Pastoral Backstory – December 3rd, 2015





Correction: We listed the Mercy Cohort’s email address incorrectly last week. The correct address is [email protected]. We regret the error. –Ed.

December 3rd, 2015

The story of Ruth’s devotion to mother-in-law Naomi is one of the Bible’s most sensitive and meaningful tales. This painting appears in the 1947 Limited Editions Club publication of The Book of Ruth illustrating Ruth’s entrance into her new community by volunteering to work in the barley field at harvest time. The fair haired Ruth can be seen in the background wielding her scythe. The figure of Boaz, a wealthy kinsman of Ruth’s deceased father-in-law, Elimelech, is positioned in the foreground. He is asking his servant “Whose damsel is this?” in reference to Ruth, for a plan is afoot; Naomi hopes to spark a match between these two thus safeguarding her foreign daughter-in-law who proved “better to her than seven sons”. The verdant symbolism of a bountiful harvest surrounds the scene with the golden presence of ripe grain, grape clusters, livestock and flowers. This is an illumination pregnant with the possibilities of hope and growth. Though it was Szyk’s usual practice to design one common border for his illustrated books, this is not the case in The Book of Ruth where each frame is individually executed. Each border utilizes colors and patterns carefully chosen to harmonize with the enclosed image. This border uses a pleasing repetition of intricate bright geometry that pops! from the dark background. Arthur Szyk readily acknowledged the importance and influence that the stories and heroes of the Bible provided for him. These legendary figures fueled the prodigious imagination and creativity which lasted the length of his lifetime. This is a rare and decidedly precious gem from the master illuminator.

Naomi and Ruth return to Bethlehem, Arthur Szyk, (1947)

Last night at our Liturgy in Blue three of our own shared their stories of grief–what occasioned it, what the experience of it has been like, and what they’re needing from God so that they might mourn as those “not without hope.” (Our order of service can be found here.)

Among those who shared was Christy Keating.

Christy was both kind and courageous to let us into her world last night. She was doubly so in crafting a review of a book we invited her to read: J Todd Billings‘ eminently transparent reflections on his own pain and suffering in light of God’s goodness entitled Rejoicing in Lament.

Christy has taken great care in weaving Billings’ musings into her own experience with pain. She likewise strikes that always difficult balance of reckoning with sorrows while trying to ground them in the hope not of this world. We commend it to you. Click here to download her review.




We come to The Table this Sunday, as is our custom on the first Sunday of the month. The bread and the wine are rightly called mysteries, but that does not leave us to be merely mystified by them; there is an expectation that we apply ourselves to eating and drinking of them worthily which means reckoning with their meaning insofar as we can.

For that reason we try, from time to time, to offer guidance in how one prepares themselves to receive the Sacrament–this in keeping with Paul’s admonition in 1 Corinthians 11.

You could do worse than review what our Larger Catechism has to say about preparing, receiving, and responding to the Sacrament upon partaking. Before you come Sunday, let these excerpts from the LC provide some of that needed guidance:

171. How are they that receive the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper to prepare themselves before they come unto it?


They that receive the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper are, before they come, to prepare themselves thereunto, by examining themselves of their being in Christ, of their sins and wants; of the truth and measure of their knowledge, faith, repentance; love to God and the brethren, charity to all men, forgiving those that have done them wrong; of their desires after Christ, and of their new obedience; and by renewing the exercise of these graces, by serious meditation, and fervent prayer.


174. What is required of them that receive the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper in the time of the administration of it? 


It is required of them that receive the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, that, during the time of the administration of it, with all holy reverence and attention they wait upon God in that ordinance, diligently observe the sacramental elements and actions, heedfully discern the Lord’s body, and affectionately meditate on his death and sufferings, and thereby stir up themselves to a vigorous exercise of their graces; in judging themselves, and sorrowing for sin; in earnest hungering and thirsting after Christ, feeding on him by faith, receiving of his fulness, trusting in his merits, rejoicing in his love, giving thanks for his grace; in renewing of their covenant with God, and love to all the saints.


175. What is the duty of Christians, after they have received the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper? WLC 175


The duty of Christians, after they have received the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, is seriously to consider: How they have behaved themselves therein, and with: What success; if they find quickening and comfort, to bless God for it, beg the continuance of it, watch against relapses, fulfil their vows, and encourage themselves to a frequent attendance on that ordinance: but if they find no present benefit, more exactly to review their preparation to, and carriage at, the sacrament; in both which, if they can approve themselves to God and their own consciences, they are to wait for the fruit of it in due time: but, if they see they have failed in either, they are to be humbled, and to attend upon it afterwards with more care and diligence.


The Last Supper, by Dagnan-Bouveret, 1896

The Last Supper, by Dagnan-Bouveret, 1896


It’s been a while since we. . .sifted through recent archaeological discoveries, but this unearthing of a seal with King Hezekiah’s name affixed is an unprecedented find of a Judean king. Found in an ancient refuse dump, the seal, called a bulla, was made of clay and measures a mere 13 x 12 millimeters. Which is lesson for us all: that lacquered Christmas ornament of you sporting a sweater so embarrassingly garish that you surreptitiously threw it away thinking it would never be recovered. Think again.




What does it mean to become a member of CtK? Why does membership even matter? For that matter, is it even biblical?

For four Sundays during 2nd hour starting January 10th, we’ll convene an introduction to what anchors us, what guides us, and what we find ourselves up to as members of CtK.

The class doesn’t obligate you to become a member, but it is a prerequisite for membership.

In advance of the class, we have some preparatory reading we’d like you to do. Reading packets will be available this Sunday, December 6th. Or you can download a copy here.

Please RSVP on The City to let us know if we should expect you. Feel free to email us if you have any questions about the class or CtK. (And if you’re not on our City page, click here to register.)

Flannery O'Connor

Flannery O’Connor

I think that the Church is the only thing that is going to make

the terrible world we are coming to endurable;

the only thing that makes the church endurable

is that it is the body of Christ and that on this we are fed.

—Flannery O’Connor





There are several events on tap this Advent:

  • a women’s ministry gathering to assemble Christmas baskets for a women’s shelter this Friday
  • a church-wide effort to do likewise
  • our crock-pot cookoff and carol sing on December 20th
  • our Christmas Eve service

There’s also some resources for individuals and families to give their attention to the enduring, rather than the disposable, dimension of this season.

All that’s on our City page, too.




Finally, we opened last Sunday’s sermon with a reference to Leonard Cohen’s elegiac ode, “Hallelujah.” Covered by over 300 artists, I still think this one captures best the soul of the song (with due respect to those who think Jeff Buckley holds that distinction.)


Author: Patrick

Pastor of Christ the King Church (PCA)

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  1. The Weekly Hit List: December 18, 2015 - […] Rejoicing in Lament, by J. Todd Billings, was recommended at Pastoral Backstory. […]

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