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Showing posts from November, 2015

The Call of the King

Today is the feast day of St. Andrew, the patron saint of Scotland. Thus, I offer today a sermon (preached a number of years ago) on Jesus' call to Andrew, his brother Peter, their friends, and to us, based upon Matthew 4:18-22....As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. "Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men." At once they left their nets and followed him.

Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.
In this brief account we see three very simple steps repeated in two encounters Jesus had with two groups of people. This type of Hebrew parallelism in story-telling is like our modern practice of underlin…

Happy Birthday C. S. Lewis!

C. S. Lewis as an Infant
In celebration of C. S. Lewis' 117th birthday, I share with you today a brief excerpt from my book, The Professor of Narnia....In 1954, a group of fifth graders from Maryland wrote to C. S. Lewis to thank him for his Narnia books and ask him questions about the stories and himself. One question they must have had was: “What do you look and sound like?” C. S. Lewis’s answer was: “I’m tall, fat, rather bald, redfaced, double-chinned, black-haired, have a deep voice, and wear glasses for reading.” That is how C. S. Lewis described himself around the time he was writing the following words. …
This is a story about something that happened long ago when your grandfather was a child. It is a very important story because it shows how all the comings and goings between our own world and the land of Narnia first began.In those days Mr. Sherlock Holmes was still living in Baker Street and the Bastables were looking for treasure in the Lewisham Road. In those days, if …

C. S. Lewis on Thanksgiving

C. S. Lewis Nature Reserve, Oxfordshire
One of my favorite books written by C. S. Lewis is Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer. It contains Lewis' letters to a fictitious friend and is full of wisdom and good sense on the topic of prayer and much else. Here is what Lewis has to say about adoration and thanksgiving in Letter 17 of that book.... You first taught me the great principle, "Begin where you are." I had thought one had to start by summoning up what we believe about the goodness and greatness of God, by thinking about creation and redemption and "all the blessings of this life". You turned to the brook and once more splashed your burning face and hands in the little waterfall and said: "Why not begin with this?"And it worked. Apparently you have never guessed how much. That cushiony moss, that coldness and sound and dancing light were no doubt very minor blessings compared with "the means of grace and the hope of glory." But then th…

Preparing for Advent

While everyone is thinking about Thanksgiving Day, eating turkey and spending time with family, we tend to forget that a new church year begins this Sunday, November 29. Advent is all about preparing for the coming of Christ. We remember his first coming 2000 years ago. We welcome his coming into our hearts in the present. And we look forward to his coming again to usher in his new creation.

If you would like some devotional assistance through the Advent and Christmas season, it is not too late to order my book, Open Before Christmas: Devotional Thoughts for the Holiday Season. Here is what one friend of mine has said about the book....
Both informing and inspiring, Will Vaus’ book, Open Before Christmas, reflects the wonder of this “most wonderful time of the year” and provides a feast of biblical meditation for the whole season. Starting with the weeks of Advent preceding Christmas Day and travelling through the “Twelve Days of Christmas” to Epiphany, Will leads our hearts and minds t…

Evening Prayer

As I promised in my last post, here is the plan for evening family prayer from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer. The prayer following The Lord's Prayer was one that was most meaningful to Sheldon Vanauken and his wife as described in A Severe Mercy....

Evening
After reading a brief portion of Holy Scripture, let the Head of the Household, or some other member of the family, say as followeth, all kneeling, and repeating with him the Lord's Prayer.

Our Father, who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy Name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, As we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

Lighten our darkness, we beseech thee, O Lord; and by thy great mercy defend us from all perils and dangers of this night; for the love of thy only Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ…

Morning Prayer

I remember reading many years ago in Sheldon Vanauken's endearing book, A Severe Mercy, how he and his wife, Davy, after they came back to faith in Christ, would pray together morning and evening, kneeling before a wooden cross, using the Book of Common Prayer. It was not until I got more into reading the Book of Common Prayer myself, and was doing research for my book, Sheldon Vanauken: The Man Who Received A Severe Mercy, that I realized exactly what Vanauken was talking about.

In the American version of the Prayer Book (Vanauken used the 1928 version) there is a section called "Family Prayer". I believe this is what Vanauken used for his daily devotions with Davy. The form for Evening Prayer contains one of Vanauken's favorite prayers that he mentions in A Severe Mercy. We will look at that tomorrow. For now, here is the shorter form for Morning Prayer, which you may find helpful for your own devotional life as I have for mine. There is a longer form as well in the…

