Friday, June 30, 2017

A July 4th For Us All

photo by Lin Cheong / flickr

He pointed to a book on his coffee table and said, “Have you read this? The Art of the Deal."  “No,” I said maybe a little too edgy. “You need to read it—it’s great.” “One of the reasons that I won’t read it is that he didn’t write it.” “But it is his book—his name’s on it.” And in his den, me sitting and him standing, there was a great divide. 

Sound familiar? Of course it does. We are anything but a United States. The divisions are many. Democrats and Republicans. Trump-ites and Trump-haters. Rich and poor. Educated and the uneducated. Those with good jobs and those on welfare. Food stamps and investments. Christians and all those other types. Immigrants and those born here. White and well, multi-colored. North and South. Country and City. Whew—let’s stop there. But the beat goes on.

On this weekend when we remember 1776 and celebrate the birthday of our country—we need to ponder who we really are as a people.  Remember the Preamble to the document that took our chains off. 

“We the people of the United States, in Order to form a mored perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquillity, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

Even then, especially then, the “we-ness” was a dream. There were the newcomers and native Americans . The gentrified landowners and the sharecroppers. Slaves and Free. Religious and those considered pagans. Non-conformists and the established church folk. Those who wanted a King and those that did not. That list, even from the beginning was endless. 

The “We-ness” then and now is a dream. Early on many thought that we-ness meant their kind. Even many of the framers of the Constitution owned slaves. All were white and men and from the Upper crust. They thought that only landowners should vote—if they were men. 

But the “we-ness”stuck. And from then until now we have struggled to “form a more perfect union.” We have made enormous progress. People around the world really do see us as the shining city on a hill. Many see us as the last best hope for the world. And in many ways they are right. Many of us of all colors and stripes really feel a lump in our throats and the National Anthem is played or we sing: “My country ’tis of thee…” 

And yet sitting in that chair across from my good friend who wanted me to read his book—in 
2017 there is a great divide. Not only in his den—but across this land. And our task is to polish that old dream of “we” until it becomes more of a reality than it is today. 

Nothing stays won. Justice, liberty, promoting the general welfare and insuring domestic Tranquility is the task of all of us that love this country. Mr. Trump said yes to the words written down on the oath he took in January.  That pledge included all of us. But we cannot dump all our divisions on this one man. He is our leader and bears great responsibility. But—to blame him for much of the wrongness out there would be irresponsible.

We are all accountable to make “we-ness” happen in our time. We reach out to those on the
photo by Shinya Suzuki / flickr
other side of the divide. We remember they are citizens too. We treat them with respect always. We call their hands when they do wrong. But we cannot forget the dream: “We, the people.”

No immigrant who came here for a better life should live in fear or be turned away. No Muslim should be considered a threat simply because they walk our streets and yearn for a better life. No poor child should go hungry at school. No parent should worry if their sick child can afford health care. No family should spend sleepless nights worrying that some parent with dementia can find a decent place for care.

But no citizen should sneer at those who stand by The Art of the Deal. Those who drive cars with a “Don’t blame me” sign on their bumpers have a right to  believe what they choose. Those church folk have the liberty to go to whatever church they wish or stay at home if they choose. They have a right to support the man in the White House. They can home school or send their child to a public school. Liberty reaches out in all directions. A “thank you for your service” is not near enough for those who give themselves to keep us free. This week-end reminds me of a story.

A Pastor visited a home bound member. As they talked she asked how things were they going down at the  church. The next Sunday the Pastor preached a strange sermon. He entitled his words: “We Are They.” And he was right. Across the great divide it may seem like the they’s  are far different from us. Not so. We are they. “We, the people…”.Whatever our brand or our belief—they really are we. It is high time we re-dream the dream. We keep stretching its meaning. Maybe, just maybe one day it really will take us all in.

photo by Dylan's World / flickr

"I see Americans of every party, every background, every faith who believe that we are stronger together: black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American; young, old; gay, straight; men, women, folks with disabilities, all under the same proud flag to this big, bold country that we love. That's what I see. That's the America I know."
                                                                               --Barack Obama

--Roger Lovette /



Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Father's Day--Second Stanza

The other day at an Art Show I was dumbstruck. This Dad stood there holding his baby child. Boy or girl--who knows? Yet the delight on his face kept me going all day long. I hope that through the years he can keep that delight front and center. It won't be easy. Life intrudes in many ways. Marriage. Health. Money. Job. A crazy mixed-up world.

