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April 17, 2014
Bruce on Cross

This column was published By the Spartanburg Herald-Journal last Friday under a different title.  Today it is published on the blog for Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.

On Friday, January 17, 2014, friends and family gathered to celebrate the life of Bruce Cash in a funeral service designed exactly the way Bruce wanted it to be. Those who attended had a meaningful experience, remembering Bruce as a kind and faithful man whose life touched many others.
Bruce was my brother-in-law, married to my little sister Kitty. She is the youngest of eight; I am the oldest. When she was born, I was in junior high school.
Having a little sister is good for an older brother. I saw myself as her guardian, her protector, not as a parental surrogate. That role was strongly activated when Kitty began dating. I thought my responsibility was to keep the creepy guys away, which I did. We welcomed Bruce Cash into the Neely family, and I have thanked the Lord for him many times. Bruce was the perfect husband for my little sister and perfect father to their six children. Read more…

The Legend of the Fairy Cross

April 14, 2014

Last week Clare and I were going over our calendars.

I mentioned the Holy Week services scheduled for the church I serve. For Christians these days commemorate the events of the pivotal week in the life of Jesus. On Palm Sunday the children enter the Sanctuary waving palm fronds as the congregation sings a joyful hymn. On Maundy Thursday evening we share communion, remembering the last Passover meal Jesus observed with his disciples. On Good Friday at noon we gather for a devotional time in our Sanctuary. Easter Sunday is the most important day of the Christian year as we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus.

Ever conscious of appropriate attire and accessories, Clare said, “I need to sort out my cross necklaces.”

She has several. One she received from her parents, when as a child, she joined the Methodist Church. She has a Jerusalem cross that I purchased for her when we traveled in the Holy Land. She also has a small reddish-brown cross on a simple ribbon given to her by family friends when she was a child. It is a fairy cross. Read more…

Retirement Announcement.

April 13, 2014

This morning I announced my plans to retire as Senior Pastor of Morningside Baptist Church. This is a decision that I have made over the past year and a half with much prayer and thought. June 10, 2014 will mark my eighteenth year as Senior Pastor of this loving church.

Morningside is in a strong, stable position. We have had modest membership growth over the past several months. We again finished last year with a surplus financially. We have a very fine staff in place. Our Full day preschool program is at near maximum enrollment. Many things are going well.

I know that now is the right time for the church and for me to make this transition.

My last Sunday at Morningside will be June 29, 2014 Read more…

The Life of Jesus: The Turning Point

April 6, 2014
Christ (2)

Sermon:  The Life of Jesus: The Turning Point
Text:  Matthew 16:13-28

This week we continue our sermon series The Life of Jesus by considering a pivotal point recorded for us in Matthew 16:13-28. Hear now the Word of God.

13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.
21 From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.
22 Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”
23 Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”
24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.
28 “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”

At the end of the 19th century Mark Twain was a little known journalist for a San Francisco newspaper. The local people knew him only as a young storyteller who had published one story at that time, “The Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.” Twain convinced his publisher to let him take a trip across Europe and into the Holy Land. He agreed to send his publisher frequent letters, describing the places he visited.

Mark Twain accompanied a group of Episcopalians as he traveled through the Holy Land. They booked passage to France, went down through Italy, and into the Holy Land. Try to imagine this scene now. He and this group of tourists rode mules into the Holy Land, entering from Syria, coming down Mount Hermon, down from the Golan Heights, to a city called Banias. That is just right for a guy from Hannibal, Missouri, wouldn’t you say? Read more…


April 6, 2014
Duncan Park

The 2014 Major League Baseball season officially got underway in Sidney, Australia, on March 22. The game was played between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Arizona Diamondbacks at a revamped cricket field. Dodger Clayton Kershaw, a two-time Cy Young Award winner as the best pitcher in the National League, won the season opener 3-1 against the Diamondbacks. Vin Scully was in the Dodgers’ broadcast booth for the start of his 65th season.

On Sunday afternoon after church I made a trip to the public library. On my way back home I drove past beautiful Duncan Park, pausing just a moment to admire the old ballpark. Read more…

April Fool

March 30, 2014
April Fool

I was ordained to the ministry on April Fool’s Day. I must admit that at the time I did not consider the long-term implications of the timing of this significant event in my life. In subsequent years, I have found this convergence of dates to be reason for great hilarity among my colleagues and congregants.

When I was growing up, April Fool’s Day was much-anticipated. One memorable escapade was placing a beautifully wrapped box, albeit empty, by the side of the road as if it had been carelessly lost. When a passerby stopped to rescue the package, kids in hiding jumped out to shout, “April Fool!”

In our family Clare usually pulls the first joke of the day, almost always involving food, a tradition that goes back to her grandmother. Among Clare’s classic heirloom pranks are freshly baked apple cinnamon muffins, each containing several cotton balls. Tasty! Read more…

The Life of Jesus: His Healing Ministry

March 23, 2014
Healing Ministry

Sermon:  The Life of Jesus: His Healing Ministry
Text:  John 5:1-15

I have chosen as our text today John 5:1-15, which addresses the healing ministry of Jesus.

Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. 2 Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. 3 Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. 5 One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”

7 “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”

8 Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” 9 At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.
The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, 10 and so the Jewish leaders said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.”

11 But he replied, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’”

12 So they asked him, “Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?”

13 The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there.

14 Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” 15 The man went away and told the Jewish leaders that it was Jesus who had made him well.


While I was at the grocery store last night, I thought I would get some juicy tabloid headlines to share with you. They were not fit for human consumption, however, so I have fallen back on my favorites: Pitbull Eats Mobile Home; Grandmother Kidnapped by Aliens, Returned to Earth Seven Years Later – Younger than Her Grandchildren; Rabbi Spits – The Blind Can See and the Deaf-Mute Can Speak and Hear. The last headline sounds like something taken right out of a tabloid, but in fact it comes out of the ministry of Jesus. The message today on the healing ministry of Jesus continues our series The Life of Jesus. Read more…


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