Sacred Spaces: The Doors

“So Jesus again said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, they will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.’” John 10:7-11 (ESV)

Every church sanctuary points us to Jesus. The sanctuary is not just another building for just another group of people to gather because of their shared interests. It is a holy place. It is a place that is radically different from what the world offers. It is a place where people gather to worship and proclaim Jesus Christ.

This can be confusing since sanctuaries often share similar features to other buildings we enter. That is not a reason for us to consider the activity of the church to be equal to that of other activities that take place every day. It is always helpful to remember that though the Church is not a building but a people, the church building serves a sacred purpose for the strengthening of the people of God for the mission of God in our world.

In John 10, Jesus proclaims that he is the door to eternal life. As we enter through the doors of our sanctuary, we should be reminded that it is only in Christ alone, through Christ alone, and for Christ alone that we have peace with God. The doors of the church are a proclamation and invitation to those in our community to come and see that the Lord is good. The doors are open for all to hear the Gospel call of Christ to salvation. That is why it is problematic when the church closes its doors to people who are lost and in need of being found. It is a true scandal when the church shuts out men and women who are weary and heavy laden by the demands of this world because Jesus is clear in his invitation to all those burdened souls to come to him and experience rest (Matthew 11:28).

The doors at Homewood CPC should be a blessed sight in our community. They should be emblematic of the refuge we have in Christ. They should shout to the world Jesus’s proclamation that even though in this world we will have trouble, we must take heart because he has overcome the world (John 16:33). The doors of the church remind us that the mission of God never rests. Even during times of prosperity and relative comfort, the doors of the church emphasize the importance of God’s people remaining awake and not lulled into the coma of comfort. The doors of the church help us hear the words of Jesus time and time again that salvation is available to all. When we forget this, we are exactly who Jesus talks about—those who are thieves stealing, killing, and destroying the very message we’ve been entrusted with to share so freely.

May we always receive the rest of Christ when we see the doors of the church, but may we never slumber in that rest. May we always be pointing people to Jesus wherever God has placed us so that to those who need to hear the Gospel will always know the door to enter. Jesus is that door to life abundant. Amen.

SACRED SPACES: THE NARTHEX

“Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” (Hebrews 10:19-22)

For the people of the living God, the entrance to the house of worship has always been a place of repentance and welcome, holiness and grace. The narthex is the reminder to worshipers that God is holy – completely other, distinct from creation, without sin. At the same time, it is the reminder to us that this God passionately desires intimacy with his children.

There is holy tension in this place.

It is not the unnecessary tension created by so many churches whereby the stranger wonders whether or not she will be welcomed. If you’ve ever visited a new church, you’ve likely felt this negative tension. From the car to the stairs and through the first doors, there is an anxious moment: “Will I be welcome here?” The norms of any community are intimidating to the foreigner. But when those norms are manufactured into a facade of “holiness,” even the penitent can find themselves locked outside the gate.

No, this is the necessary tension of Isaiah in the heavenly throne room. It is the tension of a man crying out, “Woe to me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty” and that man hearing the relief of the response of grace: “Your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” (Isaiah 6:5,7) It is the tension that’s fulfilled Christ. The curtains of the tabernacle and temple did not protect the children of Israel from God, but from themselves. Sinfulness cannot survive the light of a holy God – “for the wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23)

“But the free gift from God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord.” (also Romans 6:23) In Christ, “for our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21) The curtain is torn in two, drawing us into fellowship with God – and the curtain torn is God’s own body broken for us. The blood that consecrates us for the worship of a holy God is not the blood of bulls and rams but God’s own blood shed for us.

For Christians, no building is a temple. In Christ, sinful creatures have been made the temple of a holy God. The entry to our place of assembly is a reminder of this holy tension. And “with full assurance of faith” we draw near to God because God has first drawn near to us. Amen.

SACRED SPACES: THE OFFERING PLATE

God does not need your money.