Many Daddies fail the test. They get lost in the shuffle of too many things. Sometimes in the evening I watch them at a restaurant. A Daddy with one or two  children. There is no wedding band on his hand. Probably divorced. Obviously this is Dad's Night Out. The kids are squirmy sometimes. He shakes his head.  Sometimes they drop some food on the floor and make a mess. The Father scowls. They sit there munching on whatever they order. He keeps looking at his watch. He is eyes follow the waitress. He could be a million miles away.

A preacher-friend of mine tells there story of his nine-year old daughter. He got home late from work. As he opened the door his little girl ran and grabbed him by the legs saying: "Daddy...Daddy!" He held her tight on the couch and told her that the next night he had to go speak to a group at the church on, of all things: "What A Good Ought to Be" Her face fell. So he caught himself and told her he needed help on what he should say about a good father. "Let's make a list--you can  help." She took a pencil and paper and began to write. It took her quite a while. She handed the list to him--and this is what he read:
1. Catch a fish.
2. Build a fire.
3. Fly a kite.
4. Catch a butterfly.
5. Plant a flower.
6. Get a kitty-cat out of the mud. 

As the Daddy studied the list he realized there was nothing on the list that required money. Everything she put down required a Daddy. 

Any of us Father-types with years on us look back with some regret. Sometimes we give so much of ourselves  at work or wherever that there is little left of us when we get home. I am amazed at the forgiving power of many of our children. Mine especially. 

Back to the Papa in the picture. Dear God, as his tiny one grows  up--may his little one always feel the gift of delight from his Daddy. It isn't easy in this world of too-much-of-everything to give ourselves away--but may that little baby know deep in his/her heart that there was a Father that always made her/him feel glad that she or he was there. Amen. 

Such love carries any of us to the finish line with the greatest gift of them all: delight. 

--Roger Lovette /

A Father's Day Memory

(That's my tree to the left of the house.)

This Father’s Day memory takes me back to a small village in Georgia. Cotton-mill town. Eighty one years ago—could it really have been that long? Yes, eighth-one years ago I came howling into the world one frosty October morning. Born at home in a tiny four-room house across from the mill. They had been married for years hoping maybe a baby might come. Never did. And then, surprise of surprises my Mother was pregnant. 

Finally the baby came. For them, it was almost a holy moment—because they had given up all hope. And yet there in the bed cradled in her arms was the baby. It was a time when proud Papas passed out cigars to friends and strangers. “Got a boy,” he said. “Got a boy.” Outside that little house he marked the occasion by planting a little tree. Just a tiny sprig—yet kneeling in his proudness he hoped the little branch would one day become a tree. 

He nursed that seedling as if it was his child. He would wander out in the morning before work, kneel down and look. On the hot parched Georgia days he would take a bucket filled with water and baptize the tiny green sprig. 

Miraculously the small thing grew and grew. It was an unlikely spot—beside our house, next to a store—across from the mill. Yet—somehow it flourished. I went back there last year and drove down the street where the mill houses are now crumbling. The mill had burned and only a shell remains. The little house is still there miraculously. Someone painted it green. And to the left side of the little porch stands a tree. It must be say, fifteen or twenty feet tall. It has survived hard winters, tornadoes and hot-hot summers. Mistletoe has attacked its branches—yet it still lives. It has endured the years when so much around the tree has disappeared. 

My Father and I had a love-hate relationship. Near-deaf he could not hear me—and I got tired of yelling. We never got along too much. And yet this man who never really had a vacation—never owned a car—only worked and worked and worked. He brought his pitiable pay-check home week after week. He paid our bills and kept the lights on. The little boat called our family had rocky days and yet he stayed. He did what he could. 

For a long time his anger and frustrations made me furious. I would pull away and turn my back. I don’t ever remember if I ever really celebrated his birthday or a Father’s Day. When he died I had a hard grief. It lasted for a long time. I kept thinking: I never really knew him. 

