Tuesday, April 26, 2011

48 days and counting

Easter Sunday is over. But the season lasts for 50 days.  Jesus apparently kept showing up for the next 40 days, usually unexpectedly. And then at the end of those 40 days, he tells the disciples to gather and pray. So for the next ten days they gather daily and pray. And suddenly on the 10th day, the Holy Spirit descends.  So if you wonder where that custom of a novena comes from, you can stop wondering!

So what comes next. Next is being the church. Praying, loving, working, sharing, caring. And expecting God to do things in our lives and the lives of those we love.

So, time to get up and enjoy these next 50 days. Consider praying at a regular time for 10 days, starting on June 2, 2011 until June 12, 2011, and see if God does something new in your life.

Of course you could start praying now and see what happens if you pray for 48 days!

Monday, April 25, 2011


In a drawer in a safe at Christ Church are several pearls. They are part of an old necklace that belonged to a maiden parishioner whose belongings were willed to the church when she passed away more than 20 years ago.

They're not in great shape, nor particularly valuable as jewelry. But they represent someone who was deeply loved by many of that church.

Jesus speaks of God's kingdom by talking about a merchant on a journey who finds a pearl of great value. He sells all he has and returns to buy that one pearl.

The events of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter are God's way of showing us that the valuable pearl is us. The merchant is God's Son. He "sells" all he has to acquire us.

Like those pearls in the drawer, we may not seem particularly beautiful or valuable. But to God we are people of infinite value and worth.

The Father raised Jesus from the grave to show that his offer of eternal life, of everlasting companionship with God and one another is what God most longs for.

And deep inside if we will allow ourselves to set aside our fears that this can't possibly be true; if we remove our cynical shell that keeps us from ever really giving ourselves deeply to Christ; if we move past the fear of possible hurt and grief - we will find that we are the pearl so valuable to God, and that God is the pearl we tried to find in other activities and pleasures that never quite satisfied us.

Jesus knew his life would end and he made it count. May we know that our lives will end and make them count.

"He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose."
Jim Elliot

Saturday, April 23, 2011


"Suffered under Pontius Pilate,Was crucified, dead, and buried:He descended into hell;

What lies in hell that Jesus would go there?

Friday, April 22, 2011


John Claypool, (1930-2005) once preached that if he was God, and if Jesus was his son, he would have done three things:
1) raise Jesus from the dead,
2) Destroy the world for it's hatefulness and evil,
3) Take his Son back to heaven and turned his back on the world for evermore.

Think about it. Good Friday God's power is profoundly conspicuous by it's absence.  No last minute miracle to save Jesus,  no thunderbolts of lightning falling on those who rejected and killed him.

In a world that worships power and glory, God flips the table on both.

May I learn the mystery of that amazing power.  Amen.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The problem of good again....

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Oh - oh - oh - oh...
Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Passover, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Earth day tomorrow. Lots happening on the calendar.

This Lenten Blog started with something I called "The problem of Good". Why is there so much goodness in the world?

It was one of my favorite authors, C.S. Lewis who first helped me realize that there is no such thing as "pure badness" or "pure evil."  He noted that all evil and all bad are themselves corruptions of the good they were meant to be.  And even the worst of beings have attributes and qualities that are good. They have just been perverted.

Thus we call tomorrow "Good Friday" when it probably deserved a title like "Bloody Friday" or "Torture Friday". 

How does such a gruesome event get a title like that?  If it were cynical we could understand. But Christians don't seem to be using cynicism when they call it good.

In a stunning reversal, instead of the firstborn of Egypt dying, the firstborn of God dies on behalf of all who face with certainty the angel of death. And death becomes forevermore the slave of God, no more the ultimate end, only the beginning of something unimaginably glorious.

Sometimes it causes me to tremble...

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Reveal who you are.
Set the world right.
Keep us alive with three square meals.
Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.
Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil."
(The Lord's Prayer in Luke 11 from "The Message")

"Keep us safe from ourselves..."  There is an old Clint Black song where the refrain goes:
"Wherever you go there you are
You can run from yourself but you won't get far
You can dive to the bottom of your medicine jar
But wherever you go there you are"

Most of my temptations and struggles come from inside me. Going somewhere else, or self medicating myself will not work for long.

I am a person capable of great good and generosity. And I have a dark side capable of great evil and self-centered egotism.