“The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.” (Acts 17:24-25)

I confess that, too often, I think God is somehow grateful for what I give. I know the church needs material contributions to keep things going. And, even though I don’t consciously think it, I often have this “you’re welcome” feeling stirred up when I drop my check into the offering plate. It’s the same kind of feeling I get when I round up my purchase at the grocery store for a charity or give some change to someone on the street. My sin is that I reverse the roles of who is dependent on whom. I think of my giving as a transaction, just like any other transaction I make in the world, and the one who receives my money should be grateful for it.

Giving to the church is a good, biblical, and – when done in faith in Christ – a righteous act. But if you give out of compulsion (2 Corinthians 9:7), or give out of the need for praise (Matthew 6:2-4), or because you think God needs it – this is not Christian giving! “‘What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices?’ says the LORD” (Isaiah 1:11). This is why the Bible, and especially the New Testament, is so concerned with the attitude of the giver: “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (1 Corinthians 9:7).

If these were proper Christian attitudes of giving, the church should not make a point to pass around an offering plate in worship! In 2017, there are more efficient ways of collecting money. In a culture that looks with great suspicion on any pastor with a new car or on any church with a “Christian Life Center,” there are more discreet, less provocative ways of asking for money. The offering plate, especially in worship, especially when passed around in the middle of worship, is extremely presumptuous if we think about Christian giving in worldly, transactional terms.

No, we pass the offering plate in worship because it is our reminder that everything we have, everything we are, everything we give, and everything we take belongs to God already. There is no distinction. The tithes are God’s. The offerings are God’s. The giver is God’s – “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price” (1 Corinthians 6:20). The offering plate is a worshipful reminder of what is God’s, not what is ours. Like the cross, like the table, it is the reminder that your old self has died with Christ and your new self belongs to him completely.

We give freely because in Christ we have been given freely. Amen.

Sacred Spaces: The Baptismal Font

I love walking into the home of a friend or family member and receiving the welcoming embrace of a hug accompanied by the words “make yourself at home!” A warm welcome is a powerful sign of acceptance, security, and rest. It leads us into fellowship and communion. Oh, how our world could use a warm welcome right now!

September 14 will mark the beginning of my eighth year as senior pastor of Homewood CPC. The warm welcome my family and I received those eight short years ago still resounds in my heart and mind. It is that welcome that created for me and my family the foundation for ministry at HCPC.

Easter of this year, Sherrad and I decided to move the baptismal font to the back of the sanctuary to welcome each person as they entered in for worship. As worshippers entered, they were encouraged to touch the water and make the sign of the cross upon their foreheads in order to remember their baptism. It’s place at the back of the sanctuary also served as a reminder that we had all passed through the waters of baptism into the family of God’s people from all times and places. You see, the baptismal font is like that warm welcome we receive when we enter a friend or family member’s home. In our baptism, we are claimed by God. We are welcomed into his family. We receive from him the assurance of his faithfulness. God welcomes us in and invites us to make ourselves at home within his fellowship with our brothers and sisters.

When we see the baptismal font, let us not just see something that is used only during times of baptism, but as a constant reminder of our welcoming and hospitable God who has claimed us in baptism. May we be reminded of the longing within our souls that pleads to be set free from a world of chaos in order to reside in the eternal presence of God. May we remember the words of Hughes Oliphant Old who said that baptism in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit hopes that all people will be received into the household of faith, joined to Christ in his death and resurrection, and be filled with the gift of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Sacred Spaces: The Wooden Pews

Our good friend Adam Borneman recently introduced me to a podcast entitled Strangely Warmed on the Crackers and Grape Juice website. A recent episode included a discussion of the lectionaries readings for the 12th Sunday after Pentecost. Intriguing stuff, I know, but this was a timely episode for me as I have been wrestling with how to write about how wooden pews remind us of the Gospel of Christ.

Full disclosure—I have never overheard anyone ever gleefully rejoice in getting to sit in a wooden pew for an hour on Sunday. Instead, I’m pretty sure that several of our choir members joined the choir so they wouldn’t have to sit on wooden pews. They have luxurious, padded chairs in the choir loft, y’all! Nevertheless, the wooden pew communicates an important truth about God’s salvation in Jesus. In 1 Peter 3:18-22, Peter describes our salvation in Christ by reminding us of Noah and his ark. “They formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 3:20-21).” God brought his people safely through the waters in the ark. A wooden structure to get us safely through life.

