Monday, November 19, 2007

A great weekend for the preacher

The launch of my blog coincided with the visit of my technologically savvy son, Rob, who persuaded me that it would be easy to construct and use. Of course, you may rightly question why I should even think of throwing yet more words at the world. I know that the jury is out on blogs and there is even some evidence that readers are logging on less.

I guess I can only justify this blog because of my relationship with long suffering students, listeners and readers and our willingness (expressed often in emails) to learn from each other. The best preachers are the best listeners – listeners to God’s word but also within God’s world.

This launch weekend has been just such a great time for a preacher. Often days will pass without me mentioning anything, but let me comment about three things that have just happened.

It began on Friday (Nov 16) by attending a lecture at Fermilab designed to educate lay people. Dr Dan Hooper spoke on: “In Search of our Universe’s Missing Mass and Energy.” He explained that what we can see – a book, a cat, or our planet – makes up only 5% of the universe. The rest, 95%, is totally invisible and comes in two categories: dark matter and dark energy. At length he explained how little we know about dark energy. At one point he commented how “lucky” we are to be in a universe where the balance with dark matter and dark energy allows human life! How much did I understand? Well not as much as I would like. But, as someone fascinated by popular science I always feel stretched and overawed when anyone talks cosmologically. Actually, I think that all preachers benefit from occasional doses of cosmological talk.

Second, my son Rob and daughter-in-law Lori are staying this Thanksgiving Week. They brought Elliot (my third grandson) who is 21 months and as delightful a child as you can imagine. Really! When he puts his hand in mind and smiles up at me, it gives me the greatest feeling in the world. How precious life is. One minute baffled by how much of the universe is invisible. The next minute holding the miracle of a grandchild. I could go on and on…..

Third, I preached for the first time at Zion, Illinois on Sunday (Nov 18) at Christ Community Church. The story of Zion’s foundation as a theocratic community is a stunning one, and its founder – John Alexander Dowie - a charismatic Scotsman was pastor of this church, which stands central to the entire community. Much has happened since those early days. You can read the story on their web site. Many positive things struck me during my visit. At the end, the Senior Pastor, Ken Langley, took me into the inner sanctum where Dowie’s original round table is, (complete with hidden button to summon bodyguards), and a striking portrait. Ken asked me and my wife Carol to guess the age of John Dowie in the portrait. His flowing white beard and deep furrowed eyes put him, in my estimate, well into his eighties. In fact he was 59, the year he died! Burned out by all his responsibilities. I have often been challenged by the “burn out rather than rust out” commitment of greats such as C.H. Spurgeon and D.L. Moody, who were so utterly consumed by living for Jesus and his kingdom. Can you actually do any great things with and for Jesus Christ without losing much? (John 12:25, 26).

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