Buddha recognized this inner battle and argued that desire needed to be eliminated. St. Paul recognized this. He wrote to the Colossian Christians: "Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry." Colossians 3:5

Both recognized that it this is not the path of least resistance but that it will take a lifetime of effort.

For lazy people like me, we want this to be a one time deal. I prayed as a young person for God to free me from those temptations in Paul's list, sexual immorality,lust, greed. I wanted an instant cure.

It took me a while to realize that the putting the selfish, greedy, self-centered part of me to death was a daily, hourly, sometimes minute by minute way of living.

AA has a line, "Fake it till you make it." By that people mean: "Do the actions of a sober person even when they feel unnatural to you. Eventually the reverse will happen."

Ask for help from God, and then take a cue from Paul's advice a few verses later: "Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience."

In other words when temptation comes, go and find something good and positive to do and do it.

And when you blow it or someone else blows it then take his advise from the next line: "Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you."

Obviously Paul and many other wise people who have traveled this road know the ups and downs themselves, and have wisdom to give us.

Finally, don't try to do this alone as he says a few verses later: "Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts."

Share your struggles and victories, prayers and worship with each other. Paul seems to think that the message of Christ lives not just in us, but among us. This spiritual life is not a solo journey but a corporate one.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Leap of faith

I have always been a Christian, but I have not always believed. I was baptized as a child, and therefore a Christian.

However, as I reached adolescence I ceased to believe in the “fairy tale” of Jesus resurrection. Atheism seemed a much more rational choice.  I enjoyed making fun of other people's foolish faith in God.

And then one night, I had a vision of Jesus and experienced a transformation in my life I could not explain.

The next few days I read the Gospel of Mark and the Acts of the Apostles. In them I met people who seemed to have experienced Jesus in the way I just had. In them I met skeptics and people hostile to the faith who suddenly realized they were wrong.

Over the years since then, while praying to Jesus I have seen people healed immediately, unexplainably of cancer, deformities, and serious illness.  I have seem people experience deep emotional and spiritual healing. I have seen skeptics like me come to faith in Jesus.

The irony is, that despite that encounter I still have to have faith daily.  Even though I have repeatedly experienced the power of Jesus in amazing ways, I still must make the leap to believe every day.

It was years before I realized everyone has to have faith every day. Only our object of belief varies.

The materialist who believes there is no spiritual reality, is dependent upon faith that there is no God.

The pantheist who believes that the universe and all that is in are God, has to take that on faith.

The spiritualist who believes that the material universe is an illusion, must take that leap of faith to get there.

And the person who believes Jesus is who he claims to be, and rose again on the third day, must also take that leap of faith.

I cannot prove Jesus rose from the dead. I used to try. Now I simply testify that I believe the writers of the New Testament to be telling the truth, and tell my story.

After all, if Jesus did rise from the dead he does not need me to prove it.  If he is who he says he is, the universe was made through him and its very existence depends upon him. 

I simply tell what I believe and why, and make myself available to answer the objections and answer the questions. Everyone already has faith. The question is: faith in who or what?

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Fisherman

Years ago on a very hot summer day, some friends and I who worked for a contractor, ended up having the afternoon off. It was a Friday, and the home was between Giddings and Brenham, Texas. We grabbed some things to eat and drink and went up to Lake Summerville.

On a dare, two of us swam across what seemed to be a fairly narrow part of the lake. However, after about 40 minutes of swimming we could no longer tell which shore was closer and we were pretty tired. So we continued toward the far side, which seemed just a bit closer. 

Thankfully a bass fisherman who wasn't catching anything saw us as we neared that far shore. He motored out to us.

"Are you boys crazy, that's near a mile swim! You want a ride back?"  
"Yes, please." we gasped.
We climbed into the boat with that far shore just a hundred yards away and headed back.

From St. Paul's letter to the Philippians, Chapter 3 verse 10
"I want to know Christ
and the power of his resurrection 
and the sharing of his sufferings
by become like him in his death, 
if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead." 

I do want to know Christ, the power of his resurrection, and attain the resurrection from the dead. But the suffering and death part I want to avoid. Yet death is coming for me sooner or later. The only question is how will I have lived. 

Following Christ is like that foolish swim across the lake. It is exciting and fun at first, and then it becomes downright hard, and sometimes dangerous. But the truth is that there is a fisherman on the lake of life who will ferry me when it gets too hard. His boat may keep me on this side of life for now, but there will come a day when I will head with him to the far shore.

