Monday, January 8, 2018
Friday, December 1, 2017
Cleaning out the thousands of pieces of junk mail that had accumulated in my email inbox (I’m not exaggerating here) I ran across several recent emails that I had ignored. All of them brought good news of great joy.
There was an email from my “sister in Christ” who I’ve never met, Doris Tamo, who’s husband died leaving her with $2.5 million dollars in a lock box. She’s been diagnosed with cancer, and would like to donate that money to a church or individual. Of course, she wants to give it to us.
Then there is an email from Miss Leticia Koulibaly who’s husband was poisoned by her "wicked uncle" (her words). Miss Leticia has $6.5 Million dollars that this wicked uncle would like to get his hands on, and to keep this from happening she would like to give it to me or our congregation!
In addition, I have an email from Mr. George Culmer, “A Banker From Lloyds Banking Group United Kingdom”. He’s sitting on a whopping $100 million dollars US, and would like to transfer this money into our country. For this he needs my help. In return, he will split the money fifty-fifty with me or the church! All he needs is information to access my bank account.
And if this isn’t enough, Mr.Ahmed Edelbore “The Chairman, Contract Awarding Committee of the ECONOMIC COMMUNITY OF WEST AFRICAN STATES” has $6 million dollars he would like to transfer into my bank account (or the church’s), and Miss Anna Paul, a young woman in Abidjan (wherever that is) needs my help getting $5.5 million into the US, keeping her evil relatives from getting their hands on it.
All in all, either I or our congregation should be receiving over $70 million dollars in the near future!
Of course, these are all scams, and if pursued the scammers will take you for all they can. Not all “good news” is real news. Real good news actually pans out. Authentic good news changes things for the better. At it’s best, real good news brings truth and love to a dishonest and mean world.
Christmas is a time to celebrate the real good news of the birth of Christ. And how do we know that this good news is genuine good news? Because it has all the genuine side effects. The good news of Christmas is actually good news because it makes us a better, more loving people.
Luke 2:10-11 NRSV But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.
We may not be getting that $70 million dollars, but we have something even more valuable than the false promises found in my inbox. We have the good news of Jesus Christ! A gift that makes us, and our world, better. A gift that never fades. A gift that we need to unwrap and share, this and every Christmas.
Tuesday, October 31, 2017
We celebrated a baptism a couple weeks back at Maple Avenue, and whenever I baptize someone I always add a few drops of water to the baptismal water taken from the River Jordan—the place where Jesus himself was baptized. My parents visited there some years back and brought me a large plastic bottle full of water and while my Jordan River supply is starting to run low, I have enough for quite a few more baptisms if needed!
There is something special and sacred about the Holy Land. New pastors in our conference are strongly encouraged to visit there with the Bishop, and many of my friends and colleagues have gone and returned to talk about how meaningful their visit was. I believe it can be a good experience, and if you have the chance to go why not do it?
In his book Passion for Pilgrimage: Notes for the Journey Home, the author Alan Jones tells of the abbot of the Coptic Monastery of St. Macarius in the Egyptian desert. The abbot, who lived with the other monks in desert caves, was asked if he intended to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. The abbot replied that he had no need to go there.
“Jerusalem, the Holy, is right here, in and around these caves; for what else is my cave but the place where my savior Christ was born; what else is my cave but the place where he most gloriously rose again from the dead. Jerusalem is here, right here; and all the spiritual riches of the holy city are found in this wadi.”
Jones adds that another monk said “The monk’s cell is the furnace of Babylon, in which the three children found the Son of God; it is the pillar of cloud from which God spoke to Moses.”
These monks had discovered something marvelous: the Holy Land is wherever you happen to be, if you only have the faith to see it. We don’t have to travel great distances to experience the reality of the stories told in the Bible. We can experience them in our lives here and now, whoever we are and wherever we happen to be.
An old man who loved the Bible was growing weak, and sensing that his end was near told his family that his dream was to die and be buried in the Holy Land, like so many of his heroes. So the family flew him to Jerusalem, got him a room, and then joined him to await his death. But in these new surroundings, he grew stronger, and eventually began to flourish! So he called his family to his side and insisted that they must immediately fly him back to the states.
“But why?” they asked him. “You said you always wanted to die in the Holy Land and be buried there.”
“Dying in the Holy Land fine,” said the man, “but who wants to live there?”
In reality, we all live and die in the Holy Land, regardless of the name of our city or town. It’s a matter of perspective and awareness.
This Thanksgiving let’s open our eyes to the presence of Jesus Christ all around us, here in Terre Haute, and wherever we may be. This is our Holy Land. This is where God Kingdom is breaking in. And we don’t have to travel any farther than our front door to be can be part of it.
