"America will never be destroyed from the outside.
If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed
"Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than
to speak out and remove all doubt."
"I am satisfied that when the Almighty wants me to
do or not do any particular thing, He finds a way of letting me know
"I can see how it might be possible for a man to
look down upon the earth and be an atheist, but I cannot conceive how
he could look up into the heavens and say there is no God."
"I desire to so conduct the affairs of this administration
that if at the end, when I come to lay down the reins of power, I have
lost every other friend on earth, I shall at least have one friend left,
and that friend shall be down inside of me."
"If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be
its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through
all time, or die by suicide."
"If the end brings me out all right, what is said
against me won't amount to anything. If the end brings me out wrong,
then ten angels swearing I was right would make no difference."
"If you call a tail a leg, how many legs does a horse
have? Four, calling a tail a leg does not make it a leg"
"In all that people can individually do as well for
themselves, government ought not to interfere."
"No man has a good enough memory to be a successful
"Nothing is politically right which is morally wrong."
"One is a majority if he is right."
"Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side;
my greatest concern is to be on God's side, for God is always right"
"What kills a skunk is the publicity it gives itself."
"Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery, I feel
a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally."
"You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more
than you earn."
Don’t Let Your Misses Define You
by Jason Cruise
It happened incredibly fast. I was walking down a
tree line by a cut corn field on the way to my stand when I saw a bruiser
buck run a doe in heat over an incline in the field. I mean, he appeared
out of nowhere. He stopped at 78 yards fully broadside just long enough
for me to set off the sonic boom with my muzzleloader. He looked my
way, then looked at her, and continued following her into the timber.
If misses were symphonies, in that moment, I’d have
been a maestro. It was a beautiful tragedy.
As hunters we tend to remember the few times we missed
instead of the many times we connected. Luke 22:54-62 details the story
of Peter’s one big miss when he denied Jesus. I’ve always thought it
ironic that, though he was arguably the strongest evangelistic preacher
in the New Testament, most Christians remember Peter’s one bad day of
denying Christ instead of remembering the amazing things he did in Christ’s
name. I mean, I’ve never seen someone healed just from walking in my
shadow (Acts 5:15); I’ve never walked on water (Matthew 14:22-36); and
I’ve never watched thousands come to Christ in one single sermon (Acts
2:40-41). Peter not only saw those things, he did all those things.
Don’t let your misses define you. Jesus reinstated
Peter to his ministry with just a few words (John 21:15-19), making
Peter living proof that God’s grace can take a coward and turn him into
a world changer.
Peter spoke from personal experience when he wrote,
“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude
of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8
From: Brother Seamus - Music
for your Spirit
Sent: Wednesday, January 1, 2020 3:55 PM
To: William Gibbons Jr
Subject: Re: Happy New Year
Happy New Year, Bill!
Great email, thanks. Apart from the fascinating content, I
love your writing style.
A book of short stories, essays or a novel on the horizon?
Maybe essays, a book of essays on Christianity?
All the best!
Mob: 00 353 86 054 9816
From: William Gibbons Jr
Sent: Tuesday, January 14, 2020 11:31 AM
To: 'Brother Seamus - Music for your Spirit'
Subject: RE: on the horizon?
Thank you for the compliment. Considering
the newsletter I intended for last Thanksgiving looks like it will not
be ready until Independence Day (July 4th), I sincerely doubt
any of those things you mentioned are likely to come to pass. Truth
be known, as “a photographer who writes,” I do not like the “writer”
process all that much. Most of the time, my writing takes place when
I feel a compulsion to make some notes during my prayer and Scripture
reading time in the morning before I even get out of bed. I keep pads
of paper, and pencils, in my nightstand just for that purpose. I started
doing that back in the 80s, when I was writing a lot of poetry. The
problem is, to share any of that means I have to type it into the computer
(one finger typist). I did have a dictation program for a time but,
after a Windows 10 update over a year ago, it just stopped working.
I tried to find help online. It was too old for tech support, of course.
I also remembered Windows 10 was supposed to have a built in dictation
program, so I tried to set that up to no avail. Hours later, I decided,
even as a one finger typist, I could type things in faster than all
the time wasted trying to get modern electronics to assist me. Plus,
when I had a functional program, I still needed to become an astute
editor to catch the errors between what I said, and what the computer
Short emails, like this, or the Happy New
Year email, tend to be composed straight into the computer. But, as
I am typing, I am also seeing a large pile of tablet pages full of notes
sitting next to the monitor, waiting for me to find the motivation to
start typing them into the system . . . .
. . . . I actually had more already typed
into this email, but my computer totally locked up requiring me to unplug
it to reboot the system, and this was all Outlook had auto-saved as
a draft. It has been doing that quite often after the last big Windows
10 overhaul. I am not sure if it is related, or just the timing of a
computer starting to show its age.
Well, I suppose I should stop here and
do something about the 42,034 photos, dating back to March 2018, waiting
to be processed into their appropriate inventory folders and renumbered.
Oh wait, this email is supposed to be about the writing stuff waiting
for my attention, not all those pesky photographs.
Be well my friend. It is always a joy to hear from you.
I removed my email "General Notes,"
but here is a photograph of the newsletter notes next to the monitor:
What are the inventors saying
about their own kids?
Steve Jobs (founder of Apple) shockingly described
their low-tech parenting approach in a New York Times article describing
the launch of the iPad :
“So, your kids must love the iPad?” I asked Mr. Jobs,
trying to change the subject. The company’s first tablet was just hitting
“They haven’t used it,” he told me. “We limit how
much technology our kids use at home.”
I’m sure I responded with a gasp and dumbfounded
silence. I had imagined the Jobs’s household was like a nerd’s paradise:
that the walls were giant touch screens, the dining table was made from
tiles of iPads and that iPods were handed out to guests like chocolates
on a pillow.
Nope, Mr. Jobs told me, not even close.
Similarly, in an interview with The Mirror, Bill
Gates (founder of Microsoft) explained how they approach technology
with their children:
“We often set a time after which there is no screen
time and in their case that helps them get to sleep at a reasonable
“You’re always looking at how it can be used in a
great way – homework and staying in touch with friends – and also where
it has gotten to excess.
“We don’t have cellphones at the table when we are
having a meal, we didn’t give our kids cellphones until they were 14
and they complained other kids got them earlier.”
(quoted from https://yourgeardeconstructed.com/parents-internet-safety-security-screen-time-guide)
Preparing believers to live their faith daily
. . . . that is the part of the total mission statement of Immanuel
Lutheran Church that the preparing team works on each month.
1 Corinthians 6:19b-20a. “You are not your
own; you were bought at a price, so Glorify God with your body.” Who
are you living for? As Christians, we live for God, not ourselves.
To live a Gospel-shaped life simply
means we think of God more than we think of ourselves. Simple,
but not so easy. We think about ourselves all the time; how we
feel, our opinions and knowledge, what we want, what we look like, what
WE think of others and what others think of US. We don’t
think about God more than ourselves. If we did, what would that
look like? I listened to a sermon online this week. Here
is a story from it: A woman at work made a mistake. A
big mistake. A costly mistake. Then, her boss went to his boss and basically
took the blame for her mistake. He said he didn’t train her right,
he didn’t follow up as he should have, etc. He put his
job on the line. He lost credibility, he lost social capital so
to speak. The woman afterwards, pressed him to tell her why he would
do that. She said, “I’ve had people blame me before, even when
it wasn’t my fault, but I’ve never had someone take the blame
for me.” After pressing him some more, he responded, “OK, I’m
only going to say this once. I’m a Christian. My whole life
is based on a man who took the blame for me.” The woman immediately
responded, “Where do you go to church?”
Does our character, our attitude toward ourselves
and others show that we live by Grace? Are we living for Jesus?