We do not do this alone. Come Lord Jesus.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Domingo de Ramos

Note: This is from a post for Palm Sunday two years ago with a few modifications.

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive hate; only love can do that."  Martin Luther King, From:  "Strength to Love"

Domingo de Ramos

It was life in Guatemala in the late 1960's and early 1970's that brought the passion to life for me. I was a young teenager, living in a country where guerilla warfare kept the country on edge. Bombs would go off on buses, or in a marketplace. There were drive by assasinations, bodies that were tortured dropped by the roadside, or in front of the family home.

Holy week was full of street processions, where the Roman Catholic churches would bring forth their most gruesome statues of the passion, or sometimes hand carried floats with people portraying the stations of the cross.

These floats would parade throught the streets. In some cities families or neighborhoods would craft elaborate carpets in the streets formed of flowers and leaves. They were works of art, beautiful, yet ephemeral, soon to be trampled by the tread of marchers carrying the crucified Christ.

It was one such Holy Week, when during a procession there was a large armed presence of soldiers, each carrying a rifle or a submachine gun. At one intersection, a young man stood in the back of a jeep with his hands on a 50 caliber machine gun, with one belt loaded, and 3 ammo boxes open ready to load.

It was then that the impact of the original crucifixion hit me. Suddenly I could see the Roman army, surrounded by a hostile crowd. Some of the crowd wanted them to kill Jesus, but they were no friends of Romans. I could sense the tension in the air, the confusion.

And I could see Jesus, dragged down the street, the Lord of Glory. This was just how the world has always worked. One more troublemaker tortured, put on display as a warning to anyone who might pose a threat to Rome. All glory extinguished. Horror and beauty are slammed into one another in a groteque cosmic conflict.

I watched the soldiers and the marchers, stunned that after 2000 years we were still at it. Still torturing, still killing, still intimidating.

A few years later, after my family was thrown out of Guatemala, I found myself working with Guatemalan and Salvadoran refugees. It was then that I realized that the powers of this world, which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God, the spiritual forces of wickedness that rebel against God, and my own sinful desires and rebellion against God are no match for the power of the cross.

Every act of hate meets its match when confronted with matchless love.

Saturday, April 16, 2011


I posted a brief note on Facebook about kayaking on the Rio Grande. I got all kinds of post back worried about my safety.

The irony is that Laredo is a very safe city by U.S. standards. We live near Nuevo Laredo where there is a high level of violence between rival drug gangs and law enforcement. But Laredo is pretty safe.

Statistically and experientially, living in the East End of Houston, Texas from 1973 to 1983 was far more dangerous. I had guns pointed at me twice, just missed a shootout where a policeman and two witnesses were gunned down during a routine traffic stop a block from my home, was robbed several times, and foiled two break in attempts while I was actually in the place being broken into. There were numerous times I heard gunshots. And yet most of the people who lived in that part of Houston were not criminals or dangerous.

I lived in Guatemala City from 1967 to 1971. Now that was a dangerous place to live in those years. There was a high level of violence and a high level of tension.

So why do people perceive Laredo as so dangerous? In a word, news. News media needs to sell advertising and so it has become increasingly sensational. Most Americans don't seem capable of distinguishing Laredo, from Nuevo Laredo.

Does that mean there is no danger. No. But Laredo, Texas is a fairly quiet place most of the time, where most people think the truly important news in town is on the front page of the sports section of local paper.

The truth is that all of us live in places where there is danger.

And for Christians danger needs to be measured differently. In the late 1990's I was at a presentation by the Rev. Mark Nikkel, a missionary to the Dinka people in the Sudan during a very dangerous time.

Someone asked if it wasn't very dangerous to do what he did. After a very long pause he said, "No. If I believe that God has my life in his hands, and that God has called me to minister in the Sudan, then I am perfectly safe unless God decides otherwise. But if God want me in the Sudan, and I disobey and go somewhere else then because of my disobedience I would be in a very dangerous place indeed."

"He guides me along the right paths
   for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
   through the darkest valley,[a]
I will fear no evil,
   for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
   they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
   in the presence of my enemies."

