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

Monday, September 30, 2013

The Right Scripture at the Right Time

[View from the top of a mountain in Central Pennsylvania where my dad went deer hunting every year.]

As the sun was rising above the beautiful mountain range in Central Pennsylvania a few weeks ago, I randomly opened the bible to begin my day. It opened to Psalm 125 which had these very appropriate words for my geographical setting, As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people, from this time on and for evermore.

I like to spend time at the mountains. It’s where dad took me deer hunting and where our family enjoyed summer vacations. This area is filled with God’s beauty. The early morning mountain fog, the beautiful and well kept farms, and the nearby State Park with a crystal clear lake shape my childhood memories.

That morning, when I read that bible verse about the mountains, a smile came to my face. God really does provide the right scriptures at the right time for us. As I read that verse and took in the beauty of the sun rising above the mountains, I was reminded of God’s protection and presence in my life.

We are in the middle of our church-wide “Committed to Christ: Six Key Steps to a Generous Life. The steps include prayer, bible reading, worship attendance, witnessing, financial giving, and serving. When we make a commitment to make these six steps a priority in our lives we become more aware of God’s presence.

I’m so glad that I opened the bible to Psalm 125 that morning in the mountains because God had a special message for me that day. May God bless each of you as we continue our “Committed to Christ” journey together.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Sermon (September 29) - "Have You Read It for Yourself?"


     During these Sundays in September and October, we are focusing on the key disciplines that every Christian needs to practice in order to be a fully devoted follower of Jesus Christ. Last Sunday, we talked about the importance of prayer and many of us made personal commitments in having a deeper prayer life. Today’s discipline of reading the bible is just as important.

     Many of us heard about or watched “The Bible Miniseries” on the History Channel. The first episode of that series attracted 13.1 million viewers, making it the highest entertainment broadcast of 2013. These incredible TV ratings show that the American public is interested in the Bible.

     The American Bible Society’s 2013 survey on what Americans think about the bible offers us some very positive signs. I want to share two parts of that survey with you this morning.

     As you look at the first survey, you’ll notice that 88% of Americans say that they own a bible. That’s a very high percentage.
     Notice that 80% of the people say that the bible is sacred. That’s also a pretty high percentage.
     And this is a very interesting statistic. 61% of people wish to read the bible more.  That’s encouraging. I was thinking that this percentage would be a lot smaller. Knowing that most of us want to read the bible more shows that people have a healthy curiosity about this ancient book.

     Here’s a second survey that I want to show you, also from The American Bible Study this year. This survey focuses on the Mosaic generation which would be ages 18 to 28. Notice how this younger generation scores higher than average on these particular topics about the bible.

     Now, some of the topics, you can understand why they would score higher such as parenting and dating and relationships. But notice this generation’s higher than average interest in topics such as dealing with illness/death and addressing family conflict.

     I really shouldn’t be too surprised by the results of this recent survey because the bible speaks to every area of our lives. It helps us to see that the questions we have about life and death and human interactions can be found in the pages of this holy book.

     The problem for most people isn’t that they see the bible as irrelevant. The problem is that we just don’t make reading the bible a priority in our day to day living. And that’s the reason for our focus on this very important topic. By the end of our time together today, my hope is that many of us will make a commitment to read the bible on a more consistent basis.

     One of the major challenges as to why people do not read the bible is that they find it very difficult to understand. It appears to be a very intimidating and complicated book. I totally get why people feel this way about the bible because in many ways, it is.  But that doesn’t mean that we can’t overcome some of those initial impressions.

     If we think of the bible as a compelling story from beginning to end, it might help us to read it for all it’s worth. Here’s the incredible thing about the bible – Even though it was written over a span of a thousand years, by many different authors, and written in three different languages; Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, the bible displays an incredible continuity in telling the hope-filled story of God’s desire to rescue the world from sin and death.

     If it helps any, I like to describe the plot of the bible’s storyline by using five “C’s.”

     The first “C” is Creation. In the beginning of the bible, we are told that God created the world and all that is in it and called it good. How’s that for a positive beginning to the greatest story ever told?! A loving God created this world and called it good.

