Holy Week Friday

Greetings, members and friends of Saint Paul!
 
Welcome to the most somber day of Holy Week as we celebrate Good Friday.  About now someone will probably ask just why it is that we use that term,  Good Friday….  After all, an innocent man, our Lord, Jesus Christ, was falsely tried, convicted, and murdered on this day.  It is truly hard to see much good about that!
 
It is interesting to me that no one knows precisely what the origins of the term are.  The Catholic Encyclopedia notes that:
The origin of the term Good is not clear. Some say it is from “God’s Friday” (Gottes Freitag); others maintain that it is from the German Gute Freitag, and not specially English. Sometimes, too, the day was called Long Friday by the Anglo-Saxons; so today in Denmark.
 
Well perhaps….  It is also interesting to me that in other quarters of the Church it is known as Holy Friday or Great Friday.  Whatever we wish to call it, there are certainly some incredibly good things that came out of the events which occurred on that terribly Friday in history.
 
David, in Psalm 34:6 says,  “I sought the LORD, and He answered me,  And delivered me from all my fears.”  For me, this verse is pivotal own my own understanding of just what Christ has accomplished for us.  It reminds me that, because of what happened that day, I can be delivered from some of my deepest fears.  Here are just a few of those ways:
 
Human Suffering:  Christ was scourged until a bloody pulp, struck repeatedly in the face,  and crowned with a crown of thorns that dug into his scalp down to his skull.
Human Degradation:  Christ was mocked as the the ‘King of the Jews’ and put on display in a purple robe.  His own religious people called for his death while clamoring for the release of Barabbas, a common criminal.  Even as he hung on the cross of his death, the criminals on each side of jeered and insult him.  Even those who had sworn to follow him even to the cross turned away. 
Human Mortality: Christ underwent physical death, with all of its finality, all of its doubt, all of its faith, all of its horror, all of its triumph.
 
Is there anything good from Good Friday?  There certainly is!  I do not believe that the criminal actions that resulted in Christ’s murder were good, not in the least.  But I do firmly believe that, because of Christ’s passion on that cross, I can face today without fear.  And I am praying that all who read this meditation will be able to as well.
 
I hope you will be emboldened to share the good news and invite at least one other person to worship with us on Sunday.  And I hope that your fears today will be nailed to the cross.  After all, If God can physically suffer, if God can be insulted and degraded, if God can truly taste death, then perhaps, you and I have a chance too. 
 
Oh and by the way…. did you know that Good Friday is not the end of the story …?
 
In Christ’s Service,
Kevin Boyd, Pastor
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Holy Week Thursday

Greetings, friends of Saint Paul!
 
Today we truly get into the heart of Holy Week.  It is a maze of busyness around the church.  It is so busy that I think we can fail to remember what the day is all about.  In fact, in his wonderful book, In The Eye Of The Storm, author Max Lucado calls this day “the second most stressful day in the life of our Savior.”  Before the morning becomes evening Jesus has reason to weep, then run, then shout, the curse, then praise, then doubt.  Think about the story:
 
– Jesus celebrated the Last Supper with His disciples before His death.That took a lot of work!
– He washed the feet of his disciple, showing an amazing example of servanthood.
– He was betrayed by one of His trusted disciples, Judas.
– After the dinner, he stayed up late to pray in the Garden of Gethsemane.
– That same garden became his place of arrest and captivity.
 
There is so very much to the story that it makes our heads swim.  However, what strikes me this morning is that, despite being so incredibly busy, Jesus took time to be a servant for you and for me.  He showed us what love really meant.
 
That kind of action does not happen accidentally.  Rather, it happened because Jesus was in constant communication with God the Father.  In the midst of everything, He prayed.  He served.  He loved.  He gave himself up.  And these things changed history.
 
What about us?  It is certainly a hectic time of year.  But somehow it is all meaningless if we do not take time to reach out to others with the Redeeming love of our Savior, Jesus.  Will we?
 
I have asked everyone who reads this to make sure we invite at least one person to worship this year.  My prayer is that each of us would touch one untouchable person with the good news.  Will you invite them?  Who knows… your act of service, whatever it may be, just might change history.
 
In Christ,
Kevin Boyd, Pastor

Holy Week Wednesday

Greetings, church family and friends!
 