From Psalm 23,(NIV)

Friday, April 15, 2011

The shepherd of souls

One day in 1988, as I turned around with my tray, a group of women at McDonald's invited me over to join them. We knew each other. They were all semi-homeless, working girls, who sold themselves to pay for an occasional room, and more often another drink or another hit of their drug of choice.

We knew each other because I worked at at St. Francis Center, in Denver, a homeless center, and we had met many times.

But now we were out of our roles. I wasn't the "shelter worker" and they weren't the "clients". We were simply people who knew one another, and actually cared about one another.

For the next 30 minutes they told stories, and laughed, and they occasionally tried to embarrass me, and enjoyed watching me blush when they got really risque. And then, as we were finishing our meals one of them touched my arm and said,  "Don't go. We didn't pray before we all ate, and I want you to pray now."

And so we sat in McDonald's on East Colfax, holding hands in a circle around the table and prayed, ending with the Lord's prayer together. Then we got up hugged each other, and went our separate ways.

God loves those who are desperately lost and caught in desperation. May he move us to love them too.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Airport Idolatry

Reggie McNeal has a wonderful line. He says there are no coffee table books, "Great Airports of Europe" or "Beautiful Airports of the World".  And then he compares churches to airports. And he challenges us to see ourselves not as the destination, but as a transit hub. The goal of what we do is not to get people to church, but to help them connect with God in this life, in ways that will make them love God passionately in the next.

Even the great Cathedrals of the world were only made beautiful to teach lessons about God. In many cases they were the work of centuries of labor, and those building them knew that they were simply a place to help the passengers arrive safely at an even more majestic destination.

I’m getting all kinds of email about how to get people to come back to church after Easter. But I am not getting lots of emails about how to get the church to go out into the world after people after Easter.

We must decide, are we primarily a destination or a hub?

But there is another question that cannot be addressed by the answer to that question. Churches are built of bodies, not bricks. We are believers, not buildings. We are a community of people traveling together, trusting that we are on an inter-dimensional journey with a foot in two worlds.

“Thy kingdom come, on earth as in heaven” we pray, and then are surprised when it sometimes happens.

Because sometimes God visits the airport, to assure the passengers they’re flying to the right destination.  May God pay you a visit today.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Man of la Mancha

I spent most my teenage years in Guatemala City, Guatemala. It is a beautiful city and a beautiful country. Nevertheless, it was in the midst of serious political problems and regular acts of terrorism, car bombings, random machine gunning of people in public places, and the like were common and sometimes daily occurrences. So perhaps I am more attune to violent, dangerous situations than some people. 

Shortly after we were married, Anne and I went to see the musical,  “Man of la Mancha”. If you know the play, you know that it takes place in a jail, where the main character has been imprisoned by the Spanish Inquisition.

The lights dimmed in the theater, suddenly, there was a blast of submachine gun fire, and a group of about 10 men burst into center aisle near where we were seated. One grabbed a man out of his seat and putting a weapon to his head twisted his arm roughly behind his back and the rest then menacingly covered the audience with their weapons.

Even before the gun had been fired, I had seen the movement and the weapon out of the corner of my eye and pulled Anne’s head down.

Of course she understood what I didn’t. This was part of the play. Memories from life in Guatemala had kicked in, and it took me about 30 seconds longer to grasp the concept while Anne wondered if she had married a crazy man. (Now she no longer wonders!)

At that point, my adrenaline was pumping very effectively and I remained alert through the entire performance.

The next day was Passion Sunday, and I couldn’t help but compare the theater experience to Jesus arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane.

From that day forward every time we go through the Palm Sunday service, I have a mental image of armed men bursting into church and grabbing Jesus, and roughly hitting him and yanking him to his feet, hauling him away while the disciples suddenly awakened fight and flee.

My prayer is that we never separate ourselves from the passion of the passion. Let us never lose sight of the love demonstrated even to enemies. 


Tuesday, April 12, 2011


It is so dry here in Laredo and most of the rest of Texas this year. Last year we had rain almost every month until September. And then it was as if the faucet turned off.

Tumbleweeds, dry arroyos, dust, barren rock formations, yucca, prickly pear, and scrub vegetation.  I am from Colorado. And spend early childhood in New Mexico. Much of Colorado and New Mexico looks pretty dry much of the year.

Perhaps that is why I am not shocked by the same terrain and vegetation in South Texas. It is familiar looking. The only thing missing is the mountains. And the only thing added is intense heat!

