Archive for September, 2019

Worship Apathy

September 30, 2019

A member texted me a link to this article on apathy for weekly Christian worship.  It makes reference to this original article in Christianity Today.  In both cases, I think the authors are making some fundamentally incorrect assumptions about worry over apathy for worship and/or disinterest in worship or prioritizing other activities over worship.

Yes, pastors talk about this a fair amount.  But almost always within the context of Christians, not non-Christians as both these articles seem to assume.  I don’t expect a non-Christian to see an issue with going to a football game or seeing Sunday morning as a great time for their child’s soccer practice.  The problem is more and more Christians are led to think the same way.

Yes, our culture is becoming increasingly unchurched, and this means not simply non-attendance but no actual experience with church attendance or the Bible or the Christian faith even in their youth.  Although a majority of Americans still claim belief in God, what this means is harder to pin down in any one survey.  But even among Christians, I’ve seen some survey results claiming “regular attenders” now means once every six weeks.

That certainly is indicative of apathy.  And apathy regarding Christian worship is something Christians have, not non-Christians.  Non-Christians don’t even think about it to begin with, as the Christianity Today article states.  But a Christian who thinks worship every month and a half is adequate does evince either a strong apathy or a complete lack of understanding of what Christian worship is for.  Or both.

This isn’t a new problem, as this article from a dozen years ago points out.  While this article points out some good reasons for a lack of regular participation in worship by Christians (priority conflicts, consumer mentality, etc.) it overlooks a pretty important one – why should Christians be in worship to begin with?

One could note that for at least 3500 years God’s people have been engaged in regular (weekly) worship.  That might seem reason enough for some folks, and while I’m inclined to agree, I agree only to the extent that this might be a reason Christians begin or return to weekly worship schedules.  It isn’t sufficient to keep them there.  Either they receive something when they come to worship they can’t get anywhere else which keeps them coming back and ensures they prioritize that time over other options, or they aren’t going to keep coming back or re-prioritizing their lives.

There are good Biblical, theological reasons for weekly worship.  No, the New Testament doesn’t set out a definition for weekly worship, in large part because that was assumed.  Early Christians were Jewish, and Jewish sabbath with worship was a weekly part of their lives.  It was just understood that following Jesus would also involve this sort of weekly worship.  After all, it was here, in weekly worship, that believers could be taught more about Jesus’ life and death and resurrection.  They could be encouraged and guided in how to live lives consistent with those realities, in anticipation of further promises to be fulfilled in terms of eternal life.  Believers could gather together to support one another and get through hard times together.  While it may not have looked exactly like this, it would have been just as intentional.  And here believers could be reminded of the source and nature of their hope as their lives here and now became increasingly complicated with increasingly widespread and violent persecutions.  In the company of fellow believers, the faithful also had opportunities to put their talents and gifts to work for the benefit of their entire community of faith.

Many in my congregation value gathering together for weekly worship because the congregation has become their family.  They genuinely enjoy getting together to see one another, an added benefit of regular, intentional community.

What do you receive in worship?


Reading Ramblings – October 6, 2019

September 29, 2019

Reading Ramblings

Date: Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost – October 6, 2019

Texts: Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4; Psalm 62; 2 Timothy 1:1-14; Luke 17:1-10

Context: American culture is not much interested in waiting. We want what we want right now, and are unwilling to wait for it. Microwaves cook our food. And while instant coffee is no longer quite so fashionable, we’re quick to pick up a cup at Starbucks rather than brew our own. So as Christians wait for God’s response to suffering and ultimately evil, his timing appears laboriously slow. Why not fix things now? God assures us through the ancient voice of Habakkuk that his timing is not deliberately slow or delayed, but is always perfect.

Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4 – Habakkuk is one of the most enigmatic of the prophets, with scholars for centuries arguing about who he was, when he lived, and the nature of his message. Arguments abound for nearly every conceivable interpretation. But the oldest Jewish and Christian traditions claim that Habakkuk writes towards the end of the seventh century, within just a few years of the Babylonian destruction of Judah and Jerusalem. Habakkuk’s words in chapter one could be our own, as we survey the cultural landscape of our own country as well as the world around us. Reports of violence seem to increase weekly. Sin is celebrated as righteousness. We grow increasingly polarized, unable and unwilling to listen to opposing points of view. Justice seems slow at best, missing at worst. When will the Lord answer the prayers of his faithful people who suffer in such a world? The Lord responds by giving Habakkuk a vision he is to write down or even draw so that it might be easily understood. That vision is coming. It will arrive in God’s perfect timing. The important thing is for God’s people to wait faithfully, trusting his promise.

Psalm 62 – God alone is worthy of our trust, this psalm proclaims. The repetition of key phrases in verses 1-2 and again in vs. 5-6 guide the assembly in this assertion, a necessary reminder to all people in all times and places. How easy it is to think we can find our true help elsewhere, whether in laws or freedoms, in governments or economies. God alone is unshakable. All others are transient and insubstantial (v.9). Silence in this psalm does not mean verbal silence (since we are commanded to pray to God in v.8, but rather a stillness and calmness. We determine not to be moved and agitated by whatever is going on around us or whatever is being done to us. God alone holds ultimate authority, and his judgment in our regard cannot be contradicted for long. Some worry that the final line of the psalm indicates that our works are what save us. But works within the Biblical context are only worthy of commendation in faith, and it is the faith which saves us and makes our works pleasing to God. Without faith, no amount of good works is possible, nor can those works alone save a person.

2 Timothy 1:1-14 – Frankly I wish we had continued in 1 Timothy as there is plenty of good material there. Perhaps the powers that be are a bit nervous that people will compare the requirements for a shepherd/overseer/pastor with the person in the pulpit! In any event, I’m not in charge so now we’re starting 2 Timothy. Paul introduces the letter, indicating himself as author and Timothy as recipient. The tone is deeply personal and affectionate. It is likely Timothy is undergoing some struggle or adversity, though the tears mentioned in v.4 could easily be tears shed at their last parting. Timothy may be undergoing a struggle and Paul encourages him in his faith v.6, and exhorts him not to fear but rather to love and self-control. To at least some degree, by the grace of God the Holy Spirit we can choose how we respond to difficult things in our lives and Paul reminds Timothy of this. Likely Timothy is suffering persecution for the faith and perhaps specifically for association with Paul. Paul therefore reminds him to not be ashamed either of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, nor of Paul despite the fact that he is now in chains as he awaits a hearing from the Emperor. Paul himself is not ashamed (v.12), based on his knowledge of Jesus. He knows Jesus not in some intangible sense but is fully convinced that despite his current condition and the possible outcomes of his trial, his Lord will ensure that he is kept safe to declare the Gospel until the time appointed by God for his death. As Paul perseveres, he calls Timothy to do the same by looking to him as a model. Keep the faith!

Luke 17:1-10 – These verses bring to a close an extended narrative section in Luke that began at 14:25. These teachings are addressed to Jesus’ inner circle, which likely included not just the 12 Apostles but the 72 followers that Jesus sent out in Chapter 10. First He warns against those who would cause others to stumble in their faith. This could include either by tempting another to sin, or by leading another to renounce the faith through some action of the other person. Yet also forgiveness is to be taken seriously, even to a degree that seems ludicrous (see Matthew 18:21-35). This elicits a strong response from the disciples – who can be so forgiving with others?! Jesus in turn assures them they have enough faith to do what He commands. The final section is unique to Luke’s gospel. While they already possess the faith necessary to do amazing things – something they will experience again firsthand after Jesus’ resurrection, they are not to lose sight of their identity as slaves from whom humility is expected. Any power they display is not theirs, but rather is the work of the Holy Spirit in and through them and therefore there is no room for them to brag or exalt themselves.