     The second “C” is Corruption. Not too long after God created humanity, we messed it up by sinning against God and that’s why we live in a world that is filled with sin and death. And as we know, sin leads to all kinds of negative consequences and despair.

     The third “C” is Covenant. Thank goodness, that the bible doesn’t end with the second “C” of corruption or that would be a very sad and tragic ending to the biblical story. Since God is a loving God and created this world and called it good, God is bound and determined to defeat sin and death once and for all. To do this, God makes a covenant or an agreement with Abraham and later with the people of Israel. It is through this covenant that God will save and rescue the world from sin and death.

     The only problem with this part of the biblical story is that God’s people were not always faithful in living out their covenant with God. Sometimes, they would obey God and experience blessings, and other times they would break their covenant and suffer the consequences.

     Reading this part of the bible is very frustrating because just when you think that the people of God are going to finally make it, they disobey God and things unravel again.  And yet, as we read these biblical stories, we can see ourselves in these stories. We can identify with those times when we are living according to God’s designs and purposes, but we can also identify with those times when we fail to be the people God has called us to be.

     And this leads us to the fourth “C” of the biblical story. Christ. Since God’s people were not able to live out their end of the covenant, God sent Jesus Christ to do what we were unable to do for ourselves. When Jesus was dying on the cross and said, “It is finished,” he was basically saying, “I have fulfilled the covenant that God made to rescue the world from sin and death.” And when Jesus rose again from the tomb with a new body, a resurrected body that would never die again, he was giving us an advance sign of God’s new creation when we all of God’s people will be made new again.

     And this leads us to the fifth and final “C” of the biblical story, consummation.  Even though Jesus fulfilled God’s covenant and defeated the power of sin and death, we still live in a world that is filled with pain, brokenness, and sin. Jesus has already won the victory but we still await that time in the future when Jesus will return and heaven and earth will become one.

     This final “C” of consummation is the spoiler alert part of the biblical story. This is where the plot was heading all along when God will make all things new.

     And at the very end of the last book of the Bible, the Book of Revelation, we are told that when this time comes which is the ultimate Christian hope, death will be no more, mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away. All of God’s people will be reunited in worship and praise and we will feast at a great heavenly banquet.

     But until that time of final consummation, God has sent us the Holy Spirit to empower and equip us to be the people God has called us to be. We, the committed followers of Jesus Christ, the church, are called to share this good news with our community and world through both word and deed. That’s why we exist as the church, to share the good news of Christ and offer God’s healing love to every situation we encounter.

     So, in just these past couple of minutes, we heard the main storyline of the bible by thinking about the five “C’s” – Creation, Corruption, Covenant, Christ, and Consummation. And whenever you read the bible, it’s good to keep these five “C’s” in mind because these five “C’s” are interwoven throughout the bible.

     They set the overall context of any particular scripture passage you may be reading at the time. These five “C’s” remind us of where we are located in the larger biblical story. They help us to not be intimidated by this ancient writing consisting of sixty-six books since there is a riveting plot line from the Book of Genesis and all of the way to the Book of Revelation.

     The second challenge for us is to make reading the bible a priority in our lives. While it’s easy to say that we believe the bible is an important book, we sometimes just don’t make the time to read it on a consistent basis for ourselves.

     The good news is that there are a number of modern bible translations that make the bible easier to read. The translation that we use here in worship, The New Revised Standard Version is an excellent modern translation. The important thing is to have your own personal bible, one that you can read and understand.

     We’re all busy people, so it’s important to have a routine where we read the bible on a consistent basis. The more of the bible we read, the more we will open ourselves to what God wants to say to us. Sometimes God has a comforting and reassuring word for us. Other times, God wants to challenge us or help us to see things in a new way. When we read the bible, it’s always good to pray, “Lord, help me to hear what you are saying to me today as I read your Word.”

     The Upper Room bible reading devotional is a great resource to read the bible on a daily basis. Each day contains a scripture passage, a brief story connected to the reading, and a concluding prayer focus and thought for the day.

     You may want to simply choose a book in the bible like the Gospel of Mark and read a chapter a day. Or you may want to make it a routine to read the scripture lessons we will be using for the upcoming Sunday in worship. There are many ways to read the bible on a consistent basis.

