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September 2023 Tidings from Bethlehem

“At an acceptable time, I have listened to you,

And on a day of salvation, I have helped you.

See now is the acceptable time; see now is the day of salvation!” – 2 Corinthians 6:2

I know this might sound a little silly, but do you ever wish you could inhabit a different era? I continue to hear more of the faithful talk about how much better it was back in the “good ole days.” If you would be willing to go back to the “good ole days,” perhaps I could talk you into another idealized time. Would you hop in the proverbial time machine and embrace another epoch? While you consider the question, play along with me for a moment.

The study of theology has been such a big part of my life. What would it have been like back in the glory days, in the 40’s and 50’s when the likes of Barth, Niebuhr, and Tillich were gracing the cover of Time magazine. What a time that must have been, when a thinker like C.S. Lewis simply could not write books fast enough to satisfy the general public’s appetite. It literally gives me chills to think of sitting in on their lectures.

But then, I pause, and I realize… so much of what these great 20th century thinkers were saying was just a commentary on Saint Paul. The power of God’s grace, the importance of Christian community, and the call to service are the recurring themes in Paul’s epistles. So, maybe that’s the time that I’d really like to inhabit. Togas aren’t so bad. And I could get accustomed to the sandals if it meant that I got to hear what Paul said outside the Areopagus. How magnificent to be there that night Paul went on so long, that a boy fell asleep, tumbled out the window, and then had to be brought back to life. (Acts 20:9-12) I would never have fallen asleep! My theological nerdiness would have been fully engaged… actually, no, wait… as it turns out, scholars believe coffee wasn’t introduced into that region of the world until 675. In that case, my level of attentiveness might have been severely compromised. In fact, if there was no coffee at that time, why not just go back to the source.

I would never presume to have been one of the twelve, but I can assure you, I am “nebby” enough, I would have wanted to see and hear this Jesus of Nazareth character that was making such a commotion. And perhaps I could have been there the day the beatitudes burst forth from the mouth of God incarnate. Maybe I could have nibbled on one of the multiplied loaves with the rest of the 5000. Can you imagine having the privilege of sharing in the post-resurrection stroll to Emmaus with the risen Christ? What a time!

But alas… that was then, and this is now. That was their time, and this is ours. And as I consider all this glorious history, evidence suggests God has been powerfully present in all of it. And if we can be so taken with what God has been up to, then we should be no less enthusiastic about what God is currently up to. And that my friends, is what “Rally Day” is all about. Sure, it’s a return to a full calendar, but beyond the inauguration of a robust programmatic year, this is a day to be truly grateful for our opportunity to play our part in God’s story of redemption. So, I’ll see you on September 10th, and then of course in the momentous and memorable weeks and months that will unfold before us. What a time we’re going to have!

Yours in Christ,

Pastor Dan

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