Several years ago a road-show came to South Carolina. It was a play about mill people. It talked about the tiny pleasures they found after long days in the mill. They laughed and danced and loved their hard lives. And as I sat there watching that story unfold—I saw my parents as I had never seen them before. Young, in love, full of promise and dreams. 

Through the years the marriage unraveled and yet they stayed and raised their boys and did what they could. And sitting in that darkened theatre watching the mill story being told—I saw a side of them I had never seen. And I remember wiping away the tears.

Father’s Day is a hard time for many of us. Kids are abandoned or abused or just ignored. There are too-may dead-beat Dads. But despite my own winding father-journey this day I tip my hat and offer a thanks. Once upon a time my Father, on the week of my birth, knelt down and planted a tree—and it stands to this day. 

Maybe there is a parable here for many of us. He did what he could. He loved in his own way. And every Father’s Day I remember a tree and a time when somebody celebrated my birth was laughter and great joy. Maybe there is no greater gift than that.

--Roger Lovette /

Monday, June 12, 2017

Planned Parenthood Ain't All Bad

photo courtesy of Women's enews / flickr

I've gotten weary of Planned Parenthood bashing. You would almost think this organization was the Mark of the Beast. All we have heard about is abortion--which these clinics do not do--though they do counsel women about this matter. Their underlying work is women's health. And if we defund this organization it will have a very hard time helping women--especially poor women with sexual health matters. They scan women worried about lumps in their breasts and check for cancer, and sexually transmitted diseases among other things.  I do think Planned Parenthood has done a lousy job of letting folk know the wonderful range of their services and they should do a better job. But they have helped a lot of women and families especially and people need to know this. 

Nicholas Kristof, wise columnist, has written a moving article about Planned Parenthood. He visited Paul Ryan's district in Wisconsin and interviewed some women and men about what happened in the three clinics he visited there. Read the story--and see for yourself. 

--Roger Lovette /

Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Night Shift - A Sermon

photo by Zltatko Vickovic / flickr

Let me ask you a question  Have you ever been on a night shift? It has happened to me—really more than once. Trying to scape up enough money for college I worked in a cotton mill; several summers. The pecking order went like this. The best shift was the first: 7:00-3:00. The next best shift was the second shift: 3:00-11:00. And then there was the very bottom: 11:00-7:00. Guess what shift I was on? Third shift. It was called the night shift. People would ask: “Where are you working?” I told them the mill—third shift. And they’d say: “Oh.” Most folk did not want the third shift. Get off at seven in the morning. Putter around the house. Eat Breakfast. Read the paper. Go to bed about 10:00—in the morning. Hard to sleep. Especially in the Georgia summertime without air conditioning.

Everybody here has faced a time when we were put on the night shift. It’s dark. It’s lonely. It’s hard—and we would want to be just about be anywhere but there.The Night Shift.

Psalm 107 deals with the night shift in people’s lives. We think they sang this Psalm or used it as a responsive reading in their worship. The Psalm begins with thanksgiving: “O give thanks to the Lord for he is good…” And then listen. They wandered in the desert. They sat in darkness like prisoners. They were sick—all kinds of afflictions,. Their lives were really like a ship where the waves were scary and they thought they were going to sink. This is the way Psalm 107.27 puts it: “They reeled like staggered drunkards, and were at their wit’s end.” They did not know what to do. And this was the Psalmist’s answer to people in this hard time.Look back on your history—the night shifts everywhere.


There are four points here. Point One: Distress. Verse 28b says: “They cried to the Lord and he brought them out from their distress. They were at their wit’s end.” 

Some folk think the Bible is just a bundle of nice sayings like a Hallmark Greeting card. Makes you feel good. Nice. Work hard and everything will turn out OK. Guess what? 

Some of the best people have the hardest time. I visited her the other day. She lost her 39 year old son in a terrible accident. He lingered between life and death for weeks and then died. Back home her husband had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. It could not get much darker. She said their 40th wedding anniversary was coming up and she was going to bake a cake and take it to the Nursing Home—but, she said, he won’t even know who I am. 