It is Wednesday of Holy Week.  Unlike what I had planned for this morning, I am out of town, sitting in a fast food place working on my laptop.  My mother-in-law has been released from rehab and I am needed to to help bring her home and get set up.  What an interruption to a crazy busy week!   This was not what I had planned. As one pundit quipped:  If you want to see the Lord laugh, tell Him your plans!
 
Perhaps handling interruptions are important in our Holy Week journey.  I remember the words of one of my seminary professors who told a class of young aspiring pastors:  Never get upset about interruptions to your agenda because the interruptions just might be God’s agenda.   Perhaps…..
 
What about Jonah whose whole life was interrupted by the crazy commandment to go warn his hated enemy, the Ninevites?
 
And then again, wasn’t Jesus constantly interrupted?  Wasn’t the entire gospel the story of God interrupting our agenda of sinfulness, offering us a better way?   The birth of Jesus certainly wasn’t what was planned and expected.  In fact, it completely interrupted the life of a young girl and her fiance. The peaceful, silent night was interrupted when angels loudly announce the coming birth of the Messiah. Nor does it stop there.
 
One day Jesus was preaching a very powerful sermon when he is interrupted by a man possessed by a demon. And yet, the good news is that eventually, as the evil spirit is cast out of the man, it is the power of Satan that is interrupted.
 
Jesus, it has been said, ruined every funeral He ever attended.  He brought miraculous life into the realm of death.
 
Even Jesus’ celebration of the Passover Seder is interrupted when a person he considers a friend betrays Him for money.  Then, Jesus’ plans for prayer in the garden are interrupted by his arrest. 
 
In the end, even the sorrow and sadness of Jesus’ death and burial are frantically interrupted by the amazing, incredible news that He is risen! 
 
My friends, this is a terribly busy week for all of us.  How will you handle the interruptions that come your way?  Could it possibly be that interruptions are God’s way of injecting a better agenda into our broken lives?  May your Holy Week be filled with annoying, blessed interruptions.
 
In Christ,
Kevin Boyd
 
“For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.”   – Jeremiah 29:11

Holy Week: Tuesday

Greetings, friends and family!

When I was pastor in Gonzales, TX I discovered that I lived at the “confluence” of the Guadalupe and San Marcos rivers. These two beautiful bodies of water met in a rather spectacular fashion. At this rather wide and strong part of the river, electricity is produced, there is an ice plant, a beautiful park with camping and a golf course, and more. The streets are all designed around the irregular shape of the river. This confluence has shaped architecture and cultural events. About 14 years ago ,this meeting of two rivers produced a flood that threatened to wipe out the middle of the city, along with its courthouse and churches. In fact, it shaped the war for Texas Independence. In 1831, Mexican authorities gave the settlers of Gonzales a small cannon to help protect them from frequent Comanche raids. In 1835, due to unrest, the Mexican government thought it wise to get the canon back. The “Texians” refused and the first battle for Texas independence ensued. The canon was then hidden there in the river banks. The “Come and Take It” flag can still be widely seen today as our first state flag. This natural confluence affects each of our lives today. Not only did its strategic location create the right spot for battles with Comanches and Mexican troops, but it also could be argued that this geographical feature is a primary reason that Texas is not currently part of Mexico.

Amazing things happen at confluences, things which no one can foresee or predict. Korean theologian Suh Nam Dong developed what he called a “theology of confluence.” He spoke of what happens when culture and scriptural tradition come together. The results can be transforming. They can be as deadly as the Kwang Ju Massacre, or they can be as positive as the flourishing of the Presbyterian Church of Korea, arguably the most vibrant denomination on the face of the planet.

As we continue our journey through Holy Week I am reminded that we do not travel alone. Our journey is that of our confluence with other pilgrims of faith. Some are weary, some are exuberant. Some are needy, others are wealthy and generous. Some have their lives in order, most are in need of a total reorganization. However, there is one thing we all share: Wherever we are on our journey, we all are in desperate need of Redemption. That is our confluence. And the wonderful news is that, because of the events of that first Holy Week, God has provided us just such a Redemption.

