Pastor's Pen
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October 21, 2014, 10:41 AM

I Have a Dream

I Have a Dream


   Reading the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Galatians this past week, I came across this statement in the New Living Translation: “Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else. For we are each responsible for our own conduct” (chapter 6:4-5). That made me think about living in community … especially living in our community. Living in a community, you are never alone (or we shouldn’t feel that we are alone), for we are together in support!

   Community is a place where we look at reality … where we accept one another … where there is support … and where we should be striving for excellence! Whether you are working to make Main Street better or working out and around the expressway, it’s going to take the best we have to rise to the challenge of community in the Ardmore area. I appreciate and I am encouraged by the articles in this paper that are written by Mita Bates and Brian Carter from the Chamber Commerce and the articles about the work of our city commissioners. But we all are going to have to work harder and harder to maintain a community life that is moving forward for all of our residence.

   My dream includes seeing that our neighborhoods become just that “neighborhoods.” Where people know and care about each other. Have you noticed newly constructed homes lately? Smaller front porches and more emphasis placed on the back side of the house for entertaining. What if the function of neighborhoods would include keeping in touch with your neighbors, helping with needs, and welcoming in new families?

   I would suggest that the essence of community depends on three foundational factors:

First, the realization that we are in this boat of life together. It is never a question that your end of the boat is leaking and you had better start bailing out. Second, we must learn to listen to one another. So many people are unable to listen. It is like two little boys struggling over one tricycle. They both wanted to ride the tricycle. Finally, one boy said to the other, “You know, if one of us would get off, I could have a lot more fun.” We must listen to each other. Third, we need to be available to one another. We could transform the quality of our life here, as in other communities, if the great talent in this area were available. I heard someone say that for every one of us who is serving somewhere, there are two of us sitting down. You build community by being available to one another!

   Artemus Ward was made famous by a statement he made during the Civil War, and this is what he said: “I have already given two cousins to the war, and I stand ready to sacrifice my wife’s brother.” You get the point … Artemus was not available.

   I have a dream for this community. I dream that this will be a place where all are welcomed, where burdens are shared, where joy will be experienced, and where we will more and more feel togetherness and fellowship … a sense of community. 10.19.2014

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



October 13, 2014, 10:02 AM

I Hate Change

I Hate Change!


   This past Friday, I moderated my last Presbytery meeting for Indian Nations Presbytery (some 60 churches) in the central section of Oklahoma. It was an honor to serve in this capacity, but it meant many miles on the road and more than a few meetings that I needed to attend. In this year I found pretty much what we all know: many congregations face difficult challenges in our changing times. Yet, it is crucial, I think, to note that the challenges are not overwhelming the important work congregations do in and for the communities in which they are located.

   Just look at our own community and the churches that are visible in serving. The congregations that I know about and count the ministers I know as colleagues, are engaged in incredible work serving their memberships and community! If you were to remove these churches from our community, much of the fabric of society would fall apart. It is a very important connective role that our congregations play in our community as in all communities!

    Most of the congregations that I have served are what one could call “older congregations.” By that, I mean the church has been where it is for a hundred years or more and the average age of the membership is around seventy. And we know that many folks in such congregations resist change of any kind. But I also think that a case can be made for their incredible adaptability. For many people, change produces fear, anxiety and hopelessness. But change can also generate hope. And as we face our need to see the changes that are coming, we can pray that God will rekindle the fires of hope within us, institutionally and personally. Hope opens our eyes to fresh, exciting, new possibilities to serve God and the world.

   I’m not sure who the author is, but someone said, “Change doesn’t bother me; I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” Churches may not want change, but they understand that change happens. We may long for the past, but we are trying to serve God in the present.

   “Grumpier Old Men” is one of my favorite movies! In the movie, Max Goldman (Walter Matthau) and Marie Sophia Coletta Ragetti (Sophia Loren) eventually become friends and marry.  Marie has moved to town and opened a restaurant where the old bait shop used to be located. Max isn’t in favor of that and while on their first date, Max says, “I hate change” to which Marie replies, “Well, change is what brought me to Wabasha.” And Max eventually capitulates. I believe that many folks in our churches “hate” change … but change happens! May God give us the grace, understand and wisdom to deal with it when it comes. 10.12.2014

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




October 7, 2014, 8:53 AM

October is Here

October is Here


   October is here, which means the Christmas decorations will be out in the stores real soon! I guess, in a way, I fall in line with the stores. Each year, around the first of October, I begin looking at Christmas and what I feel God is calling me to say, and then I move back through Advent and November in my preparations. Some of the Old Testament passages that help me each year are usually found in Isaiah (he’s a great prophet on preparation). Take a minute and read Isaiah 11:1-10, especially that part about “The wolf shall live with the lamb … and a child shall lead them” part.