Most of us do not have it that bad. But our backs hurt, we get a bad lab report. A child breaks our hearts. We work all these years for a promotion—and we are passed over for somebody else. The marriage comes unglued. Or you lost somebody you love. Folks, this is the night shift. 

We don’t understand it. We work hard, Do the right. Color within the lines—mostly. And we’re find ourselves on some night shift. And we begin to wonder: Where is God? Where is God? I don’t deserve this. I thought when I came to church and followed the rules everything would be OK. 

We forget often that the Bible doesn’t deal just with the sunny days—but the dark times as well. Remember Job—his life became a mess. Remember Kind David—the apple of God’s eye—and then one day he saw Bathsheba bathing on a rooftop and everything began to unravel. His son, Solomon did no better. All those wives…building all those buildings with his name stamped on them. The Kingdom split. It’s like a thread running through the whole Book. Israel wandering in the wilderness for 40 years. And finally they made it across that ribbon of a river to a land flowing with milk and honey. And guess what? They messed it up. They were dragged away into exile—their lives torn up by the roots. And years later when they finally got to go home—they found nothing but crumbling buildings and grave stones. It was a mess. And if that was not enough—in the New Testament they thought surely it would be better. But at its center there is the story of a hill faraway and a cross on which he died. And someone whispering: “My God…my God why? ”No wonder they called it all: distress. It was the Night Shift if there ever was one. It’s all there.


But we can’t stop there, the Psalmist said. Second point: Prayer. “They cried to the Lord in
photo by Mormon Prayer / flickr
their trouble…”
They prayed. Who wouldn’t? God—I’m at my wit’s end. The night is dark and I am far some home. Remember the barefooted boy with his ragged cloak—smelling of marijuana. He  came back home—head down and ashamed. He prayed: “Father—I have sinned—I’ve messed everything up.” We expect to be moved from the night shift. Maybe not the first shift Lord—but how about the second at least. No.. Sometimes prayers are not answered the way we thought they would. And so the Atheist says: “Well, what do you expect. Nobody up there.”  And in the middle of a troubled time—we have asked it too. 

Some days you know it seems like that. We pray—and it seems like nothing happens. But remember the boy. Kneeling there in the dirt crying out: “I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I’m sorry.” What did the father do? The old Daddy opened his arms and simply said, “My son.” 


But let your fingers move down the text: “He brought them to their desired haven.” He stilled the storm. The waves settled down. This is point three: he stilled the storm. It does say they were moved from the night shift. No. But it does say in the heart of it all they found a stillness. Reckon we can find that too? I think so. Remember Paul—went all over the known world preaching, establishing churches. And every day he had to deal with this thorn in the flesh…and he prayed and prayed and it never went away. Always on the night shift. But finally he came to realize—the thorn might never go away but he learned that God’s grace was sufficient even with a thorn. Later, toward the end, looking back he would add:  I have learned In whatever state I am in to be content. Finally. But it took a long time. 


And so we come to the fourth point. They were glad because the sea settled down But listen to the next verse: “Then they were glad because they had quiet  and “he brought them to their desired haven.”  I like the way The Message puts it: “And you were so glad when the storm settled down and He led you safely back to harbor.” And this is very the good news.I look around me and sometimes inside too and I don’t find much gladness. But other times I open my eyes and look around me and I say: “yes…yes…yes.” Gladness has walked down my street and knocked on my door again. And sometimes I have opened that door. And so have you.

Let me tell you a story of how this happens. We were still at war with the Japanese. And in October of 1942 eight Air Force crew members left on a bomber to check out some sites in the Pacific. But their plane strayed hundreds of miles off their course and they were forced to ditch the plane in the middle of the Central Pacific Ocean. Eddie Rickenbacker was on that plane. And later, much later he told the story in a book he wrote. 

They were adrift for 24 days in the middle of that ocean. Nobody knew where they were. Just in the middle of the Pacific Ocean on two life rafts.  One Captain sustained serious injuries as they ditched the plane and most of the crew were injured. Their food supply lasted three days. They almost starved from hunger and malnutrition. On the eighth day a seagull landed on Rickenbacker’s head and he captured it. They divided it in eight parts and ate the raw bird and used the rest for fishing bait. They lived on rainwater that fell and tiny fish that they caught with their hands. Eddie Rickenbacker tried to keep their spirits up. Not easy.  One crewman was suffering terribly from dehydration. In desperation he drank sea water and died and they buried him at sea. Back home search parties gave up hope after two weeks. But Rickenbacker's wife insisted they keep on looking. Also they looked a third week they just gave them up for dead.