Your fellow pilgrim;
Tuesday, August 1, 2017
I was surprised to read about a man in Kosciusko County recently sentenced to 23 years in prison for a road rage incident that took place in 2016. That seemed like a steep punishment to me, until I read the article. The perpetrator, irritated at another driver, fired a gun at that driver and then rammed his car several times sending it off the road. When the County Sheriff’s Officer attempted to intercept him, he sideswiped the officer causing his airbags to deploy and knocking the officer unconscious. When another officer arrived, the angry driver used his truck to repeatedly ram the police cruiser. The renegade driver was finally subdued and taken into custody, but about a month later, he saw one of the original victims driving with his wife and after attempting to hit them “head on” was arrested again. Clearly someone has an anger management problem.
Maybe it’s my imagination, but lately, here in Terre Haute, I’ve seen more incidents of angry drivers then usual…honking, rudely waving, yelling, etc. Just yesterday, for example, I witnessed such an incident on 3rd street, and even though it didn’t involve me, I felt sorry for the hapless driver who irritated a speeding and accelerating driver by pulling onto the road in front of him at a sane speed. The speeding driver wasn’t shy about letting his displeasure out.
So many people seem to be walking around full of anger, looking for any excuse to erupt. Like pressure cookers ready to explode, all it takes is a small crack on the surface to get a destructive blast, and crackpots like this are all over the place. And this is in spite of the fact that most of us really have very little to be angry about. Unlike many people in history, we don’t have to work bone-crushing jobs that grind us down and kill us before we reach forty. We have food to eat, clothes to wear, roofs over our heads, family and friends. And yet, our discontent runs amok.
Since summer time is that season when many people take vacations, I’d like to offer a suggestion here. Let’s take a vacation from unwarranted anger.
If you hang around discontented people all the time, you will become discontented. Or crazy. Or both. The discontented tend to become angry, and we need to take a vacation from anger.
If you constantly relive the wrong’s you’ve endured, both imaginary and real, you will end up carrying a load of resentment. Resentful people become angry, and we need to take a vacation from anger.
If you fill your life with anxiety and never take a moment to unwind, you will become anxious. Anxious people become angry, and we need to take a vacation from anger.
There’s no way to avoid discontent, resentment, or anxiety. But we don’t have to cultivate these things until they produce a harvest of rage. Relax. It’s summer. Take a vacation…from anger. And one more thing: when you’re on the road, please try to be nice.
Thursday, June 29, 2017
In 1994, when the animated movie The Lion King was released, many at Disney Studios were not counting on it being much of a hit. For one thing, it was their first feature length animated film based on an original story (although it very loosely draws on Hamlet), and nobody was sure if this lack of public familiarity would be readily accepted. So, according to Mental Floss the movie was actually made by the “B-Team” animators since the “A-Team” elected to work on a film with more potential: Pocahontas (1995).
The Lion King,, however, soon became king of the box office, and even today it is the highest grossing hand drawn animated film in history. Until Frozen came along, it was the highest grossing animated film ever. It seems that nobody realized just how much potential a movie like this could have, and this is interesting, since The Lion King is all about potential. Specifically it’s about Simba the lion cub growing up to realize and embrace his potential to lead his people, and then standing up to the dark side, and restoring balance to the force.
(Well, maybe I have confused this last bit with another movie but after all, James Earl Jones, the voice of Simba’s father Mufasa was also the voice of Darth Vader, and both Mufasa and Vader did appear to their sons after they had died.)
This tendency to miss potential is not a new thing. You find it all through the Bible. Few people realized the shepherd boy David had the potential to become king of Israel. Who knew that Jesus, crucified would be Christ risen? As the New Testament describes this turn of events, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the very head of the corner." Most people wouldn’t have guessed that Peter, an ordinary fisherman, and Paul, a persecutor of Christians, would both become leaders in the faith as it swept the world. There is potential all over the place that only God can see.
The Lion King took off, netting Disney a billion dollars in merchandising its first year alone, and it has shaped the lives of the many children who grew up watching it with the tune to “Hakuna Matata” stuck in their heads. Nobody realized the potential of such a movie about potential.
The movie had so much potential it grew into a hit Broadway musical, which eventually was adapted for young people. And now here in Terre Haute a group of talented young actors are playing the roles and singing the songs. They have worked hard on this production, and I think you’ll agree that it shows. And if you look closely at them as they’re on the stage you’ll see something that some folk are good at missing. You’ll see potential all over the place. They have amazing potential, and knowing them gives me a sense of confidence and pride. I hope you feel the same way.
So in a show about potential, a show in which everyone missed it’s potential, there is a stage full of potential. And maybe there is also an audience full of potential, all taking place through a congregation full of potential.
The potential is there. It’s filling the streets of Terre Haute. It’s even in you. May God breathe it into life, and may we never stop striving to reach it.
