FBC Macon

Nurture. Love. Serve. ALL.

We’re proud of our Baptist history and heritage, but we’re also proud of our diversity. At First Baptist you will find a group of people coming from a variety of different church backgrounds and denominations who have found a home at the “top of Poplar.” And while our congregation comes from all over middle Georgia, we are a downtown church and see it is our mission to be the presence of Christ to our InTown and College Hill communities here in Macon.

I Arise Today

Outside the church, St. Patrick is most associated with shamrocks, leprechauns, Guinness, and all the other popular imagery of Ireland. But inside the church, Patrick, who (unlike St. Valentine) most would agree is an actual historical figure, credited with the conversion of the island of Ireland to Christianity some 1500 years ago.

A rich tradition surrounds St. Patrick, remembering him as a beloved itinerant preacher, walking through the countryside with a shepherd’s crook, drawing inspiration from the Irish landscape to reveal theological truths. For instance, it’s said that Patrick used the image of the shamrock to describe the Trinity. Just as God exists in essential oneness yet in three “persons,” the shamrock has three leaves, yet one stem.

Patrick also left behind a beautiful, poetic, and deeply theological “prayer for protection,” known as a “lorica.” As the story goes, he lifted this prayer as he was being pursued by the armies of his enemies. At the time of the would-be ambush, when he and his monks walked by, they appeared to those lying in wait as “wild deer with a fawn following them,” and escaped to safety.

The full prayer (known by various names: St. Patrick’s Breastplate, The Lorica of St. Patrick, St. Patrick’s Hymn, or even The Deer’s Cry) is quite long, but often appears in a truncated form:

I arise today, through God's strength to pilot me,

God's might to uphold me, God's wisdom to guide me,

God's eye to look before me, God's ear to hear me,

God's word to speak for me, God's hand to guard me,

God's shield to protect me, God's host to save me

From snares of devils, from temptation of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill, afar and near.

Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me, Christ in me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
of the Creator of creation.

Remembering these parts of his tradition, St. Patrick’s Day comes at just the right time of year, as the world around us awakes from the browns and grays of winter into the vibrant greens of spring, and we in the church continue our Lenten journey to new life. We, too, might pray for protection, that we would arise each day in the knowledge of the love of God and the abiding presence of the one with whom we walk this journey.


Bright Sadness

Eastern Christianity speaks of Lent as a time of “bright sadness.” It’s bright because we know the promise of resurrection waits for us on the other side. But there is nonetheless sadness because in order to see the light of Easter morning we must first pass through the darkness of Good Friday. Lent is, after all, a walk with Jesus to his death. That he would be raised is always meant to be a surprise.

Theologically speaking, this is a delicate balance to walk, holding both Jesus’ death and his resurrection in equal measure. To lean too much in either direction risks minimizing the other.

And yet, there’s something about this notion of “bright sadness” that we know deep in our bodies. We’ve all felt a kind of “sad brightness,” where our feelings of joy and satisfaction are tempered when we realize they are fleeting.

When we realize the vacation will end and family will return to their homes.

When summer is over and a new school year starts.

When you see the marks on the doorframe measuring a year’s worth of growth.

There’s a sadness behind every bright spot. Perhaps a gift of Lent is reminding us that this is okay; that it’s at the heart of our story. Even the risen Christ had wounds.

Perhaps the more difficult notion is that there is a brightness behind every sadness. This notion is more hard-won because the brightness is not immediately visible. We often must sit in the darkness for sometime before the brightness is revealed. We must move through the darkness to get to the light. This, too, can be a gift of Lent, as we tell this story together over the course of so many weeks in worship.

The great Orthodox theologian, Alexander Schmemann, describes the hope of Lenten worship this way,

“Little by little we begin to understand, or rather to feel, that this sadness is indeed ‘bright,’ that a mysterious transformation is about to take place in us…All that which seemed so tremendously important to us as to fill our mind, that state of anxiety which has virtually become our second nature, disappear somewhere and we begin to feel free, light and happy. It is not the noisy and superficial happiness which comes and goes twenty times a day and is so fragile and fugitive; it is a deep happiness which comes not from a single and particular reason but from our soul having, in the words of Dostoevsky, touched ‘another world.’ And that which it has touched is made up of light and peace and joy, of an inexpressible trust.”

