Apparently there's a 'color of the year.' If 2021 had a word of the year, what would it be? Join me as we begin an exploration of anxiety, and how God and his Scripture can lead us from anxiety to hope.
Application: Paul Tautges, pastor and counselor, in his devotional 'Anxiety - Knowing God's Peace' suggests making a 'care list' - all those things that weigh on our minds and hearts - and turning it into our 'prayer list.' A good, practical idea!
Music Today: 'The Road, the Rocks, and the Weeds', John Mark McMillan. One of last year's finest CCM songs, this is one of the few I know that draws on the Parable of the Sower and points us to the One who is able to walk through the thicket of cares to reach us.
'A Million Stars', IonaThis Scottish band produced a number of classic albums, my favorite being 'An Open Sky', based on the life and ministry of Columba. My favorite music for late night driving, and a reminder of God's peace.
JS Bach, 'Dona Nobis Pacem' (Grant Us Peace), B Minor MassJust as Jesus recapitulates some of his titles at the end of Revelation, so Bach brings back this melody to complete what I believe is the greatest musical composition in history. The melody has a combination of strength and joy that I find incredibly beautiful.
'O Beautiful, for patriot dream, that sees beyond the years. . . ' toward what? A bigger tidal wave? Join me for a jolt of hope from the beginning of Revelation 22.
Music Today: 'Higher' by Creed.Long ago in a band far, far away, I could cover U2 songs in a passable fashion. Those days are long gone, but my Scott Stapp imitation still held up. One of my favorite worship band memories from a few years back was preparing a cover of this for a youth retreat when several members of the NA chapter meeting in the church came up to check it out. Also memories of shouting this out with the roof down in the Eclipse with my then high-school aged daughter. It's that kind of joy - and much more! - we're headed for.
'Shadowfeet' by Brooke FraserIf I had to put a list of 20 songs to encourage my Christian walk together, this would be one of them. Fraser takes an idea from CS Lewis' classics on heaven and hell 'The Great Divorce' and 'The Weight of Glory' and marries it to Revelation 21-22. A far more important question than 'What's in your wallet?' is 'What's in your eternity?'
Revelation puts us neck deep in some of the scariest and most challenging calls to faith in the entire Bible. That's what makes the final turn to the closing chapters so exhilarating. Let's take a few minutes together with the 'wedding day' of God with his people in 21:1-5
Music Today: "I Will Move On Up a Little Higher", Mahalia Jackson. Any musical selections for this letter that don't include the greatest gospel singer of all time would be a mistake. Here Mahalia - the woman who exhorted Martin Luther King to drop his notes and 'tell them about the dream' to create his most famous speech - sings of 'trading her cross in for a crown' as she moves toward glory.
Les Miserable - Finale One of the most famous 'heaven meets earth' endings comes with Les Mis, where 'swords are turned into plowshares' (Isa. 2:3-4). Les Mis also reminds us that trusting in Christ for our salvation is necessary to rejoice 'when tomorrow comes.'
if you were to die tonight, and find yourself standing before God, and God were to ask you, 'Why should I let you enjoy eternal life with me?' what would you say? Revelation 20 directly faces this most important of questions with the most important of books. P.S. While we still have the original communion table of the church, the original communion plates are enjoying a new round of service in two new church plants: among the Susu and Kuranko tribes in Sierra Leone. God is good!
Music Today: 'Dies Irae' (Day of Wrath), Verdi RequiemThe most riveting 2 1/2 minutes of live music I've ever experienced, with the Pittsburgh Symphony. All the air in the hall was sucked out and compressed into the bass drum.
Phoebe Bridgers, 'Chinese Satellite'. Perhaps Larry Norman's 'I Wish We'd all Been Ready' should go here, a 1969 classic song of the end of the world from a pre-millennial reading of this chapter, and a song that launched the Contemporary Christian Music movement, but this 2020 song from a outstanding debut songwriter describes a young atheist hoping she can discover belief in God. A verse about 'screaming at the evangelicals' provides some thought on our skill - or lack of it - in pointing accurately to the Lamb of God.
Andrew Peterson, 'Remember Me'. Faced with eternal separation from God in the lake of fire, and faced with our sins and shortcomings, perhaps even as Christ-followers, what remedy do we have? Let's join in with the words from the thief on the cross at Jesus' side. Christmas and Easter are never far from each other theologically.
As we near the climax of the Advent season in 2020 with the celebration of Christmas and the
coming of Jesus, we are also living with the challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic have
brought to us in Western Pennsylvania. Your Session and I, your Pastor have prayed, conferred,
debated, and finally arrived at a decision for our worship life together during the next few
weeks that we believe will provide the appropriate balance of physical, spiritual, and emotional
support, understanding that the Lord continues to be in control of our world and our lives as He
always has been.
Here’s our plan for each of our services from December 13 through January 3:
DECEMBER 13: 10:30 worship in the sanctuary, with masks worn through the service.
The service will be streamed online via YouTube at www.cupepc.org.
DECEMBER 20: 10:30 worship in the sanctuary with masks worn through the service.
We will be offering our traditional Christmas Eve LESSONS AND CAROLS service at this time, in a
shortened format, and Communion will NOT be included as a part of the service this year.
The service will also be streamed online via YouTube at www.cupepc.org.
We will have some very special guests reading our Scripture Lessons ‘virtually’, so please join us
one way or the other!
DECEMBER 24: WE WILL BE OFFERING A PARKING LOT WORSHIP SERVICE at 4 PM.
The format of the service is to be determined, but we will broadcast through a radio transmitter
so everyone can keep their windows up! We plan on providing a variation on our candlelight
conclusion that will be meaningful as we celebrate Jesus’ birth and look with joy to his return.
Come ready to sing! Visitors, as always, are welcome!
DECEMBER 27 AND JANUARY 3: We will be streaming the worship service at 10:30, but worship
will be ONLINE ONLY. (www.cupepc.org) Only those directly involved in leading worship will be
allowed in the building.
We pray that the current wave of virus cases will wane, and we look forward to being together
in an easier way as soon as it is prudent to do so. Our final decision in how to conduct these
services wasn’t unanimous, but all of us as Ruling and Teaching Elders are able to support it,
and believe the Lord has good plans and purposes for us as we reach out in His name in these
days. God bless you all, and we look forward to worshipping our Lord with you now and
throughout the New Year.