Wednesday, December 20, 2017

"Our 27 Months"

In the twenty-seven months Linda and I have been with you at Sardis Presbyterian Church, we have been recipients of your gifts, hospitality, and affirmation. In serving this great congregation, we are cognizant that we stand on the shoulders of giants. What a privilege to be part of this community of faith.

Effective Monday, January 8, 2018, The Rev. Dr. Joe B. Martin, IV, will be your new pastor. I am counting on you to welcome Joe B. and his family in your usual gracious style. I suggest the following to assist the Martin family in getting immersed in the life of Sardis.

1.  Pray for them.
2.  Give them your name more than once.
3.  Share your hospitality with them.
4.  Anticipate God’s continued blessing on Sardis Presbyterian Church.

I expect to hear good things about you and your shared Christian witness with Joe B.

God bless you again in 2018.

Friday, December 15, 2017

"A Better Seat At The Manger"

This weeks blog is provided by
Dave's son, Rev. Peter McKechnie. 
“A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth.  Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns on his heads. His tail swept down a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood before the woman who was about to bear a child, so that he might devour her child as soon as it was born. And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with an iron scepter…”.    Romans 12:1-5
Ever seen THAT illustrated on a Christmas card?!  …Me either.

Desire forging design!  Destiny living in danger! An infant King! A resident threat! And the fight is on…  Revelation 12 reads as Heaven’s raw, thundering parallel to the soft, earthy narratives that we circle around this season.  At the same instant there was no room at the inn, there was a rumble in the eternities.  Powers and principalities clash, the Bible tells.

Philip Yancey calls Jesus’ birth “…the Great Invasion…” and a “…daring raid… into the universe’s seat of evil!”  Want a candy cane with that?

This year, this Christmas, I wanted… no, needed to get another angle, a new view, a better seat at the manger.  Truthfully, I am always living in danger of domesticating the divine.  See, I’ve begun to feel as though I’ve wrung all of the wonder and expectation right out of the stable. Everything just seems so familiar. The donkey ride, the desperation, shepherds on night-shift, the angelic presence, drive-by kings; I mean I’ve heard it all before.

And then I rediscovered Revelation’s angle on the birth of Christ! Jesus came not to be coddled, but to recapture our hearts, to win us back, charging into a world that isn’t so serine and civilized.  Truth is, there’s so much at play in this moment of child-bearing! Heaven and earth conspire and the Creator King is at it again, this time giving us his most precious gift: The Prince, His One and Only, our Peace!

I love thinking on the Truth that boldly says I’ve got a Messiah that’s crazy for my heart and willing to war for it!

What do you need to rediscover about Christmas?  What’s going to keep this season from sneaking back into a religious routine?

Peter McKechnie

Friday, December 8, 2017

"What Is Faith"

The Sunday school teacher asked his class of 13 years olds, “What is faith?”  A young girl fired back, “Believing something you know isn’t true.”

Tragically, many people hold that view.  Christianity does not have to take a back seat in the market place of ideas.  To be a Christian does not mean you have to kiss your brain goodbye.   Believing something does not make it true.  Refusing to believe it does not make it false.  Belief in Jesus Christ fits the facts infinitely better than disbelief.

The assignment was to, “call his name Jesus.”  The name Jesus means to save.  Christ came as a light in our darkness to save us.  In a world doubled over with hunger and violence, Jesus represents a move from the ridiculous to the sublime.

The rational does not get you to God.  You need revelation. The revelation God sent our way is in the form of a baby, his son, Jesus Christ.  Christ is the solution to our personal pollution.  Jesus Christ is not a truth you master, but a truth before which you surrender. God’s answer to meaninglessness is not a principal or a program but a person, Jesus Christ.

Faith is not belief without proof but trust without reservation!

We are invited to trust in Jesus Christ because through him, events are altered, lives are changed, relationships are healed, and love proves stronger than hate.

May the joy of knowing you have a savior make a difference in your life starting today.

Merry Christmas!

O God, words fail us when we try to express thanks for the Savior.
Help our lives to express our gratitude.  Thank you for this tangible
expression of your love.  We celebrate that this day and always.
In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.


Friday, December 1, 2017

"Cuteness and God Are Unbeatable"

Christmas cards range from the irreverent to the poignant. The best-selling Christmas card ever for Hallmark is one with three little girls wearing halos.  They look like three little angels.  The message on the card is simply, “God bless you, love you and keep you.”

Cuteness and God are unbeatable.

In the first century, there was nothing about a census.  Wealth and power were concentrated in Caesar Augustus.  He needed taxes and troops. There were only two reasons for a census: a new tax assessment and the discovery of youths eligible for conscription into Rome’s military service. The Roman Empire appeared to control the entire world.  That empire stretched from Britain across Europe down to North Africa and eastward into Asia.

Jews were considered too subversive to serve in the Roman army.  Therefore, the census in Palestine was for the sole purpose of taxation.

The actual government edict said every man had to go back home to be counted.  The old tribal ancestries held good.  Joseph was required to travel the 80 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem to his family home.

Bethlehem meant house of bread. We believe that Jesus Christ is the Bread of Life.  While the Roman Empire has long since vanished, we once again celebrate the birth of Jesus.  It is the strongest story in the world; the story of God’s search for us.  In love, God sent His Son to save us from our sins.