This year, the Jewish Passover and Holy Week for both Western and Eastern Christians are all very close together. Passover starts on the 18th, and Easter for both sets of Christians is on the 24th.

Perhaps because this year is so dry, I have been thinking a lot about water and how it fits into Holy Week. On Thursday the 21st many Christians wash feet to remember that Jesus did the same.

And Friday, we read from St. John's Gospel where he deliberately mentions the following: Jesus thirst and the response to it.

Why would Jesus humble himself and act like a slave? Is there someone or somewhere I am called to serve?

What was Jesus thirsting for? Just water or something even greater? What do I thirst for?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Dry Bones

This past Thursday, I arrived early to Waco, Texas for a continuing education event. I called Suzanna, my daughter and suggested we visit the Waco Mammoth Site which is an active archeological dig where the largest collection of Columbian Mammoths have been found. The bones date from two primary eras: 68,000 years ago, and about 15,000 years ago. Baylor University faculty and students have been directing the dig since 1978. And the bones are actually bones, not fossilized, but preserved because of the high clay content of the soil.

Walking through the small site, looking at the enormous bones, I couldn't help but think about the passage from Ezekiel 37, where he sees a vision of a valley full of dry bones. 

God speaks to him and says “Son of man, can these bones live?” I said, “Sovereign LORD, you alone know.”

Ultimately the bones in stages receive flesh and sinews, then skin, and finally the breath of life. As Suzanna and walked around we saw the artists representation of a live Columbian Mammoth and it would have been an impressive animal.

This Lent has been "dry" feeling to me. There are things that feel lifeless and dead. And yet, underlying the dry feeling is a sense of anticipation.

When I asked myself where that sense of anticipation comes from I realized it is from a long experience in my life of God's provision, and abundant life. There are times when it comes as a flood, and it seems that that sense of God's power and presence will last forever.  But it is not meant to last in this life. The wisdom of the scriptures and of the Church through the ages is dryness and wilderness,   rains and fertile fields are gifts of God in their due season.
So while things are dry right now, I know life is coming.

Sunday, April 10, 2011


In John 11 and Luke 10 we run into Martha and Mary.

Mary seems to be the spiritual one. In Luke's gospel we know she sits with the disciples and scandalizes her sister.

And in John 11, we discover that she is the one who poured perfume on Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. (This may be the story that shows up in Mark 14, Matthew 26, and Luke 7) Since none of them mention the woman's name we cannot be sure that what John is talking about is the same story, but it does seem likely.

Mary seems to see something in Jesus that calls out to her deeply. She seems to feel deeply. She perfumes him and washes his feet with her hair.

But here in her grief she speaks one line, her only line in the gospel and it is the same thing her sister had said moments before:  "Lord if you had been here, my brother would not have died."

Now Mary who thought she "got" Jesus has to learn a very difficult lesson in faith, just like her sister Martha.

Both these women who seem to both love Jesus, but be very different in their approach to him, are about to learn about faith in a new and powerful way. 

When evil and death come to us and those we love, we can be tempted to believe that somehow Jesus was not with us, was not "on the job." 

Even the mourners whisper, "This is the guy who healed that blind man. Why couldn't he have healed Lazarus?"

Why is the impossible question. But who Jesus is, he will make very clear.

Saturday, April 9, 2011


In John 11 and Luke 10 we run into Martha and Mary.

Martha takes the verbal lead in both stories. And in both stories, she takes on Jesus both times. 

In the Luke passage she is scandalized that Jesus lets her sister sit as a disciple and learn from the master. Women as disciples! Scandalous!  She tries to be tactful and suggests that Jesus send her sister away to help her do the cooking and cleaning. He is tactful back and says no, that Mary, and by implication Martha can become a disciple.

In the next encounter, the sisters have sent for Jesus to come and heal their brother. Jesus comes too late to do any good. And this time Martha is more direct.  "Lord if you had been here, my brother would not have died."

What I love about Martha is that she doesn't have any trouble giving Jesus a piece of her mind.  She has a real relationship with him. Not very pious, not very respectful, but very real.

Jesus chooses one of the most difficult times in her life to push her to a new level of understanding and faith in him.

She has to choose: trust or not trust. She trusts, but keeps her voice and personality. A few moments later she tells Jesus to not have the grave opened.

Jesus told her she should trust, she claims she will, and few moments later she begins to waver.

