Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Secretive Messiah

Sermon for Sunday, August 24, 2008 on the Scripture text Matthew 16:13-20.

Temptations of this Generation

I am reading The Sayings of the Desert Fathers as part of a Spiritual Formation Academy I am preparing to attend. I have only begun to read this book which list the quotes of the Abbas by their names alphabetically, so I am only on "Anthony the Great."

It seems Anthony was a bit of a hard case. He told it as it was, whether it was polite or not. I guess becoming a recluse does tend to take a toll on your social graces. One of the quotes that struck me, as it was said in the late third and early fourth centuries, was this:

He also said, 'God does not allow the same warfare and temptations to this generation as he did formerly, for men are weaker now and cannot bear so much.

What does this say about us? We are many, many generations removed from that and are obviously weaker than even that generation. Coming from the first century Christians who were willing to die, en masse, for their beliefs, to renounce not only the popular idea of the time but their ruler, to proudly proclaim that they were followers of Jesus. Then we have Anthony's era who were willing to leave the comforts of their homes, selling everything they have and giving it to the poor, and living off of the grace of God in hermitages or as recluses. To the generation of the 21st century, where we only live as Christians when its convenient, not really prepared to die for our beliefs, we negotiate with God what we are willing to do, and everything for the Church is subject to schedules of secular activities.

How far we have come from the faith of our fore-fathers and mothers! It is a good thing that we do not have the temptations they had, because we could not bear them! So, the next time that you feel that it is too hard to be a Christian and that the temptations are more than you can bear, remember it is easier now than any other time in the history of Christianity to be a Christian and a follower of Christ, and we are weaker in our faith rather than gaining strength in the ground-work laid by the martyrs and the defenders of our faith.

I hope you take this opportunity to remind yourself that we must be strong in the faith, not taking for granted the ease with which we live, and use this to build up our faith rather than have it wither and die.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

NOW I GET IT!

I received this by email, but I thought I would post it.

NOW I get it! Why didn't somebody explain it this way before?

This is a game played by two teams, one out, the other in.
The one that's in sends players out one at a time, to see if they can get in before they get out. If they get out before they get in, they come in, but it doesn't count. If they get in before they get out, it does count.
When the ones out get three outs from the ones in before they get in without being out, the team that's out comes in and the team in goes out to get those going in out before they get in without being out.
When both teams have been in and out nine times, the game is over.
The team with the most in without being out before coming in wins unless the ones in are equal. In which case, the last ones in go out to get the ones in out before they get in without being out.
The game will end when each team has the same number of ins out but one team has more in without being out before coming in.
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Create yourself a great week, no matter whether you are in or out!!--

Friday, August 15, 2008

Olympic Musings

Well, it is that time of year when I am glued for hours on end to the television screen, late into the night, soaking up the wonder, the excitement, the...controversy that is the Olympics. Every couple of years this occurs and we watch people with ten times more physical ability than the average person while we sit idly by and criticize. A few of my peeves about this round of Olympic events:

1. I love Michael Phelps as much as anyone (maybe not as much as the girl on the AT&T commercial), but seriously do not break away from the medal events in gymnastics to go to a semi-final round for swimming that, duh, Michael Phelps will make it through. At least, don't worry about it being live and cut away when it really doesn't matter in the gymnastics events.

2. After reading headlines about how a wrestler "threw" or "tossed" his medal, and the IOC is looking into disciplinary actions, I wanted to sit this fit of temper the media was talking about. So, I watched the video, like several million others, only to be highly disappointed with his placing the medal on the floor and walking off in a civilized manner. Seriously, can we at least put some CG effects in there if we are going to grossly exaggerate the situation.

3. I am a gymnastics fan (as you may guess from No. 1) and although it is terrible that there is a significant reason to believe the Chinese have illegally put under-age girls in the competition, and the judging is arbitrary at best on occasion, it is what it is. Yes, our hearts break for these athletes when we see them being unfairly judged or not given a fair chance, however, these athletes have worked hard and gone through a great many trials to get the privilege to be so unfairly treated (i.e., to sit in front of an Olympic judge) and they are aware of the possibilities. Do we not remember the fiasco of the French judge in the figure skating a few winter Olympics ago, or was it the last one, who can really remember?

The Olympics is a great opportunity for us to brush up on our sportsmanship as armchair athletes and cheer our favorites on to victory, while recognizing that there is as much possibility of their losing, as there is for their winning due to a variety of factors. All athletes deserve our respect simply because they have achieved something most of us can never imagine...even a temper-tamper throwing Swede...they have worked hard and made it to the Olympics.

