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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.

September 30 – Why I am Not Voting My Conscience

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A few days ago I posted a social media meme promoting this coming Sunday evening’s “How Then, Shall We Vote?” gathering. I received some good feedback both online and off. One respondent asked, “Is that really a question?” In her mind it is not. She is pretty confident that her candidate is the only reasonable choice. Another, I think it was a way of saying, “I don’t walk to talk about it,” assured me that he would be voting his conscience.

I am not voting my conscience, and I’d like to talk about it.

Jiminy Cricket once told Pinocchio to let his conscience be his guide. It was bad advice for Pinocchio and for us.

The English dictionary defines conscience as “an inner feeling or voice viewed as acting as a guide to the rightness or wrongness of one’s behavior.” The literal meaning of our word comes from Latin and it means “with knowledge.”

My problem is that my conscience is not a good guide. It has me lost in the thickets and down dead-end alleys in no time at all.

Like Scrooge when he talks to Marley’s ghost, I wonder if my inner feeling, that voice speaking, “may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of underdone potato.” To my inner feeling I might as well say as Scrooge said to Marley, “There’s more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!”

At best, my inner feelings are indigestion. More likely they come, as James writes, from those passions at war within me. “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you?” he asks, “Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel.” (James 4:1-2)

The hallways of history are littered with disasters and devastation brought about by those listening to their consciences and acting in what they were convinced was good conscience. The worst thing I could do on November 8 is vote my conscience with any confidence that I had gotten things right.

So, what? Do I not vote for fear of getting it wrong? Do I vote a party line or as my union boss or over-bearing friend or over-confident pastor tells me to vote?

How then, shall we vote? Yes, it is a real question. And, no, I am not going to vote my conscience. Or at least not my conscience alone

In 1521, Martin Luther stood before Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor. A stack of Luther’s books and other writings were placed on a table and Luther commanded to recant of what he had written, to admit to being a heretic. Luther replied, “I cannot recant, for I am subject to the Scriptures I have quoted; my conscience is captive to the Word of God. It is unsafe and dangerous to do anything against ones conscience. Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise. So help me God. Amen.”

Historians debate the historicity of the famous “Here I stand” line. The first reports of the encounter do not include it, though that is not proof he did not say it. But all the written accounts and official records agree that Luther first asserted that his conscience was captive to the Word of God. And only then did he say it is unsafe and dangerous to do anything against ones conscience.

My conscience is notoriously ill-equipped to guide me to what is right and wrong. It fails me all the time. But held captive to the Word of God, chained to the Scriptures, the Spirit himself bearing witness to our spirit (Romans 8:16), we find good places to stand and we cannot do otherwise.

On Sunday evening we will look at the Scriptures and the confessions and pray that the Holy Spirit will guide us as we talk together in a safe place – no arguments, no name-calling, and no conclusions how we enthusiasts, contrarians, and confused must vote.

I am going to vote on November 8, and I have pretty good idea of how I am going to vote. But, really, I don’t want to vote my mis-guided conscience alone.

See you Sunday. Morning and evening.

September 23 – I hope they are wrong

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I received a letter in the mail the other day. It was from the Society for Human Resource Management. It was their pleasure, they wrote, to inform me that I have been pre-approved to join their society as a professional member. They said that my commitment to successful HR practices at Langhorne Presbyterian Church qualifies me for this exclusive privilege. All I have to do is fill out a simple application and remit $175 by October 28. $195 after October 28.

I hope they are wrong. I hope they have me mistaken for someone else. They need to know that I have no commitment whatsoever to successful HR practices at Langhorne Presbyterian Church. I would be a disgrace to Society and all its other members.

I don’t need to wait until October 28. I’m not joining. Continue reading

September 16 – So, tell me about your church

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“So, tell me about your church?” He asked the question in the midst of small talk; we were just making conversation, but he seemed genuinely interested in hearing a little bit about LPC. However, our meeting would start soon and I did not want to impose too much on his kind interest in our church. I’d need to keep it short.

For years business people, sales reps, advocates for this cause or that, have used the phrase “elevator speech” to describe that short explanation of what we’re selling or doing, diligently working for or passionately believing in. What would you say about LPC if you had someone’s ear only for as long as it takes the elevator to get you to the seventh floor? Assuming a slow elevator and fairly fast talker, you have about 150 words. Continue reading

September 9 – September 11: A Sad and Glorious Night

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By noon on September 11, 2001, we were just beginning to comprehend the magnitude of what had happened. We could not be certain if it was still happening or not. The Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon just across the Potomac River from the nation’s capital, Flight 93 in a field outside Shanksville, for those of us in Beaver, Pennsylvania, less than two hours away.

Jeff, the pastor at First Presbyterian Church, two blocks from our own Park Presbyterian Church, and I talked to each other, as good friends often do, and I can’t remember who said it first, but we knew, without much conversation, that the people of our churches and our little town needed to be together; to pray together and worship together, to come into the presence of God together. We would gather that night, that night of September 11, at Park Presbyterian because our sanctuary was the largest among all the churches. Continue reading

September 2 – Why Church Dinners Beat Hash Tags and Hyphens

File Sep 02, 9 36 16 AMChurch dinners. They are the insider’s best dream and the outsider’s ultimate nightmare. Whose idea were they, anyway?

Church dinners, potlucks, covered-dish suppers: the insider knows the difference and what to expect. The insider knows about scoping out the all the dishes before beginning to load up on the ones at the front end of serving tables. They know the dangers of soggy paper plates and what happens to a jell-o salad when it gets too close to a hot three-bean casserole.

Insiders know that timing is everything. You don’t want to arrive too early for fear of being the first one at a table and having to watch others who arrive later look your way and then sit somewhere else.  You don’t want to arrive too late, because not only is the food hopelessly picked over, the only seats left are next to people with whom you’d really rather not have to make small talk. Continue reading