Jesus the Veggie

September 27, 2019

Our kids grew up with Veggie Tales.  More than anything, they grew up with the music of Veggie Tales.  The Silly Songs with Larry segment of these shows was often the highlight for all of us.  We had CDs of these songs, and on a six-month road trip a decade ago, these were the soundtrack to our drives through the United States.  Even today, now that our kids are teenagers, they will randomly put on some of these silly songs, and we’re all singing along together in no time.

The videos were creative  and good – for what they were.  The first time I heard a criticism of Veggie Tales was in Seminary, where a professor and other students were criticizing them for substituting morality for the Gospel.  Of course, that’s the case.  Children were exhorted to proper behavior (based on Biblical definitions of these things, of course).  Bible stories retold in the world of talking vegetables always had a moral to the story, something that would address in some respect the letter from a child that started the installment off and provided the overarching theme.  No, Veggie Tales was not pushing the Gospel, but I’d argue that pushing a Biblical morality was fine in and of itself.

So long as that’s not the only exposure to the Bible and the Christian faith and church that kids ever received!  It would be silly to criticize an appetizer for not being a full-course dinner.  It isn’t intended to be.

Nearly a decade ago, Veggie Tales‘ creator, Phil Vischer, rocked many people’s world when he criticized his own creation for teaching moralism rather than the Gospel, the center of the Christian faith.  He acknowledged that inadvertently, Veggie Tales taught kids how to behave but without any context in a larger Biblical framework of sin and salvation and most importantly, Jesus, the Incarnate Son of God.  While each episode would end with the familiar line God made you special, and He loves you very much! it wouldn’t provide any further depth in understanding what all of that meant, not just here and now but for eternity.  If Bible stories are nothing but ancient morality plays, you can’t blame kids (or parents) for not seeing a necessity or a connection to repentance and atonement and salvation.  I’m sure many parents were just glad to have their kids occupied with something wholesome for 30 minutes!

The inimitable Gene Veith has blogged on an update to this long saga, as Vischer plans to return to Veggie Tales with a vow to make them more Gospel centered.  That’s fantastic, especially if he can keep the same wit and humor and warmth that made those whacky vegetables lovable.  The full article Veith refers to can be read here.

Towards the end of his post, Veith offers some concerns and caveats about how the new effort might or might not be able to accomplish its goal.  He worries about how the Gospel can be conveyed with vegetables.  I imagine that missionaries could provide some amazing stories of how they have related the Gospel to people using an  astounding variety of metaphors and other tools to bridge from the world of their hearers to the Biblical world.

Vischer and Veith agree that Jesus should not be portrayed as a vegetable in the new series.  I disagree.  Is it weird?  Well, of course!  But is it weird within the context of Veggie Tales?  I don’t think so.  Veggie Tales creates an alternate world where vegetables can talk and hop around.  It’s a world that intersects our own (the old episodes started out on a kitchen counter, which seems a bit macabre if you think about it!), but also reflects our own but with vegetables instead of human beings.  In such an alternate world, to portray Jesus as anything other than a vegetable would be even more weird!  After all, if Jesus came to be one of us, actually incarnate as a human being, then in an alternate vegetable world, Jesus would have to become a vegetable to keep the depth and meaning the same.

And ultimately, I think Veith’s concerns are more valid if the assumption is Veggie Tales will be the only exposure to Jesus and  the Bible a child ever gets.  While this might be the case, that someone just picks up the CDs or streams the shows because they think it’s harmless, I would imagine that an explicitly Gospel-centered reincarnation will appeal mostly to Christian families.  And if so, they ought to know – or be explicitly reminded – that these shows can’t and shouldn’t substitute for weekly worship, or praying as a family, or talking out loud as a family about how faith in Jesus as the resurrected Son of God affects who we are and what we do and the decisions we make in our own world, rather than just a make-believe  vegetable world.  Parents (or grandparents) should never expect Veggie Tales to be a full course meal when it’s really only an appetizer.  A wonderful and delicious and appealing appetizer, to be sure.

