Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The dignity of the robe

A seminary president tells the story of the ordination service of a ministerial candidate in his denomination. It was common in such ordinations for the candidate to end the service by doing something official in their new position as minister. The services are solemn, impressive, and meaningful. On this occasion, the candidate was to stand, walk up the steps into the chancel, turn, and pronounce the benediction. This was to be his first act as a newly ordained minister.

The time arrived, the candidate solemnly stood, approached the steps, and ascended. But on the first step, he accidentally stepped inside the hem of his clerical robe. The poor ordanee kept climbing the steps... all the time walking up inside his robe. Each step made him smaller as he was forced to "duck-walk" up inside his own robe.

Finally, at the top of the steps, looking like some kind of a dwarf in a white tent, he turned around. His robe could not turn with him, since he was standing inside it. The act of turning placed the left arm of his robe right in the center of his chest and the right arm was somewhere between his shoulders. All he could move was his left wrist from the center of his chest, arms pressed tight against his body by the constriction of the robe. With a wave of his wrist he pronounced the benediction, solemnly, not missing a word.

When he was finished, unable to take another step from his duck-walk posture inside his robe, he was helpless. Two husky ushers came forward, picked him up by his armpits and carried him off stage like some piece of furniture.

That would have been something wonderful to behold. I just love the foibles of ministry. Consider this quote from Dana L. Farnsworth,

A sense of humor...is not so much the ability to appreciate humorous stories as it is ... the capacity to recognize the absurdity of the positions one gets into from time to time together with the skill in retreating from them with dignity.

Just a thought. Ed (extracted from Moments for Pastors, Robert Strand, Day 4)

Friday, February 13, 2009

Remembering the blessings of our past

Cow pasture purchased in 1961 for church property:

I remember the words of Psalm 78 which admonish us to remember the blessings of our past: Psalm 78: 2 I will give instruction and explain the mystery of what happened long ago. 3 These are things we learned from our ancestors, 4 and we will tell them to the next generation. We won't keep secret the glorious deeds and the mighty miracles of the LORD.
Times like this call us to remember those who sacrificed so that we could enjoy the blessings they sacrificed to supply to us. This congregation, Castle Hills Christian Church, had its beginnings in 1961 when Fred and Chris Eppinger opened their home to a Bible study group made up mostly of members of the Woodlawn Christian Church. This small group wanted to start a new church on the north side of town, and they found a 6 acre tract of land on West Ave. outside of town which was being used as pasture land. It had a small 4 room farm house with a tack room attached to it. Twenty three people agreed to purchase the land and collected $7,000 for a down payment and took on a mortgage of $14,000 to purchase the land. They converted the tack room to serve as a sanctuary, remodeled the farm house, and added 4 new rooms to serve as class rooms. The new church congregation called Harry Owens to be their founding minister.
The church grew rapidly, and 4 years later they made plans to build a 300 seat sanctuary even though their attendance at the time averaged about 100 people. Talk about vision! They had the foresight to plan for a congregation three times the size as they were at that point. The new sanctuary was going to cost $125,000 to build (half a million in today’s dollars), but they sold church bonds to provide the funding and by 7 years later they had filled that building and made plans to build two other buildings to support it.
In 1971,the office and gym building were both built at the same time for $96,000, again using a church bond program to provide the funds. And with each building program, the church grew and filled up the new space.
Harry Owens retired in 1984, and the congregation called me to come in January of ’85. Almost immediately, we began to run out of space again. We added two huts for class rooms the summer of ’85, and built a two story addition in ’89, at a cost of over $170,000, built entirely by donations as they came in over a three year period.
The new worship center was by far, our boldest endeavor involving the generosity of our members who begin a process of giving in ’98 and paid off the $1.1 million in its entirety last year.
I’ve said all that in order to point out that through our 48 years as a congregation, our people have gladly sacrificed to provide what we now enjoy as a congregation. Through these years our people have raised more than $1,5 million + interest, in order to provide us with a campus worth more than $4 million today. The amazing thing is that not one of the original 23 charter members who started this church, nor their children or grandchildren are here in the congregation at this point in time. This means that none of those pioneers did what they did for themselves or for their heirs. They sacrificed for us. They gave their time, energy and money for us (people they would never see face to face).
Along with the debt of gratitude we owe to our loving God and Savior, we also owe our thanks to the literally thousands of brothers and sisters who have come through this congregation in what ever time they were among us. Some were here for only a few months, others for decades, but they all made a difference in the time they were here. They all contributed to what we are today and what we enjoy today as a 48 year old congregation. I thank them for every hour they donated to work here, every dollar they gave here, every class they taught here, every song they sang here, every prayer they prayed for this congregation here. I thank people others in the congregation don’t remember like Norah Lebohm, Olyvia Sawicki, Art Smith, Emery Jackson, Harry and Annelle Owens, Bob Leatherwood, Gwen Petcavage, Carl Stenger. And I thank people the congregation does remember like Tony Hero, George Farwell, Phil and Cindy Adams, Harrison and Denise Hassle, Cory and Lindsay Roach, and others like them who have come through here, made their contribution and then moved on.
And in the end, isn’t that what we all will do? We are all temporary here. Some may enjoy 40 or more years of faithful, though temporary service with this congregation, others will spend far less time here, but the real issue is not the length of time here, but the quality of time spent here. Just a thought.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Blessed beyond measure!

