Saturday, September 05, 2015

Good Day Sunshine by the Beatles

This was the first song heard when I arrived at a recent wedding reception.

When I Look at the World by U2

The hardest prayer...and why I pray it

I've said it before, the hardest prayer we're commanded by Jesus to offer up to God our Father is, "Your will be done."

I've been a Christian now for nearly four decades and that prayer never gets easier for me.

But when I think of what Christ did for me on the cross and from the tomb made empty by God's love, how can I pray for anything but that God's will be done?

The apostle Paul writes in Romans 8:18: "I consider that the our present sufferings [even, presumably, our self-inflicted sufferings, those that result from our own selfishness] are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed" [when Christ returns and the dead who in this life trusted in Christ will rise to live with Him for eternity]."

When my eye remains on the resurrection prize and when my heart is filled with sufficient gratitude for Christ's death and resurrection for me, I can pray that prayer, trusting that God is bent on making all things right. Even when I prefer that my will be done.

It's Saturday...Learn to Moonwalk

Look, I know you'll be spending most of the day glued to your TV sets watching C-SPAN's coverage of the National Book Festival...or college football. But before you get all sedentary, you could learn to Moonwalk.

But, if you prefer sedentary, you can watch the first time Michael Jackson publicly performed the Moonwalk, during the big Motown twenty-fifth anniversary show in 1983.

Or, you can simply read about the Moonwalk here. Interesting to note from the Wikipedia entry on the Moonwalk dance move:
There are many recorded instances of the moonwalk; similar steps are reported as far back as 1932, used by Cab Calloway.[5] In 1985, Calloway said that the move was called "The Buzz" when he and others performed it in the 1930s.[6][7]

In 1944, Judy Garland and Margaret O'Brien featured the move in their performance of "Under the Bamboo Tree" in Meet Me In St. Louis.[8]

In 1955, it was recorded in a performance by tap dancer Bill Bailey. He performs a tap routine, and at the end, backslides into the wings.[9] The French mime artist Marcel Marceau used it throughout his career (from the 1940s through the 1980s), as part of the drama of his mime routines. In Marceau's "Walking Against the Wind" routine, he pretends to be pushed backwards by a gust of wind.[10]

In the 1950s, Dick Van Dyke performed a similar variation of the moonwalk and camel walk in his comedy routine called "Mailing A Letter On A Windy Corner".

In 1958, Mexican dancer-comedian Adalberto Martinez "Resortes" also performed the moonwalk in the film Colegio de Verano (Summer School)...

Choreographer Bob Fosse moonwalks in his role as the Snake in the 1974 film "The Little Prince". 2[13]

James Brown used the move[14] and can be seen performing it in the 1980 film The Blues Brothers. Another early moonwalker was popper and singer Jeffrey Daniel, who moonwalked in a performance of Shalamar's "A Night To Remember" on Top of the Pops in the UK in 1982[15] and was known to perform backslides in public performances (including weekly Soul Train episodes) as far back as 1974. Michael Jackson was a fan of Jeffrey Daniel's dancing and would eventually seek him out.

Also in 1982, Debbie Allen performs a moonwalk during a scene with Gwen Verdon in Season 1, Episode 10 ("Come One, Come All") of the TV series Fame.[16]
So, it didn't start with Jackson. But he sent the mass popularity of the move, the buzz or the backslide, over the moon.

While you're learning the Moonwalk and all about its history, I'll be hard at work and prayer. After all, this is Serious Sermon Saturday.

Friday, September 04, 2015


I'm not the only one who loves it. It's now the number one healthy fast food choice.

The Refugee Crisis

The flood of refugees from Syria into Europe has multiple causes. But whatever they are, the pictures for followers of Jesus Christ are horrifying.

Praying for the refugees flocking from war-torn Syria to Europe right now.

Praying that wherever they end up, they will be welcomed by Christians who, in serving and welcoming these poor people, know that they really are serving their Lord (Matthew 25:31-46).

Praying too, that God will give wisdom and compassion to the leaders of the world in dealing with these people, the helpless victims of a barbarous regime and the rise of Isis.

Praying also for safety and help for the hundreds of thousands of Christians already displaced from Iraq. Praying for all Christians who face persecution and the threat and reality of murder and maiming for their faith in Christ in Muslim countries.


Listening to one of my favorite LPs. Here are a few of my favorite lines:
Touch me, take me to that other place
Teach me, I know I'm not a hopeless case
And if the darkness is to keep us apart
And if the daylight feels like it's a long way off
And if your glass heart should crack
And for a second you turn back
Oh no, be strong

Walk on, walk on...

Home, hard to know what it is if you've never had one
Home, I can't say where it is but I know I'm going home
That's where the hurt is...
I'm a man, I'm not a child
A man who sees
The shadow behind your eyes...

