Monday, October 28, 2013

A Theological Chorus Line

Some of you have asked me how I enjoyed my 40th class reunion last week at Princeton Seminary.   A quick answer would simply be, “It exceeded all of my expectations.”    And yes, everyone was older, and most of us were not in tip top shape, including me.  Yet old friendships were immediately rekindled.  It was nice.
An experience like my reunion makes me think that life is like a big chorus line, with each dancer doing their part in step with all the others, as they link arms and kick up their heels.   So for instance, seminary could be thought of as a theological chorus line.   At the reunion, we were gathered in graduating decades under one big tent, class reunions from the ‘60s up to today’s budding young theologians.  I was in the class of 1973, and my son, Andy, was in the class of 2003.  He walked the same campus sidewalks and sat in the same lecture halls and classrooms that I did thirty years earlier. Even separated by 30 years, Andy and I are part of the same line, dancing to the same tune. Both of us were as impressed as we met first year students and those about to graduate come May.  These newly minted theologians are in the chorus line too!

Sardis, too, is one big chorus line of believers, stretching back to 1790 and even before. Every time we observe All Saints Day I think of those who came before us with gratitude, and hope that those who follow after us will look back and say that we were faithful in our time.

We are all a part of some chorus line. Which ones are more important to you?

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

What A Class

I don’t know how many of you attend your class reunions.   I have never attended a class reunion.  There were close to 1,000 members in my graduating class from Penn Hills High School. I enjoyed those days at one the largest high schools in the state, but sometimes I envy those who had small classes and continue to stay in touch.   I’m told they demolished the old building and have a state of the art new one, so I will never walk those old halls again.

After I tossed the tassel at Slippery Rock State College, Corrine and I moved on to our new life as newlyweds.   The funny thing about our courtship is that she and I attended the same high school but never knew each other.   Truth is I knew who she was, but she didn’t know me.   We met ‘officially” on the first day of college.   Best thing that ever happened to me.   You would think we would have made it back for a reunion, but no.   Slippery Rock is now a university, which makes no sense to me.   But I was pleased to see one of the players for the St. Louis Cardinals was drafted out of Slippery Rock!

I graduated the first time from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1973.   The second time was when I received my Doctorate of Ministry in 1990.   The class of 1973 was once labeled, “the worse class ever to come through seminary.”    In some ways the recognition is deserved.   Those were turbulent times.   The summer before I arrived the students had locked the Trustees in the library conference room and would not let them out until they made a statement condemning the war in Vietnam.   Eventually the trustees survived the ordeal but never made any public announcement.

Members of our class often led the community protests and three of our own were  arrested by the FBI for pouring cement onto a railroad switch in an effort to prevent the construction of munitions at the at the foundry in Pennsylvania.    Like I said, turbulent times to study the Bible and theology.

And yet, out of the class of 73 came some of most amazing people I have ever known.  Many went on to lead large and prestigious churches all across America.   Some moved on to become professors, or lawyers, a College President and heads of major foundations, like the Lilly Foundation.   It was quite a class and I’m proud to be a part of it.

So, for the first time ever, and thanks for the gift you provided, I will be attending my very first class reunion, the 40th Anniversary of the Class of 1973 from Princeton Theological Seminary.   The seminary even lassoed me to be on the “Reunion Committee”.    It’s been fun connecting with my old class mates inviting them to the reunion, which will include the Inauguration of our new president,  Dr. Craig Barnes.   You might remember, Dr. Barnes was with us a few years ago and remembers Sardis fondly.   I will give him your best wishes. Have you been to a class reunion? What should I expect?



Thursday, October 10, 2013


I don’t believe there is such a word as “Sticktoitiveness,” but my old mentor Dr. Robert Holland made it up and said it was the most important ingredient in life.   Nothing of lasting importance ever happens without sticktoitiveness, the ability to “stick with it.”

Last week I read a great article that tells a story really demonstrating this quality.  Construction began on the La Sagrada Familia, a famous basilica in Barcelona and “one of Europe’s most popular  tourist attractions,” in 1882. Not sure how long they thought it would take to complete this architectural masterpiece, but it’s still not done, and won’t be complete until 2026, 13 years from now and a full 144 years after construction began!

Antoni Gaudi, the original architect of the basilica, was known as “God’s architect.” He is quoted in the article as saying of the basilica, which was only one-quarter completed at his death in 1926, “my client is in no hurry.”

How good are we at sticking to it?  It takes sticktoitiveness to keep a marriage intact, to raise a child, to chase a dream or to build a life.   In the book of Hebrews, the author talks about the importance of “perseverance” in life and faith: “Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, with our eyes kept on Jesus.”   

Don’t quit, don’t ever quit.   Remember, our client is in no hurry.

Friday, October 4, 2013

The Beatles and the Bucs

Clint Hurdle
Even if you hate sports, you need to know that something happened in Pittsburgh last week that hadn’t happen for twenty-one years! The Pittsburgh Pirates made the major league playoffs. It is quite amazing that one on the most pitiful and losing franchises has had such a dramatic turnaround.  
Clint Hurdle
There are lots of reasons for the renaissance of the team. Good players always help. Yet most insiders credit the manager, Clint Hurdle. He knows baseball inside and out, but more importantly, he understands people and life, and is a master motivator. He was accepted at Harvard on his academics, but instead choose to play baseball. At one time he struggled with staying sober, so he went to AA and started to read and take his Bible seriously.  It turned his life around.

As the “Skipper of the Pirates” he sends daily inspirational and encouraging text messages on his smartphone to his players. Often he quotes Shakespeare or the Beatles.  They love him for it.  As he once said, “They never care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

 Here is a quote from John Lennon that Hurdle has framed on the wall in his office at PNC park:  

When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life.  When I went to school they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up.  I wrote down, “happy.” 
They told me I didn’t understand the assignment. 
And I told them they didn’t understand life.

P.S. I’m pulling for my Pirates. Even if they get clobbered by St. Louise in the division playoffs, they at least made it out of the basement. Go Bucs.