This brings me to Borneman’s recommendation of the podcast mentioned above. This particular episode was about the story of Moses in Exodus 1:8-2:10. I quickly realized as I listened to the podcast that I had missed something incredible about the birth and rescue of baby Moses. When Moses was born, his mother made a basket of bulrushes, or reeds, daubed it in bitumen and pitch, and placed him in the river so that he would survive Pharaoh’s edict requiring all Hebrew newborn baby boys to be thrown into the Nile to die. Moses’s mother courageously constructs a tiny ark to save her child. Pharaoh’s daughter then finds baby boy, takes him as her own, and names him Moses, which means “drawn out of water”. Rev. Drew Colby on the podcast then proceeded to blow my mind as he connected some dots that I am ashamed to not have connected myself. He connects the ark of Noah, the tiny little baby basket boat of Moses, the manger of Jesus, and the Church of Jesus Christ as the vessels that God places his children into in order for them to be brought through the chaotic waters of life into the eternal presence of his Kingdom! Mind. Blown.

How excited should we be to enter the sanctuary each Sunday and take our seat within a wooden pew next to brothers and sister in Christ and direct our attention to the Gospel proclaimed from the wooden pulpit? How overwhelmed should we be to know we were drawn from the waters of a wooden baptismal font? How thankful should we be when we eat bread and drink wine from atop a wooden table? Brothers and sisters, when we experience these realities, we are experiencing the same type of providence and loving-kindness that Noah, Moses, Jesus, and all the other people of the Gospel promise that has come from being grafted into the family of God. Let us never neglect the blessing of joining together with the communion of saints and truly rejoice! All praise, glory, and honor to our God who saves us from the chaotic waters of life! Amen.

Sacred Spaces: The Hymnals

This reflection is dedicated to the Glory of God and in honor of Robert Turnage.

The assembly of the Lord God sings.

She sings the glory of God’s creation – like the stars at the foundation of the world. (Job 38:7) She sings with thankfulness for the works God has done for her and on her behalf – like Moses when God delivered Israel from slavery in Egypt. (Exodus 15:1-22) She sings in her distresses, clinging to the only true hope found in her God – like David when he was in the “dust of death.” (Psalm 22) She sings praises to God even in the midst death because of God’s own assurance that death has been overcome – like Jonah from the belly of the fish. (Jonah 2) She sings because God has come to us in the flesh to sing with us – like Mary when she was visited by the angel. (Luke 15:46-55) She sings eternally the glories of the Christ who died and was raised for her:

Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,

to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might

and honor and glory and blessing! (Revelation 5:12)

In the midst of Nazi oppression, oppression that would later claim his life, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote: “God has prepared for Himself one great song of praise throughout eternity, and those who enter the community of God join this song.” (Life Together) The song is God’s, not our own. The song began before we were knit together in our mothers’ wombs. If the Lord tarries, it will continue long after our children’s children are dead, buried, and raised again. But through the mysterious working of God, we join in the eternal, hopeful song of God here and know.

When we stand in our sanctuary, grasp our hymnals in our hands, and sing words from Scripture arranged by the saints who came before us, we join in a miracle. With each verse, we sing with a new song in new circumstances the ancient mystery of God’s intimacy with us. It was the miracle I joined as preschooler (one of my first memories of worship) when I joined in the singing of our Methodist congregation – even though I did not fully know the words or was able to read a single one of them. It is the miracle my son, a preschooler, joins when he sings, “Jesus loves me, this I know…”

It is the miracle of the eternal God that was sung by my friend, Robert, when his soaring tenor voice pierced through the thick liturgy of my ordination service on Holy Saturday to proclaim that even in the depths of our distresses (Jesus was in the tomb!) God’s song continues forever. It continues for his glory. It continues for us. And we sing with God.

“Comfort ye, my people,” saith your God.

Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem

And cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplish’d,

That her iniquity is pardon’d.

The crooked straight, and the rough places plain.

Sacred Spaces: The Windows

Almost every day when Will and I leave the house, I hear the same cheer from the backseat of my car: “The sun came up!” As the sunlight shines on him through the windows of our car, warming his bright smile, he continues his celebration of the new day. He invites me to participate. “Daddy, look!”

