Tuesday, April 12, 2016
My Outlander Moment
Have you ever had the experience of being in a place that you had never visited before, but somehow you knew that you had been to before? Have you ever walked down a street, sat in a room, been in a car, driven down a road, entered a restaurant or a chapel that you were altogether immediately familiar with, but you had never frequented? That was my experience this past weekend.
There is a new television series on STARZ cable television called "Outlander", in which a character named Claire Randall, who is a married World War II nurse in 1945 is transported back to Scotland in 1743, where she becomes embroiled in the wars of Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Highland Clearances ("Outlander" is definitely adult television by the way, so I am not endorsing the content of the show but the plot). This past weekend I was transported back in time. It was my,
On Sunday afternoon, I had the great opportunity, after the Mission Street Church worship service in the movie theater, to travel to San Francisco and preach at the San Francisco Theological Seminary Stewart Chapel, and to teach a workshop on "Entrepreneurialism and the Ministry". From 1935 until 1959, my great grandfather, Jesse Baird, was President of San Francisco Theological Seminary (SFTS). My grandfather received his Master of Divinity degree from SFTS. My father got his Doctor of Ministry degree from SFTS. There is a "Baird Hall" which is named after my great grandmother - Suzannah Baird. I had never really been to the seminary before this weekend (the above picture is of me before preaching in Stewart Chapel). And yet, somehow I had been there before....
When I arrived in San Anselmo, where the seminary is located, at 10:30 at night, the street lights were covered in mist, and almost looked like gas lamps from the 1900's, which would have been installed in the streets there. There was a stillness in the air, a calm, a quiet peace that was transporting and somehow otherworldly. I almost imagined my great-grandfather, Jesse, emerging from a plume of mist, with his pence-nez glasses perched on the end of his nose, and his teaching papers in a leather satchel around his shoulder, walking pensively home after a long board meeting.
The next morning, when I woke up, and walked up the steps from my apartment to the chapel, I imagined my great grand-father, who had preached there weekly, making his way up the winding stairway as he went over his sermon notes in his mind. Ten minutes before speaking, I got a cell phone call from my wife Star, who was checking to see how I was doing. I decided, on the spur of the moment, to take the call. I slipped out behind the alter area, and out a back door. How many times had my predecessors done that before (not for cell phone calls, but for some other last minute conversation). When I ascended the spindled steps of the pulpit to begin to preach, and placed my hands on either side of the lectern, I noticed grooves where a previous preachers hands had grabbed many years before. Who's hands were they? Who's grooves were they? My hands fit in them perfectly! This was getting weird...
My Scottish mother, who hails from the non-ministerial side of my family always said; "Why is it that we as Christians believe in the Holy Spirit, but that we don't believe in other spirits." There were spirits in this place, that I could sense and feel and was aware of. They were good spirits, of a time gone by and an era which has passed, but which now still remains...and is very much alive.
King Solomon who wrote the book of Ecclesiastes, as he was peering over parapets of the castle that his father king David had once peered over - said of this life that; "What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again, there is nothing new under the sun" (Ecc. 1:9).
Perhaps what Solomon didn't recognize was that in experiencing things backward (in our Outlander Moments), we may find...that there is always something new to behold!
All For Now,