An Evening of Lessons and Carols

The story of the coming of Christ in the Incarnation is the most dramatic story ever told.  While it reaches a beautiful high point with the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem,  there is much, much more to this story – a story that has its origins in eternity past and its implications in eternity future, a story of epic failure and dramatic rescue, a story that reveals a God who is quite different from the one our fears imagine.  As singer/songwriter Andrew Peterson puts it.

Gather round, ye children come
Listen to the old, old story
Of the pow’r of Death undone
By an infant born of glory
Son of God, Son of Man. (Andrew Peterson)

Come and experience the rest of this story in God’s own words and in song as we share in An Evening of Lessons and Carols together at 7:00 pm on Monday, December 24, at Pottsville Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church.  For directions click here or email us at pottsvillearp@gmail.com for more details.   We look forward to seeing you there.

Getting Christmas

Our family has many Christmas traditions – the annual tree pilgrimage, dinner at The Grapevine, the Christmas Cake, the advent storyboard calendar, and iconic holiday movies, which for us include Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer and the ever-poignant, A Charlie Brown Christmas.

Despite its ancient vintage, Charles Shultz’ classic cartoon commentary on Christmas confusion is spot on.   What is the point of this ever-expanding season each year?  Lucy touts community involvement, Sally just wants her fair share and Snoopy capitalizes on Christmas commercialism.  But Charlie Brown just doesn’t get Christmas.   His epic fail in choosing a Christmas tree brings his contemplation to a head in the following exchange with Linus.

Charlie: I guess you were right Linus; I shouldn’t have picked this little tree. Everything I do turns into a disaster. I guess I don’t really know what Christmas is about. Isn’t there anyone who understands what Christmas is all about?

Linus: Sure, I can tell you what Christmas is all about. Linus goes to center stage, spotlight. Linus: “And there were in the same country Shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them, and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, ‘fear not, for behold, I bring you tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you. Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in the manger.’ And suddenly, there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, ‘glory to God in the highest, and on Earth peace, good will toward men.’”

Linus: That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.

Linus points Charlie in the right direction, but there is much, much more to this story – a story that has its origins in eternity past and its implications in eternity future, a story of epic failure and dramatic rescue, a story that reveals a God who is quite different from the one our fears imagine. As singer/songwriter Andrew Peterson puts it.

Gather round, ye children come
Listen to the old, old story
Of the pow’r of Death undone
By an infant born of glory
Son of God, Son of Man.

Come and experience the rest of this story in God’s own words and in song as we share in An Evening of Lessons and Carols together at 7:00 pm on Monday, December 24, at Pottsville Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church.  For directions click here or email us at pottsvillearp@gmail.com for more details.   We look forward to seeing you there.

The Bike Man

A common fixture in many small communities is the “bike-man.”   The bike-man is not a mechanic who fixes your mountain bike or performance racer, though he is certainly an able mechanic.  The bike-man is the man who trawls the neighborhoods and garage sales in town, looking for junked or nearly junked bicycles, to restore and sell for next-to-nothing to children who need a good bike, but can’t really afford one.  His mantra is “every child needs a bike and every bike needs a child.”  He is motivated not by profit or by challenge, but simply out of the desire to see things that are thrown away, restored to useful and joyful purposefulness.

The bike-man is an apt metaphor for the God of the Bible, in whose image he is made.  For the persistent theme of Scripture is God’s redemptive purpose to take men, women, boys and girls “thrown away” by sin, and to renew and restore them to useful and joyful purposefulness.  And more than that, to make them His own, to love and value and cherish.

One of the Bible’s great themes is that of adoption.  We are familiar with the power of an adoption story.  When a child is victim of tragic circumstance or is unloved or uncared for, orphaned and thrown away, how beautiful it is when a parent comes and adopts that child into their family to cherish and nourish.   When we adopt we become like the bike-man, taking those others have set out on the curb, restoring them to useful and joyful purposefulness, and giving them a loving family.    More importantly we become like our Heavenly Father who adopts us who were set out on the curb by our sinful rebellion, yet reconciled and adopted because of the finished work of the God’s only-born Son.  The scripture says that our God, is a “father to the fatherless, [who] sets the lonely in families” and that through faith we have “received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”

As the story of Jacob draws to a close in the final chapters of Genesis, we see the first account of an adoption in the Bible.  Jacob adopts his two grandsons, Ephraim and Manasseh.   These boys were not homeless or uncared for, but Jacob adopts them to include them in the promises of God and to give them a stake with God’s people.   Likewise, God graciously adopts us through faith in Christ that we might know and trust in His good promises of salvation and eternal life and so that we might throw in our lot with His family, the Church, and not with those who are alienated and estranged and orphaned from God’s grace and from real community.

Join us for worship this Lord’s Day, September 16, at Pottsville Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church as we examine Genesis 48 and consider beauty and power of our adoption as sons and daughters of God.   For directions click here. We look forward to seeing you there.

Bonfire and Hymn Sing – Rescheduled!

The Pottsville Associate Reformed Church is hosting a Bonfire and Psalm/Hymn Sing, Saturday, May 19, 2018.  We will get started at 6:00pm at The Manse.  The Church will provide drinks and each family will bring a favorite Middle-Eastern themed appetizer, entree or dessert. Bring your friends and family and join us for a night of psalms, hymns and spiritual songs!  Click here for directions or email us at pottsvillearp@gmail.com for more info.