Grace by what Jesus did for us? If we live a Gospel-shaped life,
cultures will change. Living by grace is counter-cultural. Paul
said if you understand grace, costly grace, grace coming from a crucified
Savior, then that grace teaches you to say no to ungodliness. Sin loses
it attractive power. It’s not our willpower. We would fail. Ungodliness
just has no attraction, no passion, no power over us. It’s not just
about seeing others through the eyes of God. It is thinking
about God more than ourselves. It is living for the Glory of God in
everything we do, not just on Sunday mornings. It’s not
about I shoulda, I woulda, I coulda. It’s about Jesus did. Our
lives then are a response to the amazing Grace given to us through our
Lord’s brutal crucifixion. He bore our pain, he became our sin,
he suffered death so that we can live for Him. If we live for
ourselves, we will never be satisfied. Nothing on earth can satisfy
us completely. Those of us older folks know this to be true. So,
living our faith daily means everyday in everything, living for
Jesus. By doing so, we are Worshipping God.
I don’t want to say make time for God everyday because
that implies that we need to schedule God in and around us. Instead,
we want to schedule everything else in and around God. The need
is so deep because of what Jesus has done for us. May our hearts
burn with our desire to serve God every day in our work, in our homes,
in our communities and in our church.
Luke 10:41-42 (Martha and Mary)
As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he
came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.
She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to
what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that
had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that
my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are
worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed
only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away
Pastor Chuck Foerster
(see also the In His Steps pages)
As I did on the In His Steps
pages, I mostly left the text unaltered, keeping his capitalizing, and
bold highlight, emphasis. I have also shared other items from the services
which seemed to emphasize the message being shared.
Homily for Christ the King, November 22nd, 2020
. . . . Today in our church calendar, we celebrate
what is called “Christ the King” Sunday. We might expect the readings
to give us something that sounds a little more regal and royal, a little
pomp and circumstance. Something that sounds a bit more kingly. Our
vision of what a king is supposed to look like and what a king is supposed
to be. Maybe a reading that has Jesus decked out in long flowing
robes and a jeweled crown. Or even something from the old testament
that compares Jesus with the great kings of old, something from Revelation
that has Jesus with all his enemies as a footstool, or the heavens opening
up and the almighty’s voice thundering from the clouds. But instead,
Matthew gives us a KING of an entirely different variety. Instead
of the KING in the purple robe with gold thread, Matthew gives us the
homeless Jesus, the sick Jesus, the imprisoned and hungry Jesus, the
Jesus sleeping on the park bench. We might think to ourselves, . . .
This is our KING????
When we heard the text or read it, there may have
been a strong inclination to see it as simply judgement; as punishment/reward
for either something we did, or something we failed to do in regards
to the least of these. Notice how the text never mentions faith
or belief or doctrine or our confession or repentance; it gives
no laundry list of how to earn salvation. It only points to how we treated
the least of these as the final judgement. All the things that we have
grown up with that we thought were needed to be faithful followers,
However, these things are not mentioned, perhaps
the text is pointing us to something else. Maybe Jesus is trying to
tell us something we might not have realized up to this point; In our
haste to make Jesus into this warm fuzzy, shepherding, comfortable,
loving savior, we have missed the point of what he came to do. Perhaps
the whole point of this Sunday and this particular scripture is that
we have created an image of Christ that FITS OUR agenda; maybe
it is the one with earthly power, supreme leader, whacking down those
that we think need to be whacked. Aggressive and seeking his own WILL.
Which Jesus have we placed on the thrones of our hearts?
We say that we long to SEE Jesus . . . but what if
we have been looking in the wrong places? Because Matthew tells us that
Jesus of the Gospel is found right in the middle of the least of these.
He is to be found in the darkness of prison, in the pains of hunger,
in the cold of nakedness, in the fear and loss of illness. If we struggle
to look in those directions or look the other way because it is uncomfortable,
we have missed an opportunity to see where Jesus dwells.
Maybe the point of the text today is that when we
fail to see the least of these, we condemn ourselves to a private hell,
. . . where Jesus is merely an image, a plastic figure stuck to the
dashboard, a bumper sticker or a nice idea in the Bible, rather than
a living breathing person who we can interact with every time we become
vulnerable to another human being. When we fail to see Christ in one
another, we live differently, not as deeply, more likely to choose sides
based on our personal opinions, more likely to claim our RIGHTS rather
than our responsibility. But what if . . . what if we could look into
the face of that person and see the face of Christ. Would that change
us? Would our hearts be transformed?
Next Sunday, we enter into Advent, a season of waiting,
longing, and listening. The darkness of winter is expected and
as faithful followers, we will wait for the light and the first cries
of a tiny baby. A child that changes how we speak of “KINGS”. A child
that redefines power and authority. A child king that has come to GIVE
himself away. A KING on a donkey, a KING who washes his disciple’s
feet, a KING who lays down his life for others.
So today, here and now, we are asked to see Jesus
in places we would rather not look. We are asked to remember that
every encounter we have with “the least of these” is an actual encounter
with Jesus. It is not a metaphor. The person huddled beneath the
blanket is our king. The person at the off ramp stop sign is our king.
The person dressed up against the cold, ringing the bell outside of
Meijer is our King. The person smelling of liquor or in need of a shower,
is our King. May we become so aware of the presence of Jesus in our
world that our eyes are wide open and we might be able to see our king.
Homily for 2nd Sunday in Advent, Year B, Dec 6th,
I love Advent . . . my favorite time of the year
. . . a season of hopeful anticipation, of time of preparation for the
most incredible event in all of history . . . a time of waiting and
excitement . . . the king is coming . . . So today’s text might cause
us to scratch our heads a bit; here comes this text about John the Baptist
. . . at first glance, this text may seem totally out of place . . .
totally disconnected from what we believe this season is all about.
Baptism and repentance? During Advent? Shouldn’t we be talking about
Jesus birth and shepherds and mangers?
The Gospel says that John appeared in the desert
proclaiming a baptism of repentance. So you see, there
are two parts to what John is doing. The first part is that John is
calling the people to repent. You might already know that the
word “repent” means to turn around, it has to do with a change of heart.
It means a renewal, a metamorphosis, in this case, a reorientation
towards God. To repent is to be willing to go in a different direction,
a radical change from the popular culture and status quo.
And then there is the other part of what John was
doing, baptizing. John was not simply baptizing, but was
baptizing in the river Jordan. The person to be baptized would enter
the water on one side where John was, and after being baptized, exit
the water on the other side. The river Jordan symbolized something for
the Jewish people, the people that were coming to John. The Jordan was
the river that the Israelites had to cross before they could enter into
the Promised Land. It symbolized a dividing line between the wilderness
that their ancestors had wandered and the land flowing with milk and
honey. So crossing the Jordan was, for them, an image of entering into
an entirely new life. A new beginning. A re-birth of sorts.
For us, “Baptism" means both; a total immersion into
something and a passing through. It means immersion into the life of
Christ, the life of the church, the creeds, the confessions and the
prayers. It also means a passing through, from the old life, the sinful
self, the old Adam, to a new life, new birth in Christ. Baptism is where
our journey into faith begins. It is our re-orientation to God. Baptism
is the beginning of our future in Christ.
So I guess Advent and baptism really do go hand in
Well you see, God has created us in such a way that
we are Advent people . . . we are not only waiting for the coming of
the Christ child, but we are preparing for what we are becoming .
. . for God’s shaping us into what God will have us be. In other
words, whether we know it or not, we are undergoing a spiritual transformation,
a metamorphosis, a renewal.
However, in this day and age, it may be easy to miss;
this season may seem ordinary and the rush to arrive at Christmas, typical.
Even in this year of pandemic and political chaos, our celebration of
this life changing event, may not be all that unusual. As we struggle
to give ourselves and our families some sense of normalcy, it would
be natural for us to simply treat this season like all the years past,
to hear the Christmas story as a wonderful tale from 2000 years ago.
Most of us have heard it so many times. Certainly our culture often
treats it as business as usual or a way to distract us from our tribulations
and grief. But if we see Advent as merely “getting ready” and Christmas
merely a remembrance of an historical event, they can easily become
just another Advent, just another Christmas.
The danger of seeing Advent only as a time to prepare
for the “remembrance” of Christmas is that we totally miss
the message of John the Baptist in today’s Gospel:
Turn your lives around and look! Re-focus. Be Ready.
