike. EPC general assemblies are joy-filled and welcoming. Continue reading

June 7 – 2×2: Tag Team Ministry

Andrew, not his real name, walked into the church office Wednesday afternoon as Tyler, our youth director, and I were conferring about Sunday’s message.  He spoke with Sandy first and she heard enough of his story to know that it was worth his waiting to talk. Tyler and I finished our conversation, Tyler heading back to his office and Sandy to tell me just a little about Andrew, this young man waiting patiently in the outer office. His situation was more than some food from the food pantry might resolve.

The back and forth with Tyler probably took five seconds.

“This sounds important.  Would you like to talk to him or shall I?” I asked.
“Let’s tag team it,” Tyler answered.

So, we tag teamed it and for the next hour and a half Tyler and I talked with Andrew.  Suffice it to say that Andrew was as confused as he was hungry, as friendless as he was penniless, and a long way from home. Continue reading

May 31 – Unfair!

I left for the office early Thursday morning. The sky was gray with the dawn’s early light, but a strange darkness filled the street as I wound my way out of Windy Bush, the development where we live, onto Maple Avenue. Our power had gone out during Wednesday evening’s storms and, despite PECO’s assurances to the contrary, it was still out ten hours later.

But it wasn’t out everywhere. In fact, it seemed as if it was out nowhere but our little development.  141 customers, the PECO outage alert told us.

A bright and brilliant green light welcomed me to Maple Avenue.  An “open” sign blinked happily in the window of Dunkin Donuts.  The cheery glow of streetlights cut the gray darkness of the morning as I drove down Maple Avenue toward the borough. Porch lights were on at some houses and light shined through the windows of early risers getting ready for work or school.  The rest of the world was oblivious to the dark pall draped over the lives of 141 of us still in the bleak darkness of our power outage. Continue reading