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Showing posts from May, 2016

The Beginning of a Revolution

Today in the church calendar is the Feast of the Visitation of Our Lady. This is the day when we remember the visit of Mary, the mother of Jesus, to Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, when both were carrying their boys in their respective wombs. Thus, the Gospel lectionary reading for today is from Luke 1:39-56....
In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”
And Mary said,

“My soul magnifies the Lord,and …

In the Footsteps of C. S. Lewis

My newest book, In the Footsteps of C. S. Lewis: A Photographic Pilgrimage to the British Isles, will be in print by June 15. Here is the description from the back cover....
Over the course of thirty years, Will Vaus has journeyed to the British Isles many times to walk in the footsteps of C. S. Lewis. His private photographs of the significant places in Lewis’ life have captured the imagination of audiences in the US and UK to whom he has lectured on the Oxford don and his work. This, in turn, prompted the idea of this collection of 80 full-color photographs, interwoven with details about Lewis’ life and work. The combination of words and pictures make this book a wonderful addition to the library of all Lewis scholars and readers.
And here is an endorsement from professional photographer, Larry Fink, who contributed the photographs to the wonderful book, George MacDonald: Images of His World....
Vaus’ pictorial guide provides a thorough survey of the places Lewis called home — both the…

Cleansing

Then they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling and those who were buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves; and he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. He was teaching and saying,“Is it not written,‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.”And when the chief priests and the scribes heard it, they kept looking for a way to kill him; for they were afraid of him, because the whole crowd was spellbound by his teaching. (Mark 11:15-18)What comes to your mind upon reading the verses above? What comes to my mind is these other verses from Paul....
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)Jesus drove …

Mercy

Like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people;once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:5, 9-10)What do you feel as you read these words from 1 Peter? I don't know about you, but I feel a sense of unworthiness. How am I spiritual enough, holy enough, acceptable enough to be built into God's house? Why would God choose me to be part of his royal priesthood? How can I proclaim the mighty acts of him who called us out of darkness into light when I still feel sometimes like I am living halfway into the darkness?

Thankfully, the answer to all of these questions comes in this same text.…

He Is Able

James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And he said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?” And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” They replied, “We are able.” Then Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”
When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. So Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so…

First & Last

Peter began to say to him, “Look, we have left everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.” (Mark 10:28-31)When Jesus told his disciples that "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God" they wondered "Who then can be saved?" Jesus told them that "With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God."

Thus we learn that human beings cannot save themselves, salvation is only possible with God. And this leads us to our passage for today. Peter reminds Jesus that he has left ev…

Jesus & The Rich Young Ruler

As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.’” He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.” Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” (Mark 10:17-23)
This is one of the first biblical texts I ever preached on some thirty years ago. It still challenges me all these …

Hell or Heaven?

For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.
“If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell, where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched.
“For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be …

Inclusive or Exclusive?

John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” But Jesus said, “Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. Whoever is not against us is for us. (Mark 9:38-40)The Gospel lectionary reading for today presents a cautionary lesson for all of us. Jesus' disciples see someone casting out demons in Jesus' name and they try to stop him because he is not part of their group. When told about this, Jesus tells his disciples to do just the opposite: don't stop anyone who is trying to do something good in my name.

I wonder: how often do we frown upon religious groups that don't bear our "label"? I think Jesus' words suggest that we should count as a brother or sister anyone who seeks to do good in his name. 


An Episcopal priest who is a friend of mine said to me some time ago, "I can't imagine that Jesus …

Pentecost

Tomorrow is the Feast of Pentecost when we celebrate and remember the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the first church in Jerusalem 2000 years ago.
In Romans 8:26, the Apostle Paul says this about the Holy Spirit...
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.C. S. Lewis echoes these words in a poem he wrote and included in the last book he prepared for publication, Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer...

They tell me, Lord, that when I seemTo be in speech with you,Since but one voice is heard, it's all a dream,One talker aping two.
Sometimes it is, yet not as theyConceive it. Rather, ISeek in myself the things I hoped to say.But lo!, my wells are dry.
Then, seeing me empty, you forsakeThe listener's role and throughMy dumb lips breathe and into utterance wakeThe thoughts I never knew.
And thus you neither need replyNor can; thus, while we seemTwo talkers, thou art One fore…

Power to Start Over Again

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.” (John 21:15-…

God's Sovereignty & Our Boldness

The only survivor of a shipwreck landed on a deserted island. He prayed desperately to God for rescue and every day he looked out to sea for help, but every day he was disappointed.