After 23 days at sea they landed on a small island and this led to their rescue. But all seven were suffering from dehydration and hunger. When they interviewed Rickenbacker they asked him what was the secret of their survival. Nobody had ever lived that long in the sea without rations. ”We prayed,” Rickenbacker said,” and finally a seagull came, landed on my head and we caught it. That seagull was an answer to prayer.” A reporter asked him: “What if the seagull had not come?” And Rickenbacker said, “Then we would have died like men and not like cowards.”

Folks sometimes life doesn’t work out the way we thought it would. From time to time there is a night shift. But on those days let’s remember Psalm 107: 

“…they reeled and staggered like drunkards, and were at their wit’s end. Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he brought them out from their distress; he made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad because they had quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven.” And then the next verse says: “Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love.”

(This sermon was preached at the Mt. Zion Presbyterian Church, Sandy Springs, SC, June 11, 2017)

--Roger Lovette /

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Bob Burks--A Tribute

(Bob Burks' funeral was held in the First Baptist Church, Clemson, SC on June 10, 2017. This is what I said...)

Unamuno, the Spanish philosopher said, “That chief purpose of a temple is a place where people come to weep in common.” And we make use of this temple today because we have from far and near—to grieve   and to pay a tribute to Bob Burks a very great man.

Bob was a Christian all of his life. And somewhere he heard that wonderful story of the time on a hillside when the Lord fed a multitude with loaves and fishes. The disciples were amazed at the miracle but later when they stitched the stories together—they remembered what Jesus had told them “You give them something to eat.” It seemed utterly impossible at the time—a  sea of hungry people and their resources seemed so meagre. And yet—they went out two by two and they gave people all over something to eat. I think Bob remembered that story because his whole life he broke loaves and fishes and gave chunks of himself out wherever he went. He never made a splash. He was always quiet about it—and sometimes you had to strain to hear what he was saying—but he took the bread and broke it, as his Lord had commanded. And so many in this room today are recipients of what he gave us.

Oh, he gave those bits and pieces of himself with abandon. You know you know. Family…especially dear Betty. I don’t know a couple that have loved each other more. He gave of himself to his children; Jennifer, Kari Beth and Tucker and his step-children: Diane and Cindy and Dirk. And these grandchildren too. Great-grandchild.

Many people stop there. Not Bob.  He was generous wherever he was. And so here today there are former students and former colleagues he taught with and friends who sloshed with him through Seminary all the way to a doctorate. And Churches…Bethel Baptist Church in Indiana. And First Baptist in Anderson. Where among other things he began a deaf ministry. And that was followed by a rich 36 years years at Anderson University.  But back to the churches. When they married and he moved to Clemson he reached in yet again and gave out here—his church—loaves and fishes. He preached some. He taught some. He served as Chair of the Deacons—not once but twice. Twice? He was Chair of a Transition team during a cross-roads time in this church. And he met Betty here and they were married right here in this place it would have been 30 years this October.  And they gave themselves to this church. They sat right down here on the second row Sunday after Sunday. 

He giving did not stop there. He sat down one day in his home in Camelot and wrote out this service. Reading through his words I felt their power and I felt Bob’s spirit. And the people on this program are all beneficiaries of those loaves and fishes. 

Bob was in a Theological group that met for years and years in the Upstate. Charles Arrington, Pastor here started that group of Professors and Pastors. And Bob was a vital part of that group. Some of them are here today. But I asked Lawrence Webb if he could ask members of this group to write a sentence or two of how this good, good man had reached in to his own life and heart and gave them something.

And this is what some of them said…..

Jim Pitts wrote: “Bob Burks was a gentleman and a scholar, who loved God and liked people. His pleasant demeanor was warm and inviting.”