Bonfire and Hymn Sing

The Pottsville Associate Reformed Church is hosting a Bonfire and Psalm/Hymn Sing, Friday, April 6, 2018.  We will get started at 6:00pm at The Manse.  The Church will provide drinks and each family will bring a favorite Middle-Eastern themed appetizer, entree or dessert. Bring your friends and family and join us for a night of psalms, hymns and spiritual songs!  Click here for directions or email us at pottsvillearp@gmail.com for more info.

The God Who Sees

Recently our Congress extended permissions for the NSA to continue to dumpster dive in the flotsam and jetsam of your digital wake.  For another six years, so long as they happen to be hunting foreign terrorists, our government can keep a benevolent eye on us through the cyber tracks we leave everywhere in an ever-broadening desire to be connected.

Our pocket-palantirs are ever listening, watching and reporting.  In The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien unwittingly prophesied the doubled-edged benefit of smart phones when he conceived of the Palantir.  The Palantir were seeing stones that let the characters in Tolkien’s world see and communicate with one another across time and space.   They also revealed the potential futures of those peering into them.  Sounds great, except that anyone looking into a Palantir could be seen by anyone possessing another Palantir, especially Sauron with his “all-seeing” eye.  Magic rings and Palantir are tempting productivity tools, but remember there is an “all-seeing” eye.

Many of my friends have tape on their smart phone camera, keep wifi and mobile data off, and never enable GPS because of concern that their pocket-palantir makes them seeable by an ambiguously benevolent higher power.  But this is not a new idea in the history of the world, just a different tool and new set of players.  Men have always had concern over whether they are being watched.  Jesus noted that men prefer darkness to light so that their deeds may remain hidden.  Yet the scripture notes that even darkness is as light to God and that the Lord sees everything, down even to the deepest thoughts and intents of the hearts.

The Nazca Indians of South America sensed this, even in their spiritual darkness, and constructed mammoth images on the desert floor to please the gods above whom they believed to be angry because of the lives of men.  Men throughout history have distressed over an awareness that the God Who Is, is a God Who Sees.  The Psalms speaks of those who try repress the knowledge of God’s omniscience through idolatry and atheism. Yet, this thing which men’s darkened hearts fear, is their greatest hope.  For the God who sees is the God who saves.  The God who sees is the God who loves the loveless and relieves the afflicted in their affliction.

Genesis 29 is a complicated story of an ancient family dealing with the whole cadre of modern sins.   Jacob deceives and is deceived, faces drama and jealousy, plays favorites and shirks his obligations and labors under caustic relations with in-laws.  What hope is there for such a family?   What hope is there for our complicated families?  Buried in this passage is the sad tale of Leah, the unloved wife and woman.  Her father trundled her off to Jacob to defraud him out of seven additional years of labor.  Her new husband despised her.  Her wedding bed was shared with her sister.  She was the contempt of her husband, father and sister – but not of the Lord who Sees.  He saw her in her affliction.  He saw that she was not loved.  He loved her and gave her the gift of children, whose love would fill up her empty spaces.

Join us for worship this Lord’s Day, March 11, at Pottsville Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church as we examine the story of Leah in Genesis 29 and consider how God, who sees us for what and who we are, is the God who loves us with steadfast and redemptive love.  Click here for directions.  We look forward to seeing you.

Relentless Pursuit

 

Deputy Marshall, Bass Reeves set the standard for relentless pursuit.  Born to slave parents in 1838 in Crawford County Arkansas, Reeves would become the first black U.S. Deputy Marshal west of the Mississippi and one of the greatest frontier heroes in our nation’s history.

Appointed by the infamous Judge Isaac Parker because of his significant knowledge of the area and ability to speak several tribal languages, Bass Reeves earned his place in history as one of the most effective lawmen in Indian Territory, bringing in more than 3,000 outlaws during his 35 years of service.

Though Reeves could not read or write it did not diminish his effectiveness in apprehending fugitives. He memorized every warrant and never failed to produce the right one. Reeves earned a reputation for his courage, success and ingenuity. He was a master of disguises and often utilized aliases.  A meticulous dresser, he was known for his trademark hat and two Colt pistols, butt forward for a fast draw.  Ambidextrous, he rarely missed his mark.  He was so renowned for his relentless pursuit, that noted female outlaw, Belle Starr turned herself in at Fort Smith when she heard Reeves had a warrant for her arrest.

But despite his reputation, Reeve’s tenacity and effectiveness is as nothing compared to the Lord’s relentless pursuit of those He calls.   In spite of Jacob’s trickery and his grasping self-concern and self-conceit, the Lord pursued him as he fled from the wrath of his brother Esau.  In this pursuit, the Lord revealed Himself and His promises.  In running for his life as a fugitive, Jacob found life through the relentless pursuit of God.

Join us for worship at Pottsville Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church  this Lord’s Day, March 4, as we examine the story of Jacob’s flight from home in Genesis 28 and consider how God relentlessly pursues us, even when we are not pursuing Him.  For directions click here. We look forward to seeing you