Loose in the world

There’s a framed sheepskin deed, dated 1787, hanging in our church office, signed by the heirs of William Penn. The deed grants land to the “Presbyterian Congregation of Pittsburg.” The land included an ancient Indian burying ground and a Revolutionary War Cemetery, where the founders of the church (who later founded the city) were buried. As new church buildings were constructed (four have stood here), graves had to be exhumed and the heroes buried elsewhere. Seventy sets of remains are buried in the crypt in the church basement.

The current building was finished in 1905, and people from around the world still marvel at its unique combination of stone, wood, and stained glass. But two unique features often go unnoticed. Facing the street are stone plaques with the worship times. Yes, there really are things here that are carved in stone. Maybe when they built the place 112 years ago, they couldn’t imagine worshipping at another time. Or perhaps they couldn’t imagine a time when church would no longer be a focus of the culture.

The second feature is the outdoor pulpit, facing out onto Sixth Avenue. People walk by all day long, mostly without looking up. If someone did bother to look, they might not recognize that they were looking at a pulpit at all. But then they would also miss the meaning of the pulpit—God’s Word loose in the world.

This Sunday we’re going to use that pulpit for worship outside. At 6:00 AM thousands of runners will be gathering for the Pittsburgh Marathon, and we’ll be there to bless them. And at 10:45 AM, we’ll gather on Sixth Avenue for outdoor worship, and the Word will, literally, be loose in the world from here again.

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