Even if it is made out of vegetables.





Inter-Species Confession

September 26, 2019

In other news, a major US  seminary hosted a chapel service where  students prayed to and confessed their environmental sins to a group of potted plants.  Gene Veith gives his two cents here.

To be fair, as pointed out by the Washington Examiner article, Union Theological Seminary has long been accused of essentially being non-Christian.  The school apparently brags about this, boasting not just ecumenical chapel services but inter-faith services as well.  Interesting.

Veith’s commentary seems to say there isn’t a place for confession to plants.  I interpret him as saying it is inappropriate (or pointless?) to  confess or apologize to  anyone/thing which can’t reciprocate.  I’m not so sure I would agree with that, but the plant chapel service also is clearly troublesome.

Plants can’t  absolve us.  Not in any way we can receive.  I can confess all day long and apologize all day long, but I have no idea whether or  not the plant forgives me or not.  Even with my dog I can’t be sure, although I’m far more sure with my dog than I would be with a cat.

Scripture has a habit of anthropomorphizing nature.  The examples that leap first to mind include Isaiah 55 and Psalm 96, which have trees clapping and singing, respectively.  But one might also think of Balaam and his donkey in Numbers 22.  In case you think this is a case of dumb people thinking nature is real, we might consider Romans 8 and Paul’s description of it groaning as in childbirth.

Many would say this is just colorful and descriptive language rather than an assertion about the sentience of plant life.  I can’t refute that necessarily (and  don’t really care to try), but I’m also willing to entertain the opposite position, that while we think of plants and rocks as inanimate and non-sentient, perhaps we just don’t understand their language.  But maybe someday we will.

We shouldn’t pray to plants.  But perhaps a step in seeing them as part of God’s creation – a part we were and are intended to act as stewards of rather than exploiters – would be helpful.  I’m not comfortable with doing with Union Seminary did by a long shot, but I suspect we’re all going to be surprised in the new heaven and new earth to discover that perhaps our current classifications of animal, vegetable, and mineral were neither deep enough nor Biblical enough to describe reality as God created it.  

Weekly Devotion

September 25, 2019

Weekly Devotion – September 23, 2019

Luke 10:17-20

A few decades ago, angels were everywhere.

An explosion of angel-mania erupted on bumper stickers, t-shirts, bookmarks, book covers, figurines and most any other conceivable place. Fueled in part perhaps by popular Christian books like This Present Darkness, Christians were equally swept up in this fever, proud perhaps that something Christian was receiving so much secular attention. In other situations, these angels were hardly Scriptural. Removed from a larger context, they became little more than good luck tokens or lucky charms comforting thoughts to get people through the day.

But the goal of the follower of Christ is not just to get through the day, but to get to heaven! Jesus points this out to his disciples, who are understandably caught up in excitement over the things they have witnessed and performed in Jesus’ name. But these are not what should excite us, Jesus clarifies. What should bring us greatest joy is not just to get through the day, not even to command demons to submit in Jesus’ name, but rather the knowledge of the death and resurrection of the Son of God on our behalf. His resurrection, ascension and promised return should be our greatest joy as followers of Christ because through our faith and trust in his works, we have eternal life! Our names are written in heaven. God knows us not just as his creations but as part of his Son’s body, the Church.

What greater source of comfort or hope could their be beyond the atoning work of Jesus and the ongoing presence of the very Holy Spirit of God? To be sure, angels are real and do their God-appointed work among us. Sometimes we are privileged to get a glimpse of this. But what matters most of all is the God who created both angels and humans, and who has provided a way of forgiveness and grace for a humanity enslaved to sin and Satan. What a blessing to know the great sacrifice of God the Son was made for you! And as you trust in this, you receive eternal life, something that begins here and now not just once we’re dead!

Give thanks that we are not alone, that God’s angels are around us, but never let that reality distract you from the faith in Jesus Christ that grants peace and joy here and now and for eternity!