I don't wanna see you cry
I know that this is not goodbye...
In a little while
Surely you'll be mine
In a little while... I'll be there
In a little while
This hurt will hurt no more
I'll be home, love

When the night takes a deep breath
And the daylight has no air
If I crawl, if I come crawling home
Will you be there?

In a little while
I won't be blown by every breeze
Friday night running to Sunday on my knees
That girl, that girl she's mine
Well I've known her since,
Since she was

A little girl with Spanish eyes
When I saw her first in a pram they pushed her by
Oh my, my how you've grown
Well it's been, it's been... a little while

ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh

Slow down my beating heart
A man dreams one day to fly
A man takes a rocket ship into the skies
He lives on a star that's dying in the night
And follows in the trail, the scatter of light
Turn it on, turn it on, you turn me on

Slow down my beating heart
Slowly, slowly love
Slow down my beating heart
Slowly, slowly love
Slow down my beating heart
Slowly, slowly love

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Go, Buckeyes!

Count it on one hand! 5 DAYS! ICYMI: The BTN finale of Scarlet & Gray Days will air again tonight at 9:30! #GoBucks
Posted by Ohio State Buckeyes on Wednesday, September 2, 2015

"Never trust anyone who is rude to a waiter"

That's the title for this article by Rachel Cooke in The Guardian.

Through the years, I've only been served by a few demonstrably incompetent waiting staffers at  restaurants. But I tend to give even those folks the benefit of the doubt.

Why? Because, together with dining room hosts and hostesses, serving staff are sandwiched uncomfortably in the middle, between managers, cooks, bussers, and customers. Each of those other people have their own sets of pressures and expectations, each of them likely to make the waiting staff the objects of loud criticism and nastiness.

Plus, it's hard work: Standing and scurrying for hours. Patiently explaining menu choices, dealing with customer choices that have nothing to do with the items on the menu, and toting large trays of hot food (or cold, if the kitchen is in slow gear), to name just a few things that make waiting tables hard work.

I have a set of simple rules that I try to follow in dealing with waiting staff:
1. Remember that they're human, just like you. Do unto them as you would want them to do unto you if your roles were reversed.
2. Say, "Please" and "Thank you."
3. Ask them how they are, when, as they're trained, they ask you that question.
4. Care about the answer.
5. Unless the service was horrible, never tip less than 20%. Never. NEVER.
6. When you sign your receipt, add a little note. My notes usually go like this: "Thanks for the service. God bless you!" (I was delighted to learn recently that a guy I know has the same practice.) The person who waits on you may never see you again; but you can make a lasting impression by brightening their day, expressing appreciation, and helping to clean up the bad reputation some self-righteous prigs give Christianity, by writing a simple note like that.
7. If you can't do these things sincerely, fake your sincerity. Who knows? You might actually come to like behaving in these ways.
Like Cooke, I don't know how much to trust a person who makes it a habit to mistreat waiters. I surely wouldn't trust a person like that to be my pastor, accountant, president, or friend. Bullying is never a compelling character trait.

[Thanks to a Facebook friend for posting the Cooke article.]

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Understanding Faith

[This was shared during worship this morning with the people and friends of Living Water Lutheran Church in Springboro, Ohio.]

Mark 7:14-23
Our gospel lesson for this morning opens with these words: “Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, ‘Listen to me, everyone, and understand this…’” 

The word in the Greek in which Mark first wrote that is translated as understand is σύνεσις. It has nothing to do with intellectual firepower. It has the idea of getting with a fact. Here, Jesus wants the crowd to "get with" what He wants to convey to them, something even a little child can understand.

Now, Jesus spoke these words on the heels of the incident that occupied last Sunday’s gospel lesson, when Jesus scorned the Pharisees and teachers of the law for laying human laws on people and turning salvation from God into a contract in which they said, “If I engage in these human traditions, God has to give me what I want.” But in response to the Pharisees' and the scribes' supposed piety, Jesus said: “You turn your backs on God’s commandments in favor of your own traditions."

Having made His point, Jesus is done with the Pharisees and the scribes and, we're told, calls the crowd to Himself. 

Jesus was always being followed by crowds. They weren’t His followers, although some would eventually come follow Him maybe. The crowds were the were the curious. They were curious about this Man Who claimed to be God, Who performed miracles, and set people free to know God.

The Pharisees and scribes hadn’t understood Jesus’ teaching, because they hadn’t wanted to. They exemplified a truth about which writer Upton Sinclair once said, “"It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his job depends on not understanding it." 

Jesus doesn’t force God’s truth on people. 

He doesn’t force salvation on anyone. 