There is no telling what will happen in the future because of a confluence. However, I do know that the more paths ours join with, the more possibilities become open. I am asking every person who receives this letter to reach out to at least one other person and invite them to church this coming Sunday. Will you? Let’s join our paths as we head towards Calvary, and to the resurrection beyond. Confluences can be powerful!

In Christ’s Service,
Kevin Boyd

P.S. Our new e-newsletter made its debut this morning. Please let us know what you think!

Holy Week: Monday

Greetings, church family and friends!

Normally at this time of year two things happen. I encourage all of our elders on session to invite at least one other person to worship on Sunday. I then send them a devotional to help encourage them in their own spiritual life as they take on this vital task. This year, however, your session decided that it would be helpful to send it out to the entire congregation. So, at their urging, you are receiving this devotional. I hope it helps inspire you to drink deeply of God’s love, and to spread it to at least one other person this week.

Grace and Peace,
Pastor Kevin

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It’s Monday!

Today it is busy, like every other Monday. But especially, today we begin the journey towards Calvary, and finally towards the empty tomb. At the beginning of a journey is a good time to set the goal for our destination. What is waiting when we arrive? What difference do we hope our journey will make?

Here are some of my personal hopes:
1. That along my journey this week I will not just rush through events with the goal of getting through them so I can get on to the next. I do not want to stop and smell the roses. I want to stop and feel the pain, to stop and sense the confusion, to stop and take ownership for the guilt, to be utterly astounded by the good news.
2. That along my journey, when I feel tired, I will realize both the power at my disposal (2 Corinthians 12:9), and my humanity as a disciple (Luke 22:46).
3. That while, this journey will of necessity include times of solitude, it will primarily be a journey of community. It will be my joy and responsibility to make sure that I exercise this communal nature of the journey. Else I make a mockery of everything Christ has accomplished for the church.

I love the words of my former professor, Cynthia Campbell, who became president of McCormick Theological Seminary. In the publication Shaping Beloved Community, she describes the church as follows:

“The fruit of that promise (the promise enacted at Pentecost) is now a vivid reality: the church of Jesus Christ is present in virtually every nation and culture. Christians worship, read the Bible, and teach the faith in thousands of languages. Christianity today is embedded in such a variety of places as to be called a truly “multicultural” religious tradition.”

Indeed it is here at Saint Paul. I love the fact that we buck the trend of segregated Sundays. In so doing, we give the Holy Spirit place among us to truly manifest the power of the resurrection.

What will you do to make this week’s journey unique? How will you intentionally strengthen the journey of the entire community? Who might you inspire to take that journey for the very first time?

2 Corinthians 5:17-21
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God

Postlude

I am now in Paris and doing well.  It is raining here, but I do not really care.  After over 2 days with no sleep, I slept for the better part of the day.  It felt so good!  I took time to exchange some money and get my phone updated, but that is all I have done.

As I look back, I thought I would take a few minutes to answer some of the questions you have asked me.

What is your favorite thing about Cameroon? Well I think I would have to answer that my favorite part is the people.  They are very warm, open, and loving.  They welcome you on  the street with big smiles, even though it was quite obvious that I am a foreigner.  Second to that is the fruit.  Fresh fruit is everywhere, from bananas to papayas to pineapples to plantains.  There are carrots and yams and peanuts (ground nuts) in abundance.  In short, there is so much food in Cameroon that they feed the 5 neighboring countries.  It was really quite amazing.  Another thing I loved was the attitude of the church about theological education.  If accepted as a ministerial candidate, the church then took over putting you through seminary and seeing to your probationary period and finally, ordination.

What surprised you? Well, here I have to be a bit delicate.  But I would have to say it was the lack of public rest rooms.  Installation of more would definitely help improve sanitary conditions.

What is the weather like? This question is kind of like asking what the weather was like in Texas.  In the northwest, and in higher elevations such as Buea,  it was really quite cool and nice.  In the areas closer to the coast, I found it quite hot and sticky.  I could not believe how much I perspired, despite growing up in Houston.  In all areas, it rained every day, but this, I am told, is seasonal, and will soon stop.