Back to the Future

September 24, 2019

Congregations in traditional mainline denominations are struggling with how to adapt to smaller and smaller congregations.  Thanks to Bernie for  sharing this article, relating how a married pastor couple serves five congregations between them in a return to an older form  of pastoral care and support in America, the circuit rider.

While some shrinking congregations close, and others merge together with another congregation, others maintain their history by sharing not a ministry per se, but a pastor.  This is more common in the midwest (at least in my denomination), where a single pastor may serve two or three parishes in  a rural area.  But even out here in sunny southern California, I know a pastor who now  serves two congregations just a few miles apart.   They aren’t willing to merge – yet.  But they can each survive a bit longer alone by paying for one pastor between them.

Along with pastors increasingly becoming bi-vocational, it’s one solution to a problem that isn’t going away any time soon, and is going to get more severe before it gets better.  Congregations need to face the future and begin actively seeking the best ways to ensure their congregation’s ministry can continue as long as possible.  The solutions will look different depending on context and a variety of other factors, but I much prefer this sort of creativity (even if it’s forced) as opposed to just closing up shop by refusing to change.

Staying Aware

September 23, 2019

Thanks to Matthew for alerting me to this latest Barna study examining what younger folks (Millenials) want when they come to church.  Matthew noted this article, which gives the link to the more  official summary above, which includes in turn a link to a fuller, free edocument you can download here if you like (I didn’t).

This study is right on track with what most studies have been saying for years now.  Trying to pander to contemporary tastes is not what younger folks want from a church.  They want an authenticity that makes them part of something larger, a tradition of faith and worship deeper than their own lifetime.  It should be noted that the respondents were apparently asked in context of if they went to a church.  It doesn’t indicate if they do currently, or why they  might consider doing so if they aren’t already – key pieces of information!  But it’s good to remember that people who are used to being marketed to incessantly can smell a sales pitch, even if it’s veiled in theological language or contemporary worship packaging.

First and foremost we need to be the body of Christ.  This level of authenticity resonates with people of all ages.  And contrary to current popular wisdom, I disagree with aiming your service at any particular demographic.  Be who you are.  Don’t fake it  hoping others will show up.  Don’t water things down for fear of frightening them off.  This is not who the Church is!  Be welcoming, be authentic, be faithful, be bold.


Reading Ramblings – September 29, 2019

September 22, 2019

Reading Ramblings

Date: Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost – September 29, 2019

Texts: Daniel 10:10-14, 12:1-3; Psalm 91; Revelation 12:7-12; Luke 10:17-20

Context: My memory is getting worse, as I don’t remember a special Sunday set aside in previous lectionary cycles for St. Michael and the Angels. Angels are one of those topics that many people have ideas about, but which are described very scantly by Scripture. We affirm the existence of angels (and by extension, demons). Spiritual entities different from human beings (so when we die we don’t become angels or demons), they serve God in holiness and perfection. This includes roles of protection as well as messengers to God’s people. Although popular culture has elaborated Biblical references to angels, we should take seriously the existence of these spiritual entities at work around us without attempting to domesticate their identities or functions.

Daniel 10:10-14; 12:1-3 – In this reading we are introduced to one of only two angels named in Scripture, Michael (the other is Gabriel). The initial figure speaking to Daniel here is not Michael, but another, unnamed angelic figure who references Michael in v. 13. Michael is shown to be very powerful, more powerful than the speaking angel despite his powerful appearance in vs. 5-9. We get a glimpse in these words of the struggle between angels and demons, between servants of the living God and those servants who followed Lucifer into rebellion. This struggle is real, despite the inevitable victory of God over all of his enemies whether human or spiritual, the struggle is allowed to persist for the time being. There seem to be hierarchies of angels and demons, with some being referred to as princes compared to others, such as the speaker. And ultimately, while we might speculate further on how these words could be applied or interpreted, the key issue is that the servants of God prevail over the machinations of his enemies. This is both in the temporal sense as well as in the final, eternal sense. We are to take hope in all circumstances, knowing our status as the people of God who are destined for eternal life.