God not only came 2000 years ago, but God comes today! Ready or not,
God comes. In the midst of the holiday rush. God comes. In the midst
of our grumbling. In the midst of our grieving, in the midst of our
celebrating, God comes. IN the midst of a pandemic and a country divided;
God comes. In the midst of our not being ready . . . God comes.
Maybe, it is not supposed to be normal! Maybe Advent and Christmas
are God’s way of telling us nothing will ever be normal again. Because
of what God has done in Christ, there is no more normal.
Advent is the beginning of the future. It is the
beginning of an incredible, hope filled, promise-kept future. As we
look at what God has done by sending Christ into the world, we receive
a glimpse of our new life, a new focus of what God has in mind for us,
a future that is very different from the one that our culture has in
mind. It is a future that offers real hope in hopeless situations. Where
there was only death before, now there is life. It is a future that
promises peace where only war has been known. It is a future that has
Jesus Christ at its very center, where before worldly things were .
. . and it begins NOW. As Christians, this season has us preparing
for the arrival of a savior during Advent, and what we are saying by
doing this is that we are turning our hearts and lives around, we are
repenting of our old life and re-focusing our hearts towards God. We
are once again reorienting our lives to Christ.
This future is here. Not in its fullness, not as
it one day will be . . . but make no mistake . . . it has arrived .
. . in the form of a tiny baby. We are in the midst of that future.
Advent calls us to SEE our place as people of Christ by pointing and
preparing for the future that will be . . . by living in that future
As we journey forward in this Advent season, may
we be reminded of the gift of our Baptism into this new future, may
we turn and reorient our lives towards God and may we realize that even
when we are not ready, God comes to us. Amen
Sent: Monday, December 7, 2020 10:55 AM
To: news at Immanuel
Subject: Monday Morning Thoughts
Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were
working for the Lord rather than for people. — Colossians 3:23
I know, Mondays (and other days) can be difficult to
get moving. The struggle is real.
Have you ever had those days where it feels like
you are not making much of a difference in what you do. Perhaps because
of the pandemic you have been working from home and it has begun to
feel "normal" but not quite right. Perhaps things are so different at
work it seems a struggle to accomplish what you did before. Maybe your
motivation is lacking or your heart is not fully into it. But then you
see the trash collector or the janitor and you see that they are still
content to be working and they even seem joyful.
Perhaps following the advice of the writer of Colossians
is a good place to start. If we struggle with motivation, it could be
because our motivation is off kilter. Martin Luther once said that the
Shoe Maker does not honor God by placing little crosses on his shoes,
but rather by doing the best possible job he can and selling his shoes
at a fair price, treating others with respect. I wonder if we were to
perform our jobs as if we were working for Jesus might it have an impact
on our work and how we feel about it? Certainly it makes one think about
how we can honor God is every aspect of our lives, not just on Sunday.
I invite you to take a moment, right now; calm your
mind, quiet your heart, breathe deeply of God's spirit . . . and imagine
that God has given you your present task, no matter how challenging,
and he has given you the talent, the strength and the ability to complete
it. May you embrace this task as deeply as you embrace the one who has
called you to it.
Homily for Advent 4, Year B, December 20th, 2020
I don’t know about you, but whenever I heard the
Song of Mary, The Magnificat, that we read for our first reading, it
always seemed to be such a lovely poem or hymn, sung by a maiden in
lovely colored flowing clothes, or perhaps that was just how the artists
painted her or how history captured her. I never really preached a sermon
on the Magnificat, at least not one that focused on how absolutely radical
Mary’s song was. For example, did you know that Mary’s song is
longest set of words spoken by a woman, (a 13 year old girl no less)
in the New Testament. And it is spoken in the presence of her kinfolk
Elizabeth while her husband Zechariah, a temple high priest, endures
his Holy Spirit imposed silence. Look at the Magnificat; Mary responds
with joy at the news, even though her pregnancy during this point in
history would be enough to get her stoned to death. The song is soaked
in Jewish history, echoing the words and stories of Old Testament Matriarchs.
The implications of the Magnificat are so subversive for powerful
authorities that it has been banned by those authorities from being
used in public, several times in history.
Far from being just some flowery, demure song of
a virgin, Mary’s words spell out a radical upheaval for those that unjustly
rule and a dramatic reversal, lifting up those that are under the oppression
of the powerful. Her prophetic words ring out across all time, what
God was doing in the person of Jesus and what God is still bringing
to fruition through the Holy Spirit.
Mary’s proclamation regarding what God has accomplished,
will accomplish, including the humble birth of a Messiah, is a radical
change from the status quo. It points to God’s kingdom intentions and
is so counter-cultural that it might even just topple our “silent
night, holy night” perception of the birth of the Christ child,
the one wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger. I say this because
it speaks of a drastic upheaval for our century, changes that we seldom
think about or hear about during this season of all is calm, all is
Certainly, the underlying message of Christmas is
all about Hope, and Peace and Joy and Love. But those things won’t happen
without something changing, some things giving way for the radical way
of the KINGDOM OF GOD. Remember those mountains and valleys that needed
to be leveled? Those verses speak of radical change to
open the way for GOD’S way! Yes, God is love. Yes, Christ
has come to demonstrate God’s LOVE for the entire world. By being born
a human . . . so that he might die on the cross for all humans. This
is what our faith tells us.
We are a funny lot, aren’t we? We desire growth without
change and change without conflict, but with the birth
of Jesus, God gives us neither. Mary’s song makes that dangerously
clear. Cast the mighty down from their thrones? Scattering the proud,
lifting up the lowly? Fill the hungry, sent the rich away empty? Change
and conflict abound! No wonder this song has been called subversive;
Mary speaks of an incredible hope being ushered in through her womb
of God’s own son who has come to set the world as we know it ablaze!
Looking at the bigger picture, the Magnificat and
the implications of the inbreaking of God’s kingdom in Jesus Christ,
should cause us to examine what it means to follow the Messiah. Like
Mary’s song, our faith can no longer be considered passive. If we truly
desire to live the proclamation of the Magnificat and the birth of Jesus
out to its full extent, it will mean our faith is less of a Hallmark
Christmas movie and more a declaration that God has come to overthrow
and upend our comfortable Christianity so that what is proclaimed in
Mary’s song will come to fruition.
And in this year, in our present day, that proclamation
can come through OUR ACTIONS, through OUR speech, Through OUR charity,
Through our walk with Christ.
Seen in this light, Faith is not some sweet invitation
to self-realization; it is not some be all you can be proposition,
but it is literally the practice of dying and rising of self so that
GOD’S KINGDOM COMES, So THAT GOD’S WILL BE DONE ON EARTH AS IT IS IN
HEAVEN! This is the faith that Mary exhibits and it is the same faith
that we have been called to, that the Holy Spirit has poured out on
Not a Have to, but rather that God’s love compels
us to sing out from the mountaintop that God is doing something incredible
. . . now it may not be all that comfortable for those who are already
comfortable, but God’s ways are not our ways. With Mary we are hopeful,
because God has come and is coming to change the world. Being so moved
by God’s love, we are moved to proclaim with Mary, my soul magnifies
the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in him.
Indeed, God has looked upon us and blessed
us for all of time. May our Advent continue to be a reminder that God
has come to bring about what is needed in our lives so that we might
be ready to receive the Messiah and bear witness to God’s promises fulfilled
in a tiny baby born in a barn. Amen.
Homily for 2nd Sunday in Advent, Year B, December
I love Advent . . . might even be my favorite church
season . . . a season of hopeful anticipation, a time of preparation,
of looking forward; like last week’s text said, stand up, lift up your
heads, your redemption is drawing near. It is a time of waiting and
excitement . . . the king is coming . . . and then smack dab in the
midst of this excitement, in the midst of our anticipation, we have
this text about John the Baptist, preaching a baptism of repentance
. . . at first glance, discussing these two things may seem totally
out of place . . . totally disconnected from the season we are in.
Baptism and repentance? During Advent? Seems more of a Lent theme,
doesn’t it? Why are we talking about Baptism and repentance now? What
do these things have to do with Advent?
Our text says that John appeared in the desert proclaiming
a baptism of repentance. There are two parts to what John
is doing. The first part is that John is calling the people to repent.
