Monday, May 22, 2017
We record the sermons at the church where I preach, then post them to YouTube. My sermon yesterday (about the preparation for which I posted last week) concerned serving God and Christ with zealous obedience. During the sermon, just as I paused for a moment, a member's digital Bible began to read out loud to her. She could not silence it! Finally a friend of hers took the verbose smartphone and rushed from the auditorium to find sanctuary elsewhere. I realized fairly quickly that I could not compete with the other voice. The congregation was too distracted, as was I. So, after a moment (or twenty, as it seemed to me), I smiled and said, "You've got to love technology!" Later, I realized that a perfect illustration for my sermon had appeared without invitation right in the middle of it. As Christians, we profess to follow Christ with all our heart, but then...a distraction - someone or something clamors for our time and concentration. We look away from Jesus and follow the distraction. Here's the sermon if you want see the awkward moment, or if you want to ponder how we can serve Jesus with the same zealous obedience with which he served God.
Tuesday, May 16, 2017
This week I am preparing a sermon from John 2:13-25, which I suspect is not the usual passage most people consider when asking, "What would Jesus do?" In the passage, Jesus marches into the temple court, throws over tables belonging to vendors, then drives out those merchants and the sacrificial animals they had been selling. This is not Jesus "meek and gentle." Countering corruption sometimes takes overt action. Preaching requires capturing the attention of those so ingrained in their sin that they don't realize you're speaking to them when you call for people to repent. On the other hand, Jesus teaches disciples to turn the other cheek, to give more than is asked, to go the second mile. Do you sometimes struggle to discern when to seek reconciliation and when to turn over tables? Answers to our immediate confusion, urgent and elusive though they seem, may be entwined with our awareness of what it means that we have died to sin when we were buried in baptism and that we have arisen into a new life where we seek to keep in step with God's Spirit. What Jesus would do if he were we might not be easy to determine as some might think. However, followers of Jesus still, like him, seek justice and live faithfully. We forgive and seek reconciliation. We suffer. We, at times, act decisively and abruptly to protect the vulnerable and weak. We seek the way Jesus would take.
Monday, May 15, 2017
Another milestone attained recently: I retired from being a military chaplain. After wearing the uniform both full-time and part-time for over two decades, I suspect there will be some difficulties adapting to new realities in my life. Hopefully, my long-time awareness that "Things Change!" will assist me in my transition. Preaching for a local church has brought renewed joy into my life. People seeking to please God by loving others encourage! Let's remember that Jesus came into this world to save it, not to destroy it. Pray hard and live with love.
Friday, April 08, 2016
Wrestling a lawnmower across ridges Sculpted by stealthy burrowing rodents, I manhandle the reluctant machine, Conjuring in my mind bucking broncos, My bouncing mower a battling steed That resists this amateur cowboy’s lead, Charging forward, lunging over hillocks, Dodging first left, then right, pausing to throw Without warning, its feckless rider down On dusty soil strewn with fallen branches.Moles burrowing underneath my yard made mowing the grass so much more difficult and inspired this attempt at poetry. May God give you comfort and perhaps a laugh at my expense (although empathy and commiseration are equally appreciated).
Monday, December 07, 2015
King Asa of Judah prayed as he prepared to lead his army against a more powerful military force: “Then Asa called to the LORD his God and said, ‘LORD, there is no one like you to help the powerless against the mighty. Help us, O LORD our God, for we rely on you, and in your name we have come against this vast army. O LORD, you are our God; do not let man prevail against you” (2 Chronicles 14:11). The king appeals to God’s covenant with his people but also notes God’s love for justice with the observation that God will “help the powerless against the mighty.” He calls for God to remember his relationship with the people of Judah and the lineage of David. We remind both ourselves and God of our relationship when we pray. This past week, as many stated that they were praying for families of the victims of the shooting in San Bernadino, California, others scoffed at the concept of prayer as a response to crisis. The Bible testifies that prayer indeed is an appropriate response, when combined with faith, genuine concern, and faith-based action. Terrorists and other criminals often attack the vulnerable and people engaged in activity (like celebrating at a Christmas party) that compromises their alertness. When we pray, like Asa we confess our helplessness, but also ask for guidance so that we may respond effectively and appropriately. When we pray, we call upon God to remember his zeal for justice. We ask him to make right what has been violated. We pray in the name of Jesus Christ, and that fact must remind us that whatever we do from that point, we must remember that we act as Christians. Some seem to perceive all prayer in response to crisis as glib and meaningless. Perhaps some do say they are praying or will pray as a reflexive response, much as we say, "I'm great!" in response to a greeting of "Hi! How are you?" even when we may be having a very bad day. However, I'm convinced that many pray in challenging times with a conviction that our creative God will find a way to execute justice and bring right to an scenario that is entirely wrong. Let us be sure to pray if we say we will pray, and be sure to follow our prayer with positive actions. Our response will impress others as the way that Christians react, whether we respond well or poorly. May we pray and act in response to crisis and injustice in ways that testify to our neighbors about the power of God and the love of Christ.
Thursday, December 03, 2015
God’s spectacular creation has overwhelmed me at times. The total darkness of an overcast night in the Mojave desert far from any light, the snow-capped mountains that surround Kabul, Afghanistan, the crystal blue of the Adriatic sea, and the myriads of stars visible in the sky above Arizona’s Sonora desert have all awakened in me a sense of awe. On the other hand, hiking trails in Arizona and Tennessee mountains or running on German forest trails confronted me with vibrant green foliage punctuated by brightly blooming flowers. A deer pausing as it attempted to avoid my notice or a squirrel scurrying up a tree reinforced my wonder at God’s creative power. I understand, however, all too well the point that some rabbis suggested when they said that God had trouble getting Moses’ attention because he was too focused on the sheep. I wonder how many of us have the same focus on everyday responsibilities that distract us from a burning bush equivalent, a sight or experience that would envelop us in awareness of God’s otherness and nearness if they would only pause to notice. I have been distracted in that way. Besides my running, my reading has also reminded me that God’s glory surrounds me. One story that has helped me to regain my bearings is Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Each year I search for a new film version of it in hope of a fresh reminder of proper priorities. Occasionally, I encounter people who I expect to appreciate God’s wonder because of their experiences, but who seem to have a spiritual twin of tone deafness. It takes me aback, and usually jolts free a memory of my own obtuseness in the presence of wonder. I have had trouble lifting my eyes to see the beauty around me after several jarring events in my life. I’m thankful for the times I have opened my eyes to behold the wonder. “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1). Pause and marvel at the wonders God has created.
Saturday, April 12, 2014
I return after an absence of several eventful months. My chaplain ministry continues to give me opportunities to serve those who give themselves to serve others. At the same time, I hope for opportunity to serve more. The rough draft of my book on prayer nears completion even as I intensify my search for preaching and teaching opportunities. This last week I was reinvigorated by hearing speakers discuss preparation for and ministry to people overcome by natural disasters. Illness and unexpected loss of a house or business damages one's spirit. One survives the storm through prayerful preparation, attributing proper value to material possessions, and by having the right amount of insurance. Insurance may be flood, fire, or earthquake related; it also can be soul-directed when one evaluates his or her relationship with God and acts to improve it. 1 Peter chapter three describes how Noah survived a world-wide flood and compares it to Christians being saved through baptism that confesses one's allegiance to God and faith that realizes the implications of Christ's resurrection from the dead.