Pastor's Pen
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May 22, 2017, 1:16 PM

More Than One


More Than One


   Bill Strickland, the editor of Bicycling Magazine, in this month’s issue shared some of the stuff he has learned from a lifetime of riding bicycles (page 12). Here are a few of the things he has learned that resonate with me: 1. I can make any bike go as fast as I can go. The ones that could go faster aren’t gonna do it under me no matter what. 2. A draft given is sweeter than one taken, unless you really, really, really, really want to hang on. 3. Ain’t no secret, ain’t no shortcut, but if you ride enough you’ll become the rider you want to be (That’s on my bucket-list in retirement).

   And the quote that I really like is this: “There’s always more than one ride going on in the ride. Even when you’re alone!” Those of us who ride bikes know how true that is … whether you are riding into the wind, or up a steep hill, or spinning on a flat road, there is more than one ride going on!

   I would suggest that something like that happens in church when we are studying, say, the parables of Jesus, or listening to a sermon. In each case the interpretation of a parable or a sermon, there are at least three stories. For parables, there is the story of the parable itself; then the larger story told by the Bible itself in which the parable is found; and the story of the listeners (both the original listeners and you and me today). And I would suggest that the task of parable interpretation is to place the story of the parable alongside both of the other two stories.

   Maybe one of the most memorable parables told by Jesus is found in  Luke 15:3-32, the parable of the lost sheep, lost coin, and lost boy. The Parable of the Prodigal Son is, I believe, the greatest story ever told! It reveals humankind in all of its needs. It is a story that lays bare the heart of God. And I would suggest that if you really want to know what God is like, look closely at the father in this parable.

   The three parables show us that God is able to find us regardless of how complicated our lostness is. And, they show that God is not worried about how contagious we might be. The parables also have three things in common: lostness; seeking; and finding (with much partying). So, let me ask … How would you, today, “celebrate?” Or, what would be the “partying” if your Prodigal came home?


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

April 25, 2017, 10:35 AM




One Preacher’s Thoughts


   From the preacher’s perspective, what isn’t there not to love about Easter morning? People are unusually considerate and say nice things to us and to each other. The hymns are the strongest in the book; everybody knows them and loves to sing them. The choir has a few more voices than usual; the organist and pianist are at the top of their game. The flowers are gorgeous. Everyone is dressed up. A few hats make their annual appearance. People call during the week before Easter to ask if we are going to have an Easter morning service and what time should they arrive. (Reminds me of the person who called a few years back before Christmas and asked if we were having a Christmas Eve service on December 24th.)

   What is there not to love about Easter? Only one thing, and it is that there is no language big enough for today’s topic: the resurrection of Jesus Christ! The truth is that the steepest climb of the year for the preacher is up the steps to the pulpit on Easter morning.  We turn everywhere we can think of for help, for a new angle about a story everybody knows. Michael Lindvall, Presbyterian pastor and author, says that it is good for the preacher to remember that she or he is about to prepare the billionth Easter sermon in history.

   There are four accounts (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) of what happened on the first Easter morning. They tell it differently, with different people responding in different ways.

You might ask, “Why didn’t someone in the early centuries, as the books of the New Testament were being assembled, clean them up a little bit, do a little editing, so that the story of the resurrection – which, after all, is the central, formative Christian story – is coherent, with at least consistency and the same cast of characters?” I know trial lawyers and judges who would say that when all the evidence presented in court is perfectly consistent, in all probability the evidence has been altered, because, in fact, different people, after the fact, describe the same event differently. So, discrepancies in the accounts are not necessarily evidence of tampering with the text, but maybe the exact opposite: they are authentic records of an event experienced by different individuals, who later described it very differently.

   The Gospel of John tells the story in two parts (John 20:1-18). In part one, there is a lot of running back and forth. Mary discovers that the stone has been moved and runs to tell Peter and John. Peter and John run to the tomb, discover that it is empty, and then, presumably, run back home. No one has said anything about a resurrection. Mary clearly believes someone has stolen the body. She’s worried because there was no opportunity to anoint the body and give Jesus a proper burial.

  When things settle down, Mary returns to the garden tomb a second time. Perhaps she wants to be alone with her grief. Two angels ask her why she cries. “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” Still no mention of resurrection. Mary is still focused on doing what needs to be done. And then there is the experience, for which words simply seem inadequate!

   Jesus is there. She thinks it is the gardener, asks him where the body is. Jesus says her name, “Mary,” and intensely personal moment, and she knows something indescribable, something impossible, unthinkable has happened. He is risen. Jesus is alive.

   Mary is in a new world now. Old certainties about life and death have been shattered. It didn’t take long for people to understand that if Jesus was raised from the dead, the future looks very different. God is doing a new thing, an astonishing thing.

   If Jesus is alive, Easter is not just about something that happened long ago, but is a reality now! If Jesus is alive, God continues to create and redeem and save the world. Mary, Peter and John, you and I live in a new world, full of hope and possibility, and He calls us to start living and hoping and rolling up our sleeves and working for God’s new Easter creation. 

   What happened to Mary in the garden when Jesus spoke her name was deeply personal. Serene Jones, President of Union Theological Seminary in New York City, says Easter is not, finally, about ideas, theories, or even creedal affirmations … it is about our personal relationship with God. She writes, “Like Mary we long to be known by God, to be held in God’s gaze, to be seen by God as the object of God’s love and care.”

   To this one pastor the astonishing news of Easter is that it is exactly how He comes – not only to introduce God’s new creation into history, but to you and me, to call us by name and to invite us to live lives that know that death has been overcome, that because He lives, we shall live also. 04.16.2017

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

March 28, 2017, 11:30 AM

On Being Honest



On Being Honest


   Recently I was given a framed “copy” of Rembrandt’s painting entitled: Return of the Prodigal Son. You may have seen the painting … the Prodigal is on his knees in his father’s embrace and the father’s hands are on the Prodigal’s shoulders. It is interesting that one of the father’s hands is feminine and the other is masculine. Rembrandt’s painting of the Return is on the front of our church bulletin this morning.