You might already know that the word “repent” literally means
to turn around, it has to do with a change of heart. It means a renewal,
a metamorphosis, in this case, a reorientation towards God. To
repent is to be open to go in a different direction, a radical change
from the popular culture and status quo. It is a giving up of the worlds
power for a divine power.
And then there is the other part of what John was
doing, baptizing. And remember, whenever we are told location
in the Bible, it is usually significant. John was baptizing, but
not simply baptizing, but was baptizing in the river Jordan.
The person to be baptized would enter the water on one side where John
was, and after being baptized, exit the water on the other side. The
river Jordan symbolized something important for the Jewish people, the
people that were coming to John. The Jordan was the river that the Israelites
had to cross before they could enter into the Promised Land. It symbolized
a dividing line between the wilderness, the place of chaos and
danger and the exile, and the promised land flowing with milk and honey.
So, crossing the Jordan was, for them, an image of entering into an
entirely new life. A new beginning. A re-birth of sorts.
For us, “Baptism" means both a total immersion in
something and a passing through. It means immersion into the
life of the church, the creeds, the confessions and the prayers. It
also means a passing through, from the old life, the sinful self, the
old Adam, to a new life, new birth in Christ. Baptism is where our journey
into faith begins. It is our re-orientation to God. Baptism is the beginning
of our future in Christ. It is the covenant between us and God that
leads to that radical transformation called repentance.
So what again, what is the connection to Advent? The coming of the
I think it is appropriate that the scripture about
the coming of Jesus comes not to all those powerful people listed at
the beginning of the reading, but to John, wild eyed, wilderness dweller
wearing not robes of purple, but rough clothing. The wilderness represents
a specific theme in scripture; danger. And because of the danger, our
human need. No Kroger or Speedway in the wilderness. The wilderness
is a place that exposes our need for God. In the wilderness, we learn
to trust and rely on God. It is a place where we are ultimately vulnerable
and our “power” is laid aside. We wait and watch as if our lives depended
on God showing up because they do. And if we are honest, how often are
we stuck in that wilderness?
But you know the problem with this whole season and
the readings? It is far too easy to fall into the trap of limiting what
God has done to the pages of the Bible as some part of history. Its
easy to lose focus and resign ourselves to hearing the Christmas story
merely as a wonderful tale from 2000 years ago. Most of us have heard
it so many times. I suppose this is one way to view Christmas and the
Advent season leading up to it; as remembering Jesus birth, probably
how most of our culture, even our Christian culture views it. However,
seen in this way, seen as merely a remembrance, Advent and Christmas
easily become a chore, a bother, no different than any other secular
holiday, oh sure there is more work planning worship, the decorating
of the sanctuary . . . but we can grow ho-hum about it, perhaps we get
caught up in the consumerist mentality of how many more shopping days
are left or we reject it outright because of what it has become for
The danger of seeing Advent only as a time to prepare
for the “remembrance” of Christmas is that we totally miss the
message of John the Baptist in today’s Gospel: Turn your lives around
and look! Re-focus. Be Ready. God not only came, 2000 years ago, but
God comes today! Ready or not, God comes. In the midst of the holiday
rush. God comes. In the midst of our grumbling. In the midst of our
grieving, in the midst of the wilderness, in the midst of our celebrating,
God comes. In the midst of our not being ready . . . God comes.
So, Advent is not really about remembering a historical event, but rather
Advent is the beginning of the future. As we look back to the past,
God sending Christ into the world, we receive a glimpse of our new life,
a new focus of what God has in mind for us, a future that is very different
from the one that our culture has in mind. It is a future that offers
real hope in hopeless situations. A future that promises peace where
only war has been known. It is a future that has Jesus Christ at its
very center, where before worldly things were . . . and it begins NOW.
As Christians, we are preparing for Christmas during Advent, and what
we are saying is that we are turning our hearts and lives around, we
are repenting of our old life and re-focusing our hearts towards God.
We are once again reorienting our lives to Christ.
This future is here. Not in its fullness, not as
it one day will be . . . but make no mistake . . . it has arrived .
. . in the form of a tiny baby. Advent calls us to SEE our place as
people of Christ by pointing and preparing for the future that will
be . . . by living in that future NOW. Today.
As we journey forward in this Advent season, may
we be reminded of the gift of our Baptism into this new future, may
we turn and reorient our lives towards God and may we realize that even
when we are not ready, God comes to us. Amen
Monday Morning Thoughts
Feb 7, 2022 at 12:54 PM
Dear church family,
I've done it before: I wonder if you have
too? I have observed someone who is well off financially or materially
and I have said that they are "blessed." We've all done it haven't we?
We pray for blessings on someone or remark that someone has been blessed
and we say this because they are not struggling for any material good.
They are able to live high on the hog as my dad has said before.
Have you ever seen the billboards for the
Powerball/Jackpot big lotteries? Have you ever said to yourself, if
I won that I would be set and have no worries and be happy all of my
days . . . . Well, it turns out that there’s actually been quite a bit
of psychological research done on lottery winners. These studies have
found that winning the lottery will not make you happier. Winners say
their happiness didn’t change as a result of winning the lottery, and
they are as happy (or unhappy) after winning the lottery as they were
So why do you think we keep referring to
the "well to do" as being blessed? When clearly the Bible states that
it is the "poor who are blessed." (Luke 6:17-26) Are we so focused on
the pursuit of the "bread that cannot nourish" that we are convinced
that those that have an abundance of material goods/finances are the
blessed ones? Conversely, do we see those that have not as "not blessed?"
What do you think is happening here? How is it that we have taken a
section of scripture and basically ignored it when it comes to what
being blessed means?
I don't have any real solid answers to
this question. But it sure does seem to be widespread, at least in our
nation. We admire those that have power, money, fame and influence in
our country, when it seems fairly clear that God states in scripture
that those are the ones who will be sent away empty-handed. Things that
make you go hmmmmm.
Pondering all these things this week. Perhaps
I'll be looking for blessings in unlikely places and circumstances?
Maybe I'll make a list of all the people I would call blessed and name
a reason or two why I would say it. Might be an interesting experiment.
I hope your week brings wonderful surprise blessings from God. Maybe
they won't be what you expected?
Keeping you in my prayers,
Homily for Pentecost 10, Year C, August 14th, 2022
It’s a safe bet to say that today’s Gospel text (Luke
12: 49-56) will probably never be read at a funeral or a wedding. Probably
safe to say it won’t be used as a baptismal verse anytime soon either.
By and large, we avoid conflict and division in our congregations at
all costs, yet here Jesus is talking about bringing just that. We want
peace and moreover call Jesus the prince of peace, yet Jesus says that’s
not what he came to bring. With all the divisiveness in our world already,
it would seem like this would be the last thing that we would want or
that a loving God would bring.
I think first we need to examine the context in which
Jesus is talking. The disciples are being warned that if they follow
Jesus they will face opposition, hardship, being jailed and beaten,
and some being executed. He is reminding them again, that following
him will be no walk among the flowers. It will mean sacrifice and for
some the sacrifice of their lives. If the disciples want the peace that
Jesus offers, they will have to struggle and strive to get there. It
will not be an easy road.
In our context, we live at relative ease when it
comes to our faith. Oh, sure we can claim persecution, but more often
it is simply our fear of not being popular that is our persecution.
Truth be told, for the most part we follow the status quo, or our perspective
of it. We live a Christian life of acceptance when it comes to that
which we agree with and get miffed it anything threatens our privileged
way of life. Even that word privilege raises the hackles on our neck.
There is a tremendous gap between the sacrifice of those first disciples
and our north American context of sacrifice.
Throughout Luke’s Gospel, Jesus announces a new community
— he calls it the kingdom of God — this kingdom is governed not
by those in power, not by military might, not by the wealthy, not by
human authority, but by a divine sense of justice and equity. It is
a kingdom where all those in need are cared for, where forgiveness is
the norm, where the poor are at the head of the line, where wealth is
shared rather than hoarded, and where the weak and lonely are honored.
It is a kingdom that comes when anyone has the nerve to look at the
way things are and say, “this isn’t right,” but this type of
kingdom peace, comes with a sword. It has an unavoidable effect: it
divides people. Those who benefit from the way things are will
fight tooth and nail to oppose anyone who tries to change things.
