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Pastor's Monthly Newsletter Message

March 2013

~The Dog-Eared Page~

“Thus it is written that Christ should suffer,
and die, and rise from the dead.”

~Luke 24:46

Members and Friends,

Sad truth # 208 for anyone who works with words: Sooner or later, you will end up filling empty space with words that don’t really matter. You can always tell when a songwriter has done this; some songs are clearly from the heart, and others are meant to make the album long enough to sell. Novelists do it. Take a dip into the unabridged text of Les Misérables sometime! Teachers sometimes run out of lesson material before the class is over. And I must admit that preachers will occasionally step into the pulpit with a ten-minute truth and an eighteen-minute time slot. These extra moments can be used wisely and well, or they can be stuffed with so much fluff. The Sun magazine used to fill up leftover pages nicely with an occasional article entitled “The Dog-Eared Page.” Here, the editors simply reprinted memorable excerpts from their favorite books and called it “The Dog-Eared Page” because it’s good stuff, worthy of being reread.

My father once told me that he had never read the same book twice, with the exception of Far from the Madding Crowd, by Thomas Hardy. (I slogged through it once and easily decided never to read it again!) And yet, most of us do have stories that speak to us in special ways, and we return to them now and again. You surely have your own collection of dog-eared pages: books, or stories, or movies that you revisit every once in a while. Each time we reread a favorite book—or re-watch a favorite film—we are seeing it through a slightly different lens because our life circumstances are not exactly as they were the last time. We gain new insights on familiar storylines, identify with characters we used to hate, or come to dislike characters we formerly admired. We notice details that were wasted on us until the third or fourth go-around.

Long ago, as a single man in Africa, I discovered James Salter’s wistful tale of marriage and family life, Light Years. It’s an earthy, insightful commentary on failed hopes and changing relationships. Its poetic quality moved me. Since being married and taking on a mortgage, I’ve read it again twice, and I find that it speaks to me in new and different ways each time…teaching me anew to cherish the people I love more closely.

The same old room—or forest, or garden—can seem like many different places, depending on the season, shadow and light, and the presence or absence of people. The best truths, like the best places, are worth revisiting. Some realities are so precious that they need constant revisiting. Many of our churchly words are pretty much the same each week, but you are a slightly different person every time you hear them.

Such is the joyful proclamation of Easter. It’s the same old story every time, but you are not the same old person. Since last you heard it, you’ve undergone a year’s worth of surprises and regrets, a year’s worth of gains and losses, a year’s worth of making coffee, writing checks, commuting to work, falling asleep in front of the TV. It’s been a year full of unexpected changes, illnesses, perhaps even deaths. A year of births and new beginnings. You will bring a new lens to the message of new life this year.

The Scriptures—or at least the gospels—have very little “filler material.” Their prose is lean and to-the-point. As we return to the dog-eared page of the Christian faith—that ancient story of Jesus’ passion, death, and new life—how will it speak to you this time around? What new suffering, and dying, and rising do you bring to it? What new light will infuse our old, old story for you this year?

In Christ’s peace,

~Brian