Such is the great hope of this season we enter, this story that we tell, and this life we live together. The life we know deep in own bones, that we pray this season will lift to our hearts.



The Church Needs Lent This Year...

For the Church in America, it seems the season of Lent can’t come soon enough this year.

In these last several weeks the Church has dominated the headlines for all the worst reasons. First there were yet more revelations of the extent of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church, and even worse, a culture of silence and cover-up reaching the highest levels of the institution.Then there came the scathing report of widespread abuse and cover-up within the Southern Baptist Convention. While this report was contained to abuse within the SBC, we know full and well no church or denomination is immune from these horrors.

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What We Need Is Here

From time to time in years past in a place of a typical sermon, I’ve given what we’ve called, somewhat tongue in cheek, a “State of the Church Address.”Current partisan politics aside, I won’t do that this year in a sermon, but I do want to update you on a few things left over from this past year and look ahead to the months to come.

Much of our conversation over the fourth quarter of last year had to do with financial stewardship. At the start of October, barring historically strong giving to close the year, we were on a course to finish a good bit behind in our expenses. Well, as I hope you’ve seen by now, we did in fact have historically strong giving to close the year and finished with a surplus of around $24,000. 

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Sacred Space

I often play music in my office while working; preferably mellow songs with non distracting lyrics help me focus on my work. I tried a new playlist last week. It was a good choice until the lyrics of a song stood out to me, came to the surface, got ahold of me. And so the line (and title of the song) got stuck in my head- “No one knows me like the piano in my mother’s home”.

I am a firm believer in the sacredness of spaces- moments and places that hold powerful memories or meaningful experiences; a moment of connection to the Divine, to the Divine in others, or within yourself. There is profound beauty in the simple, mundane, often overlooked sacred spaces that hold us, hold a piece of our soul. I think that’s why that song jumped out at me; Sampha, the artist, named and shared a sacred space, a piano. This piano was a part of his childhood, and later where he wrote music while he was home caring for his sick mother. Listeners get a glimpse of the memories it holds in his song. 

Maybe it’s what I needed, to be shaken, to be reminded to pay attention even during a seemingly uneventful and mundane day, week, or month. There are sacred spaces that we can come back to when we are searching for something, and we often do without noticing it. Spaces that know a part of our soul. Moments that free us up to find a piece of true selves. 

In a hot cup of chai. In the pavement that knows the rhythm of your tennis shoes running. In the perfect reading chair, familiar to your form. On a dance floor, free from caring who’s watching. In a quite car during a morning commute, or a car full of chatter on the way home from school. On the second branch of the perfect climbing tree. In a paintbrush. In a game. In this church- in weekly conversations with friends in the lobby, in the choir room, in a pew that has known your company for years. 

I think Jesus recognized sacred spaces too- time with a child, at a well, on a mountainside, around a table with friends, in a garden alone. And in this weeks text, at a wedding, a party too good to end early. Maybe the band was especially good, playing everyone’s favorite songs. Maybe the dance floor was packed with people letting loose and just enjoying the moment. Maybe the conversations around tables were joyful, life-giving. Maybe this celebration was so much fun, so sacred, no one wanted it to end. They needed more wine. 

Notice the sacred spaces that hold a piece of your soul, that know a little bit about who you are. Revisit them- physically or reflectively. Thank God for spaces that hold our true joys and sorrows, because it is there that God holds them too. Thank God for spaces that know who we truly are, because it is there that God reminds us who God created us to be.


In her poem, “Hurry,” Marie Howe tells of an epiphany she had with her young daughter and the pace of their life:

We stop at the dry cleaners and the grocery store   

and the gas station and the green market and   

Hurry up honey, I say, hurry,   

as she runs along two or three steps behind me   

her blue jacket unzipped and her socks rolled down.   

Where do I want her to hurry to? To her grave?   

To mine? Where one day she might stand all grown?   

Today, when all the errands are finally done, I say to her,   

Honey I'm sorry I keep saying Hurry—   

you walk ahead of me. You be the mother.   

And, Hurry up, she says, over her shoulder, looking    

back at me, laughing. Hurry up now darling, she says,   

hurry, hurry, taking the house keys from my hands.