Finally, the man decided to settle in to life on his lonely island. He built a shelter for himself, as best he could with his limited skills in that area, and he put his few possessions, which had washed up on shore, in the hut. Then one day, after going out hunting for food, the man returned “home” only to find his shelter going up in smoke. He sat down on the sand feeling utterly defeated.

In the midst of that defeat, early the next day, a boat arrived at the man’s island and rescued him.

Flabbergasted, the man asked his rescuers, “What drew you to the island?”

His rescuers replied: “We saw your smoke signal, of course.”

Oftentimes God uses what seems like our greatest defeat to bring about his good purposes. In Acts 22 we see what seems to be the great defeat of all Paul’s plans. He is arrested in Jerusalem.…

Jesus Prays for Our Protection

And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also…

Van & Davy & Vermont

Yesterday I visited a friend in southern Vermont and decided to drive by the alma mater of Jean "Davy" Palmer Davis, wife of Sheldon Vanauken, the author of A Severe Mercy. Vanauken wrote in another book, The Little Lost Marion and other Mercies, that after giving birth to a child out of wedlock, "Davy was sent to a good prep school for girls." Of course, this took place long before Van and Davy "met angrily in the dead of winter".

In researching my book, Sheldon Vanauken: The Man who Received "A Severe Mercy", I discovered that Davy's prep school had been Troy Conference Academy. This prep school later became Green Mountain College which you can read about here: Green Mountain College.

Thus, being in the area, and still being fascinated with all things having to do with the lives of Van and Davy, I drove to Poultney, Vermont and snapped the photo above, outside the gates of the college.

Here's a photo from my book of Davy in her younger ye…

Have You Heard of the Holy Spirit?

While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul passed through the interior regions and came to Ephesus, where he found some disciples. He said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?” They replied, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” Then he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They answered, “Into John’s baptism.” Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, in Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied—altogether there were about twelve of them.
He entered the synagogue and for three months spoke out boldly, and argued persuasively about the kingdom of God.We see in this passage that if we are going to claim the power of the name of Jesus in our lives then we must receive the Holy Spirit and be filled with the S…

The Ascension of Jesus

In the church calendar, May 5 was Ascension Day this year. The scriptural passage that speaks most directly about the Ascension of Jesus to heaven is in Acts 1:1-11....
In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. “This,” he said, “is what you have heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that t…

Joy in the Midst of Pain

Today's lectionary reading carries on from yesterday. It is from John 16:20-23....
Very truly, I tell you, you will weep and mourn, but the world will rejoice; you will have pain, but your pain will turn into joy. When a woman is in labor, she has pain, because her hour has come. But when her child is born, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy of having brought a human being into the world. So you have pain now; but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. On that day you will ask nothing of me. Very truly, I tell you, if you ask anything of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.Along with clarity in the midst of confusion, Jesus promises us joy in the midst of pain. Jesus tells his disciples and us that their experience will be like that of a woman giving birth to a baby. The pain of the birthing process is tremendous, but when a beautiful healthy baby boy or girl is born, the pain of the mother quickly g…

Clarity in the Midst of Confusion

“A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me.” Then some of his disciples said to one another, “What does he mean by saying to us, ‘A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me’; and ‘Because I am going to the Father’?” They said, “What does he mean by this ‘a little while’? We do not know what he is talking about.” Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him, so he said to them, “Are you discussing among yourselves what I meant when I said, ‘A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me’? Very truly, I tell you, you will weep and mourn, but the world will rejoice; you will have pain, but your pain will turn into joy. (John 16:16-20)
Through Jesus, the Son of God, we have great power as believers. In these verses, first spoken by Jesus on the night of his arrest, to his disciples, he makes several great and precious promises to his disciples and to …

Proclaiming an Unknown God

The view of the Acropolis from the Areopagus
I am going to attempt to blog a little more often than I have in the past few months, and I am going to try to return to the pattern I set last year of commenting on the biblical lectionary reading for each day. Today's reading is taken from Acts 17:22-28....
Then Paul stood in front of the Areopagus and said, “Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way. For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, ‘To an unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things. From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times o…