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Welcome to the LPC e-pistle!

The LPC e-pistle is designed for the friends and families of Langhorne Presbyterian Church and any others who happen by. Pastor Bill Teague shares weekly comments on the world, the life of faith and Langhorne Church. A weekly e-mail, sent by request, keeps members up to date on news and prayer concerns within the congregation. Langhorne Presbyterian Church is a warm, Christ-honoring congregation, and we’d love to have you stop by for a visit if you’re ever in our neighborhood. You can get directions to LPC here.

December 2 – Why the Good News is not Fake News

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You may have heard of fake news. It’s been in the news. In its simplest form, fake news is just the grandson of the grocery store tabloid, the estranged daughter of an old Gray Lady. Whether your motive is profit or propaganda, just about anyone has the ability to become a purveyor of fake news. Set up a website, give it a name that fits your cause – federalnews.com or celebritybuzz.net (don’t worry, they’re fake; I’m thinking of buying the domains) – and start writing all the news that’s fit to entice.

During the last election one fake news site posted a story about the Pope endorsing Donald Trump and then watched as it was Facebook shared and re-tweeted a hundred thousand times. Another said it had evidence that Hillary Clinton was using a body double as she convalesced in Chappaqua from some life-threatening illness.

Fake news affirms our prejudices, appeals to our lesser selves, drives a wedge of suspicion between friends.

It sort of makes you miss the National Enquirer.

Some people think fake news may have thrown the election, the Pope’s endorsement or Mrs. Clinton’s life-threatening illness having persuaded many. Who knows? Some suspect the fake news story is fake news. Who knows?

Some legitimate news sources have put up fact checker and truth teller sites to help us sort fake news from real news. Some of us don’t want to sort fake news from real news, however. We find fake news more comforting, an echo of what we want to believe is true, and, please, don’t confuse us with the truth.

Christians, of course, are in the news business, and we should be concerned about fake news.  The Gospel, the good news, never affirms prejudice, never appeals to a lesser self, never drives a wedge of suspicion between friends. That’s one of the many ways we know it is true.

Fake news driven by social media is a 21st Century problem, but fake news itself is as old as human story telling.  Fake news was a problem in the first church.  Writing to his young colleague Timothy, Paul warned him about fake news: For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. (2 Timothy 4:3-5)

Itchy ears love fake news.

Paul tells Timothy to be sober-minded, to endure suffering, and to fulfill his ministry by doing the work of an evangelist. The evangel is the good news; the work of an evangelist is spreading the good news and guarding against fake news.

The first evangelist we meet in Scripture did not share a Facebook post or re-tweet an enticing comment. He showed up in person. He appeared to some shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night. He said, “Behold, I bring you good news (the evangel) of a great joy. To you is born this day in the City of David a savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

The shepherds may have wondered if it was fake news, this good news. So they did some fact checking.  They went right over to the City of David, to Bethlehem. Everything checked out. They found a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. It was just as the angel with the evangel, the messenger with the good message, the true message, had said.

Ours is a time when a lot of people think the good news is fake news. During the next few weeks, sophisticated news sources will post and print sophomoric articles casting doubt on the truth of the story the shepherds told. More seriously, some among us will be tempted to think good news has passed by our sad world. How can God love a world like ours? Or where is love in such a time as ours?

The truth of the good news cannot be verified at a fact checker website.  The truth of the good news is verified by changed lives working to change our sad world, confident that the dawn comes and the bright morning star rises. (2 Peter 1:19)

How do we know that good news is not fake news? Guilt and sin and death lose their power over our lives. Addictions are broken, sorrow gives way to joy, shame is erased as we see our names written on God’s heart. How do we know that the good news is not fake news? Those who tell the story of the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger befriend the friendless, feed the hungry, stand with the oppressed, embrace the outsider, visit the prisoner, love the children, and care for the elderly.

This is the church’s great task, to show the world that the good news is not fake news.

See you Sunday.

November 24 – A Thanksgiving Day Proclamation

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Americans have been observing a National Day of Thanksgiving on the last Thursday in November since 1863.  When the nation paused to give thanks that first Thanksgiving Day, the guns at Gettysburg and Vicksburg had been silent for less than five months. President Abraham Lincoln, already anticipating a tough reelection campaign, had spoken at the dedication of the national cemetery at Gettysburg only a week earlier.

In his brief remarks at Gettysburg, Lincoln reminded his listeners that the nation was dedicated to the proposition that all people are created equal. He named those who had died defending that cause ones who had given their “last full measure of devotion” to the nation and its cause. He called those listening who met on that great battlefield to “highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” Continue reading

November 18 – Why the Search for Baby Kitten Matters

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Becky and I will be in Sturgis, Michigan, for Thanksgiving. Hoping to avoid some of the day-before traffic on the Turnpikes (Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana, in that order), we will leave early Tuesday morning and hope to arrive late in the afternoon. Our son-in-law, Ryan, has to work on Wednesday, and Katharine, our daughter, has a bit of at-home work to do, as well. “I’m sure you won’t mind playing with the girls for a while,” Katharine wrote a couple of days ago. Her confidence is not misplaced.

Lena will be five in February and Ada was two in September. We won’t mind playing with the girls for a while. Becky will bring books to read and crafts to do. The girls will delight in what Grandma brings in her bag. I will be down on the floor, my specialty is to provide the voice for whichever stuffed animal I’m assigned in the drama that unfolds throughout the weekend. At nearly five, Lena will undoubtedly provide the story line. Two-year old Ada will not be far behind. My guess is that the story told will have something to do with baby kittens.

I love Thanksgiving. I love this best of all holidays. I love being with family. Continue reading

November 11 – What cancer taught me about the election results

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My cancer diagnosis came all at once. There was no waiting for test results, no need for a biopsy. It hit hard, a sledgehammer destroying in one blow a wall of good health that had always kept storms and danger at bay. Surgery was scheduled before we left the doctor’s office. There had been no symptoms, no concerns, just a routine test. We were stunned, dazed.

We went home and had lunch, and sometime that afternoon I went to the file cabinet next to the desk in the family room. I found the life insurance policy and for the first time ever, and never since, I read the entire thing.

When I tell that story, other cancer survivors often say, “Oh, you too.”

You have to do something, and reading the fine print in a life insurance policy is something to do. You may weep or you may rage or you may get out a bottle. Some people pretend it isn’t happening. You have to do something. Reading the fine print in a life insurance policy is probably a better thing to do than raging or drinking or denying. Continue reading

November 4 – Why I won’t be watching the election returns

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The North Light, Green Bay, Menominee, Michigan

Sam is a friend of the sort whose friendship you cherish. His friendship is one of a handful of friendships God has used to shape and sustain me, to fill my life with joy. In some ways Sam and I are as different as night and day, but he is that Proverbs friend who sticks closer than a brother.

Becky and I met Sam and Debbie the day we were introduced to the congregation of First Presbyterian Church, Menominee, Michigan, as the new pastor and his wife. We had no idea how much time we would spend with Sam and Debbie over the course of the next five years. The four of us built a youth ministry; First Presbyterian had never seen such a youth group, and, yes, our own kids were a part of its success. Continue reading