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Out of the Shadows

(Text: Esther 7:1-6, 9-10; 9:20-22) She impressed me the moment she walked into the room. I was in Chicago doing research on a book on the future of the mainline church. She was young, of Asian descent, and a first-year medical student. She had been raised in the northeast, attended the finest schools, been taught to appreciate the subtle beauty of classical dance and art, music and literature. On the prior Pentecost, she had experienced something that she had never even considered. She walked to the front of the sanctuary, bowed her head, and felt the waters of baptism flow down her face. She described what a hard-fought decision it was to be baptized. The day she was baptized, her father a

Blessing Givers

Years ago, my eldest child, Erin was a small group leader at the annual Montreat Youth Conference. When she returned home, the first thing she wanted to tell me about was a sermon she had heard that week. Now, you have got to understand that I am talking about my bright, joyful, spent-her-entire-life-in-church daughter who has a finely tuned ESWS – Early Sermon Warning System. This young woman who has heard more sermons than most people her age could not wait to tell me about a sermon! The sermon was preached by Jerry Cannon, a gifted African American pastor in Charlotte. The phrase in the sermon that caught her imagination and has since caught mine was his admonition to the youth: “Don’t be

S.P.A.

Revelation 5 1-14 I recently I overheard a fascinating conversation. A young couple were explaining to a friend who is a pastor that they are S.P.L. Christians. My friend was unclear about the meaning of the acronym, so he asked: “You are what?” “We are S.P.L. Christians – sing, pray, and leave.” You can describe Cove in many ways, but I would never describe this as a congregation of S.P.L. Christians, people who show up on Sundays for their weekly spiritual fix, hoping it will get them through another horrendous week out there, and then leave. I have found Cove to be a congregation that is not only aware of human need but a congregation committed to doing something about that need, in the n

The Family Talk

It did not happen often, but when it did, I would cringe. I would hear my dad’s booming voice calling us in from something like the “the Neighborhood World Series of Kickball” with the cryptic two-word code: “family talk.” My older brother, Dale, and I would glare at each other, each absolutely convinced that the other was to blame for the upcoming “family talk.” The meeting never lasted long and my father was the only one who talked at this “family talk.” At the meeting’s end, Dale and I would leave with a list of changes in behavior that dad expected to see from us and see soon. In our text from Mark, the Pharisees and scribes come from religious headquarters in Jerusalem to have a “family

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