I love Martha. She believes, but struggles with her beliefs. She trusts, but struggles to trust. And she sees the power and glory of God.

Friday, April 8, 2011


"Lord, he whom you love is ill."

We know just a few facts about Lazarus. He lives in Bethany near Jerusalem, has two sisters, Martha and Mary, he is seriously sick, and Jesus speaks of him as "our friend" when talking with the disciples.

There are no recorded words of Lazarus.

I find it very interesting that in the three accounts in the Bible where Jesus raises people from the dead we never hear from them. The widow's son, the synagogue ruler's daughter, and Lazarus. Perhaps the writers didn't think it important.

I also find it tremendously encouraging that despite their being dead they can all hear Jesus.

"Young man I say to you get up." Luke 7:14
"He took her by the hand and said to her, "Talitha koum!" (which means "Little girl, I say to you, get up!" Mark 5:41
"When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!" John 11:43

There are times when I think some person is beyond help, beyond any hope of change or healing.
If I look at these impossible situations I remember to pray without losing hope.
And when I think of those who I love who have died I simply speak to them during my prayers. Not because they can hear me, but because they can hear Him. And if there is anything of mine that would be a blessing for them to hear I trust the message will be relayed.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


This coming Sunday one lesson is about Jesus friend Lazarus who was sick and died. Four days after his burial Jesus raised him back to life.

In many ways this one story sums up all of Jesus work. Giving life back to the dead.

Many years ago, when I was still in my teens, I sat in a grimy cabin, trying to negotiate a deal to buy a large quantity of marijuana from a dude and his girlfriend. We had reached the point where I and my friend were to sample the product. We lit up. At about the same time their two year old daughter came into the room. I began to put the joint out when the man took it from me and handed it to his daughter. As she inhaled I began to feel sick inside. Something in me died or perhaps I realized it was already dead.

I knew I was in the thrall of whatever evil power has been unleashed on the earth.

It was about a year later that I discovered the person who can raise the dead. Thank you Jesus.

I never saw those folks again. But I have prayed for many years for all of them that they would all discover and know the Lord of life in this world and the next.

More tomorrow about Lazarus and his sisters.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

System overhaul

"If the universe is so bad...how on earth did human beings ever come to attribute it to the activity of a wise and good Creator?"  C.S. Lewis,  from "The Problem of Pain"

Isn't it interesting that when Jesus heals someone it seems extraordinary, not "normal." When Jesus raises someone from the dead, it's not "normal." It's not natural. In fact we call it "Supernatural."

But what if we are sub-normal, sub-natural, and what we call "Supernatural" is really the natural order of things?

I am not a systems engineer, but I wonder what report a systems engineer would write if they were charged with recommending changes in our planetary systems for resource distribution, energy consumption, water use, waste management, and more.

Where would they start? What would the opening sentence be?  Would they predict some of the chaos we often find ourselves in.  Would they notice that many parts of the current system seem to be patched together or even non-existent? Would they say that as the 21st Century starts, much of the system seems stretched to the breaking point?

And then what kind of recommendations would they have to make? 

Fortunately they don't have to write the report. Jesus has already written the report and made recommendations. 

His recommendation is not to junk the project, even though it has some major problems. Despite massive liabilities he has decided the project is worth every effort to rescue. And so instead of cancellation, the report recommends a comprehensive overhaul.  It is expensive, but he is so sure it's worth the effort that he's paid the costs.

From Revelation 21:1ff
Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,”for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” 

 5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

Monday, April 4, 2011

Starfish and ripples of kindness

Pessimism is counterfeit realism. Yes there is evil, in the world. Yes there are great intractable problems that face us on planet earth.  But pessimism would have me believe that nothing I do will matter.  I see the problems of the world, the problems of my life, the problems of the lives of the people I know and love.  And I am tempted to simply become passive and disconnect.

Pessimism leaves no room for God, and no room for individual love and courage. And it is never the final word.

In the old parable, an early morning wave washed thousands of starfish up onto the beach.  As the sun was coming up there were the first few beachcombers looking at the miles of beach littered with starfish. One older man saw a young man walking down the beach briskly picking up starfish and throwing them back into the water.  As the young man got closer, he said, “Son there are thousands of starfish, and miles of beach. What you’re doing won’t make a bit of difference.” Without missing a beat, the young man picked up the next few starfish several feet away flinging them into the water and saying, “It will for this one, and this one, and this one.”