In God’s Peace;
Tuesday, June 13, 2017
As many of you know, after Patsy recently had cataract surgery on both her eyes, we took two weeks off for a get-away/recovery vacation. First of all, a word of thanks to everyone who filled in for me while gone. Patsy’s eyes are doing great, and we had a good vacation.
One of the places we spent time was Lexington, Kentucky where, like most of Kentucky, people are quite fond of horses. In fact, you see horses everywhere, grazing in the country side, decorating the streets in statues, billboards and other works of art. They even have a Thoroughbred Park near the middle of town, commemorating the stars of horse-racing. We’re not really into horses, or horse-racing, but we had to visit the park, look around, read the plaques, and take pictures. We were tourists, and that’s what tourist’s do, all of which made me think about the qualities of being a good tourist.
When you’re a tourist you tend to look at life differently. Of course, there are plenty of bad tourists around, people who act like jerks, and expect the world to cater to their every whim. But I think there are some qualities shared by good tourists, and here are a few of them.
When you’re a good tourist everything is viewed with wonder and curiosity. You want to meet new people. You want to taste new kinds of food. You don’t travel to Kentucky to have a Big Mac, but you do want to catch some of their barbeque.
At home you can get sucked into routines, but for a good tourist every day is a potential adventure, and every day is welcomed with joy and expectation.
When you’re a homeowner you can do whatever you want with your house: paint it pink and purple if you desire. But when you’re a tourist, you know that the locations you visit, and the places you stay, don’t really belong to you and you need to treat them with respect. You don’t trash your hotel room because it isn’t really yours, and others will be living there after you leave.
I know some people would rather sit at home and watch TV, but sometimes you have to welcome life as a tourist, and that’s what Christians really are anyhow. As 1 Peter reminds us:
Friends, this world is not your home, so don't make yourselves cozy in it. Don't indulge your ego at the expense of your soul. (1 Peter 2:11 MSG)
The world is not our home and it doesn’t belong to us. It’s not our prison either. It’s a beautiful gift that we need to respect and care for, because we’re only passing through like tourists. Like tourists, we’re here to meet new people, come to know them and appreciate them. Like tourists we need to cherish our world and treat it with respect. Like tourists we need to greet each day as a potential adventure to be welcomed with joy and expectation.
I’m back in Terre Haute now, but I’m not really home. Neither are you. We’re traveling together as tourists. Let’s be good ones.
Yours in Christ;
John 1:5 NRSV The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
Back in 1990 the Hubble Space Telescope was launched and placed in a low orbit around the earth. From space, the telescope had a terrific view of the cosmos, unobstructed by atmosphere or weather. And what the telescope has found has defied almost everyone’s expectations. For example, in 1995 the telescope was pointed at what appeared to be an empty region of Ursa Major (what we call the “Big Dipper”) and from this small point it collected 10 days worth of observations. What Hubble found in this empty dark spot were 3,000 faint galaxies! All of this in a single small frame that looked empty. Believe it or not, scientists now estimate that there are 100 to 200 billion galaxies in our universe. Now remember, we’re talking about galaxies, not stars. If you consider that each galaxy contains billions of stars (our Milky Way Galaxy has around 100 billion stars) then you’ll soon see that our universe is unimaginably large, and has an incredible number of galaxies which in turn are home to an inconceivable number of stars. And since we’ve been able to confirm that many stars, if not most, are circled by planets… well, you’re left with a Cosmos billions of billions of times bigger than anyone ever imagined.
In this vast cosmos of brilliant heat and empty cold there are plenty of new mysteries that we’ve uncovered, and plenty of things beyond our understanding. But one thing has become apparent. Life is a rare and precious thing.
In this entire universe, our small planet is the only place where we can confirm the existence of life. Those conditions that make it possible for you to read this newsletter don’t exist anywhere else that we’re aware of! Of course, there probably are other planets that could support life. But those planets, and life itself, is clearly a rare and precious thing. And the more we learn about the universe the more we become aware of how amazing it is that we are here at all. Against all odds, we exist infused with a little piece of God, and conscious of how unlikely it is that we should be here thinking about such things. Life is amazing.
Easter is a celebration of life. What happens when the life and warmth of God are apparently overcome by the cold indifference of the cosmos? What happens when goodness and grace are nailed to a cross, and entombed in a cave? What happens when the light seems to be extinguished by the forces of darkness?
The resurrection of Jesus Christ happens.
Easter is the churches affirmation that life, by the power of a living God, and through the example of Christ, triumphs in the end. We are more than conquerors through the one who loves us.
It’s utterly amazing, but true. In a dangerous cosmos and against all odds, life has risen. Surrounded by darkness and evil, Christ has risen. And in the face of tragedy and death, you and I are risen! Celebrate and rejoice, and give thanks to God who’s light and life shine in the darkness – and in us – through Jesus Christ!
In God's Peace;