“I see! God made the sun come up!”

“Thank you, God,” he says, and our liturgy is complete.

Three-year-olds are experts at seeing the miraculous in the mundane. In this series, Derek and I have already covered the parts of our sanctuary you might describe as the most significant: the cross, the candles, the table, the bible, and the pulpit. The rest of our series (with one exception) now shifts decidedly to the common: some flowers, windows, wood, books of music, a gathering space, doors. Early on, the Reformed church rooted out any hints of idolatry in its worship spaces. The result is simplicity. I find worshipful joy in the majesty of Catholic cathedrals, the icons of Orthodox churches, and even the fine altars of fellow Protestants whose traditions chose not to strip their sanctuaries.

But there is beauty in the simple, too. Our God is God of the common. As we say in our confession: “God exercises providential care over all creatures, peoples, nations, and things…. God ordinarily exercises providence through the events of nature and history.” (1.13 & 1.14) God’s sovereign, providential care over all creation – even those acts we see as common, everyday occurrences – are still miraculous works of God’s abundant grace. It is common grace, poured out on all humanity, by God who “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good.” When we worship, the sunlight that passes through our windows to warm our faces is the reminder that God is God of the whole world. And he cares for the whole world.

But the windows are not made of one-way glass. Even greater than this common grace we see in the rising sun is the grace extended to us by the resurrection of the Son of God, Jesus Christ. This grace is greater, but it is not for us only. It is for the whole world. When Christ died, the curtain in the temple that separated the common people (and even most priests!) from gazing directly into God’s holy presence was torn in two.

Our windows are tall, unstained, and the natural light of God’s common grace shines in on us during worship – just as it does on the whole world. But our light – the light given to us in the grace of Jesus Christ and for his glory – radiates outward as well. We cannot hide Christ’s light under the bushel of the chapel! As we worship, and as we leave worship, we proclaim – with Will’s enthusiasm – the words of the psalmist: “This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Sacred Spaces: The Flowers

"And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, while he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." Matthew 6:27-30, 33

Nothing can suffocate like anxiety. Even though Jesus tells his followers to not be anxious, good, faithful Christians battle anxiety. Are these Christians being disobedient? Is their faith weak? The answer to both these questions is a resounding "NO". Anxiety is a natural part of life. When we encounter unknown situations with unknown realities, we will have feelings of caution and concern converge within the soul and create a tension that can be incredibly intense and frightening to an individual. We all handle anxiety differently. But we should all hear the words of Christ about anxiety the same. We ought to trust God.

One enemy to the people of faith is forgetfulness. How many times in the Scriptures do we see God's people forget his grace and mercy for their lives. From the Garden of Eden to the Exodus wilderness to the shores of the Sea of Galilee to the remote island of Patmos, Holy Scripture tells us of how life will throw so much at us that we will forget the still small voice of the Spirit of God. We must not forget the promise of God to us in Jesus Christ: "I will never leave nor forsake you."

Allow me to pull the curtain back on my life for a moment. I am no stranger to anxiety. It is a reality for my life. I don't understand it. I cannot control it. The only thing I know is that when anxiety strikes, it hits hard. Some may think less of a pastor because he or she has anxiety, but friends, know that more pastors have to fight against anxiety than you realize. My battle with anxiety began over a decade ago when a good friend of mine was diagnosed with cancer. I had family members diagnosed with cancer before, but when my friend was diagnosed, something about that was different. I had a hard time understanding why this friend and his family had to endure this disease. For perhaps the first time in my life, I had to deal with the tough questions of suffering in the world. And the only thing I knew to do was look to Jesus in prayer, worship, and faith. This led me to Matthew 6 and our Savior's words about being anxious.

He talks about birds and flowers. He calls our attention to beauty and splendor of God's creation. Jesus reminds us that God takes care of animals and flowers with such great attention that we should take note and rejoice. Even though there are storms and dangers to the natural world, God still nurtures. He grows. He clothes. He blesses. This is our God. He is so intimately involved in his creation that neither storm nor fury can separate us from him. How often do we forget this?

