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July 20, 2014 Patrick Lafferty “Mar...

July 20, 2014 Patrick Lafferty “Marks of the Christian Community: Community Images the Invisible” 1 John 4:7-12...

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Pastoral Backstory 07.17.14

(What is the Backstory and why?)     Subscribe to the Backstory July 17th, 2014 No man is an island, Entire of itsel...

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July 13, 2014 Patrick Lafferty “Res...

  [caption id="attachment_3876" align="alignright" width="240"] Moses Smashing the Tablets, Rembrandt[/caption] July 13, 2014 Patrick Laffe...

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Pastoral Backstory 07.10.14

(What is the Backstory and why?)     Subscribe to the Backstory July 10th, 2014 Let me reiterate my appreciation for w...

July 20, 2014 Patrick Lafferty “Marks of the Christian Community: Community Images the Invisible” 1 John 4:7-12

communitysingJuly 20, 2014 Patrick Lafferty “Marks of the Christian Community: Community Images the Invisible” 1 John 4:7-12

Pastoral Backstory 07.17.14

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July 17th, 2014

community1No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main. . . .

John Donne’s haunting poem intones, like the bell tolling near its end, that there are no self-contained individuals; all people are both needful of and irreducibly tied to the larger company of humanity. Therefore the loss of one is a loss to all, even if none else are sensible to it.

No matter how introverted we are, how averse we may be to public settings, or even how incredulous we might be that anyone would bat an eye at our disappearance, we exist to live in community.  We came from community, were reared in community, and had our identity shaped by community.  Our individual story is as much that of the community that formed us as the decisions we made or the experiences we’ve had.  And while it’s our communities–those we chose or had chosen for us–that may have done us the most damage, the healing we need will come not from insularity but community. Read more

July 13, 2014 Patrick Lafferty “Rest in the Rule: Rest Contented” Exodus 20:17; Philippians 4:4-23

 

Moses Smashing the Tablets, Rembrandt

Moses Smashing the Tablets, Rembrandt

July 13, 2014 Patrick Lafferty “Rest in the Rule: Rest Contented” Exodus 20:17; Philippians 4:4-23

Pastoral Backstory 07.10.14

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July 10th, 2014

webq&aLet me reiterate my appreciation for why we have Q&A (I’ve missed it!) following service.  Preaching on a single Commandment, as we did on the 9th Commandment last Sunday, would seem to be a fairly simple, straightforward endeavor.  How hard can it be to explain God’s priority for truth for the sake of one’s neighbor, right?

But the ensuing effusive conversation that sought to wrestle with the precise demands of truth-telling drove home how even straightforward principles have nuances that must be reckoned with. And sometimes the best way to draw out those nuances is to put the passage before several eyes simultaneously.

In an unfinished essay entitled, “What is meant by ‘telling the truth’?” (which you can download here) Dietrich Bonhoeffer explains that one cannot isolate the Command to speak the truth from the context in which that truth might be spoken.  Honesty must be coupled to wisdom its application.  “Telling the truth, therefore, is not solely a matter of moral character,” the German martyr writes, “it is also a matter of correct appreciation of real situations and of serious reflection upon them.” Read more

July 6, 2014 Patrick Lafferty “Rest in the Rule: Find your rest in the truth” Exodus 20:16; Ephesians 4:17-25

 

Tom Keating's forgery of a Degas

Tom Keating’s forgery of a Degas

July 6, 2014 Patrick Lafferty “Rest in the Rule: Find your rest in the truth” Exodus 20:16; Ephesians 4:17-25

Pastoral Backstory 07.03.14

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July 3rd, 2014

 

valedictoryI’d once longed to be a valedictorian.  Now I mostly have sympathy for them–and not the kind that’s envy in the guise of pity.  What the highly-accomplished, soon-to-be matriculating prodigy is tasked with at a Commencement Exercise should merit yet other kind of nylon tassel around his or her neck.

In a room stiflingly thick with pageantry, a setting just asking to be popped like a bubble by someone looking for tweet-worthy glory through a last-chance shenanigan, this paragon must, of all things, give a speech.  It’s the last thing students who’ve sat through four years of lectures would care to do.

The speech must make its obligatory paeans of gratitude to all those who made immeasurable sacrifices to see this moment realized–parents, teachers, and coaches.  It must quote liberally aphorisms and adages from men and women long since dead.

But what garners most of my sympathy for the valedictorian is that before the address ends, our orator will speak of that shimmering future beckoning him or her to seize every moment, defy every convention, and bask in the glow of ostensibly limitless possibilities. Read more

June 29, 2014 Patrick Lafferty “Rest in the Rule: A Steward’s Rest” Exodus 20:15; Romans 13:7-10

 

Majeed Waris, Ghana v Portugal, June 26, 2014

Majeed Waris, Ghana v Portugal, June 26, 2014

June 29, 2014 Patrick Lafferty “Rest in the Rule: A Steward’s Rest” Exodus 20:15; Romans 13:7-10

Pastoral Backstory 06.26.14

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June 26th, 2014

Diego Ibarra Sanchez for The New York Times

Diego Ibarra Sanchez for The New York Times

His name is Josef and much of his family would prefer him dead. (Sound familiar?)  He’d fled his native war-torn Afghanistan while Coalition forces sought to dismantle Taliban hegemony of the country following 9/11.  Arriving (barely) first in Italy he eventually made it to Germany where a kindly sister took him in.

During this first season of life as a refugee he began studying other faith traditions–Buddhism, Hinduism, and Christianity.  He attended a Protestant church out of curiosity, but once he’d applied for German asylum he was relocated to a refugee camp.  There he encountered Christian missionaries whose witness soon precipitated Josef’s decision to yield to Christ.

You can read here the whole account of Josef’s harrowing experience that led to his conversion and the ensuing vengeance it provoked from his family.  But I introduce Josef to you for two reasons.

For most in our culture there is little cost to profess and practice one’s faith.  Josef’s experience (and others’ for whom we’ve prayed of late) reminds us how in many places that cost is so immeasurably greater that only a whole-heartedness for the glory and grace of God (as we spoke of last Sunday) can explain the willingness to risk so much–and sacrifice more.  If we find our interest in God diminished, Josef’s story exhorts us to consider afresh the astonishing hope the Gospel offers.

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June 22, 2014 Patrick Lafferty “Stirred, not shaken”

 

Moses Builds the Tabernacle

Moses Builds the Tabernacle

Stirred, not shaken
Exodus 35:4-29

Greetings from General Assembly

GAButton2014Howdy from stormy, steamy Houston, CtK.

Our denomination’s annual General Assembly convened last night, electing Bryan Chapell as the Assembly moderator as its first order of business.  Over a thousand teaching and ruling elders from across the country have gathered to do what each member of a PCA church vows to do: to seek the peace and purity of the church.  If you’d like to peek in on any of our proceedings this week, click here for the livestream.

Last night we heard from Florida pastor Ray Cortese preach from Jesus’ scrum with the Pharisees over the Sabbath in Matthew 12. His sermon explored the contours of, as he put it, a “beautiful orthodoxy.”  His was a fitting word for anyone, but all the more appropriate for a thousand presbyters because we can be…well, crabby.  That’s putting it euphemistically.  Given the degree of detail we’ve seen from the Westminster Assembly in Storyline this spring, it should be no surprise to you that the elders of our denomination have a proclivity for making impassioned defenses of their position.  Sometimes the defenses become defensive, even to the point of trending toward the acrimonious.  The deliberation then devolves into what is anything but beautiful–even if it may be orthodox.  So Pastor Cortese’s words were fitly spoken on the front end of several days of critical and often convoluted issues.

 

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