I wish Christians would work, train, and endure as much to run the race that is set before them, but of course, we want to be fairly treated - just like Jesus was.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Anniversary Musings

We are back from our family vacation and I will blog more on this later, but I want to wish a very Happy Anniversary to my fabulous husband! So in honor of this truly auspicious occasion, I wrote a fairy tale.

Once upon a time, a long time ago, I gave up on fairy tales. You know, the "happily ever after" part. Just when I was about to settle for, "will do for now" or "Mr. Okay" (the guy you might end up married to, but will turn into "married singles), I met a guy. Not just your ordinary average guy who tries too hard to come in and sweep you off your feet only to leave you realizing you should have kept your feet, or worse, a guy who tries too hard to be sooooo cool that you aren't sure if they are interested in you or a long lasting relationship with your television. No, this guy was definitely different.

This guy was seemingly, unbelievably (and I do mean unbelievably) innocent. No, it wasn't like he had no life experience...he had been married and divorced and had an eight year old daughter...he was just really simple and sweet. He went to the church I had recently joined. He was truly a good guy, and I thought he was too good to be true.

He declared his interest in a poem tucked inside a Christmas card. When I received it and read the poem, I immediately picked up the phone and called him. Did I tell him I thought he was as wonderful as he seemed? Did I profess my interest in him? No...I told him he was stupid. I know, I know, but it is part of the story.

To make a long tale short, he was persistent, and I firmly believe God was on his side. So, we said "I do" and we still are...11 years later and it is still happily ever after.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Recognition of Hard Work


Occasionally, you just have to scream out "yea us!" and "yea God!" I know we are not to be about the elevation of ourselves or whether or not our work for the kingdom is recognized in anyway, but if it is, is it really wrong to get excited about it? Maybe, but I would like to share anyway. The Contact printed an article entitled 3 Churches Rated Outstanding and guess what? You got it, one was ours!

Of course, we knew about this in May when we received the award, but it was still kind of exciting to see in the paper, and I thought I would share.

Blogging Blahs

Have you ever gotten the blahs? You know, that semi-serious condition in which normal routine activies that were once fun are no longer fun; and therefore it takes an act of extreme will to force yourself to do it. Sadly, thus is the case with me and blogging, at this moment anyway.

Part of this has to do with the different blogs I have been reading having cohesiveness, sometimes even in that it is a jumbled mess of information. Those of my clergy friends are theologically deep and meaningful. Those of my non-clergy friends are fun and witty or else incredibly informative and helpful. I find I cannot be either deep or witty in this extreme slump I am in.

Part of it has to do with the summer doldrums which should be alleviated to a certain extent after my vacation next week. Part of it is that I am being a cyber-recluse which matches the reclusive state of my physical being as well.

Jesus was that way. He needed a break. He needed a break from the crowds pushing in around him begging for something. He needed a break from his disciples who weren't quite getting the big picture. He probably in his humanity needed a break from who he was, the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of God and Son of Man. Boy, I bet he needed a break.

So he tried to get away to the lake, but the people followed. And he tried to get away again, but the people followed. The only break he really got from the press of people was in the garden of Gethsemane and then of course, even his disciples could not watch with him. When he needed others, they weren't there for him. Then after the crowd turned on him, pressed in around him as he was being led to the cross, and suffered insults and injury at the hands of those he came to bring the message of Good News to, he died.

What I find interesting, jumping ahead mentally 2000 years, is that today, we again leave him alone. As we seek that time by ourselves, we don't take Jesus with us. We go on vactation and try to escape ourselves and who we are, even who we are in Christ Jesus. Sometimes people seem to take the summer off from church, then the next thing you know, the people who have been gone all summer from church show up in the fall with a "here I am, let's get started." Like nothing happened at the church from May to August.

Some of these people often have the "church blahs." Something once fun is no longer fun for them. They are burned out, a really serious condition that has done more to facilitate the decline of churches than any other condition.

Still others lack committment to discipleship. They are like the seed that was inadvertently sown on the rocky soil which took root, but when the temperature went up, they shriveled and died. They never cultivated the soil that their seeds must be sown into in order to produce abundant fruit.

Everyone needs to get away, from the pressure of the crowd, even from the pressures of church work and of secular work. But if we get away with God, that will enhance our discipleship and church involvement, not detract from it.

I am sure people want to know how I realize that they are sneaking away from their role as disciples in the body of Christ when they sneak away to the lake. Well, if any of you are reading this, it is by how you come back, and when you come back. Are you refreshed and ready to carry on with the mission and ministry God has for the church? Do you come back months later? Or do you come back in a few weeks with the strength of God and the enthusiasm of the Spirit?