Psalm 91 – Praise and glory belong to God alone. Culturally people may prefer to focus on the concept of guardian angels as a means of reassurance and comfort, but this should never be separated from the reality of the God who created both angels and humanity. Satan quotes this psalm out of context in tempting Jesus to presume upon the will of God in order to take his mission into his own hands. Jesus rightly recognizes this is not the point of the psalm, which praises God for his ability to deliver his beloved from any and all forms of danger and harm. Yet while we are to trust completely in God’s ability to deliver we leave completely to his divine wisdom and will if and how He will provide temporal deliverance, knowing He has shown us the eternal deliverance granted to us through faith in the atoning death of his Son, Jesus the Christ. Angels may be involved in our temporal deliverance (Genesis 19, Daniel 3, etc.) but we rest completely in the hands of our loving Father, who alone directs his angels and determines their actions.

Revelation 12:7-12 – John witnesses the vast story of Satan’s efforts to undo God’s graciousness to his creation. These particular verses depict a battle between the angels of God and those who rebelled after the great dragon, Satan. This is not the final battle, but the battle which sweeps Satan and his followers from the presence of God in heaven. Note that this occurs after the woman’s child is brought to heaven in v.5. Some believe this battle occurs when Jesus ascends back to heaven after his resurrection. At that point, his successful obedience to his heavenly Father has proved Satan a liar in his accusations against the people of God. Whereas for some period of time Satan came and went from the presence of God as did other angels (Job 1:6-12), accusing God’s people, with Christ’s victory Satan’s lies are exposed once and for all and he is ejected from the heavenly realm. We share in that victory over our accuser as we cling to the promises of God and, unlike Adam and Eve, reject the accusations of Satan and cling to the Word of God made flesh, Jesus.

Luke 10:17-20 – All power in heaven and on earth has been given to Jesus (Matthew 28:18), and that power is given in turn by the Holy Spirit to those God the Father determines and for his purposes and glory. Jesus’ disciples marvel at this unexpected aspect of their missionary activity. Jesus redirects their awe and excitement to the final defeat of Satan as well as to the greater importance of remaining faithful to their heavenly Father. We are easily frightened or titillated by brushes with the spiritual realm, yet any such encounters are entirely within a Biblical context of God’s eternal power and authority and the temporary rebellion of Satan and his followers. Their power is passing, already defeated and soon to be judged finally in that defeat for eternity. We need not fear them, not should we unduly seek them out. The Holy Spirit will prompt us if it is necessary to confront the powers of Satan directly, and we should remember that such encounters are not always as predictable as we might like to think (Acts 19:13-17).

Rather than obsessing about the spiritual realm we, like the disciples, should keep our eyes focused on Christ, and the life we receive through him rather than through any spiritual activities of our own. We are privileged among all of creation in that we are granted the unique opportunity to cling to God in faith, rather than in the simple obedience of fuller knowledge. We will no longer have this unique privilege in eternity, but it should form the center of our lives and attention here and now, regardless of the powers at work around us.

Book Review: Preaching and Culture in Latino Congregations

September 20, 2019

Preaching and Culture in Latino Congregations

Edited by Kenneth G. Davis &  Jorge L. Presmanes


I culled this from  the cache of Catholic texts I recently inherited.  I’ve had some experience in cross-cultural preaching, but not much.  During my seminary program seminarians are paired with a local congregation and pastor to gain some regular, practical pastoral experience.  It’s theoretically  a nice off-set to  the very academic nature  of the graduate program, though in reality mileage varies significantly based on the pastor(s) at the congregations.  I was blessed with an eccentric but open pastor at a small and mostly dead congregation.  Founded in the 1920’s, the congregation experienced the White flight out of the inner city in the 60’s as a major freeway was put through town just a mile or so away.  Less than a dozen Anglo members remained in this parish ensconced in an overwhelmingly African American neighborhood.  They were in discussions with a small Vietnamese congregation a couple of miles away about merging.  In addition to some experience working with those Vietnamese congregants, I had the opportunity to preach (with a translator) to the combined congregations.