   Woody Allen once said, “It may be that one day the lion shall lie down with the lamb – but the lamb won’t get much sleep.” The Bible is full of paradox, mystery (which I wrote about last week), and surprises.  Advent (the four weeks before Christmas) is too.  The expectant peace Isaiah promises is difficult to imagine – yet much prayed and hoped for!  I suspect we are all more like the lamb than otherwise.

    It is difficult to envision a world where a little child leads wolves who no longer hunt, leopards who give up their predatory instincts, and lions who lie down with vulnerable and defenseless little lambs and become vegetarians. And yet, we occasionally see rays of such paradoxical hope and peace breaking through our darkened world. I know the Thanksgiving and Advent seasons aren’t quite here yet … but we can still pray for that hoped for peace coming into our world once again.

   In your preparation for these seasons, I invite you to join with others in confidence that we know that there is a way, however dark the nights might be, to make God’s rule effective in every corner of this world. When Christians speak of God’s rule, we speak not of God’s authority, but of God’s vision and the healing presence that brings us and our neighbors into one accord with God’s dream for us. So, look up, because in that looking is the encompassing wisdom and the reigning of God.

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

September 29, 2014, 11:15 AM

The Mystery

The Mystery



   On Monday mornings, when I turn on my computer, I occasionally find a few responses to my Sunday article in the Ardmoreite. Not too long ago, I receive a note from a “gentleman” who didn’t think it wise to talk about God or religious “stuff” in our paper, much less in public through any means. He also mentioned that, for him, God doesn’t exist. I don’t respond to that kind of mail because, well, I’d rather talk to than write to opponents!

   If I did talk with him, here are a few things that I would like to say. For some people, they don’t believe in God because their idea of God is too small or God is too far away. Some fifty years ago, Anglican theologian J.B. Phillips wrote a very popular book: Your God Is Too Small.  That still remains true for many people. God is too small to be taken seriously some say: a god who punishes sinners with cancer, a god who arranges parking places and the sale of your home.

   In his book Does God Exist? Hans Kung says, “God is not a supermundane being above the clouds and stars. God is in the world and the world is in God.” Another thought I like, and I don’t know who the author is, but what was said is: “God is the reason there is something rather than nothing.”

   And Elizabeth Johnson, a Roman Catholic academic, has said: “The notion of God as one who embraces us, in whom we live and move and have our being, is so much more my sense of God than the grand old man in the sky.”

   You know, the Bible nowhere mounts an argument for the existence of God. “Fools say in their hearts, ‘there is no God,’” the Psalmist wrote. But the Bible doesn’t argue the point or try to prove the case. What the Bible does is tell stories about people meeting God, people praising, people praying to, people pleading with, blaming, arguing with, negotiating with God.

   The mystery of God remains, unless God reaches across and into human history and into your life and mine, and that is exactly what Christians believe: that the great unknowable reality has come in the birth, life, and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. 09.28.2014

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

September 22, 2014, 9:20 AM

An Event


It was an Event, Not an Idea

   Throughout my ministry, I have met many people who have expressed the conviction that they have all of the answers to living the Christian life. I have learned that when someone says that they have all the answers, I distance myself as quickly as I can. No one has the complete knowledge, just like no one lives the perfect life. I said that once in a sermon and while shaking hands at the door, one old fellow leaned over to me and said that his wife’s first husband was perfect. So, I have found it interesting, to say the least, when someone says that Jesus’ resurrection was just an idea.

   All through the New Testament, Jesus’ resurrection is treated as an event, not as an idea. It did happen … Jesus’ resurrection is a datable historical event.  We can neither fully explain the resurrection, nor explain it away.  It explains the Christian church. Someone has said,
the resurrection is God’s ‘Amen’ to Jesus … It is finished.

   According to the apostle Paul, by His resurrection, Jesus was designated Son of God in power (Romans 1:4). That is, faith in Jesus as the Son of God was validated by God’s raising Him from the dead. We say in theological circles that “good is not at the mercy of evil; it will triumph. The last word is not with the powers of evil, it is with God.”

   We have, therefore, an ultimate gospel, and we can also say with the apostle Paul, “In all things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37). So, “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57).

   For those who use this article in a Sunday school class, let me make a statement and ask a question. Try to imagine what life would be like if Jesus had not been raised from the dead. What difference has His resurrection made in your own life? 09.21.2014

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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