A Message from Pastor Craig

We celebrated All Saints Day last Sunday (October 31, 2021). Whenever I think of the saints who have gone before us, I think first of my grandparents. All four of them were dedicated Christian people. The outward signs were more visible to me in my grandfathers, although they couldn’t have been more different.  One was a missionary in Costa Rica, another a newspaper man for the Altoona Mirror – not a huge rag by any means.

Both loved their Bibles. Both prayed fervently.  And both loved to hike. I hiked with both of them, and happier days I have not spent than those days conversing with them while traversing the hills of Pennsylvania or Costa Rica. I suppose that’s why I like to walk so much.

The other day while walking my regular path at Emerson Point Park (this is in Manatee County), I started taking pictures of all the signs you encounter along the way. The first one was kinder, it said “Please stay off the grass—Restoration in Process.” The next one was similar: “Shoreline Restoration in Progress—Please use Boardwalk.”  The next one spoke more directly: “KEEP OUT–Restoration in progress–Please Use Marked Paths to Access Water.” Next: “Foot Traffic Only Beyond this Point.” (I love bicycles too–this one bothers me). “All animals must be on a leash.”  “No Fishing and Cast Netting” (I wondered if you only did one or the other, if it was OK). Then specifically the bicycle hater sign, just a bike symbol crossed out. Cancel culture at its worst!  I think the rest of the signs around the park were just repeats of these.

We are reading through Pilgrim’s Progress as a congregation. And as I walked through the park, I felt that many people, a few non-Christians included, think that the Christian Way, or the Pilgrim’s Progress, is just one series of do’s and don’ts—mostly don’ts.  Don’t kill, don’t steal, don’t commit adultery are the first ones. “Don’t smoke or chew, or go out with girls who do” comes from the Book of Hesitations, but it follows that basic idea.  Don’t drink, don’t cheat, don’t miss church, don’t, don’t, don’t. The Pilgrim’s Progress seems like a daunting, no fun, uphill walk on the very straight and narrow–both questionable attributes for this day and age.

Is that what it is? No.

For one thing, the signs at Emerson Point are there so that the largest number of people can enjoy the park for the longest time possible. The rules God set forth were so that the largest number of people could live in harmony with one another for the longest amount of time. We should take note.

Also, I took pictures of those negative signs. But the VAST majority of the park does not have those signs. Most of it is unadulterated vistas of mangroves, river, Gulf, Indian mounds, etc. The park is for the delight of the humans that roam it. So it is with the Bible. Read the synoptic Gospels. They are about the “Yes” of God towards this Earth, and the “Yes” of Jesus towards individuals. They are not about don’ts, or a big potential “no” from God. Does God love us? Yes! He came and visited with us. “Jesus, will you heal me?” “Yes.” “Jesus, can I live a forgiven life?” “Yes.” “Jesus, can you feed me?” “Yes.”  “God, is there hope?” YES! What did Jesus say? “I have come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10 KJV).

And, well, yeah! What about those promises spread throughout the Scriptures? Some suggest there are 3000 or more of them. Eight of the Ten Commandments are set in negative terms, yes.  But they are far outweighed by the positive words of God in Scripture. Just look!

Oh, and then there’s the love that you develop for the park, I mean the Christian Way, when you spend more and more time in it. But that’s for another sermon.

Walking under the cloud of witnesses,

Craig

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  Hebrews 12:1