I am blessed. Let's face it. I am just flat out blessed! Consider these blessings:

  • I live in the best place I could possibly live. San Antonio, Texas has got to be just about the best place anyone could possibly choose. The weather here is warm and sunny most of the time. I can golf 12 months out of the year. I live close enough to the coast to visit the beach when I want, but far enough away from it to never have to worry about Hurricanes. I don't live on a fault line so no worries about earthquakes. This isn't a tornado alley ether. What a blessing! I live in a nice home that only cost me $49 a square foot. My house payment is less than $650 per month. Try that in L.A., Seattle, or New York.

  • I am blessed to be the minister of the best church congregation in the world. They have allowed me to minister among them for over 24 years! That has to be better than average. I am surrounded by a supportive and fun loving staff and fellow ministers who make my work a pleasure every day. I respect and admire the elders of my church, appreciate the hard working deacons, enjoy the members of my two pueblo (Bible study) groups, and thoroughly enjoy the fellowship of all the members of my congregation. I actually look forward to Sundays because each week feels like a family reunion. Only heaven itself could possibly be any better than this!

  • I am blessed to be happily married for 36 years to the best wife anyone could possibly hope for, I have two wonderful grown daughters I am proud of, two sons-in-law I actually enjoy being around, four grand children I am crazy about and who love their papa Ed.

  • Both my wife and I are blessed to still have our parents living and in relatively good health. The only thing we could wish for is for them to live closer to us.

  • I am blessed to be out of debt except for a mortgage payment, and to have sufficient resources to pay bills and even save for retirement. I am even blessed enough to be able to be generous to others. How good is that!

  • I am blessed to belong to a powerful and loving God who has revealed his power and loving-kindness abundantly. He has also revealed his plans for me and all who share in his promise to his bride. I have a rich heritage, and with my brothers and sisters I shout, "Lord come quickly!"

Just a thought, and a blessed thought at that. Ed

Monday, February 2, 2009

My Readers Digest submission

When I saw the new message Will Arnold put on our church sign yesterday I thought it was so clever that I submitted it to Readers Digest for a joke contest they are running. Here is my submission:

Our church is located in a small suburb of San Antonio right next to a school zone. Police officers often park in our lot as they wait to catch speeders and then pull them into our parking lot to give them tickets. The teen-ager who changes lettering on our church sign must have had that in mind when he put this message on our church sign: Slow down, see our church; speed up, see our cops.