Marion Aldridge wrote: “When some of the grand ol’ Baptist saints… died, nobody in the new world of Baptists know them all—or cared. The Greatest Generation who helped us through difficult decades is given lip service, but there were depths in people like Bob Burks that had nothing to do with wearing a uniform, which is all too many people care about: “We thank you for your service….Bob was a class act, a gracious gentleman, a wonderful Christian. We’ll miss him, and I thank him for his many ways of serving God and humanity.”

Charles Kimball wrote: “Like everyone else I was saddened to receive words of Bob’s passing…From the first time we met (in 1990 when I joined the faculty at Furman) through Theologs and programs in Anderson and First Baptist in Clemson. His  friendship, encouragement, and personal support were always generously provided in uplifting and affirming ways..”

Tony McDade wrote: “I echo what so many others have written. Its was my good fortune to serve on the staff of First Baptist Clemson when Bob was a Deacon. His wise leadership has been a constant blessing in our lives….Thanks be to God for Bob Burks.”

David Rutledge wrote: “He was a wonderful person, sincerely interested in everyone. I remember him at our last Theolog meeting, which is where I always think of him. What a wonderful kind man he was! A man for whom the word ‘gentle’ was perfect. I will miss him.”

Stuart Sprague wrote: “I first met Bob in St. Louis in the fall of 1976. At a meeting of Baptist professors for breakfast he sat with Page Kelley and told him that Anderson College was looking for a new religion professor. Page told him that the young man at a nearby table…Stuart…was looking for a job teaching religion. We met, and a match was made. When I moved to Anderson in June 1977, one of the first things Bob did was to invite me to the fall Theolog meeting at Furman. Thus began a 40 year journey. It has been a wonderful ride. I just wish I could be there today but am in California for a Conference.”

Dan and Margaret Vincent wrote: “Dr. Burks, as I learned to know him, was my Old Testament professor at Anderson College in the fall of 1965. We, Margaret and I, grew to love and appreciate his sweet spirit and kindness as he also taught our daughter, Karon at Anderson College. We will  miss him greatly.”

Kelly Belcher wrote: “I am sorry to hear this news. Please give to all my sympathy, and love from the entire Belcher family. Bob and Posey were friends. Wonder who is at the head of the dinner table in heaven now?”

Furman Hewitt wrote; “Unlike some of us, Bob (a gentle, kind man who was also a careful thinker) will be missed and spoken  of with gratitude. not many like him!”

Randy Wright wrote: “So sorry to hear this. Bob was the interim pastor when I was called to Trinity in Seneca in 19097. We’ve been friends a long time, and I will miss him. He was always so supportive and kind.”

Jim Thomason wrote: “Sad to learn of Bob’s passing.”

Bert Strange wrote: “A great loss.”

Lawrence Webb wrote: “Bob and I came to Anderson close to the same time, both as associate ministers in churches: he at First Baptist and I at Pope Drive.  Then both of us were invited to what was then Anderson College near the same time.  He stayed on the faculty while I roamed and was there when I returned. And we retired about the same time. So our fellowship spans about fifty-five years.

I think of two vignettes that characterize Bob Burks for me:

(1) When President Ed Rouse invited Bob to the faculty in 1965, one of his conditions for accepting the position was that the trustees open the enrollment to black students.  I always thought one reason they accepted Bob’s ultimatum was their concern for accreditation.  They needed his doctorate.

(2) For a long time, with civil rights, Vietnam, and other crises around us, Bob had a poster in a conspicuous place in his office that said, in effect: “Let us as Christians agree first to stop killing each other.”

These are just some of the memories many have expressed.

 The Apostle Paul said;  “Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” And dear Bob, my, my you lived out so many of these virtues. We thank God for this special life and for all those loaves and fishes that are scattered here and so many places.

One further word. Because we make proper use of this temple today we grievers open the Book and remind ourselves of those shining  promises Jesus said he had come to do. As a young man Jesus stood in the Synagogue to speak fort the first time. He said, “I have come heal the broken-hearted.”  And when the church put together what they remembered their Lord had said, they left it for us in the Beatitudes:  “Blessed are those that mourn for they shall be comforted.” And then, friends there toward the end when Jesus was about to leave, in that Upper Room there must have been a catch in his voice. He looked out on his friends’ faces. And said: “Let not your hearts be troubled…neither let them be afraid…I will not be with you but I will send a Comforter, the Holy Spirit and he will be with you forever.” Last Sunday we celebrated the coming of that Spirit.