Two thousand plus years ago in that historic but unremarkable village of Bethlehem, in the puppet state of Palestine, it became perfectly clear.  The clarity meant God loves us.  Why else a baby in moldy hay, the child of peasants?

That’s the love we celebrate today.


Friday, November 24, 2017

"Giving Thanks"

The changing leaves and temperature remind us that this is the season of Thanksgiving.  As a Christian, it is difficult to put my gratitude into words. God's mercy is real!

I daily thank the Lord for family, friends, health, optimism and grace.  Every day I ask the Lord for fresh opportunities to be part of His redemptive plan.

When Linda and I moved to Charlotte, it was primarily an opportunity to be close to family.  Sardis Presbyterian Church was not on our radar. Frank Wilson called out of a cloud somewhere and asked if I would visit with their Transition Team.  We enjoyed the interaction with them and subsequently, we became part of the ministry of this great congregation. Thank you for allowing us to share our gifts through the Ministry of Music and the Ministry of the Word.

Sardis Presbyterian Church is blessed with vision, creative leaders and a talented staff.  You have given me a sacred trust by allowing me to be your Interim Pastor for 27 months.  Your affirmations, counsel, generosity and hospitality have given me a lift.  Charlotte will continue to be our home and Sardis Presbyterian Church will always be very special for us.

Our prayers resonate with yours that the new pastor will enable this congregation to reach to the future unafraid.  God bless you in this marvelous season of Thanksgiving.


Friday, November 17, 2017

"Trees and Me"

This week's blog is by Dr. McKechnie's
daughter, Sheri Joseph.

I guess the answer might depend on who’s in charge of raking your yard, but is it me, or was this fall gorgeous?  The way the colors changed in the trees: gold, red, shades of purple, yellow, bright orange, I thought it was beautiful.  I loved watching the children throw leaves at each other and play tag using a huge pile as “base”.  But eventually, I get a little bummed out when I see the foliage is gone and Charlotte’s trees seem stripped.  As I had this one sad, deep thought while staring out the kitchen window eating the remnants of a burned pop tart, I noticed one of our neighbor’s huge oak trees was missing a limb.  I’d forgotten that last spring the dead limb had to be trimmed and now, with all the foliage gone, saw the scar.  The tree stands tall and proud just like a lot of others trees in Charlotte – always seemingly at risk of the dreaded Canker Worm, concrete or careless developer, but standing nonetheless.  My husband, Michael, and I had to make some decisions regarding a huge dead tree in our yard.  It was once a real stunner, but now, its slow sad death has caused us to shell out some serious dough to have it removed and pay extra to grind the stump.  Super.  I asked Michael if that was going to be my Christmas present and he just laughed.  But since its one ice storm away from making our house a memory, I’ve gotten over it.

Why do I tell you about all this?  I’m not a tree hugger.  I just see a parallel in the trees and the state of our world right now.  We’re entering into a “season of giving” as it’s usually called and the predictions are grim. Not many people seem like they’re in the mood to give or celebrate.  I can’t blame them, everywhere we go, the doom and gloom follows us. It’s enough to make us turn inward and hunker down and suffer through, but I look at the trees around us in this great city and I wonder if there isn’t a real lesson there.  When we are laid bare, all the pretty leaves gone, who are we?  Are we more giving, compassionate and kind?  Are we selfish, negative and angry?  What scars are exposed?  What needs healing?

I received an e-mail the other day about some 2nd grade teachers in Billingsville Elementary who pulled two volunteer moms aside and told them that a lot of the children were coming to school with no underwear or socks. The teachers were asking the volunteer moms to forgo plans for a class holiday party and find a way to get underwear and socks instead. That news brought me out of my own personal fear-fest and broke my heart.  All around us, people are struggling.  There is always blame and uncertainty to go around, but I believe our greatest strength is shown when we come out of ourselves to help others.  CS Lewis said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

As we go into the Advent season and put up the Christmas tree, I wonder what God is trying to shout at me.  What message was I ignoring in all the “good times” and when I finally hear God, will I even stop to listen?

My prayer for me, for you, our children, for our city, our country and our world is that we will hear God speak to us and when our lives and the lives of others are laid bare, allow God to re-plant the true joy of this season in our hearts.  Merry Christmas!


Sheri Joseph

Friday, November 10, 2017

"A Baker's Dozen"

Whenever I hear the word DOZEN, I think of eggs and donuts.  No doubt you have heard the phrase, “A baker’s dozen”. A baker’s dozen refers to not twelve donuts but thirteen.  Why the extra donut?
Seven hundred and fifty years ago, the King of England, Henry III, discovered that bakers were cheating on the weight of their products.  The laws regarding weight were strict. If a baker was found not be in compliance, the law said, a first offense meant that the baker would be dragged by horses through the dirty streets.  The second offense meant that the baker would be pilloried for one hour with garbage while held in the stocks.  The third offense meant that the baker’s ovens would be destroyed!
In order for the baker to stay within the law, he would add a thirteenth donut to the first dozen to be sure there was enough weight to the purchase.

Galatians 6:10 says, “Do good to everyone.”  Jesus said if somebody asks for your shirt, give them your sweater too.  If somebody asks you to help carry their stuff for one mile, carry it for two.  Jesus would probably suggest that if somebody asks for a dozen anything – give them thirteen, the baker’s dozen.

It is Stewardship season.  For the cause of Christ let’s do something extra, not out of fear of punishment, but out of gratitude for God’s grace in Jesus Christ.