And they will adamantly keep their blinders firmly in place to avoid
having to see the reality of injustice. It seems to me that’s
the kind of division Jesus was talking about. Those that are seeking
kingdom justice and those that are content with the status quo. Jesus
challenges us all to take off our blinders and at least see the injustice,
the poverty, and the suffering that is so prevalent all around us. The
first step toward doing something about it is to remove the blinders
that keep us comfortable. To be able to “see the signs,” if you will,
of where God’s kingdom needs to break through.
This text is difficult. I considered preaching on
something else. But as one of my preaching professors used to say, “if
you are not agitating somebody, chances are you are preaching a message
that is far too placid.” Because the scripture is meant to pry us off
dead center. It is meant to show us the cost of following Jesus.
If we could point to a cost of discipleship, a cost
of following Jesus, it would probably start off with this passage, and
then we could have an open, honest discussion about our faith walk.
The disciples of Jesus had it rough and they knew full well about the
persecution because of their commitment to Christ. Do we? Notice
Jesus is talking about what will happen; that is to say, what will happen
if you are following Jesus. There will be those that oppose you. There
will be those that call you foolish, there will be those that cast you
out of their life. It might happen within families, it might happen
with your friends, or neighbors. But sooner or later, if you are
following Jesus, it is going to happen.
Which makes me wonder; what if my faith in God never
causes me to come into conflict with the world. What if it never causes
me to question systemic systems that oppress. What if it never is a
stumbling block to my acceptance of the status quo. What if the way
I live out my faith allows me to keep my blinders right exactly where
they are, thank you! . . . . Well, perhaps we are missing something
in our faith walk. Perhaps we don’t quite understand what it means to
be a disciple. Maybe we have misunderstood the calling of Jesus to be
For I am convinced that if our life is absent of
some conflict with how the world is, we have watered down the scripture
in our hearts to the point where it only comforts. If there is not some
kind of tribulation because of our faith in Jesus Christ, perhaps we
are too timid. If we are not experiencing some sort of consternation
and struggle because of who we follow, maybe it is because we are lukewarm
in our approach to the message of Jesus Christ and our calling as disciples.
If we are to testify to our Lord and savior with our lives, it is going
to mean that we may fall short in the popularity contest at work. If
we are to bear bold witness to what God has done and how Jesus has come
to save all people, we might lose a few “friends.”
Jesus told the disciples on more than one occasion
that following him would lead them to all sorts of trouble, persecution
and hardship with the world. What makes us think it would be any different
for us if we are following the same Jesus?
But God is at work even in this timidity. The Holy
Spirit working on us, building a sense of courage within us so that
we might be real, authentic followers of Christ, in spite of the cost
May we be given the strength to remove our blinders
to see God’s kingdom unfolding and be able to proclaim the salvation
of Jesus Christ in all we say and do. Amen.
The above sermon was followed by the following "sermon
hymn" which felt worth keeping here.
|How Clear is our Vocation,
How clear is our vocation, Lord,
when once we heed your call
to live according to your word
and daily learn, refreshed, restored,
that you are Lord of all,
and will not let us fall.
But if, forgetful, we should find
your yoke is hard to bear;
if worldly pressures fray the mind
and life itself cannot unwind
its tangled skein of care:
our inward life repair.
We marvel how your saints become
in hindrances more sure;
whose joyful virtues put to shame
the casual way we wear your name,
and by our faults obscure
your pow'r to cleanse and cure.
In what you give us, Lord, to do,
together or alone,
in old routines or ventures new,
may we not cease to look to you,
the cross you hung upon,
all you endeavored done.
(Text: Fred Pratt Green, 1903-2000)
Homily for Pentecost 22, Year C, August 28th,
Context is everything. This isn’t the first time
you have heard me say it. It is true, I believe in every situation where
we are trying to communicate to one another. Like most scripture, the
context of today’s Gospel is vitally important to our understanding
of Biblical texts. This is especially true in the case of parables.
Parables are meant to make a point and can be descriptive or prescriptive,
but they always “travel alongside of the main message”.
The context surrounding this dinner that Jesus is
invited to is especially important. In the Ancient Mediterranean, male,
urban culture, there was strong competition for status. It
would have been reflected in seating arrangements, including in synagogues
and at banquets. Normally a host would invite peers or people
of somewhat lower social status. The Dead Sea Scrolls and other Jewish
sources indicate that seating people according to rank was a Jewish
custom as well as a Roman one….Status was currency. Now, to refuse
an invitation to such a meal without a good excuse would insult the
host’s dignity and naturally, if one were invited, it was expected that
the invitation would be reciprocated by the guest. We don’t have to
look to far to see this play out in our own culture, maybe even at a
wedding or at a dinner for V.I.P. guests, where the one seated closest
to the host is considered somehow more deserving of honor than those
seated farther away.
The Gospel text in Luke describes such a scene. Jesus
is invited for a Sabbath meal by a leader of the Pharisees. Jesus
watches as the guests scramble for places of honor around the table.
These guests know the general pecking order, and they jostle and shove
each other while vying for the best, most prestigious spots near the
host. Standard practice in Jesus day.
After observing this scenario for a while, Jesus
calls them out with a parable. At first glance, Jesus’s parable
sounds like some good advice for the culture of his day; don’t do something
that might cause you embarrassment and dishonor, instead, use this tricky
technique to make yourself look good and take a lower seat. That way,
when the host invites you to a better seat, you can, with all the
humility you can muster, make your way to the V.I.P. section. But
rather than helping the elite avoid dishonor, I believe that Jesus is
pointing out the difference between false modesty or scheming and the
purpose of true humility.
The next part of the text illustrates this perfectly,
when Jesus instructs them to invite people to a banquet that have no
way of repaying them and no way of bringing any kind of prestige to
their lives. Instead, Jesus tells them, invite those that no one would
ever invite to a fancy schmancy dinner party, in doing so, you reveal
your true self. Of course, this advice would have gone over like a lead
balloon, for in an honor/shame culture that Jesus is in, it brings no
honor, fame or good fortune to follow this advice. It would do nothing
to advance the person’s standing. It is the exact opposite of what they
believed would be the proper etiquette.
I think this is a major point of this text: Stop
trying to increase your standing in the sight of human beings. This
may be hard to hear, but I believe that on some level, we are all trying
to portray this image of someone we are not in order that others will
like us, accept us, think well of us. Maybe even in order that GOD will
like us or bless us or we will find more favor with God. We have put
on these masks because we mistakenly believe we can hide behind them
and no one will see who we really are. As if God won’t see who we really
are. But the truth is in the kingdom of God you do not need to cultivate
a persona. You don’t have to be popular, or pretty or wealthy or a V.I.P.
It is ok to be blind, lame, crippled, not enough, sinful people, because
in that recognition, in that seeing who we really are, we are humbled
in order that we can truly become who God created us to be.
Think about it; we are humbled by mistakes, by choices,
by loss, by illness, and the big one, by death. It is God’s way of pointing
out that you are not in control, you are not God, I am; and I
see you for who you are and I love you as my beloved. The incredible
blessing in being humble is that we finally realize our lives have been
in God’s hands all along. We can give up our false sense of power and
realize our weakness is ok. We can give up our jostling for the best
seat and see that we have already been given the best spot. We don’t
have to keep up with the Jones’ because we have already received everything
by the grace of God. We can be fully known as one of God’s beloved,
and we can begin to see others in that same light.
Being humble allows us to deal with truth of our
lives and the lives of those around us in love. Otherwise, our tendency
would be to try to control or manipulate people, situations, even grace.
Otherwise, our image of self might become a stumbling block. Humbleness
keeps us vulnerable and able to love as God loves. Humbleness steers
us in the direction of a loving God that embraces us in spite of shortcomings,
in spite of our lack of prestige, in spite of our low status. God welcomes
us into the dinner hall!
