Well the official day has arrived for our move to Morrow, Georgia, to pastor First Baptist Church of Morrow. While one truck is already delivered and we will be back in Madison a few more nights to deal with Realtors, this is the moment that I deem to signify the move. Why? Because I just packed up my espresso machine.
When I was a teenager we built a house in Birmingham and moved out of the church’s parsonage. Before construction was finished we started having someone of the family spend the night at the new house for security reasons. We also started a moving process that took a couple of months as rooms were finished and furniture was brought over a pickup truck load at a time. We soon were referring to one place as “home” and the other as “the house” as in,”Are you going to the house before you come home?” As more and more stuff was moved, and more of us were spending the nights at the new house, the terminology shifted to the new house being the “home” and the parsonage being the “house” as in “Are you going by the house to pack the dishes and bring them “home.” The official moment when the shift was made was clearly determined. It was when we moved the TV. (No one had more than one back in the dark ages!) Yes, for us it was, “Home is where the TV is.”
So you may have a glimpse into my soul when I say for this move, “Home is where the espresso machine is.” I take a great deal of pleasure making and drinking very good coffee. Want a Cafe Americano with an extra shot of Tanzanian Peaberry? I’m the guy to see. Espresso Macchiato, latte, cappuccino, can do. So for me home is were the Nuova Simonelli Oscar Professional Espresso Machine is.
Of course all this is a tongue-in-cheek corruption of the proverb, “Home is where the heart is.” That proverb, of course, is as true now as it has ever been. For two an a half decades home was Madison, Alabama, as Melody and I raised our family, and I poured my heart into ministering at First Baptist Church of Madison. Now our nest is empty and we are ready for a new opportunity of investing our lives and ministry. First Baptist Church of Morrow, Georgia, is now home for that if where my heart is. I am thankful to God for the calling that FBC Morrow has expended and am excited that the official day has arrived for my move to Morrow.
And by the way, I now have to disconnect and pack this computer. So, home is where my computer is as well!
Last Sunday I had the very great privilege to receive a call from the First Baptist Church of Morrow, Georgia, to become their pastor. It is an opportunity that I have been eagerly anticipating. It is a marvelous thing to have confidence in having discovered and be following God’s will in moving to Morrow and beginning this new relationship.
Let me share some things that have impressed me about First Baptist, Morrow. One is a solid commitment to be an agent of change in its neighborhood though sharing the love of God in a variety of ways. This clear vision of God’s calling for the congregation, already articulated through ministries, will continue to be a guiding commitment in the future.
Another is First Baptist, Morrow’s recognition that we are all, both women and men, gifted and called into the ministry of the church. Having ordained ministers and deacons of both genders is an essential aspect of the church’s relevancy to the world in which we live, reliance on a careful reading of God’s word, and respect for the transformational grace of God express in all who believe.
I am also impressed with the church’s ongoing commitment to the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship movement while maintaining historic connections with Southern Baptist life. The respectful way that Morrow deals with each members preferences for supporting cooperative relationships with other Baptists reflects a solid understanding the priesthood of the believer and the value Baptist have always found in their diversity.
I could hardly list reasons I am excited about new opportunities at First Baptist, Morrow, without mentioning the great ministerial staff already there. I know that one of my greatest sources of joy will be building new collegiate relationships with each of them as we partner together in leadership at First Baptist.
I have never waited longer to share in the Holy Meal. It is April 21, 2011. The last time Maundy Thursday took place this late in the year was April 22, 1943, the latest it is possible for it and surrounding Holy Week events to ever take place. The next year I will wait this long for Maundy Thursday will be 2038 when I will be 83 years old.
We owe this movable observance to the Hebrew lunar calendar by which the date of Passover is determined. Simply put, Easter is the first Sunday after the first full moon of spring. So Easter and its connected religious observances are constantly wandering around our calendar. The result is that people younger than 68, along with me, have never waited this long for Maundy Thursday before.
The wait this year focuses my attention to another wait always a part of Holy Communion. In the words of institution found in First Corinthians chapter eleven Paul says, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” The last three words, “until He comes,” make every Lord’s Supper an anticipation of an other event for which we wait.
Deep in the believer’s heart is a yearning for a more complete experience of the presence of God than it seems possible to know in the midst of this world. There is always a dark edging in on the light when we stand before the table of God. Inexplicable tragedy, the fragility of life, injustice unheeded, and many other troubles are over our shoulders, waiting on us to turn and leave the Presence behind. Today I will not be able to hear, “This is my body broken…” without thinking for the thousands of bodies mangled in the debris of Japan’s tsunami.
