As many of you know I love the backcountry of Lancaster County. Just this past weekend I had another opportunity to enjoy its winding and winsome beauty after Church. I was on a slow moving meandering trip into Southern Lancaster County with my fellow bikers from the Christian Motorcycle Association. You would expect Christian bikers to obey the speed limit and I assure you on this ride we did…truth be told at one point I began to yawn. But I am not complaining because seeing the wonderful farms, grazing livestock, majestic horses … coupled with the sounds and sights of various Amish families traveling by buggy brings up all kinds of nostalgic emotions for me. I sometimes think I was born in the wrong century or at least the wrong part of the century. I sometimes regret not getting to ride a horse to school or be part of an old fashioned cattle drive, or going into the chicken house to gather up some eggs.
I remember as a kid visiting my school mate Dave Miller on his family farm. I picked up and felt a bridle and saddle in the barn where they kept a few horses. I remember the feel and smell of the leather and knew it be authentic, well-used, and old. When I went home that evening I fantasized about where that leather had been, the horses it had guided, and the people who sat upon and handle those horses. To me, even as a thirteen year old it had an impression. I often wax nostalgic about childhood and simpler times—especially during the summer months when memories seem most potent for me.
I personally think the world is all the better with more country roads, more family owned hardware stores, more roadside fruit stands, small town flea markets, and ice-cream stands. Having lived for twenty five years in the Philadelphia rat-race with all its rhythm and energy, I admit summers in Lancaster County have many endearing moments especially as I am out amidst God’s creation and enjoying many of charming towns and villages in this county. I recognize that I may have a love/hate relationship with modernity. I have learned rather reluctantly to embrace technology, and I certainly value the productivity afforded by computers, and cell phones and other gadgets. This intersection between the old and the new has been fertile ground for much of my preaching and writings since coming to Westgate.
Last week when I was in Carlisle I visited Massy’s Ice Cream—it was a favored Ice Cream landmark from my childhood. When I would ride my bike near the Dickinson College Campus, to watch the Washington Redskins practice during the summer months, I almost always got a chocolate cone. The wonderful thing about my stop last week was that the Ice Cream still tasted the same as I had always remembered—same location—similar menu— same sliding service windows—same surroundings—same indescribable flavor—just six times more expensive as it was forty years ago. As I ever so slowly licked my chocolate custard on a sugar cone I realized all over again the power of memory.
We have learned through research that who we become as human beings is a complex mixture of conscious and unconscious adaptations to millions of experiences beginning at a very young age. I don’t pretend to fully understand it all, but one thing I am certain of is this. I want the good folks that I serve pastorally to remember church as being one of those very special places where they feel most safe and joyful and inspired. I want us to remember leaving the sanctuary provoked to think higher, more deeply and more provocatively. I want the memories of worship to be accompanied with a larger more expansive understanding of all things divine and edifying. I would like it if you drove past Westgate Church some years from now and were filled with warm and tender memories of the people and mostly of the mighty God you encountered there. I would want you to be able to tell someone special to you “Those were the good old days…those were some wonderful days of faith and fellowship….in that small chapel I grew to love the WORD OF GOD and His people ever more deeply...awe those were the gold old days.”