A United Methodist Pastor's Theological Reflections

"But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory (nikos) through our Lord Jesus Christ." - I Corinthians 15:57

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Dave's Deep Thoughts - Begin & End with a Bang!

Here's Pastor Dave McDowell's weekly devotional that he sends out to members of his church. Dave is my brother and serves as the Music Minister at Stewartstown UMC in PA.

Some like to begin with a bang.
Personally, I prefer to end with a bang.
Just check to see if it is legal in your local municipality.

I love officiating weddings.
It is one of my favorite things to do as a pastor,
especially if I have a close relationship to the families involved.

There is quite a checklist for all the details of a wedding…..
premarital counseling, planning the service,
preparing a message for the couple,
making sure the building is ready to receive all the guests,
setting off illegal fireworks……..

It was a May wedding
that involved a family with whom I am close friends.

The wedding was to be in the sanctuary,
but the reception was to be held at a pastoral setting in the country
overlooking a pond.

Fine farm folk.

In a covert meeting to plan the reception,
it was decided that a surprise fireworks show at dusk over the pond
would be a great touch to the reception.

The cousins were to be in charge of the unauthorized fireworks display.

This involved the purchase of out-of-state fireworks
that would be transported across state lines.
As the resident pastor,
I volunteered to only pray for this operation,
as I felt it would be difficult to officiate a wedding from behind bars.

Three days before the wedding,
a trial run at dusk was planned to perfect the black market operation.
Of the 4 cousins in charge, only three showed up.
Unfortunately, the absentee was the commander in chief.
Having served in the military, he was the obvious choice to
lead the civilian forces in illegal wedding reception fireworks maneuvers.

His absence necessitated a change in the pecking order.
Originally, I was designated as the assistant to the assistant inventory manager.
But the absence of the commander in chief
forced my promotion to assistant to the assistant of  ignitions.

I gasped as I realized the consequences of this fallout.
I would now be touching the fireworks.

As a pianist who values having all ten fingers,
I absorbed the reality of such a risk.
I resigned that sometimes being a pastor just puts you in the line of fire.

The wedding day arrived, a gorgeous spring day.
The wedding service went flawlessly.
The reception ensued.
There was great merriment among all the guests
as food, drink, and dance celebrated the newlyweds.

As dusk approached,
I did what any self-respecting pastor would do…..
I went home and changed into my all black combat fatigues.

When I arrived at the launch pad,
I was immediately spotted by several folks in the reception.
Evidently wearing all black at a wedding draws MORE attention
than not wearing all black.
It was then that I realized the folly of my planning.
If it had been fireworks at a funeral,
I would have easily blended into the crowd.
I made a mental note for future illegal fireworks events

The three responsible cousins were all present and accounted for.
Lacking the cousin who actually knew how to set off fireworks,
we scrambled to plan our assault upon the reception.
I found that this is made more difficult when it is nighttime
you can’t see anything, and you realize you should have brought a flashlight.

Just as we were ready to launch the visual assault upon the reception,
the former commander in chief approached……
shirtless and smoking a large stogie.
The General Patton cousin had arrived.

As a humble assistant to the assistant of ignitions,
I questioned the wisdom of having a lit cigar while lighting fireworks,
but since I didn’t take that class in seminary, I remained quiet.

General Patton was not pleased that in his absence
he had been demoted to assistant to the assistant inventory manager.
He quickly usurped his role as commander in chief
and called for ignition.

I have never been in a foxhole,
and after this wedding I know I never want to be.
Under pressure, I confessed that I did not know what I was doing.
This was likely not a shock to any of the cousins.
I was then given one piece of advice…..
when you light the mortar, run away as quickly as you can.

In moments, the sky was consumed with parachutes, flying spinners,
roman candles, firecrackers, and go getters.
The bride and groom, surrounded by friends and family oooed and awwwed
as the sky lit up illegally announcing their marriage.

General Patton barked out orders,
I, the assistant to the assistant of  ignitions manager, simply ignited and ran.

Sometimes you begin your journey with a bang,
but how much better it is to end it with a bang.

For each couple that I marry,
I pray that their love will be the richest in their last days, not their first days.

For those I encounter who are new and young in the faith,
I pray that through the years
they will dig a deep spiritual well from which to draw.

For those who are lost and wandering through life,
I pray that they find the One who is the answer to all of life’s questions.

That is what life is for,
to discover who we are in Christ,
and to live out the purposes that He has for us.

Colossians1:16b puts it this way….

“Everything got started in Him
and finds its purpose in Him”
                                  (The Message version)

It’s great to start with a bang,
but how much better it is to end with a bang.
Make sure you are headed for a big bang.

And don’t forget during the journey
to grab some cake along the way,
even if you are in black fatigues.

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