The Book of Common Prayer

As everyone who knows me or reads this blog is aware, two of my spiritual, literary mentors are C. S. Lewis and Sheldon Vanauken. Both were shaped in their spiritual lives by the Book of Common Prayer and used the Prayer Book daily in their devotional lives. Through them, in recent years, I have been led to a use of the Prayer Book in my own devotional life.
C. S. Lewis had this to say about the benefits of what he called a "ready-made" form of prayer, including that from the Book of Common Prayer.... First, it keeps me in touch with "sound doctrine". Left to oneself, one could easily slide away from "the faith once given" into a phantom called "my religion".Secondly, it reminds me "what things I ought to ask" (perhaps especially when I am praying for other people). The crisis of the present moment, like the nearest telegraph-post, will always loom largest. Isn't there a danger that our great, permanent, objective necessities--often …

Waiting

"I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord." - Psalm 27: 13, 14 (NIV)I have been doing a bit of waiting lately, waiting on the Lord for an answer to a certain prayer. Thus, I found these words from Henri Nouwen's Bread for the Journey very encouraging today....
Waiting is essential to the spiritual life. But waiting as a disciple of Jesus is not an empty waiting. It is a waiting with a promise in our hearts that makes already present what we are waiting for. We wait during Advent for the birth of Jesus. We wait after Easter for the coming of the Spirit, and after the ascension of Jesus we wait for his coming again in glory. We are always waiting, but it is a waiting in the conviction that we have already seen God's footsteps.

Waiting for God is an active, alert - yes, joyful - waiting. As we wait we remember him for whom we are waiting, and as we rememb…

The King, the Servants, and the Money

Today's Gospel lectionary reading is from Luke 19:11-27.... Jesus went on to tell a parable, because he was near Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately. So he said, 'A nobleman went to a distant country to get royal power for himself and then return. He summoned ten of his slaves, and gave them ten pounds, and said to them, "Do business with these until I come back." But the citizens of his country hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, "We do not want this man to rule over us." When he returned, having received royal power, he ordered these slaves, to whom he had given the money, to be summoned so that he might find out what they had gained by trading. The first came forward and said, "Lord, your pound has made ten more pounds." He said to him, "Well done, good slave! Because you have been trustworthy in a very small thing, take charge of ten cities." Then the second came, sayin…

Pre-Order C. S. Lewis' Top Ten, Volume 2

You may now pre-order a signed copy of my newest book, C. S. Lewis' Top Ten, Volume 2 directly from my web site here: C. S. Lewis' Top Ten, Volume 2

Here is what others are saying about it....

"Will Vaus has done us a great service in this clear and comprehensive survey of the great books that helped to form C. S. Lewis’ mind and can also inform ours. I found his work on Virgil, on George Herbert, and on Wordsworth particularly helpful. This book is not just for C. S. Lewis enthusiasts but for anyone who would like to broaden and deepen their reading."

Malcolm Guite
Chaplain, Girton College, Cambridge University

"Will Vaus’s C. S. Lewis’ Top Ten: Influential Books and Authors, Vol. II is a penetrating study of how George Herbert’s The Temple, William Wordsworth’s The Prelude, and Rudolf Otto’s The Idea of the Holy were among the ten books that did the most to shape Lewis’ vocational attitude and philosophy of life. Vaus writes with ease and helps readers understand t…

Lessons from Lepers, Part 5

One final lesson I think we can learn from the lepers whom Jesus healed is that thanksgiving opens the door to greater blessing. When that one Samaritan leper came back to thank Jesus for his healing it opened the door for Jesus to say to him, "Rise and go; your faith has made you well." Literally Jesus' words to the former leper were, "Your faith has saved you." All 10 lepers received physical healing, but (so far as we know) only the leper who came back to thank Jesus received salvation. When we thank God for his blessings to us it opens us up to receive even greater blessings from his rich storehouse.

John Yates once wrote,
I was on the football field at our local high school the other day, where my son was running cross country. As I watched these boys and girls, I was preoccupied with recent problems. I also remembered my cross-country days twenty-five years ago and naturally breathed a prayer of thanksgiving. The prayer was something like, "Lord, thank…

Lessons from Lepers, Part 4

A fourth lesson I think we can learn from the lepers whom Jesus healed is that sometimes we can learn about thanksgiving from unexpected sources. When the one Samaritan leper returned to give thanks, Jesus asked, "Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?"

The other nine lepers were apparently Jews. One might expect them to be the first to return and give thanks to a fellow Jew, Jesus, for their healing. Yet, it was the Samaritan who returned to give thanks. This story provokes us to open our eyes wider to the whole world, to see what we can learn from others, not simply from others who are "like us".

There is much to learn from other living human sources, and there is much we can learn from unexpected sources of wisdom in literature. For example, would you ever expect to learn something about thanksgiving from Sherlock Holmes?

Holmes' faithful companion, Dr. Watson, narrates the following story in The Adventure of the Naval Treaty. …

Lessons from Lepers, Part 3

A third lesson I think we can learn from the lepers whom Jesus healed is that faith which does not issue in thanksgiving is incomplete. Jesus asked, "Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?"