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Inescapable Light

Even the biggest and brightest stars look pretty small. 

I remember having the North Star pointed out to me as a boy scout, expecting some massive and unmistakable celestial light, and being more than a little disappointed with the little white dot among many other little white dots.

I think about this each year at Epiphany, when we tell the story of those mysterious “wise men” who have traveled all the way from the back window of our sanctuary to the chancel and found their place in the nativity scene. 

Matthew’s description of these characters is tantalizingly sparse. Tradition has attempted to fill in the gaps for us, providing names and even the notion that there were three of them. But all we really know about these shadowy travelers is that something caught their eye and they were compelled to follow it, even to great distances and at great expense. 

And it probably wasn’t anything big, this star. The stars in nativity sets are usually enormous, and if to scale would be either dangerously close to the stable or much bigger than the sun. I think it helps us to think of this mysterious star as something big, so big that we can’t miss it. But that’s not how stars are. And that’s not how Epiphany is. It’s easy to overlook even the brightest heavenly lights. 

Then I think about this past Thanksgiving when we gathered with Audrey’s family at her grandmother’s house in Metter. One night that week was especially clear and so we took all the children out to the front yard to look at the stars and the moon, full like a giant glowing saucer. Our sister-in-law had one of those apps on her phone that, if you hold it up to the sky, will point out particular stars and illuminate the different constellations in overlaid pictures. The children, I’ll admit, were more interested in a wheelbarrow they found and were carting each other around in out there in the dark. But the adults were enthralled. The sky was alive, the earth was subject to its light, and our lives seemed at the same time so small, and yet somehow illuminated.

The earlier part of the Christmas story tells us that sometimes God’s presence is revealed in choirs of angels—and thank God for those moments. The beauty of Epiphany, the culmination of the nativity story, is that at other times we find God in something small, but curiously bright. The challenge is that we won’t know if it’s really God’s presence shining forth unless we follow it.

So this is my prayer for you and for us at the start of this new together: that we would follow the small, but curious bright lights that shine before us with such regularity that too often we don’t stop to look. But even before this, that we would stop to look, and that we would find ourselves living in the glow of inescapable light.


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A Blessing for the New Year

Special thanks to my friend, Rev. Taylor Lewis Guthrie Hartman for passing along this blessing for the New Year…

This is a time of endings and of beginnings.

This is a time of reflection and resolution, of choice and of change.

This is a time to let go –

To let go of all that has bound our hearts and held us back.

Give this to God. Let go.

This is a time to hold on –

To take hold of the blessings of the past, of our dreams and best intentions.

We offer this to the future.

In the silence now, let us examine our lives. What can we let go of and leave in God’s hands? And what will we hold close and cherish and carry with us into the new year?

(A time of silence.)

Let go of your sins. Do not waste time when the year is done in guilt or self-reproach, but, trusting in the grace and mercy of God, turn from those habits of mind and vain comforts which only harm you. 

I will let go.

Let go of your worry. Do not dwell on that which you cannot change. Tomorrow has trouble enough of its own. Rejoice in the gifts of each day and every moment.

I will let go.

Let go of cynicism and despair. Do not grow hardened or unfeeling to the pain of the world. Do not lose hope. Open your eyes and open your hearts to the needs of others. Do justice. Seek peace. Befriend the stranger. Believe that God is making it to be on earth as it is in heaven.

I will let go.

Hold on to the goodness within you, to that which is of God within you, to your innocence, to your sacred worth.

I will hold on.

Hold on to all that brings you joy, to the love in your lives, to deep and edifying friendships, to fond memories, to experiences of beauty, to feelings of wonder.

I will hold on.

Hold on to the calling of God, to the claim of God on your lives, to the intention of God that your potential and your promise would serve higher purposes.

I will hold on. 

In this time of endings and beginnings, of reflection and resolution, of choice and change,

May God give me the grace to let go and the strength to hold on.

Adapted from a litany by Anthony Livolsi



Sunday School at 9:45am
Morning Worship at 11:00am

Wednesday Evening
We begin with a meal at 5:30pm. Music and missions activities are available for adults, youth, and kids. Learn More



511 High Place
Macon, GA 31201
Directions to FBCX

Telephone: 1.478.742.6485

Email: office@fbcxmacon.org

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