My fear is that the picture of my faith today doesn’t look any bolder, any stronger, any more active today than it looked 10 years ago… 20 years ago… 30 years ago… Am I willing, regardless of the cost, to do justice… to love kindness… and walk humbly with God? Would I be willing to be arrested for civil disobedience in order to find that one lost sheep? Are you? Am I willing to stand firm in what I count as Biblical truths… and go against what may be written as church law elsewhere?
“They’ve run out of wine,” Jesus’s mother says to him. “Woman, what’s that got to do with you or with me? Not our party.”
When God says through the prophet Isaiah, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you” (43:2), God is not saying, “I will not give you more than you can handle.” Nor is God promising, “This too shall pass.” No, the message is really very different.
One night, the king was roused from sleep by a fearful stumping on the roof above his bed. Alarmed, he shouted, “Who’s there?”
“A friend,” came the reply from the roof. “I’ve lost my camel.”
Do those words pique your curiosity or fill you with dread? Do you expect to be feasting on fascinating facts or drowning in dull details? As we close out the year, we consider a few interesting (hopefully) odds and ends about Christmas and Methodists.
Return once again to that awesome night in Bethlehem as we tell the story and sing carols for the baby king. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
It’s kind of like when you sit in the airport and hear boarding calls for different flights. Most of those announcements don’t matter to you. But when the call comes for your flight, it’s time for you to get on board.
Imagine that you are on a voyage of discovery back in the fifteenth century. Your ship goes down in a storm. You find yourself as the sole survivor on a deserted island. Nobody knows you are there, and there is no hope of rescue. Fortunately, there is water and food available on the island, but the island is deserted of human habitation, and you are all alone. What would you do?
I was not always so negative, so pessimistic. Once, in my youth, my hay day, I thought better of people and their possibilities. I was going to change the world! I’m going to get out there and get those once-racist-sexist-materialistic, homophobic rascals to change for the better. And they can change, if they really want to change, and who better to tell them to change than me? But that was long ago. As a pastor, I got my nose rubbed in the human condition, was made to stare at the sheer ugliness of people.
The expression probably has military origins. When the government or the military believes that certain information is extremely sensitive, the files are placed under severe restrictions. Access to the information is limited only to a few people who absolutely “need to know” in order to fulfil their duties. In these cases, the government does not want someone who is unauthorized or lacking proper security clearances to be privy to sensitive data. God subscribes to the same philosophy of “on a need to know basis.”
I can’t help but wonder if we’ve met the legal experts, the scribes, the perverters of God’s grand temple, and they are us. It makes me wonder, what is the damage that I am currently doing, all the while thinking that I am doing good?
“We're all together, mourning. And it really allowed me to lift up my anguish and say, you know, just put it on God’s hands. And it gave me hope, because, as Pastor Russel was speaking, the sun started to shine, and it’s been cloudy all day in Pittsburgh. The sun was shining, and I felt like that was God telling me that, you know, I’m going to part these clouds. It’s going to be dark and gloomy for a little bit, but I’m going to part these clouds and show you that I’m still here. I’m still lifting you guys up, and that’s what made me smile. And I feel a little bit better.”
“Asking for help is a universally dreaded endeavor,” writes M. Nora Klaver in her anti-self help book, Mayday: Asking for Help in Times of Need.
Whether we’re struggling with getting that heavy bag in the overhead bin on the airplane, or fixing a flat tire by the side of the road, Americans are much more likely to say, “I’m good” instead of “Can you help?”
“I got this,” we’d prefer to say. We’d rather die a thousand deaths than have someone else think that we can’t do things on our own.
From the Psalms:
Do you really love life?
Do you want to be happy?
Then stop saying cruel things
and quit telling lies.
Do good instead of evil
and try to live at peace.
From my head:
Easy to say.
Hard to do.
What is the key?
I've a message for you.
According to a CBS News report, a “survey of more than 2,000 Americans conducted by the Harris Poll… on behalf of the American Osteopathic Association, showed that almost three-quarters (72 percent) of Americans experience loneliness. And for many, it’s not just a once-in-a-while occurrence—one-third said they feel lonely at least once a week.”
When looking at the natural world—from the heights of mountains, to the mighty oceans, and then into the molecular and cellular structure of all that exists—one cannot help but get the message. “Can you hear me now?”
God has spoken.
Clean out those things in your life that get in the way of your relationship with God.
Come meet this motley crew of misfits
These liars and these thieves
There's no one unwelcome here
So that sin and shame that you've brought with you
You can leave it at the door
And let mercy draw you near
Who are you? What do you believe about yourself? Who are you really? What if people knew the real you? Who’s your daddy?
“You have a tongue in your head and two tongues in your shoes, and no matter what the tongue in your head is saying, the tongues in your shoes tell what you’re doing and where you are going. And the awful truth is that the tongues in your shoes have the last word.”