   The parable of the Prodigal Son, told by Jesus in Luke chapter 15 is one of my favorite parables! There are many important points that one can make about this story, but one stands out as essential for each of us. It comes when the boy is in the far country; he has lost friends, money, and importance. And then you read this: “… he came to himself” (Luke 15:17). 

  You and I have to be honest with ourselves and with each other! You have to face what is. Again and again in my own life, I have come back to that scene of the boy in the far country when it says, “… he came to himself.”  He faced up to his predicament. There was no glossing over the reality of his condition. It is important to be honest, to face the facts. You might remember what Archie Bunker said to Edith on the television show All in the Family? He said, “Edith, I’ll gladly say that I’m sorry … if I ever do anything that is wrong.”

   One of the biographies of Frederick the Great tells of the monarch visiting a prison of Potsdam. As he walked through the depressing corridors of that place of incarceration, one inmate after another tells the ruler that they are innocent … that they are victims of injustice and obvious framed-up.  Finally, one inmate, looking down at the floor as he confronted his king, said: Your majesty, I am guilty, and richly deserving punishment.” Frederick summoned the warden and said: “Free this man and get him out of our prison before he corrupts all the other noble innocent people in here.” (Charles Allen, Victory In The Valleys of Life, page 71)

   The man was set free because he, among all the prisoners, was honest. There is a parable here. The only way to be set free from guilt is to face it, to be honest about it. That’s what the Prodigal Son did and he received forgiveness from his father. Do you see that as a parable about our heavenly Father too? 03.26.2017

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

December 8, 2016, 2:32 PM

Some of the Moods of Christmas ' #1Curiosity


Some of the Moods of Christmas

#1 Curiosity


   Our Christian faith begins with one brief word … “Jesus”, and our entire Christian journey is an attempt to discover the meaning of that brief word as it applies to our daily living. Twice in the past ten days I was in two airports and enjoyed watching how they were encouraging travelers to get in the Christmas spirit. Especially in the Orlando airport, Disney is everywhere and the characters and store fronts are decorated in the Christmas tradition. Seeing all of those decorations could beg the question, “Are you getting your shopping for Christmas done early?” And someone will say, “I’m not in the mood for Christmas!”

   The moods of Christmas are many. It is a time for giving. It is a time for sharing. It is a time for generosity. It is a time for sacrifice. One of the moods I see in the Christmas story is “curiosity.” “Where is the newborn King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the far-off eastern lands and have come to worship Him” (Matthew 2:2). It was the mood of curiosity that prompted the wise men to travel. Curiosity is a part of the stuff of life. I suspect that all scientific discovery has its rootage in curiosity, in the questions that are prompted by a sense of wonder! The stars in the sky represented order in the ancient world. So when something new, different, and brilliant appeared one night in the heavens, the Wise Men wondered about it, and they responded to it.

   We could even say that the Wise Men were researchers. They were looking for new truth. They were open-minded. They were curious. I believe it is true, that curiosity is also necessary for growth, for discovery, for learning. Curiosity is defined as, “A desire to learn or know.”

   So, we could say that the Wise Men were open-minded. Being open-minded is one of the keys to life, and certainly one of the keys to spiritual growth. I am glad that here in this Christmas story, in this little interlude, there is this note of curiosity to encourage you and to encourage me to be open minded, big spirited, never narrow or restricted when it comes to new truths.

   It is not always necessary or even desirable that we all agree on any given issue! But agree or not, all of us should strive to be open-minded, open to new truth, curious about new initiatives and willing to learn about new things, because this is how we grow and stretch and reach higher.

   Do we really expect anything of significance to happen as we observe Advent and Christmas this year? Do we really expect only to be tired, rushed, pushed, pressed, and broke when it is all over? Why not be a bit curious this year and ask the Wise Men’s question: “Where is the newborn King …?” 12.04.2016

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


August 10, 2016, 2:00 PM

Silence is Goldon

Silence is Golden


   Do you remember Mr. Rogers of “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood?” He talked a lot about the need for silence and patience. He would begin each show by slowly taking off his jacket and putting on a cardigan sweater and changing his shoes from dress shoes to blue sneakers. Often he would say, “I wonder if you don’t have somebody in your life that just the very thought of that person makes you feel better!”

   The last time Mr. Rogers was at the White House he was struck by all the noise and the busyness.  When he gave a short talk in the East Room he began that talk with these words: “Could we please have just a half minute of silence to think about somebody who has helped you become who you are, just a half minute?” And that whole East Room sat silently for a half minute, thinking about people they may not have thought about for a long time, people that had made a big difference in their lives.

   When that meeting was over, one of the guards came up to Mr. Rogers and motioned with his hand that he wanted to say something sort of private. And he said, “Mr. Rogers, I want you know who I thought about during that half minute you gave us. I thought about my grandfather’s brother. Just before he died, he took me to his basement and gave me his fishing rod. I hadn’t thought of that for a long, long time.” He went on to say that his grandfather’s brother had a great impact on him because now he enjoys teaching children about fishing.

   It took a quiet moment  to bring the legacy to mind.

   My wife is re-reading a book entitled: The Power of Concentration. It is full of great advice and in one of the chapters you are asked to try this experiment: sit quietly for ten minutes and concentrate on only one thing. It is not easy to do, but block (as much as you can) all the thoughts going through your head and try to concentrate on only one thing for ten minutes. If you try this, you just might remember that one person in your past who has helped you to be the person you are today! 08.07.2016

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

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