A Psalm of Thanksgiving

Psalm 100

A psalm. For giving grateful praise.

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
    Worship the Lord with gladness;
    come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
    It is he who made us, and we are his[a];
    we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving
    and his courts with praise;
    give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
    his faithfulness continues through all generations.

The Morning News

I watch the morning news while getting ready for work. Despite years of loyal viewership, WSB never solicits my opinions. IM always HO, they need to hear the following comments.

I just woke up and possess little tolerance for silliness and banter. Deliver the news, not zany antics and caffeinated comments.

The five-day forecast provides all the weather info I need. Post the graphic for 20 seconds, and I’m good to go. Don’t breathlessly tease important details to be delivered ten minutes later.

Meteorologists who take credit or blame for the weather possess a God-complex. Don’t assign adjectives to climate. Never judge a day by its weather.

The traffic reporter issuing a forecast for afternoon road congestion is absurd. First, s/he doesn’t know. Second, it’s Atlanta–traffic will be heavy!

Abstain from saying “Good morning” to each member of the news crew during every segment. We assume you exchanged greetings upon arrival. 

Refrain from bragging about your news coverage. Viewers can figure it out for themselves.

Avoid overused words and phrases like “actually,” “literally,” “exclusive,” “breaking news,” and “ongoing story.” Make sure nouns and verbs agree. Learn how to use comparatives, superlatives, and absolutes.

Use “police officers” or “law enforcement personnel” instead of “cops.” They deserve our respect.

Don’t air video preceded with the words, “This is difficult to watch.”

This is Bill Burch reporting live from my Word Press blog site.

Church Characters #8: Bill

During a series entitled “Church Characters,” I’m recalling some memorable people from decades of ministry.

This week’s blog culminates my articles on church characters. Each played a role in shaping my soul and informing my ministry. I decided to conclude the series by focusing on the biggest church character of all: ME!

I graduated seminary in May 1982. A month later the bishop appointed me as pastor-in-charge of Mount Carmel and Emory Chapel United Methodist Churches. The congregations outside Newnan, Georgia formed a two-point circuit in order to support a full-time minister.

I preached at Emory Chapel, the smaller of the two congregations, at 9:45 a.m. Then I sped to Mount Carmel for the 11:00 a.m. service. The larger church also held a weekly Sunday night service, which meant preparing two sermons weekly—and weakly!

The Mount Carmel members built a parsonage next door to the church. The 3/2 home served the needs of a single pastor. The congregation dismissed central heat and air as extravagant luxuries. A wood heater warmed the front part of the house. An attic fan sucked air down the hall during the summer.

I moved to town with all of my worldly possessions in the back of a friend’s pickup truck and my Honda Civic. A 19-inch TV with rabbit ears provided 3 channels of static-filled entertainment. I bought a microwave my first Christmas and felt like royalty.

Four suits composed my entire ensemble, and I wore one per Sunday on a monthly basis. I possessed two pairs of dress shoes and various colors of dress shirts. As a bachelor with no fashion sense, I owned an iron but no ironing board.

Reminiscing on those first years of ministry, I wince at my inexperience and callowness. However, the two congregations adopted me as their own. They treasured their role in raising “boy preachers” to maturity. The members assured me that I would serve great churches in the future. I assured them that I already served great churches in the present.   

I am who I am today because of the people who mentored me in the past. Thanks be to God for church characters. Amen.

Church Characters #7: Sam

During a series entitled “Church Characters,” I’m recalling some memorable people from decades of ministry.

The bishop appointed me to First United Methodist Church of Summerville in June 1991. We arrived on Moving Day to discover my predecessor still in the process of moving. Tracy and I walked to the church next door to wait on the moving van.

We met a man in his 70s trimming the shrubs. Sweat-stained and red-faced, he looked like a prime candidate for a myocardial infarction. He switched off the hedge trimmer and extended a wet palm for a handshake.

In a loud voice of the hearing impaired, the man declared, “You must be the new preacher. My name is Samuel T. Hell-buck. Every church needs a hell-buck, and I’m yours!”

The brother did not lie; well, except for his name. I later discovered his last name was ironically “Bible.” However, the man lived up to his self-proclaimed title.

After four decades of pastoral ministry, Sam ranks number one among ornery church members I have encountered. He made my life a living hell, constantly criticizing and complaining. He verbally assaulted me during an Administrative Board, cussing me out because I did not visit his wife in a Chattanooga hospital. The fact that he did not inform anyone about her hospitalization did not matter—I should have known!

Preachers’ stories typically resolve conflicts with happy endings. I would love to describe how Sam and I settled our differences as brothers in Christ; but this never occurred. He could not even agree to disagree with me, and we didn’t exchange Christmas cards after I moved.

Most pastors aspire to please people and avoid conflict. I learned in Summerville that I cannot please everyone and sometimes conflict is unavoidable.

Samuel T. Hell-buck taught me these lessons.

And by the way, every church does NOT need one.