Every Fall I have a trip that takes me out of Alaska for about a week. This is because my presbytery, the Presbytery of the Northwest of the OPC, and the OPC’s Committee on Foreign Missions on which I serve, have back-to-back meetings in late September. So two weeks ago I first flew to Oregon for our presbytery meeting in Grants Pass; a few days later I was in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, just outside of Philadelphia, for the committee meeting. Being from far-flung Wasilla, Alaska, I look forward to the fellowship these meetings afford. And it’s always nice to have a break from the usual routine.
It was also enjoyable to see the bright, giant orb in the sky people call the “sun”. We’ve heard rumors of it up here, but until I walked in its light and felt its warmth for myself, I dismissed reports of its existence as a mythic tale. Now I know, there is a sun! (pardon the sarcasm, but if you spent the last few months here in Southcentral Alaska, you know what I’m talking about!).
In my absence a friend, Rev. Brett McNeill of Reformation OPC, Olympia, WA, filled the pulpit at Grace. I heard nothing but good reports of his sermon that Sunday, and he tells me he had a great time up here on his first visit to Alaska.
Though just a week away from home, it takes me time to adjust to being back. Physically I’m tired from the travel and jet lag. And mentally I find myself slow to embrace with zeal all the usual responsibilities being home entails. But after a few days, I feel normal again. And that was the case this time, too.
Though not a restful “vacation,” the week away was a blessing. Having my wife along for the second half of the trip made it even more so. But I’m glad to be back home now.
On Sunday morning I preached on the “old” and “new” commandment the Apostle John writes of in 1 John 2:7-14.
The commandment is for Christians to love one another, and it is “old” because Jesus taught it from the beginning of his ministry. And because loving thy neighbor is the sum of the law (Romans 13:9), it’s as old as the giving of the Ten Commandments on Mt. Sinai. But the commandment is “new” because Jesus gave it a whole new dimension when he came into our world. His self-sacrifice on the cross to redeem sinners showed us the true depth of the commandment. To love our neighbor is more than mere politeness or courtesy (though it certainly includes that!). But love is cruciform: it means sacrificially giving myself, my time, and my resources for the sake of my neighbor. Jesus said, “This is my commandment, that you love one another, as I have loved you” (John 15:12).
At the evening service we continued our study of the Heidelberg Catechism, this time learning what the Scripture teaches about swearing an oath. Though for Christians our “yes” must be “yes” and our “no”, “no” (Matthew 5:37), Scripture doesn’t categorically forbid us to take oaths, even in God’s name. Used correctly, oaths can “maintain and promote truth and trustworthiness for God’s glory and our neighbor’s good” (Heidelberg Catechism 101).
Soli Deo Gloria!