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Showing posts from June, 2015

Storms Without

James David Ford, former chaplain of the United States House of Representatives once told the following story to Leadership Journal,In the spring of 1976 I sailed the Atlantic Ocean with a couple of friends. In a thirty-one-foot vessel, we sailed from Plymouth, England, to New York—5,992 miles. During the trip, we hit a real hurricane—some of the waves were thirty-five feet high—and frankly, I was scared. My father had said, “Don’t go. You have five children. Wait till they’re grown.”The hurricane went into its third day, and I thought of my father’s words about the children. I thought, Why am I out here? Was this thing that I thought was courage and adventure really just foolhardy?The skies were black, and clouds were scudding by. I wanted to pray for God to stop the storm, but I felt guilty ‘cause I’d voluntarily gotten into this. I didn’t have to go across the ocean. . . .Finally I came up with a marvelous prayer, seven words: “O God, I have had enough. Amen.Within half an…

Who Do You Say I Am?

For a moment I want to take you back to 1997. In that year scientists at the University of California and the Space Telescope Science Institute released a so-called “photograph” taken by the Hubble of a massive, “invisible” star. This star was given the name “Pistol” and it stands near the center of the Milky Way, burning as bright as 10 million suns. The star is as large as the entire space inside of the Earth’s orbit. Nonetheless, this star cannot actually be seen by the human eye, nor can it be seen by telescopes because it is clouded by cosmic dust.

So how were the scientists able to take a picture of this invisible star? You might well wonder. Actually, the picture was the product of CGI, computer-generated-imagery. The end product was based upon infrared rays not visible to the human eye but detectable with the right scientific instruments. Computers converted these rays into colors and thus produced the photograph of an “invisible” star.

Can you imagine that? There is a h…

Vacation

I will be on vacation for the next ten days. Blog posts will resume after that, deo volente.

The Lord's Prayer

Matthew 6:7-15

Jesus said, "When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. 'Pray then in this way: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one. For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."In contrast to the flowery and lengthy prayers of others, Jesus teaches us to pray with simplicity. Why? Because God is not going to be impressed with the words we use, and, after all, God knows what we need before we ask.

"Then why pray?" you may well…

Fasting

Part of today's lectionary reading deals with the topic of fasting. Here is a message I preached on this text a few years back....

Thirty years ago Richard Foster wrote this about fasting in his bestselling book, The Celebration of Discipline:In a culture where the landscape is dotted with shrines to the Golden Arches and an assortment of Pizza Temples, fasting seems out of place, out of step with the times.In his research on fasting Foster could not find a single book published on the subject between 1861 and 1954. Though there has been a renewed interest in fasting in our day, it is still a largely neglected practice among Christians. Why is this? Foster offers two reasons. First, fasting has developed a bad reputation in some of our minds because all we think of is the example of certain monks who many years ago practiced fasting and other ascetic disciplines without, perhaps, a proper spiritual focus. Fasting in the middle ages was, perhaps, taken to an extreme in certain …

Love Your Enemies

Matthew 5:43-48Jesus said to the disciples, "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect."
In this section of Matthew's Gospel, the final example Jesus gives of the greater righteousness which he has fulfilled is that of loving our enemies. This really sums up all the other examples. If we love others with the love with which God has loved us in Christ, then we won't give into the temptation to anger,…

Turn the Other Cheek

Matthew 5:38-42
Jesus said to the crowds, "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you."A fifth example of the Jesus way of living has to do with the law of retaliation. “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” is one of the most ancient laws in the world. It was intended, originally, to limit retaliation. Therefore, if someone took out your eye you weren’t allowed to take their life away.

But once again, Jesus takes things further and deeper. He says we should not retaliate at all. If someone slaps us with the back of their hand on the cheek, in other words if someone insults us, then we should…

Speaking in Parables

Mark 4:26-34

He also said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.” He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.” With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.
The first parable that Jesus uses here is a parable about seeds. This pa…

Keeping Our Word

Matthew 5:33-37

Jesus said to the crowds, "Again, you have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, 'You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.' But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let your word be 'Yes, Yes' or 'No, No'; anything more than this comes from the evil one."In recent days, as we travel through the daily lectionary, we have been looking at Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. Jesus has been giving us examples of his new kingdom way of living. A couple of days ago, we read Jesus' understanding of the commandment, "Thou shalt not murder." Today we see another example of Jesus' new way of living: keeping our oaths. 
Throughout the Hebrew Scriptures God had insisted tha…

The Power of the Passion

Today, in the Roman Catholic tradition is the feast of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. Thus, the lectionary reading from Sacred Space focuses on the death of Christ and his heart that was pierced by the Roman soldier's spear. The word “passion”, as I am using it in this blog post for today, comes from the Greek word used to describe the suffering of Jesus in Matthew, Mark and Luke. Passion Plays, based upon the Gospels, have been performed at least since the middle ages. In 1984, I attended a performance of the Oberammergau Passion Play in Germany. That year marked the 500th anniversary of that particular passion play, one in which over two thousand villagers participate every ten years. The performance of the Oberammergau Passion Play is an all day event, with a long intermission for lunch. As we all know, the passion of Jesus Christ involved real suffering, with no intermission. Mel Gibson offered perhaps the closest and most accurate dramatic depiction of Jesus’ suffering in his …