Thoughts and reflections from Liberty’s Pastors
“So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”
“Redeem the time….” (Ephesians 5:16)
That’s what we create when Plan A has turned to dust in our hands. We come up with an alternate plan – like my premed friends who flunked out of organic chemistry and became everything from engineers to English majors.
The Bible is full of Plan B’s.
Moses was raised to be a Prince of Egypt. He ended up as shepherd – first of sheep, then of God’s beloved people. Mary planned to wed her beloved Joseph and live a quiet life in the village of Nazareth. Gabriel announced a far different plan! Then there’s Paul, who was going to spend his life as a leading rabbinic authority. Instead he ended up traveling the Roman world, supporting himself with tent-making, and sharing the good news.
It turns out, God does some pretty powerful stuff with Plan B. In fact, God redeems Plan B and uses it for His glory.
So, we are in Plan B now as a church.
And I hope you are waiting with an open heart to see just what the Lord has planned. Because God is going to work in us and through us to redeem this time. I can’t wait to see what He’s got up His sleeves.
Waiting in all Faith & Hope, with you,
Celebrating the 200th Anniversary of the Chapel
An especially fun memory of the Chapel from: Longtime Liberty Member Barbara Taylor and former member Lisa Little
We had the Active Christian Thespians, a drama group that was organized to give a three-minute skit once a month. The skits were for the most part written by Pam Rush, at that time the bookkeeper, and me, with very little supervision. The only instructions were that they could be no longer than three-minutes. The elders even sent us to two workshops at Grace Baptist Church to further enhance our writing and acting skills. Really needed!
One skit was about three different people from different vocations – one a “woman of the night”; one a young father who had lost his way; and a teenager looking to find his way. Each had a chance meeting with a stranger who said just the right thing at the right time. Another was three vignettes about the Bible, with the end being the Energizer Bunny coming down the aisle in a pink bunny costume with a bass drum we borrowed from the Olentangy High School Band, beating the drum and saying, “The Bible just keeps going and going and going”. And knowing David’s sermon was that day on the Bible and it always there for us, in the middle of David’s sermon, the Energizer Bunny came down the aisle again, beating in rhythm and saying, “The Bible just keeps going and going and going.” (David did not know this was going to happen – he wasn’t happy). For a while we had to clear the skits through him. We had about 25 members in our group – from teens to senior citizens.
Our biggest hit was “Elvis Returns – 1994”. We had a huge cast – from Tom Wood to Larry Griffin, to Annette Diller, to a live baby in the manger – Max Messick (the son of David’s secretary), Debbie Williams, The Elvetts, The Jordanaires, the Liberty Choir, and Jim Beck as Elvis.
The Elvis skit can be viewed on video in the 12-Step room this coming Sunday, March 15, after each service – or after our 7:00 p.m. Lenten service on the 18th!
Celebrating the 200th Anniversary of the Chapel
Memories of the Chapel from: Tracey Scott, longtime Liberty member and elder
The Chapel was much bigger in the 80’s than it is now. We entered each week up the steps and through the “narthex” where we gathered before and after services. There were no offices in that area so the space was large enough for many to meet and greet, then run into the Chapel to find a seat just before the bell rang for worship.
The Chapel was returned to its original 1820’s size and orientation after the Barn was built in 1995 (with special thanks to Bill Porterfield and Andy Little.) When we worshiped in the Chapel in the 80’s and 90’s, the Sanctuary included the space where the 12-Step Room is now. The windows on the east end were covered by wood siding where our rustic wooden cross hung above the pulpit area. The Chapel now has pews but in the 80’s and ‘90’s, we sat on folding metal chairs without chair pads. No wonder services never ran longer than an hour!
A simple crown of thorns was laid on top of the cross during Lent, when Wednesday evening Lenten services were held. Those services were much the same as they are now. If you’d like a taste of “old Liberty,” attend a Lenten service in the Chapel!
For many years, Margie Wells was Liberty’s receptionist. She warmly welcomed visitors and members alike to the old Chapel, answering our questions and asking about our children by name, remembering the details of their lives, just as she remembers them today!
We sang from leather hymnals, lovingly handmade by members. The hymnals had only words, no music notes, so we often listened to the melody on the piano before our voices were lifted in song. The congregation sang loudly enough to raise the rafters as we praised God. Then, as now, there was no weekly choir, but we had wonderful musicians including David Tolley, Cara Markley (at age 10, I think), her father, Craig Markley, and our concert violinist, Mary Irwin, among others.
As a college student, David Tolley played in the old Chapel on an upright piano. We were in awe of how his fingers flew over the keys. Hum a few bars of your favorite hymn to him and immediately he could play it, adding beautiful embellishments to the original…. just like now!
Last night was Ash Wednesday, the first day of the forty days of Lent, in which we prepare to celebrate Jesus’ death and resurrection. (For those of you who are wondering, we skip Sundays when we count the forty days, because Sundays commemorate the Resurrection.)
But the question my kids always asked me about this season was: Why Lent?
Really, why observe Lent? We all have a favorite holiday – usually Christmas, or even that fun Fourth of July cookout – but Lent? It is one of those seasons that seems to be made up by the church, kind of a killjoy after all the splendor of Christmas. No presents, no catchy songs, no family traditions – let’s face it, Lent seems to be 40 long days spent not doing things – how do you sell that? Or maybe it’s Lent’s themes that are so uninviting. Repentance. Sacrifice. Reflection. These are the words of Lent, and I, for one, have a hard time believing they were popular even with the Puritans – you remember, the folks who actually held competitions to see who could resist the greatest temptation or avoid the most pleasure.
So, back to our original question: Why Lent?
