Dear MLEPC Members and Friends,
On Sunday we continue our sermon and small group study series, "Renewal Journey, a Road to Revival," by looking at true repentance as a means of revival. We'll read the story of a familiar Bible character, John the Baptist, one who preached repentance as a forerunner of Jesus, and hear about a revivalist named Charles Finney. When we think of John the Baptist, we remember him because he's different. He dresses oddly, he preaches in the wilderness and he has a strange diet. Charles Finney was considered different in his time, yet he is considered a great leader in the Second Great Awakening and is credited as one who sparked a revival that spread across the country.
This week, Laura Duffy and I were privileged to be able to attend the funeral service of the brother of a church member, held at Paris Church of the Nazarene in Burgettstown. We were blessed in many ways. It was a warm and sunny day for our drive. It was a joy to be in this beautiful small country church where our member's mother was a charter member. The music and testimonies given by family and friends were fitting tributes to a long life well lived and spoke of salvation to the hearts of those in attendance. As we were driving along Steubenville Pike to the service, we passed a cemetery where a signpost caught my eye and a few words jumped out at me: "Presbyterian Revivalist". On our return trip, we carefully watched so we wouldn't blink and miss the small cemetery and Laura pulled her car off the road so I could jump out, cross the street and take a picture of the signpost.
I just had to find out more about Elisha McCurdy, so I looked through websites on the history of Washington County and found this story.
On a November day in 1802, John McMillan turned to Elisha McCurdy and asked him to preach a sermon while the Communion was being administered to a part of the great multitude. McCurdy ascended the wagon pulpit with fear and trembling, not knowing what he should say. After a hymn and a prayer, he opened the Bible at random and his eye fell on the Second Psalm-"Why do the heathen rage?" The Whisky Rebellion and the terms of amnesty offered by the government were still fresh in the memory of the congregation. McCurdy startled his hearers by announcing that he would preach a sermon on politics. He said he had just received a letter from the government, informing him that an insurrection had taken place and that measures had been taken to suppress the rebellion, and amnesty had been proclaimed to all who would return to their duty. Since many of the rebels were present in his congregation, he said he would read them the proclamation of the government.
He then read the Second Psalm as describing the condition of sinners and announcing the terms of amnesty offered them in Christ (v. 12): "Kiss the Son, lest he be angry." During the sermon which followed, many fell to the ground, crying out in their anguish that they had been rebels against God. The scene was like the close of a battle in which every tenth man had been wounded.
This sermon on the Second Psalm, famous as "McCurdy's War Sermon", played a mighty part in the Great Revival, which swept the country in the first decade of the nineteenth century and left behind it the missionary society, the prayer meeting, and the agitation against slavery and strong drink. Meditation upon God's Word, upon any part of his revealed truth, is never without profit; for it is only when God's truth begins to work upon individuals and in society and among nations that great results follow.
I've titled Sunday's sermon "A Voice, a Light and a Signpost." Not only can we consider these three words descriptive of the ministries of John the Baptist and Charles Finney, we see that local folks, like Elisha McCurdy, virtually unknown to most of us, sparked revival as they were the voice of repentance and a light that exposed it. And what is a signpost? It's a post anchored in the ground with a sign that points to something else. As we consider how we might be a voice, a light and a signpost to the gospel message, we need to be anchored in Jesus and point others to Him. I truly believe we can be a church of Elisha McCurdys to a world in need of repentance, revival, AND Jesus. Our Psalm reading for Sunday includes one of my favorite verses, Psalm 96 verse 9, "Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth!" It's a reminder that true worship includes fear of God. It is fear and trembling that calls us to repentance, knowing that in His great love for us, God sent His Son, Jesus, to seek and save the lost.
Love, in Christ,
Linda Pokrajac, Director of Congregational Care