August 28, 2016

Not Mere Angels

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.
—Hebrews 13:2
Introduction: A Beginning
A couple of weeks ago, our year-long celebration of this building’s centenary culminated with the opening of the cornerstone and a rededication service. It’s always interesting to travel back in time, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one wondering if our predecessors had any idea what shape the church would be taking over the century that was to follow. I know I was (and still am) wondering what’s going to become of the church over the next hundred years, and I often wonder what I should say or do to play the part God wants me to play. I would imagine that some of that must’ve been going on in the minds of the leaders of the Union Congregational Church as they dedicated this new building in 1916.
And so, as we think about our own experience on our own little street corner, let’s try to imagine what it must’ve been like for the earliest Christians who didn’t have much of a roadmap, and who had very little experience to guide them as they set out on the path of being a Christian in a world that either didn’t know who they were or, if they did, was anxious to stamp them out before they were able to spread too far.
Though the first four books of the New Testament tell of what came at the beginning of the era of our Lord, the letters of Paul were actually written before the gospels, and they provide the earliest roadmap for the first century church. It was assumed for a long time that Paul also wrote the Letter to the Hebrews. In fact, in the old Authorized (aka King James) Version, the title of the book was The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Hebrews. But the letter itself contains no reference to Paul and doesn’t open and close the way that Paul’s other letters do. But most importantly, the style and the vocabulary are very different from Paul’s other letters. And so you won’t find many people these days who believe that Paul wrote Hebrews.

August 22, 2016

Before It Gets Dark

My Visit to Belknap Campus

The Other Side of the Tracks
I paid a little visit to Belknap Campus (the main campus of my alma mater) on the penultimate Monday of August. It's probably the longest time I've spent there since 1983. Little is as it was back then. For example, here is the approach to the campus heading west on Warnock today. In the old days, this was just a seedy street with nothing but garages and stuff like that.

This is the natatorium. We didn't have one of those when I was a student. Or if we did, it wasn't worth putting a sign on. We did have a pool somewhere, I'm sure of that. Maybe in Crawford Gym. This is on the west side of campus which was little more than an industrial wasteland in the old days. The university has bought up most of the land between the old campus and I-65, and it is now home to what is probably the most amazing set of college sports venues in the nation. Every team has its dedicated field, arena, or stadium, and all of it is practically new.

August 7, 2016

God's Future Is Our Future


Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
—Heb. 11:1

Big churches can be glorious: The programs, the huge choirs, the enormous staffs, the campuses with multiple buildings, the parking lots. In our day and age when everybody expects to have their needs met not sometime in the future, but right now, it’s easy to see why big churches keep getting bigger, while small churches are left wondering if they’ll still be here in a hundred years.

So we get discouraged when we compare ourselves to a megachurch. They really do have something wonderful going on. Just this year, in fact, a local La Jolla congregation decided to give up being the church as they’d known it. The work was just too difficult and the future too uncertain. They still had a congregation, and I guess they kept it, but they decided to cease being the church they’d been and allowed a megachurch to move in and be the church for them.