We have returned from our visit to Oregon and settled back into our routine and Bethel Church and Bittersweet Farm. Though we need rain, it has been delightful weather of late and I’ve been working in my loft over the Carriage House. The other evening I saw a Northern Flicker for the first time. They are common but I had never seen them before. A flash of yellow under the wings and their unique pattern of color captured my attention as the unusual woodpeckers hopped along the ground eating supper.
A friend of mine (Dr. David Parsons) says, “…a flicker is a bird that could only be drawn by a kindergartener or created by God. What sensible adult would dream to give this guy a mustache, a polka-dotted belly, red splotches on his head, a white rump spot, a triangular black bib, a striped back and super bright yellow feathers under the wings and tail.”
That is why we call Him, “Our Great Creator.” Anyway I like to work in the loft when I can. I’m closer to the birds out here and if it rains it will ring on the roof like music.
A Small Circle of Love
It is the prerogative of storytellers to repeat their best stories. So you will understand if you remember this story from the Bethel Pulpit a few weeks ago. Maybe you have heard me mention watching the movie “A Man Called Peter,” and reading the book with the same title. It is an inspiring true story of a Scottish immigrant who lost his father in his youth. He came to America and eventually became the pastor the of the New York Street Presbyterian Church in Washington D.C. and chaplain of the Senate. They say his sermons were powerful.
The church was weak when he came but soon the auditorium was filled to capacity and the choir loft and the balcony. In one scene people waited in the rain to hear the young Scotsman’s prosaic sermons delivered in his musical native dialect.
It’s dangerous for pastors to read books and watch movies like that. Few of us will ever preach to great crowds or be assigned to positions of power and prestige. It can ruin a man to expect it. It is good to have holy ambition and attempt great things for God, but it is as important to be faithful and fruitful in all the small daily assignments we are given and leave the scale and scope of our ministry ultimately to the Lord.
I love the story Fred Craddock tells of the baptism at Watts Barr Lake in Tennessee. After the outdoor baptism a small circle of Christians stood around the fire and each one introduced himself and offered his unique way of serving. Craddock said that they have a name for what in the mountains. They call it “Church.”
We may wait for years and years for the moon and stars to align in a way that people will line up in the rain and pack the church all the way to the balcony, but this very week we can gather with a few around the fire and listen and love and care and follow the Jesus way.
You may not draw a great crowd, but you can find someone to love and so can I. Before I went to the study this morning I stopped at the Hospice facility, there I found a precious soul eager to talk about eternal things. One of our members introduced us. He had given him a Bible and the man was reading it when I arrived. He was hungry for God and soon he prayed for forgiveness. He was confident of eternal life before I left.
He now warms his hands at the Lord’s fire. He is a brother and soon he will see the face of Jesus. Let’s build a fire of love and faithfully tend it for the sake of Christ and all who will gather there.