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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Rural Lancaster County pond scene (click to enlarge photo)
 We pass this ice-covered pond on the way to our church.
It's a bit warmer today but still below freezing.
(click on photo to enlarge)

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"Potluck Dinners"

"Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart" (Acts 2:46).

Potluck dinner On Sunday we enjoyed a Potluck Dinner at church. I doubt that any of our national readers need an explanation of potluck since everywhere we’ve lived potluck is very common. But for our international readers, potluck is a gathering where each family or individual contributes a dish of food to be shared among the group. It results in a great time of fellowship and often an exchanging of recipes.

In my 35 years of ministry and during my childhood I never recall going to a bad potluck dinner. I suppose there have been individual dishes I didn't care to eat but overall I've always enjoyed potluck dinners. I like the variety of food in addition to the warm fellowship.

As a child in Belton, Missouri I recall enjoying the almond green bean casserole with mushroom soup that I figured came from a more high-class family than mine at that time (since almonds were expensive)! In the little country church near Fair Grove, Missouri where we pastored during our first year of marriage we often had dinner on the grounds. I can still recall the cold fried chicken that Sister Moore brought in an old wicker picnic basket. In northern Pennsylvania I learned to enjoy the German sweet & sour three bean salad that I had no use for as a child. In New England it was the Portuguese dishes, especially those made with chourico or linguisa. Here in Lancaster County we also have a lot of great Pennsylvania Dutch foods, like pig's feet, pork stomach and other delicacies although I haven't developed a taste for all of them yet!

Sunnyvale dinner on the grounds 1977
Dinner on the grounds in Fair Grove, Missouri, 1977
(You can see the very corner of the roof of the church on the left and our parsonage was off to the right - it was a wonderful setting for beginning our first pastorate in our young marriage)

At a potluck I typically walk through and take smaller portions of dishes that look interesting, sensitive that some are expecting the pastor to try their dish, also making an excuse to myself for over-indulging. (But, truthfully, I've had a few dear older ladies let me know they were hurt when I didn't try their dishes.)

This Sunday I was eating my meal and especially enjoying a tasty pineapple dish. I thought to myself, "Hhmm, I need to find out who made this to see if Brooksyne can get the recipe."

On the way home Brooksyne asked me, "What was your favorite dish today?" Right away I responded, "Some kind of pineapple dish."  She smiled at me and said, "Well, thank you. That's sweet of you!"  Only then did I catch on that she had made it.  I guess I wasn't paying much attention to her food prep in the kitchen on Saturday!

Whether you call it potluck or something else I reckon that wherever you live you gather for meals with others in your church, small groups, etc. Our daily verse gives us a glimpse of life in the early church shortly after it was established. I doubt that they called them potluck but they sure ate together often so I consider Potluck dinners to be Scriptural!

A few verses earlier these four components are recorded by Luke, describing the early church:

"They were continually devoting themselves:
  • to the apostles' teaching
  • and to fellowship,
  • to the breaking of bread
  • and to prayer."
It must have been a wonderful time with outstanding unity probably never seen since in the nearly 2000 year history of the church.  They "continued with one mind".  What an interesting and compelling description of unity! They ate "their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart" That's a colorful description of meal time isn't it.  It would also be a welcome description of homes all over the world where families sit down and eat together around their dinner table and express love, interest, and support toward each other.

Next time you get together to share a meal with brothers and sisters in Christ remember these early meals and aspire to the same kind of unity, gladness and sincerity within your church body. 

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily Prayer: Father, times of refreshing and gladness of heart are present when we share with each other; whether it's food, warm conversation, working together or sharing one another's burdens.  When we are in unity we become one in purpose and accomplish great things for Your kingdom. We want to be obedient to the teachings of the apostles, enjoy regular fellowship with one another and also faithfully pray for each other so that we are the kind of church that pleases You and is effective in our community.  In the name of Jesus we pray.  Amen.

Memories, memories, memories!

Tracy and Beulah Sutherland 1977
Another potluck memory: I learned early on the importance of being sensitive in trying potluck dishes. I specifically recall sharing a meal together at the little church we pastored called Sunnyvale about twenty-five miles from Springfield. Beulah Sutherland approached me and asked, "Why, Brother Weber, aren't you going to try my...?"

They were a precious couple and part of our early ministry formation. In the summer of 1977, on a Saturday afternoon, we decided to throw a surprise homemade ice cream party for them. Both in their 90's they were celebrating their 65th wedding anniversary, as I recall.  We had arranged for their son to bring them to the party after the church folks had everything set up.  On the pretense that he wanted to take them for an afternoon drive, he drove them over to the neighborhood of the church.  The Sutherlands noticed right away that there were church people seated in the picnic area. Her son conveyed to us that Beulah said in a rather meek but troubled tone, "I wonder what they're doing at Sunnyvale and why they didn't invite us?" This couple had been members for probably 50 years at the time. Of course, her son turned the car around about that time and drove into the circle drive so that we could all yell, "Surprise".  But we were the ones in for a surprise at Beulah's response. She had her hair in pin curls preparing for church the next day and would never have shown up at a party (especially, in her honor) with pin curls.  After she got over the initial humiliation she and Tracy were absolutely delighted with the loving attention of that small country congregation - many of them Bible College students from nearby CBC in Springfield.