But I didn’t give a lot of thought to the cultural nuances to be considered  in such a situation.  The Word of God, after all, is the Word of God, regardless of the culture it touches.  And while this is true enough, understanding a different culture a bit better can help the preacher articulate the Word of God in a way more easily received.

That’s the premise of this book.

The collection of essays focuses more on culture than specific preaching recommendations, but is very helpful for thinking through issues and backgrounds in a Latino congregation that would be significantly different from an Anglo or Vietnamese congregation.

The essays here vary in their usefulness (as is typical with these sorts of books), but overall were insightful in revealing or confirming ideas about Latino peoples and therefore congregations.  The first essay was a bit of a shock because it was very steeped in liberation theology, so that often the Gospel seemed more a means to an end than the end in itself!  But the other essays were more helpful and a bit less radical.

While this book comes from and is geared towards Roman Catholic parishes the material would be helpful and adaptable to anyone who finds themselves in a cross-cultural ministry situation.  The book was published in 2000 so some of  the examples are from the 80’s and 90’s, but the core material remains helpful, though I wonder if another 20 years has mitigated some of the identity issues mentioned here, particularly as second and third generation immigrants give way to fourth and fifth generations that likely identify far more as Americans than as Latinos in some sort of self-imposed exile.


God Sent Me

September 18, 2019

Miracles come in all shapes and sizes, and in all manner of unexpected timings.

The woman who slipped into the door of our Bible study classroom this evening, for example.  She must have just come from some sort of exercise class, wearing leggings and a tight sort of spandex workout top thingy.  I’m not a fashion expert so I don’t know the terms for these things.  Age is difficult (and dangerous) to surmise with a woman, but I’d put her anywhere from 40-ish to her early 50’s.  A thick Russian accent but good English.

Wednesday night Bible studies are mostly for a small group of ladies in an addiction recovery program.  Others have come and gone but don’t last very long.  These ladies have time on their hands and a mandatory weekly Bible study requirement to fulfill.  We have another woman who has been coming recently, a nonagenarian living in the retirement housing next door to our church.

So to have a complete stranger show up saying God had sent her to my Bible study was unexpected.  She stayed, she participated.  We talked after.

From Moscow originally but I get the impression there have been more than a few stops since there.  In our local area for over a dozen years.  Christian, but dissatisfied with the Bible studies she attended in any given place.  She worships at the Mission but says she hasn’t really connected with anyone there, a situation no doubt accented by her admitted shyness.

I gave her my card and wrote down our worship time and the other weekly Bible study opportunities.  She was pleased and surprised to learn there are three separate, different Bible studies each week.  I hope she’ll come back.  She elaborated that a friend told her while she was lamenting the lack of a good Bible study in town that this church was where to go for Bible study.  I’m wondering who that friend is and how they know about us.

She exited the building about 10 seconds before me.  As I locked the door, I glanced to see where her car was.  I didn’t see either her or her car.  I peered around, up and down the long parking lot towards the sidewalk.  Maybe she walked, lived in the area close by.  Curious, and she couldn’t have gotten out of sight so quickly.


The idea flitted through my head briefly.  Would it be beneath God’s dignity, during a time of professional weariness, to send an outsider with a word of encouragement?  Certainly not, but to speculate on angelic visitations seemed a bit premature.  But still, where did she go?

A second later I heard a car door.  As I peered further I saw a car parked on the other side of our church van, all but invisible behind the larger vehicle.  I’d be lying if I said that a small part of me wasn’t disappointed.  But the larger part of me was grateful.  A real flesh-and-blood visitor might come back.  Might tell others.  Might…might…might.

The near future is never very certain, but the recent past of this evening was a nice reminder that miracles come in different forms and accents.