You, YES YOU, have been invited to banquet
of the king! However, there is one caveat; To eat and drink with God
is to live in tension with the pecking order that mostly defines
our society, even our churches, and working against that status
quo will be difficult and tiring. But it's what we're called to
do as followers — to humble ourselves and place our hope in a radically
different kingdom. To embrace as we have been embraced, love as we have
been loved, honor as we have been honored, forgive as we have been forgiven
and share grace as it has been shared with us.
The feast has been set in your honor, sisters and
brothers, not because of who we are, but because of WHO GOD IS, not
because of what we have done, but because of WHAT GOD HAS DONE through
Jesus Christ. May we go into the banquet humble, with empty hands, ready
to receive what God so generously pours out. Let us enter in to the
banquet with the prayer that all may be fed with this life-giving meal.
Monday Morning Thoughts
August 29th, 2022
Dear faith family,
I'm guessing you have heard the expression, "my cross
to bear" or something similar. I imagine the saying comes from Jesus'
instructions to would be disciples to take up their cross and follow
Jesus. (found in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke)
In our day and age, it seems like this has come to
mean that we have a burden to bear in our lives, something difficult
or weighing us down that we have been "given" to carry through life.
This may look like it parallels Jesus carrying a cross on his journey
towards his death and ultimately the salvation of the world. However,
the full verse that we paraphrase is actually:
"And calling the crowd to him with his disciples,
he said to them, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself
and take up his cross and follow me." Mark 8:34
The key to this passage I believe is that Jesus tells
the people that they need to deny themselves if they wish to
be a follower. So, what does it mean to deny oneself? Do I need to sell
all my stuff and give it to the poor? Should I be giving more money
to the homeless? Do I deny myself by how I live, like not having any
earthly pleasures? How is it that this is a prerequisite to following
Jesus? One of the text studies on the Greek word that is translated
"deny" in English defines it as to "lose sight of oneself and one's
So, denying oneself has to do with where we place
our focus. Is our focus on God? On the cross? Or is it on our own interests.
Elsewhere Jesus reminds us that we cannot serve two masters. Perhaps
in asking us to deny ourselves before following, Jesus is asking us
to refocus our lives on God and serve God as the master of our lives.
By doing so, we are able to take up the cross of Christ, knowing that
our burdens are being carried by Jesus who has walked this path before
Let us deny ourselves by realigning our focus; heart,
mind and soul, on God and on following Jesus. May we find ways to lift
high the cross and proclaim the overwhelming, never-ending love of God!
Blessings on your week. Pastor Chuck
Homily for Pentecost 13, Year C, Sept 4th,
(Gospel Reading: Luke 14:25-33) One of my seminary
professors tells a story about the baptism of the Gauls. It may not
be historically factual, but it is a good story.
The Gauls were warlike people who in ancient times
inhabited what is now France and Belgium. They spoke a Celtic language
and were Druidic by religion. By the time of the Christian era they
had been conquered by the Roman Empire and were supposedly under its
control. But the Gauls never did take too well to being conquered!
A number of Christian missionaries ventured into
Gallic territory and, over time, many of the Gauls became Christians.
As the story goes, when a converted warrior was baptized in a river
or stream, he would hold one arm high in the air as the missionary dunked
him under the water! When the next battle or skirmish broke out, the
warlike Gaul would proclaim 'This arm is not baptized!' grab up his
club or sword or ax, and ride off to destroy his enemy in a most unchristian
In today’s Gospel from Luke, Jesus is speaking to
disciples and would be disciples. The first hyperbole, hating family,
that Jesus uses would have been counter cultural to all of the listeners
because the family unit was revered. In the first century, Jewish families
were so central even to existence; quite often families engaged in the
same livelihood for well-being of the entire family. To lose one member,
could mean hardship for the others. Family was vitally important to
Jesus reference toward carrying the cross makes reference
toward incredible sacrifice, his own, and the sacrifice the group of
twelve would make in being followers. There was no comfortable, cushy
path that lay ahead for the 12. This would be no rose-petal covered
journey. Now, the next two illustrations Jesus uses are a bit more practical;
naturally, no one uses their hard-earned resources, whether it is money
or material or troops, until they know that the end result will be worth
the cost. No one would set out to build something unless they knew they
could afford to do so. The illustrations Jesus uses are meant to wake
up his listeners so they understand that following this rabbi is not
for the casual disciple or the weekend warrior. He means to make it
clear that before you say the words “I will follow you”, you
better know what you are in for. It will mean renouncing other
allegiances and placing God front and center of our entire lives.
Essentially what this text does is it poses a really
difficult question for modern day followers like us and wanna-be disciples.
Are you willing to make the commitment that is required to be a Christian?
Jesus wants us to count the cost of discipleship as well,
which will mean an examination of just how important we believe our
faith in Christ is? What are we willing to sacrifice? How has it changed
our lives? How does following Jesus sustain, renew, restore and transform
us? If we completely belong to God through baptism, is it reflected
in how we live out our earthly existence?
In the card game POKER, there is an expression when
a player feels they have a good enough hand to beat all the other players.
They are willing to bet every chip they have, every dime on this
one hand. The expression is of course going ALL IN. Today’s text
begs the question, as followers of the living Christ, as disciples of
Jesus; ARE WE ALL IN? or have we tried to hold a part of our
lives separate from that following? Are we ALL IN on Jesus?
I am well aware of the gravity of the question that
is put before you, the question that God asks through scripture. I know
how very difficult it is to count the cost of discipleship and then
surrender over our very lives to God. It is a daily struggle, a daily
discerning of how to be most faithful. And I know how many times I have
failed in that struggle. How many times have I failed to go ALL IN on
Jesus. Following Jesus though is about sacrifice; it is about a level
of focus that causes us to give our allegiance to nothing else,
to have NO other gods before the Almighty God that we worship in Jesus
But the truth of our human condition is that
we do not have what it takes, out of our own strength, resolve
or determination, to see this sacrificial way of living through
to the end. Ultimately, we do not have the wherewithal to follow Jesus
as we should. The good news is that God, working through Jesus,
the Good Shepherd, helps us to persevere in the life of discipleship;
when our energy wanes for doing what is right or when our patience has
reached the breaking point, when we just want to go our own way and
do our own thing. This is when Jesus comes to us and nourishes us, tends
to our wounds and brings healing. This is when we are dusted off, re-focused,
set back on the path, so that we might once again, rise, take up the
cross and follow Jesus. This is what makes the good news good.
Thanks be to God, for the incredible, impossible
to comprehend, gift of grace, for God’s love in Christ which has brought
us this far along the way and the mercy which will sustain us and provide
for us for the rest of the journey. Amen.
Sermon Hymn “Will You Come and Follow Me”
Will you come and follow me if I but call your name?
Will you go where you don't know and never be the same?
Will you let my love be shown, will you let my name be known,
will you let my life be grown in you and you in me?
Will you leave yourself behind if I but call your name?
Will you care for cruel and kind and never be the same?
Will you risk the hostile stare, should your life attract or scare?
Will you let me answer pray'r in you and you in me?
Will you let the blinded see if I but call your name?
Will you set the pris'ners free and never be the same?
Will you kiss the leper clean, and do such as this unseen,
and admit to what I mean in you and you in me?
Will you love the you you hide if I but call your name?
Will you quell the fear inside and never be the same?
Will you use the faith you've found to reshape the world around,
through my sight and touch and sound in you and you in me?
Monday Morning Thoughts
March 6th, 2023
Dear faith family,
Looking ahead to the Gospel text for Sunday, March 12th, (John 4:5-42)
we see Jesus breaking down human constructed social barriers to reveal
the in-breaking of God's kingdom. Jesus approaches a Samaritan woman
at a well and speaks to her which would have placed him in danger of
breaking Jewish laws, at least two or three, depending on how you keep
As we read through scripture, we find this is not uncommon for Jesus
to go against man-made barriers and breaking them down so that the good
news can be shared. So it occurred to me, if we, the church, are the
body of Christ on earth, then should we be the ones following the example
that Jesus set? What walls and barriers to the Gospel are we breaking
down? What conventions keep us from sharing the hope and grace that
has been so richly given with others?