     I continue to be amazed at how the several biblical authors over the course of several centuries were able to add their parts to the unfolding drama of God’s salvation history and how it all fits together.  It’s just remarkable. And we get to read this book and allow it to guide us and give us hope in our day to day living.

     No wonder the Apostle Paul instructed young Timothy with these words from our scripture reading this morning – “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it, and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”

     Tim Binkley, a member of our church loves to read and study the bible. Let’s watch this video of Tim sharing what the bible means to him.

           I invite us to turn to our commitment slip that is in your bulletin. It’s on reading the bible and you can see the various commitments that are listed there. I’m going to read these possible responses.
·       No, I am not ready to make a commitment today.
·       No, I am not ready to start, but I want to with all my heart.
·       Yes, I will read the Bible sometimes.
·       Yes, I will read the Bible frequently.
·       Yes, I will read the Bible on a daily schedule…and I am ready for a structured plan of Bible reading. (Check a plan below)
___The Upper Room Devotional (print copy & online)
___Read scripture readings for upcoming Sunday worship
___Read a book from the Old Testament
___Read a book from the New Testament
___ Other Plan
·       Yes, I will sign up for a weekly small group/bible study
·       Yes, I will attend a weekly Sunday School class
·       Reading the Bible will be a priority in my life, growing to include the following:

     I will strive for my daily life to reflect the teachings of the Bible. I will surround my family and friends with Scripture. Through reading the Bible, I will find strength, power, and direction to face the week.

      As you complete your commitment slip, remember to complete both sides of the slip. You’ll need to tear off where you see the dotted line. Keep the left side of the slip and we are invited to place the rights side of the slip in one of the covenant baskets nearest you. There are baskets down front here and there are baskets up in the balcony.

     I want you to know that we will give these commitments utmost care. We’ll have somebody who is very trustworthy collect these just so that we can be aware of the commitments that are being made today.

     I think we’re ready. May God bless you during this sacred time of commitment.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Sunday Worship Preview - October 13

Sunday, October 13 - (9:00, & 10:30 Services) & Wednesday, October 16  (6:30 pm Casual Service @ Crossroads, 2095 Fair Avenue)

Sermon - "You Shall Be My Witnesses"

Features - 21st Sunday After Pentecost & 5th Sunday of Church-Wide 40 Day "Committed to Christ" Focus

Scripture - Colossians 4:5-6 & Matthew 28:19-20

Theme - If we want to be committed to Christ,there are six vital areas in which we need to give our time and focus. Each of these areas will help us to become faithful disciples of Jesus Christ. One of these areas is in our commitment to witnessing and sharing our faith.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Dave's Deep Thoughts - Congratulations, Pittsburgh Pirates!

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.

It has been said that "good things come to those who wait".
I just never thought that would include an eye patch and a puffy shirt.

I am a fan of many sports.
Not only am I am fan,
I would like to think that I am a loyal fan.
I don't jump ship when my team struggles.

There is something to be said
for going through the rough times with your team.
It makes the good times even sweeter.
If that's true,
then this season is sweeter than an extra spoonful of sugar in southern sweet tea.

Since my childhood,
I have rooted for one baseball team.
While not mentioning any names,
let's just say if my team was on The Dating Game
and was asked what they liked to do in their spare time,
 plundering on the high seas,
and watching people walk the plank,
would rank right up there.

When I was young,
my team did well,
winning two world series titles and several
league and divisional championships.
Even if they didn't win a title in a given year,
you could count on them to be in contention.
It was easy to be a fan back in the day.

Then 1992 came.
The league championship series.
The seventh and deciding game.
Bottom of the 9th inning.
My team was leading 2-0 and on the verge of going to the World Series.
The opposing team scored a run
and had the bases loaded with two outs.
Then the roof fell in on my team.
A base hit scored the tying and winning runs,
the winning run barely beating the tag of the catcher.

That was it.

I don't mean that was it for the year.
That was it for a generation.
Since that fateful bottom of the 9th meltdown,
my team has proceeded to rack up 20 consecutive losing seasons.

To put it in perspective,
no other team in American professional sports,
including hockey, basketball, and football
has ever gone 20 years without posting at least one winning season.

My team has.

That would make them the worst team in all of sports.

