Saturday, April 25, 2009

What's The Blue Ribbon About?

I've been wearing a blue ribbon in my lapel this month. People ask me why. Go here to find out.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

"How like Jesus not to allow his people rest and peace, not to encourage them to hunker down with their own kind...

... but rather to send forth on the most perilous of missions those who had so disappointed him." See William Willimon's Easter sermon.

Geeky Fun!

This is where I went today. It's absolutely awesome!

[UPDATE: This appeared in The Columbus Dispatch the day after my visit.]

"The devil is content to let us profess Christianity as long as we do not practice it."

See here.

The Church is a place where all hypocrites can gather and tell God, “We’re tired of pretending to be stronger, or smarter, or holier, or more capable than we are. We thank You for loving the people behind our masks. We need You, God, to help us become our true selves, the people You made us to be.”

Are you feeling 'Glad All Over'?

The Dave Clark 5 was one of my favorite British invasion bands. With their driving beats and use of the saxophone, atypical for the Sixties, they were a big influence on Bruce Springsteen, among others. A boxed set of their career has recently been issued in Europe. A friend gave it to me at Christmas. I've been glad all over ever since.

Two oldies from delirious?

Brit Christian rockers, delirious?, came up with some great material in the last decade.

Here's 'Deeper.'

Here are the lyrics:

I want to go deeper
But I don't know how to swim
I want to be meeker
But have you seen this old earth?
I want to fly higher
But these arms won't take me there
I want to be, I want to be

Maybe I could run
Maybe I could fly, to you
Do you feel the same
When all you see is
Blame in me?

And the wonder of it all is that I'm living just to fall
More in love with you [x2]

I want to go deeper
But is it just a stupid whim?
I want to be weaker
Be a help to the strong
I want to run faster
But this old leg won't carry me
I want to be, I want to be

Maybe I could run
Maybe I could fly, to you
Do you feel the same
When all you see is
Blame in me?

And the wonder of it all is that I'm living just to fall
More in love with you [x2]

Maybe I could run
Maybe I could follow
It's time to walk the path
Where many seem to fall
Hold me in your arms
Just like any father would
How long do we have to wait?
How long, we're going all the way

And the wonder of it all is that I'm living just to fall
More in love with you

Written by Martin Smith/Stuart Garrard �1997 Curious? Music UK

And, here's a live version of 'My Glorious,' which I absolutely love!

These are the lyrics of 'My Glorious':

The world's shaking with the love of God
Great and glorious, let the whole earth sing
And all you ever do is change the old for new
People we believe that

God is bigger than the air I breathe
The world we'll leave
God will save the day and all will say
My glorious!

Clouds are breaking, heaven's come to earth
Hearts awakening let the church bells ring
And all you ever do is change the old for new
People we believe that

Written by Martin Smith/Stuart Garrard �2000 Curious? Music UK

On growing up...

as a Christian.

From the "Better Living" vault: Whatever Happened to Susan Pevensie?

A Model of Herod's Temple

Incredible! Slideshow. (TY: Ben Witherington)

I have no clue what 'Flashing Red Light Means Go' is about...

but I find it infectious. (And it may not be about anything. Maybe I wouldn't want to know if it turns out this it is about something.)

There's no decent video for the song. Here's one that has the CD track and a single black and white still photo of the band from Youtube.

Here's a live version from the band. I don't much care for the performance or the video quality. But it's good to see an actual performance.

Here are the lyrics. Any idea what they mean?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A Peace Bigger Than Our Fears

[This was shared during worship with the people of Saint Matthew Lutheran Church in Logan, Ohio, earlier today.]

John 20:19-31
I was talking yesterday with a learned Christian man. “Mark,” he told me, “I’m more concerned about America than I ever have been.”

That man wasn’t worried about the economy. Like you and me, he knows that we’ve had recessions before, even several depressions. We’ve survived those and we will survive this economic downturn. His concern instead, was for the soul, the spirit, the life of America.

And his concerns aren’t unfounded. Materialism and greed, coarseness and inhumanity, violence and sexual immorality seem not only to be accepted by many in our country today, but encouraged.

On top of that, hopelessness, boredom, and thrill-seeking lead many to drugs…and not just in big cities, but right here in Logan. A law enforcement official in our community told me some months ago that he worried that we are at risk of losing the lives of a large percentage of those in the eighteen to twenty-nine year old category to heroin addiction here in our community.

These and other hard realities could lead us to be afraid, to lock our doors and our hearts, and let the world go by.

On the Sunday after Jesus’ resurrection, our Gospel lesson tells us that most of Jesus’ first disciples were afraid. They had locked themselves in a room, fearful that their fellow Jews would come after them as they had gone after their Lord Jesus. Jesus had died a horrible death on a cross.

And even though they had seen the risen Jesus, they still huddled in fear in that locked room. The only one of their number who felt bold enough to walk the streets of Jerusalem was a guy who hadn’t seen the risen Lord, who refused to believe in Jesus’ resurrection: Thomas.

My colleague, Pastor Scott Baker, challenged me to think a few weeks ago, when he asked some of our colleagues and me: Why didn’t Thomas believe the witness of the other disciples? Why had he refused to believe that Jesus rose from the dead?

