Pastor's Pen
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March 20, 2016, 12:00 AM

The Gift of Life

The Gift of Life

And

Palm Sunday

 

   Today is Palm Sunday. It begins the last week of Jesus’ physical life on earth and it is a week of extraordinary importance for Christians. With today’s parade of people and palm branches being laid on the road as Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a colt (Mark 11), to Thursday night’s last supper with His disciples (Maundy Thursday), to the trial and crucifixion on Friday, to the glorious resurrection on Easter morning, this is truly a week of extraordinary importance! We call this Holy Week, the most sacred time of the Christian year. And because of its centrality for the lives of Christians, how this story is told matters greatly!

   But, just before this week happened, Jesus performed a most amazing  miracle. The story is told in chapter 11 of John’s Gospel and it’s the story of raising Lazarus from the dead. It is in this story that Jesus says to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” (v.25-26). This means that believers have eternal life now, long before they reach the funeral home or the end of time. And so, in the present, in the midst of everyday reality, a rich quality of life is experienced in relationship with God, simply by believing in Jesus.

   It is just as Jesus had said earlier, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (10:10). So, may we then say that death is but a transition that does not break the bond between the believer and God.  This is one of the most distinctive and important theological emphases in John’s Gospel. When John speaks of eternal life (as he does frequently), he speaks not simply of future hope or of life that lasts forever. He speaks of a quality of life that begins now and continues forever, life that shares in the goodness and joy of God and is full, rich, and enduring. And to John’s way of thinking, it is fully accessible now through Jesus.

   So, enjoy the parade … the waving of palm branches and the singing of “Hosanna, Loud Hosanna.” And let us not forget that during this week to come, Jesus had a final meal with His disciples, He was arrested and crucified on a cross, and that He rose from the grave … all for repentant believers’ forgiveness of sins and for the promise of eternal life beginning even now.

Dr. Rick Baggett is pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Ardmore (the church with the bells) and can be reached at: rbgoodnews@yahoo.com

 

 




March 8, 2016, 1:58 PM

Riding Into The Wind

 

Riding Into The Wind

   Before I mount my road bike, I always watch the weather reports to see which way the wind is blowing and how hard. I usually ride south on Commerce to 70, then east to Madill and back. The direction of the American flags flying at the Veteran’s Center also help determine if I am going to have a difficult workout on the way out, or on the way back. If the flags are blowing in an easterly direction that usually means that the wind will be to my back going out toward Madill. But by the time I get to 70, the wind is blowing from the east and that makes for a difficult ride. Then when I get to Madill and turn around to come back the wind has changed and it is blowing out of the west. Those who ride know what I’m saying and know that those days are not much fun. BUT, it is true that any day on the bike is a good day!

   Those of us who also swim know that the wind doesn’t have much effect on our swimming. That’s why on windy days I would much rather swim at the Y. If you are an outdoor swimmer, swimming in water which has currents, you know that the current carries you along with it. You have to swim too, of course, but with the help of the current the swimmer can go further and faster, and with less effort, than by your own power.

   O.K. what’s the point with all this riding and swimming information? Let me share with you that, for me, when the riding gets tough and the swimming feels like it’s all upstream, that’s when I think … “Our God is the God who gives power to the faint …” That a great line from the movie, Chariots of Fire, when Eric Liddell is talking to a group of people who have watched him run in a race between Ireland and England.

   Our God IS the God who gives power to the fainthearted. Faith is not a general trust in something or other or someone or other. It is looking at our situation and our own frailty in the light of who God is and what He has done for us. Hope, in the same way, is not a little bit of optimism. It is looking at the future in the light of the same God and what He has promised to do for us … working his purpose out as we ride through this life.

   For a Christian, life is shaped by gratitude – gratitude for the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit.  It is by God’s grace that we receive the gift of our own lives, and so we are called to shape the whole of our lives by our grateful response. “The stewardship of all of life” is a common phrase among Presbyterians and other Christians, yet too often stewardship is reduced to an annual program. “Gratitude for all of life” may be a way to broaden and deepen our understanding and our use of the gifts God has given us! Some folks who listen to my sermons have often heard me say, “I believe the central note of the Christian faith is JOY. And the central expression of that note of joy is gratitude.”

   Easter is coming in a few weeks. Let me encourage you to not celebrate Easter just once a year. Celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ every Sunday and watch it flow into your Mondays. 03.06.2016

   Dr. Rick Baggett is pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Ardmore (the church with the bells) and can be reached at: rbgoodnews@yahoo.com




December 15, 2015, 11:50 AM

God Got Personal


 

 

God Got Personal

 

    The time had come for God to get personal!  There had been the flood with its ominous presence of water surging everywhere, runaway and rampant, threatening total destruction until it receded.  There had been the rainbow with its dazzling array of colors covering the whole spectrum tints, and various shadings.

   There had been the manna in the morning, food sufficient for the day’s journey as the wandering Israelites continued their walk to the promised land.  When they lacked water it was found; when they needed direction there were the clouds by day and the fire by night.

   There had been a long succession of personnel charged with conducting the business of salvation history: judges, prophets, poets, warriors … all of them with a vision of what it meant to be faithful to God who guided them.  No doubt, God had been involved since creation began!     

   Now God would come as one of us, as the Nicene Creed says: “God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father.”  Think of the benefits. Someone to walk with during those times of loneliness when we are in need of companionship!  Someone to talk to when we are unsure of ourselves, when decisions weigh heavily upon us, or when we are anxious, even afraid!