To put in perspective how long ago that was.....

"The Silence of the Lambs" was the big winner at the Academy Awards.
Natalie Cole cleaned up at the Grammy Awards.
Johnny Carson made his final appearance on "The Tonight Show"
Kurt Cobain married Courtney Love.
President George H.W. Bush took ill and vomited at a state dinner in Japan.
The city of Los Angeles became more famous for its riots than its movie stars.

To put it in more modern terms,
the last time the guys on "Duck Dynasty" shaved was when my team lost the pennant.

There were babies born in my team's city, 
who have since gone to college 
and have never seen the team win.

The Boston Red Sox and Chicago White Sox
who have carried two of the longest streaks of not winning the World Series
have since done so.

A lot has happened in my life in those twenty years.
Loss of a parent,
terrorist attacks on the country,
the economic implosion.
I have one less appendix now,
and more gray hair than I care to admit......

But one thing didn't change,
I continued to root for my team.

On Monday, September 9th, in the year of our Lord 2013,
my team won 1-0 for their 82nd win of the season,
thus clinching a winning season.

The earth didn't move that day.
There was no solar eclipse,
and Jesus didn't choose to come back that day.

But on September 9th,
I raised the glass with a group of friends,
with the rallying cry,
"I am not a loser!"

Yesterday, my team won its 90th game
and clinched a spot in the playoffs.

There are things in life
where the only answer is to wait......
and waiting is often not easy
especially if you have a Type A personality like me.

I have heard brothers and sisters in the faith say,
"God helps those who help themselves."
Many quote this well-known phrase as if it was Scripture.
But this phrase is no where to be found in the Bible.
In fact, the sentiment of this phrase is the exact opposite
of the message of the Scriptures.

Time and time again, God's people are called to wait upon the Lord.
That's difficult to understand exactly what that means.
Does that mean we do nothing?
I've known people who are so non-motivated,
their lives are train wrecks.

I think that waiting on the Lord starts with prayer.
Prayer can include an element of waiting,
like waiting for Him  to show you that job you want,
or waiting for Him to reveal to you your future spouse.

But that's not the waiting I think God wants from us.
I have realized that often my prayers
did not reveal a satisfaction with God,
but a dissatisfaction with Him.
I have often prayed my agenda to God,
as if to say that my plans are wiser and better than His.
I have prayed as if I do not trust Him.

I have found that when I pray without an agenda,
my anxieties about life cease.
And when my prayer simply becomes waiting on God,
I come to a place of "being" rather than just "waiting.

Many would say that waiting means doing nothing.
For me, waiting means allowing your soul to grow up.
If you can't be still and wait,
you can't be become all that God created you to be.

My team grew up this year,
after many years of waiting.
After many years of trying quick fixes,
someone in the team's hierarchy took the time
to wait and see what needed to change in order for the team to win.

Good things do come to those who wait upon the Lord.
Now I just hope I look good wearing an eye patch and a puffy shirt this October.

Wait for the Lord;
Be strong, and let your heart take courage;
Yes, wait for the Lord.
                                Psalm 27:14

Sunday Worship Scripture Commentary - September 29

September 29 Sermon – “Have You Read It for Yourself?”

II Timothy 3:10-17
Unlike the other letters of the Apostle Paul which are addressed to whole churches, the Pastoral Letters were written to specific individuals including Timothy and Titus. In our
II Timothy reading for today, Paul reminds young Timothy that all scripture is inspired by God.

The key word in this passage is “inspired.” It literally means, “God breathed.” The scriptures are alive because God has breathed life into them. The word, “inspired” is probably not the best word to use since it doesn’t convey the deeper meaning that God has breathed life into the scriptures.

What can the scriptures do for us?
1) V. 15 – It can make us wise not merely in terms of factual knowledge but living according to God’s purposes.
2) V. 16 – It can teach and rebuke us. Rebuke is a negative word but the scriptures do help us to live the way God wants us to live.
3) V. 16 – For correction (improvement)
4) V. 16 – Train you in righteousness. Righteousness is a combination of God’s goodness and justice.

The result of all of the above is to make us complete (V. 17.) This means that we will live out who God created us to be.