“Until I come,” is a promise that this will not always be so. As God was present in the incarnation of Jesus, as Christ is present in the church as we gather in communion, so will the presence of God banish all else in the eternal and complete revelation of God’s redemption through the coming of Jesus Christ for which we wait.
We have had to patiently wait the coming of Maundy Thursday this year, the timing determined by the movements of heavenly bodies we do not, nor will not, control. And we will patiently wait, as people of promise, in faith, for the eternal moment whose timing we can not understand when we will be in God’s presence forever.
Filed under Church, Corinthians, Holy Communion, Holy Week, Hope, Japan, Jesus, Maundy Thursday, Paul, The Future, Waiting
The world is perfectly still, waiting the day. The water of the lake mirrors the shore where the tallest trees are crowned with the glow of a new sun. The fog resting on the water is moved only by the silent beat of the heron’s wings and the leaves only by the timid ventures of a squirrel. Then a sound – a mockingbird praises the creator.
“Be still and know that I am God …” – Psalm 46:10
The link in this post will play a sermon I preached at First Baptist Church, Madison, on July 19, 2009. The texts for the day were Jeremiah 18:1-6 and John 8:2-11, the potter reforming the clay and the woman caught in adultery. The sermon focuses on the importance of forgiveness for the past in order to experience hope in the future.
Click this link to listen to the sermon: ForgivenessAndHope
I have been reading the gospel accounts of the resurrection of Jesus as a part of my Lenten devotions. One aspect of these stories surfaced for me as I contemplated them as a whole. In every resurrection appearance of Jesus, except one, Jesus comes to his disciples unexpectedly. The one exception is the Great Commission where Jesus’ followers were presumably expecting something to happen having been instructed to gather where they did. But all the others; Mary in the garden, the disciples behind closed doors, Thomas with the disciples, the two believers on the road to Emmaus, the disciples out fishing; feature an entirely unexpected appearance of Jesus. In fact, the only time disciples went looking for Jesus, Peter and John running to the tomb, Jesus was nowhere to be found.
It seems to me, that while it is very humbling to accept, our spiritual formation is not nearly as much in our hands as it is in God’s. Transforming experiences of the resurrected Jesus are acts of grace, gifts from God, and not subject to our plans and expectations. The unexpected Jesus is the messiah who changed the lives of the first believers through their encounter with the power and the mystery of the resurrection. “Wait upon the Lord,” the psalmist exhorts. Lent is a time of waiting, life is a time of waiting, for the amazing grace of the unexpected Jesus.
We are still struggling to grasp the enormity of the tragedy engulfing Haiti after a magnitude 7 earthquake hit the Caribbean island capital of Port-au-Prince, just a short plane ride away from our front doors. Remember this as we contemplate the loss of life in Haiti: while the earthquake may have been the immediate cause of the loss of life, most of those who died or will die, die from poverty. It is poverty that drives desperate people into densely populated urban wastelands of inadequate structures and almost no government infrastructure. It is poverty that will kill many injured people who will not have adequate food, water, or medical care. Poverty drives crime that interferes with relief work. Poverty is a condition that robs all of health, wholeness, and hope.
Remember this as well, Christians are called to minister to the poor. “Whatever you do for the least of these you do for me,” Jesus said of the poor, oppressed, sick and imprisoned. To help those who are hurting is one of the most Christ-like thinks we can do. I believe that addressing the dehumanizing curse of poverty needs to be one of the highest priorities of any Christ-honoring people. Haiti provides a dramatic test and a pressing opportunity to see just how much we realize this calling in our lives and our churches.
What can we do? Let me offer three things.
PRAY specifically for the relief workers who are right now on the front line of responding to this disaster. Pray for the churches of Haiti. Pray for people who are searching for loved ones, not knowing if they are alive or dead. Pray for the injured that they might receive adequate treatment.
GIVE. Money, more than anything else, is needed for relief agencies to do their work. Through First Baptist Madison you can designate a gift to “Haiti” and your contribution will go through a network of missionaries and state disaster relief organizations that Baptists coordinate so well. If you do not attend First Baptist see that such an opportunity is available at your church or find ways to give at work or personally to relief organizations.
GO. Yes, you! While it will be weeks or months before any but trained relief workers will be able to go, the plans are being made now for the thousands of volunteers that Christian response to this tragedy will require. At First Baptist we will facilitate our participation in these efforts as you live out our calling and go help “the least of these.”
These things we must do to respond to Haiti in a manner led by the Spirit of Christ. One other thing I would suggest, however. One of the greatest redemptive results of the crisis in Haiti could be an awaking of our responsibility to address the issues of poverty in our own community. While the scale is much different, the results of poverty are just the same. Our call right now is to mobilize for ministry in Haiti but our call always is to minister to “the least of these” wherever they found.