Lent is just such a time to examine these questions, a time when
we take a closer look at our congregation and ourselves. It is a time
to reflect on what we might be doing (or not doing) that creates a hurdle
for folks to discover Jesus in our midst. When we read the text about
the Samaritan woman at the well, we might assume this gospel simply
urges us to stand with the marginalized, especially women. Yet while
standing with marginalized women is a commendable action it can lead
us, after doing so, to congratulate ourselves for being just like Jesus.
A deeper look at this text calls us to the reality that Jesus doesn’t
just stand with the other, Jesus stands with your other; your church’s
Who are our congregation's "Samaritans"? Perhaps they are homosexuals,
evangelicals, conservatives, liberals, people of color, the poor, the
rich, the dying, or single parents. Your church’s Samaritans could very
well be the key to this text. Because, like it or not, when we draw
lines between ourselves and other people, Jesus is always on the other
side of that line.
Jesus is the living water, the water that if one drinks of it will
never have thirst again. So communities and individuals who thirst for
the living water would be following Jesus example if we look to who
our own Samaritans might be. And when we find them we should perhaps
not be surprised to also find Jesus; a Jesus we thought was all our
own but who, in reality, is the living water who comes to us in the
strange and the stranger.
May this week bring an encounter that reveals the grace and love
of God in our midst.
Peace and blessings,
As the statistics on illness and death
due to COVID-19 keep rising, the economic statistics keep falling. In
March the stock market lost more than $11 trillion in value,
and has been yo-yoing ever since. While the more fortunate are mourning
their dwindling retirement plans, the truly desperate have joined the
36 million Americans applying for unemployment benefits. How will
they pay the rent or feed their families?
While watching the news one day, I flashed
back to another time of financial crisis, the Great Recession of 2008.
I had just written a book on prayer, and got an unexpected call from
a New York journalist. “Any advice on how a person should pray
during a time like this?” he asked. “Does prayer do any good in
a financial crash?” In the course of the conversation we came
up with a three-stage approach to prayer.
The first stage is simple, an instinctive
cry for “Help!” For someone who faces a job cut or health crisis,
prayer offers a way to give voice to fear and anxiety. I’ve learned
to resist the tendency to edit my prayers so that they’ll sound sophisticated
and mature. I believe God wants us to come exactly as we are,
no matter how childlike we may feel. A God aware of every sparrow
that falls surely knows the impact of scary financial times on frail
Indeed, prayer provides the best possible
place to take our fears. “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares
for you,” wrote the apostle Peter. As a template for prayers in
crisis times, I look at Jesus’ night of prayer in Gethsemane.
He threw himself on the ground three times, sweat falling from his body
like drops of blood, and felt “overwhelmed with sorrow to the point
of death.” During that time of anguish, however, his prayer changed
from “Take this cup from me…” to “…may your will be done.” In
the trial scenes that followed, Jesus was the calmest character present.
His season of prayer had relieved him of anxiety, reaffirmed his trust
in a loving Father, and emboldened him to face the horror that awaited
If I pray with the aim of listening as
well as talking, I can enter into a second stage, that of meditation
and reflection. OK, my life savings has virtually disappeared.
What can I learn from this seeming catastrophe? In the midst of
the crisis, a Sunday School song ran through my mind:
The wise man built his house upon the
And the wise man’s house stood firm.
The foolish man built his house upon
Oh, the rains came down
And the floods came up…
A time of crisis presents a good opportunity
to identify the foundation on which I construct my life. If I
place my ultimate trust in financial security, or in the government’s
ability to solve my problems, I will surely watch the basement flood
and the walls crumble. As the song says, “And the foolish man’s
house went splat!”
A friend from Chicago, Bill Leslie, used
to say that the Bible asks three main questions about money:
1) How did you get it? (Legally and justly, or exploitatively?);
2) What are you doing with it? (Indulging in needless luxuries,
or helping the needy?);
3) What is it doing to you? Some of Jesus’ most trenchant
parables and sayings go straight to the heart of that last question.
A financial crisis forces us to examine
how money affects us. Am I stuck with debts I accumulated by buying
goods that were more luxuries than necessities? Do I want to cling
to the money I have when I know of people around me in dire need?
Jesus taught us to pray, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven,”
and we know that heaven will include no homeless, destitute, and starving
As the stock market dove to uncharted depths,
I couldn’t help thinking of private colleges, mission agencies, and
other non-profits, which depend heavily on the largesse of donors.
The IRS has dramatically loosened the rules that limit charitable deductions
for 2020, hoping to encourage more giving—am I giving serious attention
to the urgent appeals that fill my mailbox this year?
Which leads me to the third and most difficult
stage of prayer in crisis times: I need God’s help in taking my eyes
off my own problems in order to look with compassion on the truly desperate.
In the Beatitudes, Jesus described a kind of upside-down kingdom that
elevates the poor, those who mourn, the justice-makers and peace-makers,
and those who show mercy.
The novel coronavirus has temporarily accomplished
that societal reversal. In airports, janitors who clean the banisters
and wipe the seats of airplanes are now as crucial to safety as the
pilots who fly the jets. Each night, people in major cities honk
horns, howl, or shout their appreciation for the health care workers
who keep us alive. We’ve learned we can get along without the
sports industry that pays top athletes $10 million per year to chase
a ball; meanwhile, harried parents of young children have new appreciation
for the teachers who earn less than 1 percent of that amount.
Last month Time magazine put some of the real heroes on their
cover: cafeteria workers who serve up food to needy children.
They could just as easily have profiled hospital orderlies or paramedics.
The question is, will we use this crisis
time to re-evaluate what kind of society we want, or will we return
as soon as possible to a society that idolizes the wealthiest, the most
coordinated, the smartest, the most beautiful, and the most entertaining?
A just, compassionate society builds on a more solid foundation.
The Sermon on the Mount, which begins with the Beatitudes, ends with
Jesus’ analogy of the house on the rock: “And the rain fell, and the
floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not
fall, because it had been founded on the rock.”
In the days of a collapsing Roman empire,
Christians stood out because they cared for the poor, because they stayed
behind to nurse plague victims rather than flee afflicted villages,
and because platoons of wet nurses would gather up the babies abandoned
along the roadside by Romans in their most cruel form of birth control.
What a testimony it would be if Christians resolved to increase their
giving in 2020 in order to build houses for the poor, combat other deadly
diseases, and proclaim kingdom values to a celebrity-driven culture.
Such a response defies all logic and common
sense. Unless, of course, we take seriously the moral of Jesus’
simple tale about building houses on a sure foundation.
"Christians are not better than non-Christians; they are just better
off. They are like two men on a plane, one who is wearing a parachute,
and one who is not. Both men have to jump. The one who is wearing the
parachute is not better than the other man, but he is certainly better
— Ray Comfort "Faith is for Weak
“Books will give you the basics.
The Holy Spirit fills in the details. Trust the Spirit." — william
"All the flowers of all the tomorrows
are in the seeds of today." — Native Proverb
"Christianity is being concerned
about [others], not building a million-dollar church while people are
starving right around the corner. Christ was a revolutionary person,
out there where it was happening. That's what God is all about, and
that's where I get my strength.”
Fannie Lou Hamer (civil rights activist)
End For This Newsletter
I was hoping this to be like
the finale of a display of fireworks. A whole lot of everything all
at once, but then it is done. I would like to shift my time to the backlog
of my work. I am just now reviewing, numbering, and filing into my inventory
photographs from over two years ago. As I write this, I have 42,743
of my images (files) in thirty-three folders waiting for processing.
I still have poems, in file drawer folders, I wrote as far back as 1989
that never got typed up, or into a computer. Plus, other than newsletters
and the previous year pictures of the week pages, I have created only
one truly new item (Red Dawn Movie at Fitzgerald
Park - Scrapbook Photos) in half a dozen years for my website.
That is just the william's works
piece of my puzzle. I also have 25,530 photos, and artwork images, in
414 temporary folders from the emails sent by you or others to me, and
from the Internet, which I saved to process into permanent folders for
use in my exercise slide shows. I have play lists in my computer (Windows
Media Player) from our CDs that I select from each day I am exercising
indoors on my treadmill, and Health Rider. I figured out it takes a
slide show of 555 images to get me through my exercise routine without
repeating any. I learned early on that if your exercise becomes too
tedious and boring, it will not be long before you let things go, and
are not exercising at all.