Each person, one at a time, must either receive Christ as God and Savior or not. And they must keep receiving Jesus or not every day, which is why Martin Luther says that the lifestyle of a believer in Christ is daily repentance and renewal. 

But no person will receive Christ as Savior if they do not first understand the difference between religion, which is what the Pharisees practiced, and faith, which is what Jesus offers all of us.

Faith is nothing but total trust in Jesus as God, Lord, Savior, and King

Faith is trusting that the God Who took on human flesh, died as He took on the punishment we all deserve for our sins, and rose so that all who believe in Christ, surrendering their lives and wills to Him have life with God that never ends. This is what Jesus wanted the crowds to know, understand, experience, and live.

So, Jesus calls the crowd together and says--I'm paraphrasing here: “I want you to understand that you don’t have to go through some ritual purification ceremony every time you eat. That’s not what a relationship with God is about.” So, as we’ve noted, Jesus called the crowd together and said, “...understand this. 'Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.'” 

Whatever physical dirt may accidentally enter our mouths when we eat is not going to destroy our relationship with God. It’s the unclean things that come out of a human being, the sin that emanates from them that defiles them, that declares independence from God and His moral law for all humanity, that drives a wedge in our relationships with God and others

Don’t worry about performing all these ritual laws that the Pharisees give you, Jesus was telling the crowd. Be more concerned about what the sin already inside of you can incite you to do and say and obsess over absent the Lordship of Jesus over your life!

In verse 17, we’re told that Jesus left the crowd and went into “the house.” Jesus has now left the curious crowds and is huddled with the Church, the people who follow Him, believe in Him. It's exactly what's happening now as we worship, gathered in the name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

Now we know that Jesus is both true God and true man. So, He always understands what's going on inside of us better than we ourselves don But if Jesus had entertained any notion that the disciples in the house understood His teaching any better than the crowd, He would have been quickly disabused of the notion. We're told: “...his disciples asked him about this parable [the short parable about what goes into a stomach not defiling a person].” 

Jesus' response to the disciples is classic. Verse 18: “‘Are you so dull?’ [Literally, Jesus asks the disciples, ‘Thus are you also without understanding?’] Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.” 

And then Jesus speaks in terms that any of us can understand. Verse 20: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”

As I read these words of Jesus, I must ask myself, “Do I look like a person whose life has been and is being transformed by the grace that comes to those with faith in Christ?” Or, “Do I look like a person who goes through the religious motions? I come to worship. (Heck, I even lead worship.) I recite the Creeds. I say the Lord’s Prayer. I periodically help at Saint Vincent’s. I say prayers. But is my heart with Jesus? Is my will with Jesus? Is Jesus my all and all?

Surveys in recent years show that the attitudes of Christians regarding some of the sins that Jesus lists--sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, and so on--are indistinguishable from the attitudes of the surrounding culture. Christians pretty much commit the same sins as their non-Christian neighbors. But they feel OK about it because on the Sundays they’re in worship, they mumble a few words of confession. And, after all, as our Lutheran pastors always remind us, we’re all sinners; we’re just sinners who are saved by grace through faith in Christ. So, many Christians think, it’s all good. 

The demonic character in one of George Bernard Shaw’s plays could act as the spokesmen for many: “I love to sin. God loves to forgive sin. It really is an admirable system.”

This way of thinking is really just another new human commandment. This command says: “Give Jesus, really the idea of Jesus, your intellectual assent. Confess that, ‘Jesus is a nice guy’ and you get heavenly fire insurance against the flames of hell. You get a ‘Pass Go, Get Out of Jail Free’ card.” 

But guess what goes untouched with this human command? The very thing that Jesus came to change: Our hearts, not that organ in our chests that pumps out blood, but the seat of our wills, where we decide how to live our lives, the heart that lies within us that causes us to sin

Jesus came to change our hearts, to change our very beings. He came to transform us from the inside out so that in this life, however imperfectly, we seek to follow Him, do God’s will (even when we don’t want to), love God, love others, and help others to know Jesus too. He came to transform us from the inside out so that in the life to come, God will give us a completely new life in Him, where all that exists on the inside and on the outside is a heart and a life devoid of sin, covered and filled with the purity and love and power of God.

Jesus’s words today confront us with a choice about what we want. 

Do we want human traditions that make us look clean on the outside but leave us dirty and far from God on the inside, where we live? 

Or do we want a relationship with Jesus, God revealed to all the world, a relationship that brings us to life, that helps us move away from superficial religiosity toward becoming the people we were made to be: people of love, hope, and integrity

The better choice should be obvious. God help us all--God help me--to make the right choice, to completely and unreservedly throw in with Jesus, each day and always. Amen 

Shelter from the Storm by Bob Dylan

Love. This. Song. From my favorite Dylan LP, Blood on the Tracks.