A friend of mine tells the story of a young graduate with a master’s degree who dreamed of opening a retreat center, a place of prayer for a community of faith. He yearned to do graduate study in Europe in preparation for this dream. He was a young man with a promise, a vision. But then he unexpectedly stumbled over a homeless man on the street.
|December 20, 2009|
|Circle the Wagons
There is a Far Side cartoon in which the cowboys are fearful of the Indians living around them. So they literally circle the wagons. They put all of their wagons in a circle so that they are on the inside and they can protect themselves from the forces of danger outside of themselves. These cowboys feel safe inside the circle of wagons. However, in this cartoon, several of the cowboys inside the wagons have Indian headdresses sticking out from under their cowboy hats. The danger for these cowboys is not outside the circled wagons where they think the danger lies. Their danger lies within.
|December 13, 2009|
|Birth of John
In the text that Dale read from Malachi, the community that Malachi addressed was an insignificant outpost of the Persian Empire. God’s people in Judah had been promised elsewhere in Scripture that God would restore their community to greatness. And it had not happened when the prophet Malachi came onto the scene. They were a defeated and marginal group of exiles who were under the authority of a foreign ruler. Because these promises from God had not come true, the people of God were wondering if God had abandoned them and if God would ever restore them and their community.
|December 6, 2009|
This past Thursday was Thanksgiving and for many of us it was a time to gather with family and friends and eat a meal together. It is a day to gather and to give thanks for the bounty which we believe God has blessed us with over the past 12 months. For most of us, this was a year when the bounty was not as great as in other years. This is a time when many of us are facing job losses, salary cuts, maybe some very unfortunate circumstances due to other factors. Many of us may have found this to be a tough Thanksgiving.
|December 6, 2009|
|Hospitality to Strangers
Before I read this morning’s text, I want to share a story which is told by author Michael Lindvall. Michael Lindvall tells about the time a pastor walked down the street past Alvina Johnson’s house one fall evening. Alvina’s house has always been immaculately kept, both inside and out. Her small lawn is weed free. She somehow makes each blade of grass stand up straight. On each side of the front steps, standing at attention in front of the foundation, Alvina plants a row of marigolds, fourteen on each side.
|November 22, 2009|
A mom tells about her family’s recent trip to our nation’s capital. Standing in the grass in the national mall, her son looked one direction at the nation’s capital and then the other direction at the Washington monument and commented, “Will this always be here?” If you were the parent at that moment and your child asked you that question, I am sure your first instinct would be to say, “of course they will always be here. They are very impressive structures.”
|November 15, 2009|
I apologize to some of you for sharing this information but the Clemson football coach, Dabo Sweeney has a motto. He asks his players and he asks the fans if they are “all in.” Are you “all in?” Meaning, is everyone giving their all to help the team achieve its goals?
|November 8, 2009|
In the Scripture which we are about to read, a certain man, named Lazarus has been ill. Lazarus is the brother of Mary and Martha. Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair. She devoted her life to following Jesus and did all the right things. The two sisters did what they thought they were supposed to do as followers of Jesus.
|November 1, 2009|
|This Land is Your Land
I am going to start by singing a song…
This land is your land
this land is my land
From California, to the New York Island
From the redwood forest, to the Gulf Stream waters,
This land was made for you and me.
|October 18, 2009|
|Breaking the Rules
When is it right to follow the rules and when is it right to break the rules? When is it right to strictly interpret the rules and when is it OK to overlook the rules? I ask this question after hearing a man this week tell about an incident that happened to him when he was in high school. Olly Neal grew up in Arkansas during the 1950s. He didn’t care much for high school. One day during his senior year, he cut class — and wandered into the school library. In the library that day he stumbled onto a book written by African-American author Frank Yerby. And the discovery changed the life of a teenage boy who was, in Neal’s memory, “a rather troubled high school senior.”
|October 4, 2009|
|How do you define success?
What are you trying to achieve in life that when you reach that pinnacle you will say to yourself, “I have succeeded.” For some of us, that sign of success is a home or a certain size home. I will achieve success when I am able to buy my own home. Maybe you have never owned your own home and you are striving for that day when one day you will be able to purchase your own home and you will be successful. Or maybe you own your own home and you have in mind a certain dream home in a certain location and you are driven by the goal of one day building your dream home wherever that dream home is to be built.
|September 27, 2009|
|Children Come to Me
In this story, Jesus is a teacher and he is surrounded by his male students. In the culture, it was here that males were to be focused on the wisdom of the teacher and not be distracted by the sounds of young children. Children were considered non-persons and were to spend their time with their mothers. There was a hierarchy in the society with men on top, women second in line, and children way down at the bottom.
|September 20, 2009|
|I recently heard fellow Presbyterian pastor and counselor Randy McSpadden tell about a recent experience in his congregation over in Lancaster County. Randy’s name is located on several plaques in our hallway due to his years of service in getting the Dimes for Hunger ministry off the ground. Several folks here know Randy through other pastoral work he has done. Several weeks ago Randy was awakened by the phone; it was about 2:30 early on a Saturday morning. It was a phone call from a detective in Charlotte. The detective told Randy that a member of his church had taken her life and that her mother needed to be told. When Randy got to the home, the mother had learned about the death but knew very little of what had happened. There was a lot of confusion with police reports, making arrangements, and calling family members.||September 13, 2009|