I just got back from a week-long vacation with my parents and most of my siblings with their families. The week in Myrtle Beach was marked by temperatures colder than those I left behind in the Pittsburgh region. Nevertheless, it was a nice time of refreshment and an opportunity to see many special people I see all too rarely these days.
Sunday morning I went to the Murrell's Inlet Presbyterian Church, which was walking distance from the place we were all staying. My parents were aware that the church had been in the process of seeking a new pastor and were curious how the search was going. I noticed that the bulletin identified Thomas J. Thornton as the church's pastor-elect. When I pointed this out to my sister Donabeth, she started wondering aloud how she knew that name. Two church members in front of us turned around to tell us about their excitement that the church had called a new pastor and that he was from the Pittsburgh area. Then Donabeth remembered that he was the pastor of the Cranberry Community United Presbyterian Church.
That morning the guest preacher was Erika Rembert, a first-year student from Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary in Atlanta. She preached a fine sermon entitled "Following the Master's Lead." It was nice to start this week of distance from daily responsibilities with a reminder of what the path of Christian discipleship is all about.
During the rest of the week I enjoyed the sunshine and fellowship, while reading a number of books for my enjoyment and edification.
I was delighted to read Eats, Shoots and Leaves: the zero tolerance approach to punctuation by Lynne Truss.
I finally got around to reading The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown. So now, at long last, when my friends ask me if I have read it I will be able to carry on a conversation about whatever issues this piece of fiction raises for them. I enjoyed the book as an adventure story, noted with approval that the author wanted to support the recovery of what he called the "divine feminine," and was disappointed by the apparently monolithic version of the divine feminine he worked so hard to bring into the open for public discussion. I have noticed that the novel has spawned a vigorous opposition, the fervor of which almost makes plausible the book's premise that the institutional church would be so threatened by the existence of living biological offspring of Jesus Christ that it would be driven to centuries of oppression, theft, destruction, and murder. I don't think I live with my head in the sand, but I honestly don't see why the possibility of a living bloodline would have any positive or negative effect on the the faith of those seeking to follow Jesus today. Perhaps one of those who find this idea so threatening will teach me someday why it matters to them.
For a little more fun, I read Skinny Dip by Carl Hiaasen. I've always enjoyed the idiosyncratic characters in Hiaasen's books, and this adult morality tale was no exception.
I rounded out the week by starting Stories of Emergence: Moving from absolute to authentic, Mike Yaconelli, general editor, a collection of autobiographical essays by fourteen different authors who each describe their journeys of faith as they come to terms with postmodernity. I find each of the individual stories to be invitations to hope and renewed vision.