Category Archives: Observations

04.08.2022 – I Might Be Wrong (But I Doubt It)

Sunday begins what we traditionally call Holy Week, or maybe it’s holy eight days, as we remember the final events in Jesus’ life from his triumphal entry on Palm Sunday to his glorious resurrection on Easter morning.

This coming Sunday the churches will distribute palm branches to the worshipers and the people will sing “All Glory, Laud, and Honor to Thee Redeemer King!” We will gather again on Thursday in solemn remembrance Jesus’ last supper with his disciples.  We will eat of the loaf and drink of the cup, this means of grace, and so proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. Friday’s services will be dark, but again we will sing – now “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us.”

Some will keep vigil on Saturday.  By Sunday morning, the sanctuaries will be filled with lilies and the people will sing “Jesus Christ is Risen Today!

More than any other time on the Christian calendar, Holy Week is the time where our worship reenacts the events of that time at the center of all time.

As Holy Week begins, I plan on following the story of the week told in the Gospels. I have found a nice guide put out by the publisher of the ESV Bible for my journey through the week.  As part of my morning devotions, I will use the links to hear the old story anew and to dwell in the narrative as a preparation for our celebration of Easter.  Here’s the guide if you wish to use it: Harmony of the Events of Holy Week. And you may want to use YouTube to find those hymns old or new that give us language to borrow as we thank our Dearest Friend. Continue reading

04.01.2022 – Those Were the Days

I did not think I had much to add to the various conversations about the two-year anniversary of the Coronavirus epidemic.  It’s been a long two years. Enough said.

But then late last week a friend sent me a reminder from two years ago.  It was a photo of daffodils blooming in his suburban Philadelphia yard.  The photo reminded him of a little part of our two years ago experience I had forgotten.  I am glad for the reminder to remember.

Becky and I were still in suburban Philadelphia when the pandemic began. We had about four months to go until my retirement after twelve plus years as pastor at Langhorne Presbyterian Church.  Retirement events were being planned and our house in Indiana was being built.  We had a pretty good idea of how the rest of 2020 would go.  But then Covid came and nothing went the way we thought it would. Continue reading

03.25.2022 – Life in the Lull

Most mornings I check the “Coronavirus in the U.S.” case count chart in the New York Times. The story the chart told at the beginning of the year was a bit scary, but its early spring tale is much more reassuring. The case count is down and seems to be staying down. At least for now. Pandemic politics aside, we’d all agree we’re in a better place now than we were in January or through most of the second half of 2021. Please, no more surges.

The Morning Dispatch says Johns Hopkins University public health professor Chris Beyrer calls what we’re experiencing now an “epidemiological lull.”

Lull is an old world of unknown origin, though it may be related to “lullaby.” And as with a sleeping baby, there is a “for now” sense to the word. The baby is quiet for now.  News agencies have reported an occasional lull in the fighting in Ukraine.  The Russian artillery is silent for now. But a lull always worries about a “yet to come.” The baby will wake and start fussing again. The shelling will resume. The next variant will bring another spike in Covid cases. Continue reading

03.18.2022 – It Was a Good Trip

Becky and I have returned from our trip to Israel with great thanks for the opportunity and with wonderful memories we will cherish forever.  It was a good trip, and in many ways “a good trip” is the best summary I can give. No qualifications.  It was a good trip.  The sights we saw, the places we stayed, the traveling companions: it was a good trip.

But let me share three observations.

Observation 1 – Israel is not the only holy land:  The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein. — Psalm 24:1

Our trip was dubbed “A Holy Land Study Tour.”  If I tell people I have just returned from the Holy Land, they know where I was. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all use the term “Holy Land,” and it does not need much explanation.  I prefer to say that we were in Israel. To be sure, it is a unique place in terms of human history. The events told in the Old and New Testaments took place in this land.  But if King David, who lived his life in the place, is correct about what he wrote in Psalm 24, this land is not the only holy land. The earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof.  That means that Auburn, Indiana, Hunting Park in Philadelphia, Kigali in Rwanda, Favela da Ventosa in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, Kyiv in Ukraine, are holy as well. They belong to the Lord, and his story continues to unfold in them.

We traveled to Israel, and it was a good trip. Continue reading

02.25.2022 – Happiness and Spaghetti Dinners

Before we get to the spaghetti, just a word to let you know that Becky and I will be away for the next couple of weeks – a trip to Israel! “Observations” will be back when we are back

She is called Yale’s “Happiness Professor” and in addition to her immensely popular classes on the psychology of the good life offered at Yale, Laurie Santos hosts the “Happiness Lab” blog, looking at scientific research on happiness and offering tips on avoiding anxiety, negative emotions, and what she calls that “meh” feeling.

Professor Santos recently sat down for an interview with a New York Times reporter. Excerpts from the interview were published in this past Monday’s paper.

The reporter asked an interesting question, “A lot of stuff that we know can have a positive effect on happiness — developing a sense of meaning, connection with other people, meditation and reflection — are commonplace religious practices. How helpful are they outside religion?”

I found the happiness professor’s answer interesting, as well. Continue reading