What is the hardest thing to deal with? This one is a bit harder to explain and must be experienced, but I would say that it is the Cameroonian endless patience.  I know it is a virtue, and I know that I have a lot to learn in that respect.  But, they are very willing to wait on things Americans would not.  By this I mean that in the northwest, the roads are terrible.  It is a shame and quite a drain to the national economy that products cannot get to market.  Electricity and water in some parts are sporadic.  Most church buildings had unfinished parts.  Whenever I asked about it, I got the answer, “We are still working on it.”    People got houses barely livable and then moved into them.  It took many years to finish them, but they do not go into debt.  I see the virtue in that, but I realize how American I am, and how little patience I have.  And I am wondering if sometimes patience might not be a vice instead of a virtue.  In conversations about this, I was told that Cameroonians realize that the only alternative to patience is war, such as is common in their neighbors.  These are a peace loving people, even if it sometimes comes at great personal cost.

How does Cameroon compare with Malawi? This question was asked to me quite often.  In some ways they are quite alike.  I have noticed that in Africa, in general, the people love to get together and talk at great lengths about politics and local situations and ongoing problems.  They have a level of personal discussion and interaction we have lost in America.  At first glance, the many of the towns and villages look very similar.  They both share the same sense that their own government is quite corrupt, and this is quite difficult.  They also share a love of music and tremendous singing.   However the differences are quite vast.  Cameroon is much more prosperous.  In Malawi, I was aware that every meal I had meant that someone else would not eat at that meal.  They considered it a great honor to offer it and to reject it would have been a great insult.  In Cameroon, food was abundant and the people were plump and for all the stresses they have, finding food was not the chief one.  The attitude towards alcohol was also quite different.  In Malawi, it was rarely even seen, and especially not in church.  It was a luxury that was just not available even if it was considered acceptable behavior.  In Cameroon, alcohol was quite abundant, even by American standards.  We were never welcomed in a home without being offered it.  Having beer and/or wine was simply an expected part of life.  I think it is because the country has a very significant German influence.  There was also a lot more infrastructure in Cameroon, even if its operation was sometimes questionable.  Cameroonian churches, while certainly more basic according to American standards,  were a lot more ornate than Malawian churches.  The PCC, while still needing help, had a much better supply of  clergy than the CCAP did.

Day 15

Day 15 (Thursday) October 28th

Our last morning in Cameroon.  Where has the time gone?

We began the day with our sister Magdalene, who was in worship at Saint Paul a few months ago.  How wonderful it was to see her again.  In Houston, she had told me that she was the daughter of a pastor.  So this morning, after breakfast, she asked if we would go with her to meet him.  Her dear father is now bedridden and she has a full-time job just taking care of him.  When he heard who we were, he became very happy and animated.  We prayed for God’s blessing on his home and on all he had accomplished during his long ministry, and on his health.  Finally, we bade a farewell to all there.

We then met the chairman, Mr. Fon, at the church.  At supper he had mentioned what a big problem they were having with the sound system at their church.    Ummm, how do I always find myself on the receiving end of this same situation?  Lucy’s nephew, Godlove , and I scanned the system.  We both came up with the same conclusion.  It was installed very badly.  The speakers should have been placed where they were as together as possible. Instead, they were all covering most of the church.  We suggested a plan that Godlove can follow up on with them and they were very grateful.

We had to check out of out hotel and Mr. Fon graciously allowed us to wait at his office, which was quite nice.  Mrs. Tanyi (this lady is amazing) came to meet us with a food basket for our evening wait.  After a trip to a nearby market for some last minute things, it came time for the airport, rather early because this was the only ride we could find.  We had a very long wait in one of the world’s most traveler-unfriendly airports.  Finally, it was time to go through security and we said goodbye to Lucy’s family, who accompanied us to the airport.

We then met up with the Moderator, The Rt. Rev. Festus, who was traveling on the same flight.  So we have a wonderful visit as we waited on the flight home.

On the tarmac, we lined up for takeoff.  We built speed and I settled in for the flight.  That is when the plane came to a very abrupt flight.  I remembered enough from my flight lessons to remember that this is not a good sign.  We sat there a while.  Then a voice came over the  speaker that everything should be fine but that they were returning to the terminal for a technical scan of the plane.  At long last, the pilot informed us that the plane was perfectly safe.   Right, I thought.  But we finally took off, over an hour late, and arrived in Paris the next morning.  Farewell, Cameroon.  You will never leave my heart.