eCare - Reaching the Outer Marker

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eCare - Reaching the Outer Marker

Dear Friends in Christ,

This morning, for the first time, I sat down with a calendar and actually counted the number of weeks that remain in my pastorate at Beverly Heights. When I began almost 33 years ago I surely didn’t have this day and that activity in mind but tempus fugit and here we are. I’m not quite ready to touch down on the runway and end the flight but I’ve reached the outer marker.

I didn’t do the counting because I can’t wait until it’s all over – far from it. It seems that it’s going to be over too soon, even though it’s taken 46 years to arrive at this terminal point in my pastoral career. Rather, I did the counting to see how many more opportunities I’ll have to preach before Sunday, October 28th arrives. There remains 25 Sundays with at least four of them dedicated to missionary guest preachers which leaves 21 for me, though I’ll probably pass a couple of weeks to Pastor Nate who, as the gifted preacher that he is, ever delights in getting off the bench and into the game.

What I’ve decided to do, subject always to the Holy Spirit clarifying my thinking on the matter is to begin one final sermon series, inaugurated on May 20th entitled The Gospel When Time Is Short and Times Are Hard. Can you guess from whence my texts will be taken? Your correct – the Gospel of Mark! The Gospel of Mark was probably the first of the four gospels that were written in the first century. It was probably written at a time when, again – you have it right – when time was short and times were hard for those Christians in and around Rome who first received it.

Obviously, I don’t have the time to preach through the entire Gospel; to do so would have necessitated a start two years ago. So what I’m going to do is choose one portion (pericope) from each of the sixteen chapters…seems like the math isn’t adding up, which partially explains why I didn’t follow my dad into engineering! I’ve identified a tentative list of texts for the series but if there is one that you’d particularly like to hear a sermon on let me know and I’ll consider the suggestion.

I have the same number of weeks in which to address you through this vehicle that we know as eCare. Actually, I don’t know what the future of the eCare will be…perhaps I’ll become a blogger in my retirement and pursue this ministry in that form…Lord knows but I don’t. How to wrap this up, too, in the weeks that remain…that’s the question for which I think I have an answer.

I’m going to write about love! I can just hear some saying “Love? He’s going soft…it’s time for him to retire!” Actually, love is not a “soft” subject but a hard one in every sense of the word. Here’s my thinking: During our three decades+ together as a congregation we have faced some challenging times, not the least of which were our departure from the P.C.U.S.A., the departure of 1/3 of our congregation to form a new church, our capital campaign, the coming and goings of beloved and not so beloved staff members, the introduction of contemporary worship, etc. Each challenge we faced provided opportunity for strife, party spirit, anger, alienation, fracture and for the ministry of the church to suffer.

It is a unique delight for me to reflect upon how none of these destructive phenomena came to the fore. Why is that? I think there are a number of reasons, first and foremost, of course, is the grace of the Lord Jesus made manifest in the presence of the Holy Spirit and His protection of our church family from the power of the evil one. Additionally, I think it is testimony to the spiritual maturity of our congregation reflected in the exhibition of the fruit of the Spirit in individual lives. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control have been in full display and are rich in their rewards.

Which takes us to the topic of my final eCares…the transitions that we are/will be experiencing during the next 6-12 months as a congregation will provide at least as much strain and stress as any of the events I mentioned above. There is the potential for the congregation to, now using a beloved phrase by a former beloved professor, Richard Lovelace, “to explode like a tin drill bit hitting steel!” What will keep that from happening? Love! Times of stress and strain, change and challenge, provide opportunities for us to love one another. So, I’m going to write about what that might mean and what that might look like for us in the weeks ahead.

Speaking about what’s ahead Sunday is Mother’s Day. I’ve had the great privilege of preaching approximately 1,500 sermons from the Beverly Heights pulpit over the years. Some were okay and some were not. But the one out of the fifteen hundred that I cannot live down was my Mother’s Day sermon on the devil. In a grumpy mood earlier in the week I considered preaching a sermon this Sunday entitled “He STILL Will Kill Your Kids If He Can!” and, of course, he will! However, the mood soon passed and I decided to preach from Matthew 6 a message entitled Of Mothers and Sparrows.

Hope to see you on the Lord’s Day.

Faithfully,

Rick