Rappin’ With Rick

Whether One May Flee from a Deadly Plague

“In the summer of 1527, the plague swept through Europe once again. But this time, it fell upon a society deeply divided—“polarized,” we would say—by the events of the Protestant Reformation. On top of all the old fears of death and social breakdown, perceptions of the disease were filtered through new layers of mistrust rooted in religious difference. Both sides gleefully seized on examples of cowardice and other missteps to paint their enemies in the worst possible light.
By August of that year, the first victims of the plague were dying in the city of Wittenberg, where Martin Luther and his colleagues were laboring. Just like many recent governments have done, the Elector John “the Steadfast” ordered a series of dramatic measures to combat the plague, including ordering the faculty of the University of Wittenberg to relocate to another city. Luther refused to leave.
By the time the plague died down in Wittenberg in the fall of that year, Luther was being criticized on both sides. Luther responded in an open letter titled, “Whether One May Flee from a Deadly Plague.” (villageanglicanchurch.com)

The heart of Luther’s response is as follows:

“I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine, and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance infect and pollute others, and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbor needs me, however, I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely, as stated above. See, this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.”

God Bless, Rick

What About Patriotism?

The Apostle Paul told us that our citizenship is in heaven, and we readily acknowledge such. But what about patriotism? Wilfred McClay offers some insight into the place of patriotism in Land of Hope.

“There is a strong tendency in modern American society to treat patriotism as a dangerous sentiment, a passion to be guarded against. But this is a serious misconception. To begin with, we should acknowledge that there is something natural about patriotism, as an expression of love for what is one’s own, gratitude for what one has been given, and reverence for the sources of one’s being. These responses are instinctive; they’re grounded in our natures and the basic facts of our birth. Yet their power is no less for that, and they are denied only at great cost.

“There is (however) a vital tension in the makeup of American patriotism, a tension between its universalizing ideals and its particularizing sentiments, with their emphasis upon memory, history, tradition, culture, and the land. The genius of American patriotism permits both to coexist, and even to be harmonized to a considerable extent, therefore making them both available to be drawn upon in the rich, but mixed, phenomenon of American patriotism. It would be a mistake to insist on one while excluding the other. They both are always in conversation with one another, and they need to be. And that conversation, to be a real and honest one, must include the good, the bad, and the ugly, the way we have failed and fallen short, not merely what is pleasing to our national self-esteem. But by the same token, the great story, the thread that we share, should not be lost in a blizzard of details or a hailstorm of rebukes. This is, and remains, a land of hope, a land to which much of the rest of the world longs to come.”

As we fulfill our duty and privilege as Americans to vote into office those we deem able to best lead us, let’s not be afraid to acknowledge our flaws, nor the desire for America to be what God has enabled her to be for over 200 years.

God Bless, Rick

PS. Last Sunday Caleb Luzio requested that we sing The Star Spangled Banner. Since I was leading, I was keeping my eyes in the hymnal, so much so that when I looked up after the song was finished, only then did I notice that everyone was standing with their hand over their heart. Obviously patriotism is not a problem at CCC.

Land of Hope

I’ve been reading a very encouraging and insightful book on American history entitled Land of Hope, An Invitation to the Great American Story by Wilfred McClay. It seems to be a very balanced look at our history, and helps understand not only where we’ve come from, but what’s going on today. I found a section detailing the situation in our country after the first World War to be especially relevant.

“All the grand rhetoric from the presidential podium about the nation’s noble war aims, making the world safe for democracy, self-determination, open agreements openly arrived at, freedom of the seas, and so on—all of it now rang pitiably hollow.

“Returning vets eager to get on with their lives found housing, autos, and consumer goods to be in very short supply, causing huge spikes in prices. These changes not only doubled the cost of living from what it had been before the war but led to widespread labor unrest. Some twenty- five race riots erupted in cities around the country, notably a July riot in Chicago that left thirty-eight killed and more than five hundred injured. Although the immediate causes of violence were varied, the overflowing of ethnic and racial tensions in a fiercely competitive postwar labor and housing market was a common theme.