   Someone to trust, who throughout history has been there whenever the people called, guiding, correcting, supporting … or reprimanding!  Someone who can be counted on to provide everything necessary for each day’s journey: strength, nourishment, support, health, shelter, hope, forgiveness, assurance, and confidence.!

   That is not to say that all we have to do is sit back and wait for these benefits to come to us. Nowhere is it written that this would be the case.  There would be the challenge for you and for me … there would be the responsibility, to respond personally to Jesus’ call to walk with Him through life! Our response would get us personally involved in the whole matter of living life to its fullest, as God intended from the dawn of creation.

   There should be a whole new approach to all we do, a running conversation with Jesus to see if we are behaving as He wants us to. He would no longer let us pass by anyone we see in need, for now our task would be to care for them as He cares for us! Wow! Now, that’s a lot to chew on. Could it be that you are one of these who follow this path? Could it be that you are wishing that you will soon begin? Could it be that you give to your church so that those who are “the least of these” might have a meal and Christmas this year? Could it be … 12.13.2015

Dr. Rick Baggett is pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Ardmore (the church with the bells) and can be reached at: rbgoodnews@yahoo.com




December 10, 2015, 2:06 PM

Hope & the Birth of Jesus Foretold

 

 

    I believe the saying is true … “Winter is a time when most of us look inward at our lives.” Perhaps winter is a time when we evaluate where we have been. And then, when spring comes, I am one who never ceases to have renewed excitement as I anticipate the sun heating up the earth and bulbs and flowers and other growing things begin to sprout up. Maria and her Garden and my wife who works there a couple of days a week, would agree that spring brings great excitement and a feeling of hope.

   The dictionary defines hope as “to expect with desire; a belief in fulfillment.”  Enthusiasm is all we need to make each day a fantastic and positive experience. What would life be like if each of us started the day with a smile and thoughts that rays of sunshine will fill our faces and minds with happiness? It is also true that a hopeful attitude helps us see and experience the best in life.

   Hope can also help us cope in times of trial. Over the Thanksgiving holiday I read this story. A teacher was sent to a hospital to help a badly burned boy with his grammar lessons. At the end of the session, she felt she hadn’t done a very good job, but the next day the hospital staff asked what she had done to change the boy’s response to healing.  Two weeks later the boy told them that when the teacher came to help him, he thought, “They wouldn’t have sent a teacher to help me with my schoolwork if people thought I was dying.”

   Several years back, in the magazine Hope, the editor began one of her editorials, entitled “Hope in Action,” with these words: “Each of us has the capacity to create the world we want by starting with the most ordinary of human acts.” Give it a try … fill your life with hope, love, and action.

   Meister Eckhart, a 13th century Christian thinker, spoke of our invitation to participate in God’s annunciation to Mary of conceiving the Baby Jesus with these words: “The incarnational labor pains began in Mary, but continue inside each one of us.” In other words, while neither you nor I are going to birth the Savior into the world, you and I are invited, interrupted, beckoned, into listening for God’s seemingly impossible call for how we might participate in God’s new creating in our lives and in our towns and cities and in our world, whether that call comes on the wings of an angel or out of the mouth of a friend or stranger.

   The angel said to Mary, “Greetings favored one! The Lord is with you.” What would you do if you heard that statement, from an angel or from a friend? 12.06.2015

Dr. Rick Baggett is pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Ardmore (the church with the bells) and can be reached at: rbgoodnews@yahoo.com




November 18, 2015, 9:30 AM

11 Days to Thanksgiving

 

Eleven Days to Thanksgiving

 

   You might remember Katherine Mansfield (1888-1923) who was best known for her short stories Bliss (1920), and her writing of what became known as a collection of The Garden Party (1922).  She was a pilgrim in Switzerland, resting for some time to recuperate from complications with tuberculosis, which took her life in 1923 at the age of 34.

   She was, as some might remember, an unbeliever. As her health mended and her strength was renewed, she began to take note of her surroundings. She noted the natural beauty of Switzerland, the majestic mountains, and she was invigorated by the crisp air that she now breathed with joy.  In renewed spirit, she wrote to a friend: “If only one could make some small grasshopper sound of praise to someone … some thanks to someone, but who?”

   Had sad! Possessed with a need to say, “Thank you,” and no one to thank! T.S. Eliot has written that we should “let your memory lead you.”

   It is good advice, and our memories should lead us as we approach the Thanksgiving holiday to give thanks.  Epictetus wrote that we are wise when we do not grieve for the things we do not have, but when we rejoice for all the things that we do have. There are so many things for which I am thankful for today …

… my family, our children and grandchildren, who have brought new meaning to love for me and constantly encourage me to be a good person.

… my parents, who nourished me in faith and taught me the true values that undergird a well-lived life … even when I did not always understand their teachings at the time.

… our church and its people, whose encouragement and affirmation have enabled us to sustain a relationship now in its 10th year, where together we have sought to do the work of God.

… our faithful choir, who gives strong framework to our services of worship all year long, and is a reminder that ours is a faith whose note of joy makes us want to sing.

… to the men and women of all our churches, who have taken seriously “letting their light shine” in consistent ways that enables us to nurture one another and help others here in Ardmore.

   Think about your circle of love. Maybe you can remember, that as a child, you sat with your parents and siblings in the evening ready for bed, that you learned to reflect, to be at peace with God and yourself, and to be lost in thought as you prepared for bed. It is important to take time to reflect, to “let your memory guide you,” and to give thanks for all of God’s blessings.

Happy Thanksgiving!  11.15.2015

Dr. Rick Baggett is pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Ardmore (the church with the bells) and can be reached at: rbgoodnews@yahoo.com

 

 

 

 

   

 

 

  

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

  

   

 

 

 

 


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