Matthew 7:24-29
In today's Gospel reading from Matthew, Jesus concludes his teachings on the Sermon on the Mount with a short parable about a storm where one house is able to remain standing and the other house falls down. By obeying God's Word, we will be able to stand against any storm.

Matthew’s Gospel is divided into five sections reminding us of the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament to show that Jesus is the new Moses and even greater than Moses!

The Sermon on the Mount reminds us of Moses on Mt. Sinai.

The parable of the two houses are a warning that we need to obey God’s Word so that we can withstand the storms of life.

“Built on a rock” was referring to the Temple which had been built on a rock. Instead of the rock being the Temple, Jesus will build his church on the confession of faith (Peter.)

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Sermon (September 22) - "Are You Ready to Grow In Your Prayer Life?"


     Imagine this as your assignment. You are to transform the entire world, not just make it a better place, but to totally change it for good.

     You are just beginning your assignment and you know that there is no time to waste.  The world is filled with disease, sin, hate, corruption, despair, and great inequity. And it’s all up to you to change it. Are you ready to begin your mission? What will be your first move?

     Would your first move be to spend the night in prayer? That’s what Jesus decided to do. He made prayer a priority from the very beginning of his audacious divine assignment to transform the world.

     It wasn’t that Jesus didn’t have a “to do” list of a thousand things that needed to get done.  At the top of that list was that he needed to carefully select a group of individuals who would follow him every step of the way in fulfilling his mission. They would learn from him, serve in his name, and carry on the mission long after he would be gone.

     With time of the essence, Jesus chose to do something that would characterize his ministry from this point forward. He would pray.

     But why did Jesus need to pray to God? Wasn’t he divine? Wasn’t he the Son of God, the second person of the Holy Trinity?

     That’s all true. But Jesus was also fully human, fully divine and fully human both at the same time. I know it’s confusing, but it’s why we light the two candles on top of our altar every Sunday morning. The one candle represents Jesus and his full divinity and the other candle represents Jesus and his full humanity.

     And because Jesus was fully human, like us, he needed to rely on prayer. He needed to set aside time in a noisy world so that he would be able to hear God’s voice. He needed to take time to think and pray before taking his next big step. He needed to consult the One who had sent him, especially with so much on the line.

     And Luke, the gospel writer tells us that after that night of prayer, Jesus was ready to chose twelve people who would become his inner circle of disciples; Simon whom he named Peter, and his brother Andrew, and James, and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James son of Alphaeus, and Simon who was called the Zealot, and Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot.

     Today, our focus is on growing in our prayer life. Are you ready to grow in your prayer life?

     One of the reasons that prayer is so important is because we were all meant to have a relationship with God. Prayer is what enables us to have a conversation with God where we listen to what God wants to say to us and where we share our thoughts with God.

    I like that definition of prayer. Prayer is having a conversation with God. If prayer is having a conversation with God, then it’s something we can do on a regular basis. The Apostle Paul tells us to “Rejoice always and pray without ceasing.”

     I used to have trouble with that phrase, “pray without ceasing.” How is that even possible? Maybe you have heard someone say something like, “It’s been a year since she died, and there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think of her.” It’s when I hear people say things like that that I realize that it is possible to pray without ceasing. We tend to think about the people and the things in our lives that we hold dear to our hearts. Someone once said that prayer is simply practicing the presence of God.

     So how are you doing at practicing the presence of God in your life? If prayer is meant to be that natural and easy, then why do we sometimes struggle with prayer?

     A while back, Penny and I went to one of those huge home improvement stores. We were buying window blinds.

     We had a particular color, style, and price range in mind and we were getting frustrated because we couldn’t seem to find exactly what we were hoping to find. Just when I thought we found the right type of blinds, Penny would say something like, “I like this a lot, but it’s way too expensive.”

     Annoyed that she wasn’t going to just buy it, I said in a not so loving voice, “Well, I told you that this type of blind over here is probably our best choice.” And she would say, “No, we need to keep on looking.”  “But we’ve already looked up and down this aisle,” I said very impatiently.

     Just then, we heard what seemed like a voice from heaven saying, “Can I help you?” We both looked up. There, standing on some scaffolding directly above us was an employee who had been stocking the upper shelves. She had been there the whole time and we didn’t know it. She had to have heard every word of our conversation and she probably enjoyed listening to our little husband and wife argument over which blinds to buy. At least we didn’t say any bad words during our disagreement!