We have a choice when we see war, poverty, injustice, disaster, hunger,  and so many other needs. We can retreat into passivity and impotence or we can make a difference for the ones we can reach.

Hunter, our great Pyrenees dog who, who died a few years ago, was rescued from the pound. Pancho, our current dog, was a mangy puppy living in the gutter who Anne rescued and brought home.

Every month,  about $30 is debited from our bank account.  That money helps care for a young woman in a Central African Country. Over the years we have gotten to know RK from correspondence which has changed from very childlike scribbles to the words of a young woman, now studying at an adult level. An AIDs orphan she and her older sister have formed a family of siblings and cousins.

From our dogs we have been given great affection and joy. Our lives are enriched by every animal we’ve ever known.

And those few dollars that go to our dear RK. Those few dollars have not just changed her, but she has become a caring young woman, seeking to help others in her family, her village, her country.

“Remember there's no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end.”  Scott Adams, creator of “Dilbert”

“Let us not lose heart in doing good.” Galatians 6:9a

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Catch a glimpse

A church had invited a famous preacher, who led healing prayers. During the service many people came up for prayers for various ailments. A young man in his 20’s came up and asked for prayer. The preacher said, “What do you want prayer for son?” “Pastor, I need prayer for my hearing.”  So the preacher laid hands on both the young man’s ears and prayed up a storm.  After a few minutes he stopped, and looked at the young man and said softly, “Son, how’s your hearing now?”  “I don’t know preacher, my hearing isn’t till Tuesday.”

Communication is not an exact science!  And in this Sunday’s Gospel reading there is lots of miscommunication.  What happened? How did it happen? Did it really happen? What about healing on the Sabbath?

The Episcopal Church, (and many others), read the story in the 9th Chapter of John’s Gospel where Jesus heals a man born blind.

And it is a funny healing story. A man is dramatically healed, but since he was blind, he can’t identify the man that healed him. He acts more like a stand up comic than anyone else in the Gospels.

But in today’s story, the religious good people get mad at Jesus for doing something good. And the man born blind stands up for Jesus and becomes his follower.

And that is the real punch line. We are all blind. But if we admit we are blind, and stop pretending we can see, we just might catch a glimpse of God.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Other benefits...again

There is no Facebook, no email, no cell phone service, in the life to come. But somehow we are still in communion with those who have gone before us.

Jack Lemmon, the actor, once said “Death ends a life, not a relationship.”

The older I get, the more I realize how true that is. I have relationships with many people whose life on planet earth has ended. They are different, and often seem distant, but not gone.

The irony of course is that we are ones who are most distant, most disconnected. We think of the dead as ephemeral, when actually the opposite is true. We are the ones who are just watching the previews, waiting for the coming attraction.

Those who have gone on before are the ones who have begun a life in perfect communion with Christ.

“All other benefits of his passion.” 1979 Book of Common Prayer, pg. 335

Could one of those other benefits be the communion of saints?

Easter is coming! Hallelujah!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Healed and whole relationships...

“What Every Man Thinks About Apart From Sex” by Sheridan Simove is a new book that is selling quite well. When you open the book, every page is blank apart from the front and back covers!

Personally, I think the author should have put at least a page about sports, a page about fishing, a page about hunting, and about a dozen half page about a few other subjects, like cars, music, movies, video games, dogs, and money.

Of course that would increase the size of the book by at least 15 or 20 pages, so perhaps it is best to leave it alone.

We joke about the differences between men and women because they're real.

The truth is that differences are what make all our marriages, families, friendships, and workplaces exciting and frustrating. Usually at the same time.

We are made for relationship. We crave healed and whole relationships. But Genesis tells us the trinity of relationships is damaged: human with God, human with human, and human with the planet.

A few days ago I quoted from the Book of Common Prayer Rite one communion service.

"...grant that.....we....may obtain remission of our sins, and all other benefits of his passion." 1979 Book of Common Prayer, pg. 335

I submit that the remission of sins is the starting point in healing our relationship with God.

But another benefit of Jesus passion is the healing of relationship between us and others. He puts us in communities where we get to practice charity and forgiveness over and over. We call this the Church.

If we stick with it we discover that there are some times we even want to forgive “those who trespass against us.”

May we obtain all other benefits of his passion. Amen.