And  I hope we can all find what those disciples found. And even after Easter some trudged along finding their grief so hard—they missed him so. But they began to talk with one another and they remembered so much. And it was those words that he left them that warmed their hearts and helped them move on. And so I give you, Betty and sister and children—and this larger family the promises that those disciples remembered and dear Bob loved so much. “I have come to heal the brokenhearted…” “I will comfort those that mourn…” “Let not your hearts never be troubled…”

Years ago my wife and I visited the Heidelburg Castle in Heidelberg, Germany. And as we
The Twin Angels - Heidelburg Castle, Germany
moved through the Gates the Tour Guide said, “Do you see them. Look up.” And above the huge door a carving of twin angels. And as people walked through those doors through the years and decades above them always were the twin angels—goodness and mercy. 

Last year we went back again to that same castle high on a hill overlooking the city. And I remembered the twin angels and as we moved through the gates I looked up and there they were those two angels still there. It had been 30 years since we had first seen them. But overarching  all our lives, folks are the twin angels that the 23rd Psalm talked about. Goodness and mercy followed Bob Burks all his life of 86 years. And my wish for Betty and to all of us Is that same gift that Bob knew all too well.  That we will remember wherever we go and whatever we do—on good days and bad—there are those twin angels—goodness and mercy. They followed dear Bob all his day and they shall always follow us too. 

And today in so many different ways we have made proper use of this temple. We grieve…but not as those who have no hope. Thanks be to God!

--Roger Lovette /

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Thinking of Pentecost

(Ordinarily I do not re-print blog posts. (2010) But this is Pentecost Sunday--the Birthday of the church. Without this day there would be no church--and the wind that has driven so many good causes would not even be. Thank God for God's powerful and ever-present spirit and this special day.)

One of my favorite writers is a Roman Catholic nun, Sister Joan Chittister. She tells the story about  an elder that told a business person, “As the fish perishes on dry land, so you perish when you get entangled in the world. The fish must return to the water and you must return to the Spirit.” She said the business person was aghast and said, “Are you telling me that I must give up my business and go into a monastery?” The elder said, “Definitely not.—I am telling you to hold on to your business and go into your heart.” 

Pentecost reminds us that there would be no life without the heart. The coming of the Spirit did something to those weak, scared and grieving disciples. How could they possibly go on without the Lord Jesus? Later they would remember what he said, “I will not leave you orphans—I will send a comforter to be with you forever.” 

Isaiah wrote: “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people…speak tenderly to Jerusalem.” Underneath the anger and rage and fear of this strange time we live in—people are starved for something they cannot buy or work out for themselves. They have felt betrayed by clergy sometimes, church often, government continually and all the old stack poles like job and school and economics and ethics and genuine kindness seem to have gotten lost in the shuffle.

We all need some spiritus in our lives. Comfort. Grace. Peace. The feeling that we really are not alone in this mess we are in. Churches need it. Pastors need it. And all those who come on Sunday desperately seeking something to hang on to—should not go away empty. It really is a matter of the heart. 

At the end of the day when the TV is off and the I Pod is being charged and you have finally turned off the Computer and the house is dark and you are alone—what matters? If we know that underneath are the everlasting arms—we might just make it. Every year the church, in one form or another celebrates the birthday of its beginning. Birthday? That day when poor, beleaguered disciples were energized with a force that cannot be explained. But their hearts burned within them and they went out to change the world.

And on our better days—when we are less concerned with worship wars and red-states-blue-states and all the other categories that divide us—we, too will return to the heart.

So Pentecost comes year after year like Christmas and Easter. We are reminded that we really are not alone. We are being comforted—and in a world reeling with many crazy things that spirit that comes promises us peace. Everybody I know needs a bucketful. 

--Roger Lovette /

(One Pentecost we gave everyone in church a balloon. We talked about our dreams for church, our families and our world. At the end  of the service we took our balloons outside, said a prayer and sent the balloons on their way. We didn't talk about what our dreams were or what we have prayed--but one by one as the balloons ascended--we wiped away tears from our eyes.)