For me, Lent is about stripping away some of the busyness and distractions of my life, to focus more on Jesus and less on me. I don’t give up chocolate – we Protestants don’t usually do the give-up-things-for-Lent deal, plus I would need a signed letter from the heavenly host to make me give up M&Ms. But I do add on more time for faith – more time for prayer that is not done on the run but deep in my bones, more time for soaking in God’s word, usually a Gospel, more time for getting straight with God. Why Lent? Do you remember our theme verse for our 200th anniversary in 2010? It’s Hebrews 12:1-2:
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith….“
Fixing my eyes on Jesus is hard to do when I am so busy focusing on everything and everyone else. So, I try to slow down a little in Lent, and look at the One who calls us his beloved and who loved us to the cross and beyond.
Why Lent? Not because God needs it, but because I do.
“Jesus said again, ‘Very truly I tell you, I am the DOOR for the sheep…. I am the door; whoever enters through me will be saved.…The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly.'” ~John 10: 7-11
As we walk through the Gospel of John together, I am always struck by the “I AM” statements by Jesus that shape this gospel: I am the bread of life. I am the light. I am the way. I am the vine. And in chapter 10, one that we rarely talk about: I am the door.
Life is full of doors.
The doors that we enter tell the stories of our lives. There are all kinds of doors in this world: There are open doors, closed doors, swinging doors, revolving doors, and even trap doors (!).
Several doors stand out in my memory.
I will never forget watching my children go through that open yellow door onto their school bus for their first day of school. That door opening – my first-born walking up those three steps – symbolized growing up, the first step in going out into the world. (I sobbed!)
Other doors come to mind, all quite real, even if invisible.
There is the door to marriage – that symbolic crossing of the threshold (which, no, John did not carry me over). There is the door to our careers. There is the door to parenthood. And maybe even a roller-coaster ride or two behind some doors. What doors into new adventures and chapters have you crossed lately?
As you have heard, John and are crossing a new door this May: retirement.
It is a bittersweet crossing – we love Liberty and it is very hard to leave, but the call of being nearer our children, and having time to spend with them, is sweet. We don’t know much about what is behind this door, but we have some dreams that we hope are God-given and God-breathed. And the good news in the midst of this time of change is that Jesus is the One who stands at all the doors you and I enter. He is the One who calls us forward, and who by His amazing grace, walks beside every step of the way.
“I am the door,” says Jesus. Amen!
With blessings on all our journeys,
“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
~ 1 John 4: 7-8
It is almost Valentine’s Day and I want to share a rather unusual Valentine’s encounter with you. John and I were out at Easton having a romantic Valentine’s dinner last year – and our waiter joined us! This young man wanted to talk with us about his parents. And no – neither one of us was wearing a big cross or our pastor IDs! John and I were simply talking and holding hands and I think John kissed my hand at one point and our young waiter came over deeply distressed.
“How long have you two been married?”, he asked, eyeing the reading glasses and iPhone lights to see our menus!
“Almost 40 years,” we replied.
“And you still love each other?”, he asked.
“All my parents do is complain about each other. I’ve never seen them hold hands or laugh together. I can’t wait to move out of the house.”
Well, the conversation went from there. People kept trying to wave him over to take their order, but he wanted to talk about love, because he was skeptical about the whole thing.
Frankly, it was a pretty depressing conversation to have over cheese fondue!
But it became clear that the big piece this young man and his folks were missing was God’s love. That’s where it all starts; we are God’s beloved. God’s love for us is immeasurable – it is higher and wider and deeper than creation itself. As we dwell in that great truth, we can begin to love others – parent, child, spouse, friend, neighbor, stranger – with God’s limitless love. Saint Augustine once said of his conversion, “Lord, you have pierced my heart with the arrow of your love.” When we allow Jesus to pierce our hearts with His love, everything else begins to fall into place.
However you celebrate tomorrow, my prayer is that Jesus may pierce your heart anew with His abounding love.
In His Love,
FROM THE DESK OF PASTOR JOHN
There is much to say in this time of change – but at this point, I want to focus on security at Liberty.
Future Liberty Link emails will have more on transition! (Transition will also be the focus of our Congregational Meeting on February 23rd.)
As you are aware, the Session and its Security Committee have been taking many steps over the past year to enhance the safety of our congregation. In more than 200 years, Liberty has never had a security incident, and we want to ensure it stays that way!
At its January 29 meeting, the Session voted to implement two improvements to our campus security:
First, beginning as soon as possible, the church will hire a Delaware County deputy sheriff to provide security every Sunday. Connected with this change is the option that, on some weeks, we will need to hire a person supplied by a private security firm, since many churches are looking to hire sheriffs on Sunday mornings.
Second, we will continue to lock the entrance doors into the Barn once worship services have begun. However, we are making adjustments:
- The doors will now be locked at 9:15 and 11:15 – five minutes later than our current practice.
- Starting March 1st, there will be no door monitor at the Barn Lower Level entrance after 9:15 and 11:15. A sign will be posted on the BLL door stating: “In consideration of the church’s security, this door will be locked on Sundays from 15 minutes after worship begins. Please use the main entrance on the other side of the Barn.”
- A Deacon or Elder will be at the main Barn entrance doors throughout the service.
- This second change will be reviewed at the April Session and Deacon meetings to assess its effectiveness.
We appreciate your understanding and cooperation as we seek to implement enhanced security measures at Liberty.
We apologize for the inconvenience but want to be as responsible as possible on Sunday mornings. Please also note that our Church School and Youth Room are locked down when classes are meeting, with strong safety measures already in place.
A special thanks to our Deacons, who have been a huge help in this process.
Serving Jesus with you,