This leads me to consider the flowers that are so carefully placed upon the chancel each week. These flowers remind us each and every week that whatever may befall us, we can trust God to be faithful in all seasons of our lives. When we celebrate, God celebrates with us. When we mourn, God mourns with us. When we are anxious, God comforts us with his presence. Just as he provides everything for the flowers of the field, God provides for us in our time of need. He knows exactly how to care for us.

May we be reminded of this great promise. Romans 8 tells us that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Nothing. So let us cast our cares and anxieties upon Jesus and rejoice, even when we have lost control and cannot understand what's happening in the world. Amen.

Sacred Spaces: The Pulpit

I’ve lost track of the number of times my wife has told me, “I love you.” Next Friday, we’ll have been married for ten years. If you add in the six years we were dating (which we’ll also celebrate this month), she’s been telling me she loves me half of my life. Her love comes unconditionally. She’s taken the promises she made to me at our wedding seriously, loving me even in spite of parts of me that aren’t very lovable.

But her unconditional love does not mean passive acceptance. It’s a love that leads to transformation. When she says the words, “I love you,” I am reminded of who I am to her as well as the things she has endured with me and for me. I am reminded of who she is. In her proclamation, I remember that I love her too, that I have made my own vows to her, and – stirred by this reminder of her love – I am compelled to abandon those less-lovable parts of me so that I might love her more.

When the preacher stands in the pulpit, Jesus Christ proclaims his love for his Bride, the Church. When the preacher stands in the pulpit, the Holy Spirit fills those gathered with the love of Christ. When the preacher stands in the pulpit, by the Holy Spirit and in the love of Jesus Christ, we cry out, “Abba! Father!”

As the Bride of Christ, this love of Christ is the proclamation we needed to hear when God first wooed us. The proclamation from the pulpit is never one of simple moralism, never one of mere “second chances,” never one of conditional love. It is a proclamation of God’s work. It is the reminder that God found us when we loved being lost, died for us when we loved death, rose for us when we rejected life, and sits in power for us even as we reject God’s power.

As the Bride of Christ, this love of Christ is the proclamation we need to hear from Christ again and again. The proclamation from the pulpit is never one that succumbs to the whims of time. It is timeless and timely. The lectern and the pulpit are inseparably intertwined. The words of Scripture spoken at the lectern are the timeless wedding vows of our Lord. We know what his promises are because he has given us his word in Scripture; we know that his promises are true because the eternal Word, Jesus Christ, speaks them. The pulpit is where we hear those eternal promises in the here and now, to us and for us. And we are transformed. The love of Christ that met us without conditions now conditions us!

And as the Bride of Christ, this love of Christ is the proclamation we make to the world as the Holy Spirit works in us, through us, and beyond us. The proclamation from the pulpit is never meant to stay there. Amen.

Sacred Spaces: The Lectern & Bible

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In Dr. Robert Smith’s preaching class at Beeson Divinity School, he often tells his students that the greatest part of any worship service is the pure reading and hearing of the Word of God. Why is this true? We call the Bible the Word of God because it reveals to us the One Word of God, Jesus Christ. This revelation ought to lead the worshipping community into deeper fellowship with God and one another. Now I realize that there have been many arguments regarding the reliability of the Scriptures. Is it infallible? Is it inerrant? Is it inspired? I tend not to get too caught up in these arguments because at the end of the day, the Bible, as Cumberland Presbyterians see it, is “the infallible rule of faith and practice, the authoritative guide for Christian living (CP COF, 1.05).”

We have to be honest, though, and admit that the Scriptures have been maligned to do great evil in the name of Jesus Christ. From the Crusades to chattel slavery in America to the Holocaust during WWII to abusive situations in marriage, there is great harm that sinful humanity can inflict upon one another using an authoritative text. This evil shouldn’t surprise us at all, seeing that Satan twists God’s Word all the time in the Bible as he tempts Eve, as he tempts Jesus, and we all know from our own battles with temptation. The question that the serpent asks Eve in Genesis is the same question Jesus faced, as do we. That question: “Did God really say?” Sin in many ways is the result of us answering with an emphatic “NO!” to that question.