Pastor Baker offered a plausible reason: The other disciples were claiming that God had conquered sin and death, that through the living Christ, God was with those who believe in Jesus always, that nothing could separate believers in Christ from the love of God. AND YET, they were still terrified of what others might say or do to them. Thomas saw no change in his fellow disciples that would verify the truth of their claim of having seen the risen Jesus. They lived like people without hope. So, how could he possibly believe them when they said that Jesus had risen?

Pastor Baker’s insight led me to painful questions about myself: Can the risen Jesus be seen in my life? Does Jesus make a difference in how I live? Or am I simply going through the motions, enjoying holy huddles on Sunday mornings, and then, locking out God and the world the rest of the week? How many people have I personally told the Good News of Jesus, for example, in the past year? How often have I dropped my own personal agenda in order to serve a needy neighbor? How many prayers have I offered up for others? What have I done to bring justice or hope or comfort to other people?

In 1966, Jimmy Carter ran for governor of Georgia and lost. He was particularly bitter because the man who defeated him was a raging racist and Carter considered himself a devout Christian. But as he wallowed in self-pity, Carter’s sister, Ruth Carter Stapleton, an evangelist, invited him to take a walk with her. She asked her brother to compare the time he spent on serving God and neighbor with the time he’d spent in recent years advancing his own career. Carter had spent time in short-term mission work, sharing the Gospel with people in northern inner city areas. But by his reckoning, he’d only shared the Gospel with several hundred people, while having talked personally with thousands to get himself elected governor.

Then, Ruth asked him this question, “If being a Christian were a crime, Jimmy, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” As Carter thought through the implications of that question, he decided that whatever the future brought, he would strive to keep Jesus Christ as his highest priority in life.

Thomas had every right to think that if Jesus really had risen from the dead, it would shuffle the priorities of his fellow disciples, that they would be out in the world telling others the good news that God so loved the world He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him will have everlasting life. He would be safe in assuming that if the other disciples really had encountered the risen Jesus, they’d be bold in confronting evil, illness, injustice, poverty, hopelessness, and unbelief. If we believe in the risen Jesus, it ought to make a difference in how we live.

The Reverend Norman Vincent Peale, in one of his books, tells the story of a man who approached him after Peale gave a talk at banquet. The man said that he was a nervous wreck. As we all know, things like depression and anxiety can be physiologically based. But often, our nervousness is simply rooted in fear that we’ve allowed to grow to monstrous proportions. That was the case with this man. Peale wrote out a passage from the Bible on a piece of paper. They were words from Paul, “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.” He told the man to be sure to pray every evening and whenever his fears were controlling him to call out to God, reminding himself that he could do all things through Christ, who strengthens those who place themselves in His hands. That, wrote Peale, was the beginning of a transformation in that man’s life. Faith overcame fear. That man knew peace because he had peace with God.

The risen Jesus can change the lives of individuals and of communities. Hector Vasquez is a Lutheran pastor who once lived and worked as a missionary in Guatemala. There, he says, he and his wife Mirtha “learned an important lesson—the success of any church is not dependent on great decisions or great wisdom, it depends on the ability and knowledge of [God’s] Holy Spirit [working in] each one of us.” The only ability God expects us to exercise in following Him is availability.

According to Vasquez, early one morning, he found a group of people standing outside his home. They represented several indigenous communities where he and his wife were starting to do community service work. These people had a request: “They said, ‘Pastor Hector, our communities sent us so that we can ask you to send us pastors and teachers to teach us and our children. We know that what you do is good and, therefore, what you believe must also be good.’”

If we believe in the risen Jesus, it ought to make a difference in how we live. It ought to surmount our fears, leading us from locked rooms out into the great world, where we can share Christ with our neighbors. Lutheran pastor Walt Kallestad writes, “The essence of faith is risk…Faith makes things happen, while caution simply watches things happen.”

That was why I was so pleased with your participation in the recent Prayer Vigil. And that’s why I’m hoping that you’ll get involved with helping our servanthood team with the food drive in May. On May 9, we’ll go out into some Logan neighborhoods with empty sacks. Each will have two flyers attached. One will invite folks to fill the sacks with four items, represented by the acronym, PSST!: peanut butter, spaghetti sauce, spaghetti, and tuna. The following Saturday, May 16, we’ll need a bunch of you to go out to help us pick up the donated food items, which we’ll then turn over to the Hocking County Jobs and Family Services folks for distribution among needy families in our community.

I have a dream. It’s this: That the people of Logan will come to see all the good we’re doing in the power of Jesus Christ, and one-by-one, those not yet connected with Christ or the Church will approach us, as they did Pastor Vasquez in Guatemala, and say, “Teach us and our children about the Lord Jesus. We see His love and His power in you. We know that what you do is good and, therefore, what you believe must also be good.’”

The once-unbelieving Thomas, without ever touching the wounds he’d earlier said he needed to touch before he would believe, fell at Jesus’ feet and worshiped. Then he confessed Jesus as, “My Lord and my God!” And Thomas’ belief in the risen Jesus made a difference. One of the Christian denominations in India today traces its founding back to Thomas, who, it’s believed, was martyred there. Through Jesus, Thomas gained a faith that overcame fear.

In our everyday lives and as a Church, we need faith like that. Our world needs faith like that. It’s a faith that dares to live in the peace that the risen Jesus gives to His people, a peace that overcomes fear. May we live in that peace always. Amen