Author Archives: Bill

05.13.2022 – Metaphorical Grace, How Sweet the Sound

I will be preaching at a church in our presbytery this week and I am looking forward to it. The text I am preaching from 1 Peter 2 has me making a point about the Christian life and how, while we come to Christ at our conversion, our discipleship is not locked into a point or period in time.  I was thinking of saying something about becoming a Christian is not just about getting your ticket punched; you know, my way to heaven secured.  But then I wondered, “do you still get your ticket punched?”

We used to ride the train from Trenton, New Jersey, to Penn Station in Manhattan, and the conductor always punched our tickets.  It turns out, though, the very month we left Langhorne, New Jersey Transit quit punching tickets. Now the conductor scans the QR code on your ticket, or better yet, the app on your phone.

Another metaphor bites the dust.  We may talk about tuning in and hanging up, about cabooses and different tacks, but the realities on which the images are based have mostly disappeared. Continue reading

05.06.2022 – You Can’t Master Divnity

Becky and I will be at a graduation ceremony tomorrow and are glad to be able to celebrate with the graduate and his family.

The degree to be granted is a Master of Divinity, an MDiv, the professional degree required for ordination in our denomination and many others.  An MDiv is no slouch of a degree. It typically takes three or four years to earn and requires learning and using Biblical Greek and Hebrew.  Along with biblical exegesis and systematic theology, students must take courses in preaching and counseling and church leadership.  I may be biased, but I think those who earn an MDiv have done some impressive work.

Our friend, no surprise, has proven to be an exceedingly able student and we will celebrate his success.  And more than most graduations I have attended, this one really does feel like a commencement, a beginning.  Our friend has been doing full-time ministry and still must pass a series of ordination exams, but this event seems to be a particularly significant – even ominous – marker.  If there was any doubt about God’s call to ministry and his claim on our friend’s life, this event seems to dispel it.

I happen to think our friend is not only now well-equipped academically for ministry, but he is also spiritually gifted and emotionally and relationally exceedingly able for what lies ahead.

Congratulations, good friend. Continue reading

04.29.2022 – Give ’em That Old Time Religion

Youth Group, First Presbyterian Church, Santa Cruz, California – circa 1980

The headline caught my attention.  A recent Atlantic magazine article appeared under words, “Why American Teens are so Sad.”  The piece is worth reading if you can get past the paywall.  But whether you read it or not, let me highlight a bit of how the writer explains teen sadness, and then add an observation of my own.

Journalist Derek Thompson begins with this disturbing statement:

The United States is experiencing an extreme teenage mental-health crisis. From 2009 to 2021, the share of American high-school students who say they feel “persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness” rose from 26 percent to 44 percent, according to a new CDC study. This is the highest level of teenage sadness ever recorded.

Thompson goes on to say that this crisis is neither too old nor too new.  He dispels three fallacies we might use to dismiss our concern. Continue reading

04.22.2022 – In Praise of the Old Way

Langhorne Presbyterian Church, Langhorne, Pennsylvania

A new church has opened in our area.  Or maybe it is just a rebranded church. In any event, they held their launch event on Easter, and I wish them well.  I wish them well, but their promotional material causes concern.  They say they have found a new way to do ministry.  They may be a little late to the game.  They sound very “emergent.”  The emergent church was a phenomenon of the early 2000s and seems mostly to have spent its moment. The emergent church was high on immediate experience and low on the things that last. Here is a not too friendly but I think mostly accurate account of the emergent church.

In any event, our friends at the new church up the road think the new way to be a church is by not being very church-like.  Oh, they are going to have a Sunday worship service, but attendance at worship is not very important.  Watching the service on Facebook Live is just as good, and the really important thing is to join a small group, several of which meet at homes around the community.  They tell us to become a part of a small group before we ever come to worship.

I should be clear about something: I like small groups.  Becky and I are a part of a small group connected to our church and it has been one of the best things about being in Auburn.  Thank God for small groups! Continue reading

04.15.2022 – The Trashman Cometh

Angola is the next town north of Auburn, about 20 miles via county roads or a little longer and a little quicker if you take the interstate. Angola is the county seat of Steuben County. There is a small liberal arts college on the west side of town, and a Walmart and a Meijer on the north side. There are some great lakes for fishing and recreation nearby. Angola seems like a nice town.

The mayor of Angola, Richard Hickman, is proud of his city, as any good mayor should be.  But it is not just the nearby lakes or the small liberal arts college he is most proud of.  In a story in the April 6 edition of the Steuben County Herald-Republican, his honor opined that one of the great things about Angola is its trash pickup.  I am not kidding.

The mayor told of being at the gas station when the topic came up: “I was just told a few weeks back at the gas pump that our city has the best garbage disposal in the state.”

I don’t know about you, but garbage disposal often comes up when I am chatting with someone at the gas pump. Continue reading