We continued to visit them when we drove by that area after moving to the northeast.  Tracy died several years later but Beulah lived to be 103 years old. We wonder if she realizes from heaven that we are telling their story!

Sanctity of Life Note:  The church I pastored in Massachusetts was located on US 44, a very busy highway that was the main east/west route through the city of Taunton.  We had a lighted message sign along the highway that was changed virtually every week by Bill and Veda, a very dedicated couple in the church.  Scores of people were regularly exposed to spiritual truth in a very spiritually desolate region of the country. Through the years we got a number of positive remarks from passersby concerning these messages and this was very encouraging. 

However a message we placed up in January one year got some very interesting feedback. We posted this simple, unambiguous, irrefutable message: "Abortion Stops A Beating Heart."  A lady who'd seen the sign called my office extremely upset.  She thought there should be a law against posting such a message and threatened that she was going to check into it. She said her children were so upset they cried.  Truth really hurts and in this case illustrates the awful blindness that sin causes.

Prolife march
For many years I traveled down to Washington in January to participate in the March For Life. (It was held yesterday.) This photo was taken about twenty years ago. I'm the tall fella in the red jacket holding the sign! There are two friends from our church standing behind me, Chris and Kandy. Jim Ailes, a pastor friend from the Christian and Missionary Alliance Church, is standing in front of me.

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FYI: Here's the recipe to Brooksyne's pineapple dish I raved about!

Scalloped Pineapple (Serves 12 or more, easily adapted for 6 servings, an excellent leftover)

1 C. Butter, softened
1 ½ C. sugar
2 eggs
½ C. heavy cream (I used small can of evaporated milk - can also sub w/ milk         for lighter version, but with the butter, hmmm)
2 (20 oz. ) cans pineapple chunks or tidbits
*5 C. bread cubes (preferably a coarse texture white bread with crusts)

Preheat oven to 350.  Cream together butter and sugar with mixer, food processor or blender. Add juice from pineapple, eggs, and cream to mixture, and mix together.  Stir in *bread cubes and pineapple tidbits. Spread in a greased 2 qt. casserole or a soufflé dish and bake at 350 for about 45 minutes or more.  I like to bake mine in  a 9x13 dish so I have a large crusty surface with each serving which makes the casserole more tasty.  Watch toward the end of baking for browning on top as you may need to cover with foil to keep it from getting too brown. 

*(If you drizzle the bread cubes with melted butter before adding to mixture this helps the casserole to brown nicely.)
This can be prepared the night before and baked the next day.

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
Click on the link to open and play.
(In some cases you may also need to click again to start the song.)

"Come And Dine The Master Calleth"  Video  The Happy Goodman Family

It's hard to find music
related to today's theme but this song came to mind. When I began pastoral ministry in northern Pennsylvania in the late seventies we gathered monthly with other pastors in our area for a fellowship meeting. David Selleck an older pastor was our presbyter (term for area leader similar to Bishop, Superintendent or Overseer depending on denomination). I think without exception he would begin each meal time with this song!

"Suppertime"  Video  Written by Ira Stanphill who pastored here in Lancaster PA in the past.  Years ago I was on a plane out of Texas and sat next to a man who attended the same church as Ira Stanphill at that time. He testified of his real commitment to the Lord and what a blessing he was in his older years. Ira finished the race and went to be with the Lord in 1993.

My favorite song written by Ira Stanphill is "Follow Me"  Video  I like this version sung in earnest by Kelly Willard.

I traveled down a lonely road and no one seemed to care,
The burden on my weary back had bowed me to despair,
I oft complained to Jesus how folks were treating me,
And then I heard Him so so tenderly,
"My feet were also weary upon the Calv'ry road,
The cross became so heavy I fell beneath the load,
Be faithful weary pilgrim, the morning I can see,
Just lift your cross and follow close to me."

"I work so hard for Jesus" I often boast and say,
"I've sacrificed a lot of things to walk the narrow way,
I gave up fame and fortune; I'm worth a lot to thee,"
And then I heard Him gently say to me,
"I left the throne of glory and counted it but loss,
My hands were nailed in anger upon a cruel cross,
But now we'll make the journey with your hand safe in mine,
So lift your cross and follow close to me."

Oh Jesus if I die upon a foreign field someday
'Twould be no more than love demands, no less could I repay,
"No greater love hath mortal man than for a friend to die,"
These are the words he gently spoke to me,
"If just a cup of water I place within your hand
Then just a cup of water is all that I demand,"
But if by death to living they can thy glory see,
I'll take my cross and follow close to thee.

Here's a video tribute that includes several Ira Stanphill songs

Yesterday we shared about the inscription on Fanny Crosby's tombstone, “She hath done what she could”. Another tombstone that has this inscription is that of Carrie Nation in Belton, Missouri, across the road from Cambridge Elementary School where I went to grade school!

Carrie Nation tombstone

Here's a trivia question: What other famous person is buried in the Belton Cemetery? Answer here if you know. I'll post answer with tomorrow's message.

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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