     Before we knew it, this employee had climbed down from the scaffolding and said, “I think I know what you’re looking for.” Just like that, she helped us pick out the right kind of blinds and at a really good price. She smiled and sent us on our way as happy and satisfied customers.

     I wonder if this is how our prayer lives are sometimes. We go about our day to day activities and when we hit a snag, we don’t even think about looking up for God to help us. And all the time, God was listening in and waiting for us to finally ask for help.

     What are some ways that can help us look up more often and grow in our prayer lives?

     I think the first way is to actually schedule prayer time into our daily calendar. I can’t imagine beginning my day without some sort of prayer time. Spend a few moments before you get started with your day and invite God to guide and lead you in all that you do. We don’t exactly know what the day may hold for us, but we do know that God wants to guide us through each moment. We also know that God has the best in mind for us.

     The second way to look up more often and grow in our prayer lives is to pray existing prayers. Spontaneous prayers are wonderful but so are prayers that have been prayed by other people. You may even want to pray the opening prayer that is found in the Sunday 9:00 am bulletin each week. Try praying that prayer each morning before beginning your day. That prayer will remind you of our Sunday worship theme and it will also be a source of strength for you during the week.

     A third way to look up more often and grow in our prayer lives is to remember the ACTS acronym for prayer. You can include these four letters all into one prayer or you can have prayers for each individual letter. It’s really simple.

     The letter “A” stands for adoration. Prayer is a great opportunity to offer our adoration and praise of God’s love and faithfulness in our lives. During the day, you may just want to pause and say, “Dear God, I adore and praise you for who you are.”

     The letter “C” stands for confession. It’s good for us to confess to God where we have sinned and where we have not been the person that God has called us to be. Just remember, when we confess our sins, God stands ready to forgive us and help us to begin anew. God is gracious and forgiving.

     The letter “T” stands for thanksgiving. This is probably one of my favorite aspects of prayer because there are so many things for which to be thankful. As these moments of thanksgiving come to your mind during the day, just say a prayer of thanks to God for these blessings.

     The letter “S” stands for supplication. Supplication is when we pray for others and ourselves. When we say that we will pray for someone, I like to pray as soon as possible so that I won’t forget. And don’t forget to let God know of your own needs. God loves us and cares about us.

     The acronym, “ACTS” can help us to look up more often and grow in our prayer lives.

     Bob and Marty Lambert, members of our church, have a powerful testimony about how prayer made a difference in their family relationships. Let’s watch.

     I invite us to turn to our commitment card today. It’s on prayer and you can see the various commitments that are listed there. I’m going to read these possible responses. You can choose more than one of these responses.

·       Today, I’m not ready to make a commitment to pray.
·       Beginning today, I will pray when I am in a worship service.
·       Beginning today, I will pray every time I am facing a difficult decision.
·       Beginning today, I will try to pray daily.
·       Beginning today, I will pray daily, using a devotional guide.
·       Beginning today, I will pray daily, remembering the ACTS approach to prayer shared in the sermon.
·       Beginning today, I will pray daily, setting aside fifteen minutes for daily devotional time.
·       Prayer will be a priority in my life, growing to include the following:

     I will surround my family and friends with prayer. I will surround my church with prayer. Through prayer, I will find strength, power, and direction to face the week. Through prayer I will trust God with my life, my family, my job, my finances, and my immediate and eternal future. Through prayer, I will learn to love God with all my heart and to love my neighbor.

     I want to give us a couple of minutes to be in quiet and choose one or more of these options that best describe where you are in your prayer life. I’m going to fill out my card and sign it and I invite you to do so as well. Just take a minute or two. I’ll give you enough time.

     When you’ve completed your card, you can tear off your copy to take home with you and we are invited to place the other half in one of the covenant baskets nearest you. There are baskets down front here and there are baskets up in the balcony.

     I want you to know that we will give these cards utmost care. We’ll have somebody who is very trustworthy collect the cards just so that we can be aware of the commitments that are being made today.

     I think we’re ready. May God bless you during this sacred time of commitment.