“Often forgotten too amid the general pandemonium of the postwar environment was a public health calamity that took many more lives than the war. This was the 1918 Spanish influenza epidemic, which killed more than twenty-two million people around the world including 675,000 Americans. About 28 percent of the American population became infected. The effects on everyday life were profound and visible: people wearing surgical masks when out in public, closure of stores, theaters, dance halls, even churches and schools. So many people died that the city of Philadelphia used steam shovels to dig mass graves; 528 were buried that way on a single day.”

This was the situation 100 years ago, and our nation survived and thrived. At least it thrived for a time. I’m hopeful that the same will be true today.

God Bless, Rick

Not a typo… again!

No, it’s not a typo! The offering for September 6th really was $53,329.00! Perhaps I better explain.

In our last church paper I shared that the elders had decided to resurface part of our parking lot. I had noted that the bid to do the entire lot was $110,000, but that since $66,000 would pretty much deplete our bank account, the decision was made to just resurface what we could afford.

The next day I received a text from a church member that said a check for $44,000 would be in the following Sunday’s offering, so we could do the whole thing! When I told “Cousin Bill” that we now wanted to do the entire lot, he told me that was really good for the church. To finish the job in several years would have cost substantially more.

When discussing the cost, however, he mentioned that he wasn’t certain, but thought the bid may have been for $112,000. When I checked, he was right, and when I hesitantly mentioned that to the donor, he said not to worry about it. Another $2,000 would be the next offering!

As amazing as all that is, there is even more to the story. You may recall that back in April we had $36,000 given to the church. When I mentioned that we were in need of parking lot repairs, the donor indicated that he really wanted the funds to go to missions. We of course honored his request, and were very happy to make it possible for Theo to buy a vehicle in Jamaica, start a major bathroom project in Haiti, and meet special needs that Kent Paris was facing in his ministry with those facing homosexual and gender issues.

Apparently God honored the desire to meet mission needs before our own, and saw to it that our needs were met as well.

There is still another amazing part to this story. Many churches are struggling financially due to the restrictions in place due to COVID-19. We, on the other hand, have not only been blessed with two amazing offerings, but checks began coming in the mail regularly when we couldn’t meet, and the level of giving has remained above what we projected we might need before the year began!

God is good, and His people are faithful!

God Bless, Rick

Worship, Study, and Fellowship

When everyone was told to shelter at home due to the developing pandemic, and churches were told to close their doors, we obeyed. We cancelled our services for March 15th, as we had done previously due to weather emergencies. By the next Sunday, however, we were online, and we maintained a purely online presence for twelve weeks.

We wanted to maintain normalcy as much as possible, so the praise team came to the building and recorded praise songs, hymns were recorded from home, communion meditations were videoed, and I continued preaching through Mark’s gospel, in coat and tie, to empty pews.

None of this would have been possible without the hard work and technological wizardry of Chris Luzio. I can’t thank him enough for all he did to make it possible for us to stay reasonably connected.

Then, at a specially called elders’ meeting on June 4th, the decision was made to open our doors on June 14th, and begin offering in-house worship. We put in place procedures we thought would decrease the likelihood of exposure to the virus, and 74 showed up for worship. Chris was also able to provide a live-feed so those who felt they should remain at home could worship remotely with their brothers and sisters. We have averaged 70 in-house for twelve weeks, and nearly that online.

We are now excited to announce that we are transitioning back into a full program of worship, study, and fellowship. The youth group kick-off is scheduled for September 13th, and youth groups and adult study will begin, Lord willing, on the 20th. Children’s worship, Sunday School classes, and a nursery will hopefully be available on October 4th.

A big shout-out must also go to Casey Blakely who is now fine tuning our new sound system. The system has been designed to assure that quality sound will be delivered throughout the auditorium, with no dead spots. If you are able to safely gather with your brothers and sisters, come hear it for yourself this Sunday at 9:15. I’ll be looking for you.

God Bless, Rick