(A final brief word about the Bible. As Christians, it is important for us not to get caught up in speaking too strongly about the infallibility/inerrancy/inspiration discussion. Any discussion along these lines can very quickly lead us into a place where we think we have authority OVER the Bible. We are not the judge of Scripture–we never can be. We sit underneath the Bible and it reads us more powerfully than we read it. When we read Scripture, it is imperative that we do not get into the habit of picking and choosing what is and isn’t true or false. Scripture is the revelation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. When the Bible speaks, it speaks into a sinful humanity and should cause us not to quarrel with what the Bible says to us about our sinfulness. Instead, the faithful child of God receives the word of God in Scripture as his or her looking glass into the realities of our lives. So, rather than argue what the Bible is, the proper dispensation for the Christian is to humbly receive the commands of God and allow the Holy Spirit to conform us to the image of Christ. This is what brings glory to Christ in our lives.)

We know in 2 Kings 22-23, that when the Book of the Law was found in the Temple, King Josiah renewed the covenant in the presence of the LORD. He vowed to follow the LORD, keep his commandments, statutes, and decrees with his entire being. Then the people of God followed and pledged themselves to the covenant with God to be a faithful people. Josiah ordered the people of God to celebrate the Passover and observe the holy call of God. He destroyed the altars to false deities and returned to the word of the Lord as his national standard. We often see the pure reading of the word of God cause the people of God to repent and return to faithfulness to God.

Paul also instructs Timothy in 2 Timothy 3 to be ready in season and out of season to proclaim the word of God. He tells Timothy that all Scripture is God-breathed and useful for all teaching, preaching, correction, and rebuke. The Bible contains within its pages the standard of God by revealing to us His character and saving activity in Jesus Christ for a sinful humanity.

Our task as Christians is to faithfully encounter the revelation we have in Scripture, repent of the ways we have done violence to others when we misuse God’s Word, and seek the faithful adherence to the commands of God. As another Beeson professor, Dr. Osvaldo Padilla, cautioned us all on the first day of Exegesis of Colossians, “You current and future preachers of the Gospel need to understand that the Bible contains the words of life and death. Do not take your task lightly as a preacher. People’s eternity depend upon the proclamation of the Gospel.” Wow! The proclamation of the Gospel has the power of life and death Allow that to sink in. May God have mercy upon all preachers and teachers who work to communicate the truths of the Gospel from the Bible. Lord, have mercy!

In our sanctuary, we have a Bible sitting atop a lectern on the chancel platform. The purpose of this arrangement may seem to be decorative, but rather, it communicates to us abiding presence of God in His creation. The Bible atop the lectern reminds us of the importance, beauty, and revelation of God to us. (Note: As Christians, we don’t worship the Bible. As yet another Beeson professor Dr. Mark DeVine would say, “The Bible is not the fourth person of the Holy Quadrinity!” It is important to make this distinction. We do, however, need to understand and take the Bible at its word when it reveals to us the person of Christ and our sinfulness.) The lectern is the place from which the people of God hear the public reading of Holy Scripture. As we hear the great accounts of God’s interactions through Jesus Christ with Adam, Eve, Abraham, Moses, David, Isaiah, Malachi, Mary, the twelve disciples, the Apostle Paul, along with all the others, we hear the story of a loving God pursuing his fallen creation. Even in the difficult sections when we read of Sodom and Gomorrah, the violence in the Book of Judges, and the enigmatic Revelation, we have a glorious truth of a God who is holy, just, and true to his promise. These events in the Scripture remind us that our God is a God who is never far from us. He has promised never to leave nor forsake us. He has even loved us so much that he gave us his Son, Jesus Christ, to save us from sin and death. We do great damage to the word of God when we treat it casually. When Scripture is read in faith, it presents with opportunities to worship faithfully, to serve God obediently, to trust Christ more deeply, and understand the presence of God in our lives continually.

The next time you see the lectern and Bible at HCPC, rejoice in the fact that, as Isaiah 40:8 affirms, “the grass withers and flowers fade, but the Word of our God will stand forever.” What a beautiful reality. Amen.