The other nine lepers had some faith. Otherwise, they would not have asked Jesus to heal them. Without faith they probably would not have called Jesus "Master". Furthermore, the other nine lepers obeyed Jesus' command to go to the priest, even though they were not healed yet. The priest was the one in the ancient Jewish community who could declare a former leper "clean" thus allowing him or her to return to society. The ten lepers all left on their journey to the priest, trusting that Jesus would heal them somehow, even though they did not see the healing until halfway through their journey. (There is probably another lesson we can take to heart from that.)

But why didn't all ten lepers come back and thank Jesus? There are several possible reasons. …

Lessons from Lepers, Part 2

Today we are continuing our study of Luke 17:11-19, the story of Jesus and ten lepers who were healed. 

A second lesson I think we can learn from the lepers is that our thanksgiving ought to be louder and more demonstrative. We read in Luke that one of the lepers, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loudvoice, and he threw himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him.

I used to live in a town where the Friday night high school football game was the highlight of the week for many. I've seldom seen people get so excited. When the home team would score a touchdown, almost everyone in the stands would praise their team in a loud voice. I never saw anyone throwing themselves at the feet of the star quarterback, but I often saw people in the stands jumping up and down with thanksgiving.

However, what happens when we go to church? Many people in church are staid and reserved when it comes to giving thanks to God. Church people often give thanks in muted tones, in hushed wh…

Lessons from Lepers, Part 1

As we approach Thanksgiving Day later this month, I was moved by this reading from Luke 17:11-19 yesterday....
On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”I think there are at least five lessons on thanksgiving we can learn from the lepers in this story. The first lesson is that we all have …

Armistice Day

I think that some Americans tend to forget that Veteran's Day was originally, and is still in many parts of the world, remembered as Armistice Day. Perhaps some may even need a reminder that Armistice Day marks the armistice signed between the Allies of The Great War (WWI) and Germany at Compiegne, France at the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918. This official date marking the end of the war reflects the ceasefire on the Western Front. However, hostilities continued in other regions, especially across the former Russian Empire and in parts of the old Ottoman Empire. (Wikipedia)

Last year marked the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War I. In connection with that, there have been a number of movies and documentaries reminding us of the horrors of that war. 

C. S. Lewis served and was wounded in that war. He arrived in the trenches of France on his nineteenth birthday, November 29, 1917. Here is part of his description of the war from his autobi…

C. S. Lewis' Top Ten, Volume 2

The second volume of my trilogy of books on C. S. Lewis' Top Ten will soon be in print. This volume will deal with Lewis' reading of George Herbert's The Temple, William Wordsworth's The Prelude, and Rudolf Otto's Idea of the Holy. It has been a challenge both to read and write intelligently about these three deep authors and their works, as well as researching Lewis' reading of them. But it has also been a joy to read so much good literature.

One of these authors has long been a favorite of mine: William Wordsworth. Here is one of my favorite poems of his....


I wandered lonely as a cloud That floats on high o'er vales and hills, When all at once I saw a crowd, A host, of golden daffodils; Beside the lake, beneath the trees, Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine And twinkle on the milky way, They stretched in never-ending line Along the margin of a bay: Ten thousand saw I at a glance, Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The Power to Clean House

Here is a link to a message I preached some time ago on the Gospel lectionary text for today....

John 2:13-22

C. S. Lewis BBC Talk, Part 2

Here is Part 2 of C. S. Lewis' BBC Radio Talk that later became part of Mere Christianity. Enjoy!

C. S. Lewis' BBC Radio Talk

Here is Part I of one of C. S. Lewis' BBC radio talks. This is the only recording of Lewis from the period of the Second World War to survive. This is part of the series that eventually became Mere Christianity. Enjoy....

Turning Point

Jim Vaus
November 6, 1949 was a turning point in the life of my father, Jim Vaus. Up until that day, he had recently been working for gangster Mickey Cohen and others in organized crime. He had designed an electronic system for past post betting on the race horses for a friend of Mickey named St. Louis Andy. My father figured out a way to intercept and delay transmission over the Continental Wire Service for 90 seconds, not long enough for authorities to notice, but just long enough to signal their team the winning results of horse races so that they could make bets off track and clean up the cash every time. My father's "gang" was very successful controlling race results coming into Southern California via Arizona. Thus, he was scheduled to go to St. Louis on November 10, 1949, to set up his electronic system to control the entire western half of the United States in illegal off-track betting.

However, my father never made that meeting. For on the sixth of November he hap…

The Ministry of the Shepherd

I was traveling for a few days and it has taken me a while to get back around to blogging. Thanks for your patience. To make up for lost time, here is a longer post than usual....
The Gospel lectionary reading for today is from Luke 15:1-10....

Now all the tax-collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, 'This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.' So he told them this parable: 'Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbours, saying to them, "Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost." Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who need no repenta…