The First Baptist Church of Arlington will host the Gordon College Choir on Sunday, November 11, at 7:30. It will be a free concert given by one of the premier choral groups on the east coast. The 25-voice choir regularly tours New England performing a variety of standard choral and major choral orchestral literature.
The choir was featured in the Public Broadcasting System television special "Jews and Christians: A Journey of Faith" that has aired in the United States since 2001. Besides its busy domestic touring schedule, the choir routinely travels internationally.
Past performance venues have included the National Cathedral, the U.S. Naval Academy Chapel, the Beethoven Haus in Bonn, Germany, the Salzberg Dom, Il Duomoin Florence, Italy, and the Lady Chapel of the Black Madonna in Einsiedeln, Switzerland. They have appeared before at First Baptist Arlington to a full house, so come early and enjoy. Everyone is welcome.
One Sunday not long ago I preached in our church for the first time in a couple weeks. I came to church excited to be back, hopeful about the service, yet concerned that my weakness from being sick might show. Little did I know that my problems would be compounded from a completely unexpected event, and I would end up making a spectacle of myself.
I was walking across the raised platform minutes before the service began, and I fell. I was told that I tumbled as artfully as any New England Patriot (or K-State Wildcat) and that it was a sight to behold. As I lay on the floor I was aware of people rushing toward me. They were quite a sight, themselves. I don't think I've ever seen some of our church folk move that fast. Let me also just say that before I had the "bodyguard" of strong men surround me as I walked down the stairs from the pulpit to the communion table I never knew what a presidential candidate must feel like. Now I do.
I feel much better today than I thought I would, with aches, pains, bumps and bruises almost under control. As an added bonus, I think the fall knocked the little remaining symptoms of the virus that has plagued me entirely out of my system.
The overwhelming impression I carry with me is that of our church coming together and responding to the needs of someone who had fallen. Do I need to remind you that there are many, many folks we come across everyday who have fallen in various ways and need help in getting up again? If we all can continue to do what our folks did that Sunday, but on an ever wider scale I believe our churches will be a help and a blessing to countless others. That's part of what being God's EMT’s (Everyone Ministering Together) is all about.
Fall is coming to New England. School has started and families are adjusting to their new busier routines. Summer with its long lazy days has ended. The leaves are beginning to show their vivid colors, and people come from all over the world to “Leaf Peek.” It is a glorious time here. I enjoy sitting on our deck with a cup of tea and just soaking in the beauty of the woods behind our house. Of course, I see God?s hand in all the beauty. I can almost imagine seeing his hand holding a paintbrush and spattering the bright yellows, golds and reds on all the leaves. It seems like even the sunshine on these fall days is more colorful somehow.
Fall continues as the leaves fall to the ground and the family dons sweaters and sweatshirts and cleans the spiderwebs off the rakes in the basement. The children try to help but get sidetracked jumping in big piles of leaves. Orange pumpkins become the theme of decorations, and in the local apple orchard the trees are heavy with their beautiful red fruit. The smell of apple cider and cinnamon is in the air.
I love that the seasons are very distinct here. But I know that when the leaves have been cleared and the rakes put away, the short days of winter lie ahead. We had a mild winter last year, but that was unusual. The bitter cold days and icy pavements will soon appear.
I think that?s how it is with our spiritual lives as well. The bright, beautiful moments are sometimes followed by periods of gray. This is often described by the terminology of “mountain tops and valleys.” The “mountain top” experiences give us reserve to live in the “valley” days. Yet our God is the God of both kinds of days. He rejoices with us on the “mountain tops” and holds us close in the “valley” times. When we walk through those dark days, He somehow seems closer and more real. We focus on Him and seek His help. Those are the painful days of growth. But it is also the time when God?s sweet presence seems most real. Through it all we can we be assured that the God who loved us enough to send his son to die for our sins is always with us.
It’s been a hard summer to be a Red Sox fan. I find myself still watching a few games, but my heart’s not really engaged. I believe many of us find it hard to cheer for such a cartoonish bunch of players. The most enthusiasm and excitement many have felt was with the recent trade. Josh Beckett is now a Dodger! Hallelujah!
So where is the excitement for our faith? For so many people this thing we call faith has become routine and perfunctory, rather like watching the Red Sox. We talk about God, but our experience of God seems to be somewhat lacking. For anyone who has walked with God for any length of time in their lives, the response ought to be overflowing thankfulness, worship and praise.
I look at what God has done in my life, and in the lives of the people around me, and I am astounded. How many times in our churches have I heard the proclamation made: “God is good” followed by the chorus response “All the time.”
If God is good in our lives, if we really take what we say at face value, and if we weren’t so conditioned by our culture to be civilized, proper New Englanders, we’d break out in songs of praise, and shouts of adoration and exaltation to our great God.
In fact, I think we’d be a whole lot like my two-year-old grandson, Eben. The toddler just loves to pray. He started by praying at meals, carefully taught a little child’s prayer by his mom and dad.
“Thank you, Jesus, for this food. Amen.”
Now he prays all the time, for everything. And he’s found a lot better way to do it. It’s no longer “Thank you, Jesus, for this food. Amen.” It’s “Thank you, Jesus for this food. Amen. HALLELUJAH!”
“Thank you for Manga and PaPaPa (his name for Nell and me). Amen. HALLELUJAH!”
He’s got the “Hallelujah!” bit down pat. He shouts it out with a big grin and both his arms shoot skyward as far as he can reach.
And that delights his parents -- at least it did until they took him to church. They go to Park Street Church in Boston, one of the great churches of our city, indeed of our whole nation. Now it’s an awesome church with a history stretching back to the Revolutionary War, but let’s face it, the congregation there can be a little reserved. At least it was until Eben prayed along with Gordon Hugenberger, their esteemed, scholarly pastor. Dr. Hugenberger ended his prayer with a proper “Amen.” Eben immediately finished it off with “HALLELUJAH!”
That what worship is like for a two year old. I think we could use a little of that at First Baptist Arlington. HALLELUJAH!