Dear Congregational Family,
1. Future Contact: After this Sunday, my contact information will remain as follows:
1792 Sillview Dr.
Pittsburgh, PA. 15243.
(I will no longer be using my email@example.com email.)
We definitely want to stay in touch with you all as you are dear friends. Some have asked if we are going to continue to attend Ruthfred during this next space of time. We are not, out of respect for Pastor McMinn and the congregation. Usually, it simply makes things difficult if a pastor leaves and then keeps returning. It makes things confusing, can be divisive, and can make it more difficult for a congregation to move forward together in new directions. As an older pastor once told me, for a pastor to stay one month after resigning seems too short, but two months gets long, and if one stays three months things often become very difficult. (I think he said something about it being like fish left out for three days!). We love you all!
2. Farewell Reception: I always feel rather awkward to announce things about myself, but I am told that there will be a farewell reception after both the Saturday evening service and also after the Sunday 11:00 a.m. service. I am reminded of what George Washington said (at least close to the original quote) when leaving the army after the Revolutionary War: “There are too many of you for me to come to each of you; but if you would come to me, I would like to shake your hand.” I pray God’s blessings upon you all.
3. Contemporary Liturgical Worship Service: This monthly service will be this Saturday at 6:00 p.m. in the Adult Sunday School room. For a good number of years, this has been a wonderful additional service and time of fellowship for our congregation. I look forward to preaching this Saturday for this service!
4. Livestream: It was three years ago (2020) this week, that we had to close the church sanctuary in the midst of the fears of COVID-19, and we immediately began recording our services and posting them online. Everyone pulled together quickly to make it happen! Initially, Vicar Westerbur and I would simply preach to an empty sanctuary (What a strange feeling that was!), and it was recorded on a cell phone and uploaded online for later viewing. On Easter Sunday we progressed to livestreaming the service for the first time! The Lord faithfully brought us through those very difficult months amid many challenges. I am so glad that we have continued the live stream ever since, as it has been an ongoing blessing to so many people along the way!
5. Two on Tuesday: On November 17, 2016, I wrote the first “Two on Tuesday.” A couple of weeks later, I thought to myself, “What have I done? I will not have something to write about every week!” However, over these past 6 ½ years, I have found this a meaningful way to communicate with you on so many matters of our spiritual and congregational life together. I’m thankful to have had this opportunity!
6. Snow: Honestly, I’m not a big fan of snow in March. However, it does remind me of one of my favorite verses, “Come now, let us reason together says the Lord, though your sins are as scarlet, they shall be white as snow, though they are like crimson, they shall be as wool.”
7. St. Patrick: This Friday is St. Patrick’s Day. He is one of my favorite heroes in church history! His life (AD 389-460) is also a testimony of how fast the early church grew and spread throughout the Roman Empire and around the world, as well as to Patrick’s personal testimony of faith. I have included his life story, as written by Chuck Colson in a 2006 BreakPoint commentary production, along with a concluding prayer that is attributed to him. (They are at the very end of this Two on Tuesday, in case this was not long enough!)
8. Wednesday sermon: Title: “Thank God for Our Suffering Savior”
Text: Psalm 95:1-9
9. Sunday sermon: Title: “Farewell: Blessings and Prayers”
Text: Philippians :1-11, 27-30
“And now may the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.”
Patrick was born in Roman Britain to a middle-class family in about AD 390. When Patrick was a teenager, marauding Irish raiders attacked his home. Patrick was captured, taken to Ireland, and sold to an Irish king, who put him to work as a shepherd.
In his excellent book, “How the Irish Saved Civilization,” Thomas Cahill describes the life Patrick lived. Cahill writes, “The work of such slave-shepherds was bitterly isolated, months at a time spent alone in the hills.”
Patrick had been raised in a Christian home, but he didn’t really believe in God. But now—hungry, lonely, frightened, and bitterly cold—Patrick began seeking out a relationship with his heavenly Father. As he wrote in his Confessions, “I would pray constantly during the daylight hours” and “the love of God . . . surrounded me more and more.”
Six years after his capture, God spoke to Patrick in a dream, saying, “Your hungers are rewarded. You are going home. Look—your ship is ready.”
What a startling command! If he obeyed, Patrick would become a fugitive slave, constantly in danger of capture and punishment. But he did obey—and God protected him. The young slave walked nearly two hundred miles to the Irish coast. There he boarded a waiting ship and traveled back to Britain and his family.
But, as you might expect, Patrick was a different person now, and the restless young man could not settle back into his old life. Eventually, Patrick recognized that God was calling him to enter a monastery. In time, he was ordained as a priest, then as a bishop.
Finally—thirty years after God had led Patrick away from Ireland—He called him back to the Emerald Isle as a missionary.
The Irish of the fifth century were a pagan, violent, and barbaric people. Human sacrifice was commonplace. Patrick understood the danger and wrote: “I am ready to be murdered, betrayed, enslaved—whatever may come my way.”
Cahill notes that Patrick’s love for the Irish “shines through his writings . . . He [worried] constantly for his people, not just for their spiritual but for their physical welfare.”
Through Patrick, God converted thousands. Cahill writes, “Only this former slave had the right instincts to impart to the Irish a New Story, one that made sense of all their old stories and brought them a peace they had never known before.” Because of Patrick, a warrior people “lay down the swords of battle, flung away the knives of sacrifice, and cast away the chains of slavery.”
As it is with many Christian holidays, Saint Patrick’s Day has lost much of its original meaning. Instead of settling for parades, cardboard leprechauns, and “the wearing of the green,” we ought to recover our Christian heritage, celebrate the great evangelist, and teach our kids about this Christian hero.
As I arise today,
may the strength of God pilot me,
the power of God uphold me,
the wisdom of God guide me.
May the eye of God look before me,
the ear of God hear me,
the word of God speak for me.
May the hand of God protect me,
the way of God lie before me,
the shield of God defend me,
the host of God save me.
May Christ shield me today.
Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit,
Christ when I stand,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.