Some years back I started revamping
my exercise folders to hold less than 150 each (in varying amounts),
so I could mix and match a fresh slide show every time by copying the
alphabetical files into an empty folder until I reached 555. Adding
new images also keeps things from becoming too mundane. A little side
note about a good source of quality pictures if you have Windows 10
as an operating system. Microsoft regularly changes that first screen
picture when you turn your computer on. For whatever reason, those are
called lock images. They are hidden in your computer, and removed often
as they add new ones. But they can be copied and saved if done as soon
as they appear. I ran across how to find them, and rename to view them,
in an article several years ago. I thought about including it here on
the addendum page, but it is a mix of text and graphics. If interested,
just email me and I will attach it to a reply.
New images often need to be
resized, cropped, touched up, and renamed so they are alphabetized in
a way that provides a better mix when pulling from various folders.
This takes quite a bit of spare time. Except for lock images I save
whenever I first see them, usually it is later in the evening if I find
time, since I see it as lower priority work, even though it is essential
to my physical well being. A little more time devoted to this, however,
would also help in the mental arena as well. When I originally started
setting up folders in 2006 after my open heart surgery, I put 600 files
in each folder figuring I would just need to pick one. Using those became
boring because they always sequenced the same. I still have a lot of
those early folders (214) which yet hold 27,142 images waiting to be
broken down into smaller units, and re-alphabetized for a better mix.
Until I get to them, they feel like a whole bunch of clutter on a "to
do" list staring me in the face every time I go in to set up an exercise
slide show. I find constant clutter to be highly stressful.
When you add in the daily activities
and work of living . . . . Scripture reading and morning prayer, making
the bed, brushing your teeth, showering, fixing meals and cleaning up
after, my cardiac exercise routines, finding time to get to the Center
even just to water the plants, or change the sanctuary candle in the
prayer room, etc, etc . . . . it becomes a daunting task to find the
time to accomplish any backlog of non-routine work, let alone anything
new. Then, when warm weather arrives it changes everything. Most of
the time, I would enjoy being outside chopping wood to BBQ over rather
than any of the other stuff except taking pictures. But, even photography
gives me pause, because I am aware I will be adding to my backlog of
images needing attention. So, writing has a lot of competition in my
"to do list" world.
None of this is meant to be
complaining. I created my circumstances through my choices, just like
everybody else does. The difficulty, of course, is the discernment of
God's priorities in all of the constant flow of possible activities
passing through our consciousness. That is why I would like to add newsletters
to the list of things eliminated. They are hugely time consuming for
me. I have to laugh, because as I write this, I have been thinking how
much of that stuff I could be getting done if I were not spending so
much time writing about it. I think I have become too much a Martha,
and too little a Mary (see Luke 10:41-42 if you
do not understand the reference).
My best recollection is that
I started writing in earnest when I was creating my poetry to help me
through stressful, and challenging, times of mental and spiritual upheaval.
It could feel obsessive and compulsive, but it did help. This had doctors
originally looking at manic depression (referred to these days as bi-polar
disease) as a possible diagnosis. They decided it was not. I saw it
as an intense search for God, with the spiritual challenges often being
expressed through the mental side roads, not vice versa. It has been
an interesting journey, and writing definitely functioned as a coping
tool. It still does in some fashion, as it allows me to release a lot
of mental activity onto the paper. But writing has almost always felt
like more of a burden than a joy. Especially so, when I transitioned
to primarily prose from the shorter, more succinct, poetry.
(but you never know when you
let God run the show)
The Left’s Message: You Cannot Be
by Michael Brown - June 1, 2020 - Faith & Culture
- Decision Magazine
It would be one thing if Samaritan’s Purse refused
to treat a gay man. Or mocked a trans-identified individual. Or discriminated
against a lesbian needing medical care. But none of that has happened.
Instead, this massive Christian humanitarian organization
which serves each person alike is getting blasted by the Left for one
reason only. Samaritan’s Purse is a Christian organization that employs
Christian workers and believes in the historic teachings of the Bible.
The Crime of Being Christian
That alone is their crime. That alone is their fault.
And for that unthinkable transgression, for that monstrous evil, for
the crime of being Christian, they are protested by the Left.
It was bad enough that Franklin Graham’s evangelistic
ministry in the U.K. was opposed because of his pro-Bible comments regarding
sexuality and marriage. These days, that is the price for taking a stand
for Biblical truth and opposing radical LGBTQ revisionism.
But it’s far worse when Graham’s humanitarian arm,
Samaritan’s Purse, which selflessly serves the sick and hurting worldwide,
is opposed because their statement of faith is Christian. What on earth
has happened to our society?
As noted in National Review, “the volunteers
for Samaritan’s Purse put themselves in harm’s way, acting as backstops
for a municipal hospital system at risk of being overrun with coronavirus
patients. The group’s evangelical Christian volunteers expose themselves
to infection and disease at no charge to patients, treating the sick
without regard to race, religion, sexual orientation or any of the other
identity groups under putative ‘siege’ in the United States.”
Protesting a statement of faith
Yet on April 15, NBC News reported that “a group
of LGBTQ activists stood several yards away from the Samaritan’s Purse
field hospital on the East Meadow lawn and blasted city and state officials
and Mount Sinai Hospital for partnering with the evangelical humanitarian
relief organization treating overflow patients suffering from the coronavirus.”
“After all, if a Christian humanitarian organization
can be protested during a pandemic for affirming Biblical values, what
will happen to churches and ministries during times of health and prosperity?”
As expressed by Jay W. Walker, an activist with the
Reclaim Pride Coalition, “How was this group ever considered to bring
their hatred and their vitriol into our city at a time of crisis when
our people are fighting a pandemic?”
It is true, NBC News noted, that “The hospital is
staffed with Christian doctors and nurses experienced in treating infectious
And these Christians donate their services to help
strangers, putting their own lives at risk in a living demonstration
of “love your neighbor as yourself.”
“But,” the report continues, “Samaritan’s Purse’s
policies require most contractors and some full-time volunteers to sign
a statement of faith that includes a declaration that ‘we believe that
marriage is exclusively the union of one genetic male and one genetic
In the Name of the Lord Jesus
Oh, the horror! Oh, the hatred! How dare this Christian
organization, led by the son of the Reverend Billy Graham, uphold Biblical
values. How dare they affirm marriage as it has been affirmed by the
church and synagogue for two millennia. How dare they refuse to bow
the knee at the altar of political correctness.
Writing in the New York Post on April 3,
Bob McManus pointed out that Samaritan’s Purse makes its mission and
message loud and clear: “Why did you come?” asks its website. “The answer
is always the same: ‘We have come to help you in the Name of the Lord
And yet that is where the problem lies: They are
Christians coming to serve in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Values of New York City
Somehow, Mayor Bill de Blasio was surprised to hear
that Franklin Graham’s organization was actually Christian. And so he
commented, “I said immediately to my team that we had to find out exactly
what was happening. Was there going to be an approach that was truly
consistent with the values [of] New York City?”
Ah yes, the values of New York City, the city that
aborts more African-American babies than it sees born every year. By
far. And the city that says: If you hold to Christian beliefs and values,
you cannot serve our citizens. Not at your own expense. Not at the risk
of your own lives. Not if you do it as Christians.
Better to let the COVID-19 victims pass away in their
misery. We will not have true Christianity in our midst.
Time to Wake Up
That is how far we have fallen, and we dare not ignore
the handwriting on the wall. After all, if a Christian humanitarian
organization can be protested during a pandemic for affirming Biblical
values, what will happen to churches and ministries during times of
health and prosperity?
Fifteen years ago, I was mocked for saying that those
who came out of the closet wanted to put us—Bible-believing Christians—in
That now seems like a lifetime ago. For those who
are still slumbering, it is well past time to wake up. ©2020 Michael
Adapted by permission from an article originally
published at Stream.org.
Michael L. Brown is the founder and president of
Fire School of Ministry in Concord, North Carolina, and host of the
daily syndicated radio show “The Line of Fire.”