Overshadowed by Glory

I understand that Mary was confused and perplexed. I doubt she was often greeted, in glowing terms, by an angel. “And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you’ ” (Luke 1:28). It’s not an everyday greeting. No wonder “she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be” (v. 29). Then the heart of the matter is declared: And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” (vv. 30–33) Now that is heady stuff—a son, Jesus, great, Son of the Most High, throne of David, reigning, an unending kingdom. At last the great work of slaying Satan and sin and ... Read more

Outreach after Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Texas

When the rain started in Houston on August 26, it didn’t stop until the whole city was at least three feet deep in water. “Some areas in the thirty-inch range, some in the fifty-inch,” explained Steve Larson, Disaster Relief Coordinator for the OPC in Houston and member of Cornerstone OPC. “It overwhelmed the bayous, it overwhelmed the rivers, it overwhelmed the reservoirs … all of [them] failed miserably, at the same time,” Larson said. As a result, Houston was ravaged by catastrophic flooding from Hurricane Harvey. Deed and Word When the water receded, Cornerstone in northwest Houston, sister church Providence OPC in northeast Houston, and church plant Good Shepherd OPC Bible study in southwest Houston, all sprang into action. Their timeline was simple, explained Larson. The top priority was to help those within the household of faith; then, as donations began coming into the denominational disaster relief fund, to help those in need outside the church. “We are trying to help as ... Read more

Outreach after Hurricane Irma in Naples, Florida

Pastor Eric Hausler bought a generator this year, after living in South Naples for four hurricane seasons. “I figured I had dodged the bullet enough times,” Hausler laughed. He and his wife, Donna, moved to Florida in 2013 in order to plant a church. The first worship service at mission work Christ the King Presbyterian Church in Naples, Florida, was held in November of that year. “We’ve really been focusing on our neighborhood,” Hausler said. “We have about five hundred front doors.” Many of those homes are only occupied in the winter months by “snowbirds” who move north for the summer. That provided a unique outreach opportunity when winds from Hurricane Irma swept through the city on September 10. The first week was about survival, Hausler explained. Much of the city had been evacuated in the face of dire forecasts predicting a Category 5 hurricane—in fact, a flood surge of six to nine feet was expected to come through the church’s neighborhood. The flooding was much less ... Read more

Bach and Wagner: Two Contrasting Musicians

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750) wrote extraordinary sacred music: passions based on each of the four evangelists, the B Minor Mass, the Christmas Oratorio, the Magnificat, those incomparable organ works for church, and cantatas galore. He also wrote many pieces not for church—to name a few, the Goldberg Variations and other keyboard masterpieces, the Brandenburg Concerti, tons of partitas, preludes, suites, fugues, inventions, and, one of the most purely joyful little pieces of music I can think of, the Badinerie of his Orchestral Suite No. 2, BWV 1067. Bach dedicated all, whether for the church or not, Soli Deo Gloria, “glory to God alone,” and is widely recognized not only as one of the greatest sacred composers but also as one of the greatest composers ever (not a few, in fact, have placed him at number one). John Eliot Gardiner on J. S. Bach This is why a book on him by one of his great modern interpreters, John Eliot Gardiner, is welcomed by all music lovers. In Bach: ... Read more