Receive the Joy
December 13, 2020
Joy is more elusive, more subtle and more nuanced than happiness, a predisposition to cheerfulness, persevering with emotional extra effort, or the luck of good fortune. In his autobiography, Surprised by Joy, C.S. Lewis describes joy as "an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction. . . I doubt whether anyone who has tasted it would ever, if both were in his power, exchange it for all the pleasures in the world."
Whereas we can manipulate circumstances to our own advantage to obtain what we think will bring happiness, or expend great efforts in pleasure-seeking, joy is entirely gratuitous. You cannot earn it, buy it or deserve it. It is a divine gift to receive rather than a selfish goal to pursue.
Daniel Clendenin reminds us in Journey with Jesus that the opposite of joy is not sadness or sorrow but anxiety. Jesus encouraged his followers, "do not worry about your life. . . Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?" Consider the joy of the birds in their morning songs, or the flowers in their springtime glory, he said. If the Lord of the universe clothes creation with such extravagance, then we can rejoice in his love regardless of our circumstances. Jesus says that we rest in God's love "so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete"
This third week in our Advent series is based in the lessons from the Psalms. I have titled it with the Biblical plea, “Restore Us, O God” which is repeated many times throughout various psalms. This week we will explore joy in the light of the Psalm 126. How do we receive it and how do we distinguish it from mere happiness.
I look forward to being with you on Sunday as we encounter joy in the restorer of our souls.
Grace & Peace,
Get Out of the Pit
December 6, 2020
"There is a story about a band of inexperienced mountain climbers. Without guides, they struck recklessly into the wilderness. Suddenly a rocky ledge gave way beneath their feet and they were tumbled headlong into a dismal pit. In the darkness of the pit, they recovered from their shock, only to find themselves set upon by a swarm of angry snakes. Every crevice became alive with fanged, hissing things. For each snake the desperate men slew, ten more seemed to lash out in its place. Strangely enough, one man seemed to stand aside from the fight. When the indignant voices of his struggling companions reproached him for not fighting, he called back: "If we remain here, we shall be dead before the snakes. I am searching for a way of escape from the pit for all of us."
Our world sometimes seems like a pit of snakes. We did not sink into the pit in 1939, or even in 1943. We had descended into it generations ago, and the snakes have sent their venom into the bloodstream of humanity, gradually paralyzing us, numbing nerve after nerve, dulling our minds, darkening our vision. Good and evil, which were once as real as day and night, have become a blurred mist. In our everyday life we worshipped force, despised compassion, and obeyed no law but our unappeasable appetite. The vision of the sacred has all but died in the soul of man. And when greed, envy and the reckless will to power, the serpents that were cherished in the bosom of our civilization, came to maturity, they broke out of their dens to fall upon the helpless nations....
Tanks and planes cannot redeem humanity. A man with a gun is like a beast without a gun. The killing of snakes will save us for the moment but not forever. The war will outlast the victory of arms if we fail to conquer the infamy of the soul: the indifference to crime, when committed against others. For evil is indivisible. It is the same in thought and in speech, in private and in social life.
The greatest task of our time is to take the souls of men out of the pit."
Abraham Joseph Heschel penned these powerful words in "The Meaning of This War”. The war of which he is speaking is World War II.
This week is the second week in our Advent series based in the lessons from the Psalms titled with the biblical plea, “Restore Us, O God”. This week we will explore peace in the light of the Psalm 85. How we receive it and how we share it with others caught in the pits of life.
I look forward to being with you on Sunday as we look for peace in the restorer of our souls.
Grace & Peace,
November 29, 2020
Eugene Peterson (Living the Message: Daily Help for Living the God-Centered Life) points out that what a lot of people call hope is in reality something different. It's wishing, not hoping: and wishing and hoping are not the same thing.
"Wishing," Peterson says, "is something all of us do. It projects what we want or think we need into the future. Just because we wish for something good or holy we think it qualifies as hope. It does not. Wishing extends our egos into the future; hope grows out of our faith. Hope is oriented toward what God is doing; wishing is oriented toward what we are doing."
Peterson goes on to say that we can picture wishing as though it were a line coming out from us with an arrow on the end, pointing into the future, pointing toward that thing we most want to possess. Hope is just the opposite. It's a line that comes from God out of the future, with its arrow pointing toward us.
"Hope," he continues, "means being surprised, because we don't know what is best for us or how our lives are going to be completed. To cultivate hope is to suppress wishing -- to refuse to fantasize about what we want, but live in anticipation of what God is going to do next."
This week we begin our Advent series based in the lessons from the Psalms titled with the biblical plea, “Restore Us, O God”. Our first week we will explore hope in the light of the Psalm 80.
I look forward to being with you on Sunday as we hope in the restorer of our souls.
Grace & Peace,
November 15, 2020
Tom Peters tells a wonderful story about a young man who had a bullish commitment to the use of his talents. The young man was employed as a telecommunications worker for an overnight delivery service. It was his job to receive pick-up requests over the phone. A winter storm happened to knock out telephone service to his company headquarters for 800-number call-ins.
First the employee contacted the telephone company, only to find out that a regional transmission tower in a mountainous area near his city had toppled over, causing the outage. It would be at least 24 hours before the telephone company could access the area.
Undaunted, the young man climbed into his four-wheel-drive vehicle and headed up the mountain to take matters into his own hands. The snow was so deep that he couldn’t get to the downed tower.
Unwilling to be defeated, he hired a helicopter to fly him to the tower site, re-connected the broken lines, and thereby restored service to his company’s offices until telephone workers could reach the site to make permanent repairs.
That is a real commitment to us of one’s resources and talents. What would be the result if we invested the same kind of determination and zeal to the living of our faith and the resources God has blessed us with?
This Sunday I will be sharing thoughts on this issue of faith as I explore in our sermon the passage from Matthew 25:14-30 titled “One Word." I hope you will join me after you have read the passage in preparation for the service, it is much easier that reaching a downed telephone tower. Maybe you can even guess what that word is before you get to worship.
See you in worship Sunday.
Grace & Peace,
Do You Hear What I Hear?
November 8, 2020
Lee Iacocca shared a rather humorous story several years ago which illustrates our ability to talk past each other so easily. According to Iacocca a man drives up to the gasoline pump to get his gas tank filled. The gas station attendant notices three penguins in the back seat of the car and, curious, asked about them:
I don’t know how they got there, the driver said. They were in the car when I took it out of the garage this morning.
The attendant thought for a moment. Why don’t you take them to the zoo?
Good idea, the driver replied and drove away.
The next day the same man returned to the same gas station. In the back seat were the same three penguins, but now they wore sunglasses.
The attendant looked at the car in surprise, I thought you took them to the zoo?
I did, the driver said, and they had such a good time that today I decided to take them to the beach.
This story reminds me of how difficult it can be to communicate when someone is not present in the same moment and state of awareness. This Sunday I will be exploring in the sermon the passage, from Matthew 25:1-13, about the 10 bridesmaids. This, too, is a story about being present in the moment and preparing to be present. Just like in their time in our time it is still very difficult to be prepared to be present in all our encounters.
My sermon is titles “Eight Words”. Since you have read this article you have begun the preparation process for “Be Present” are two of the eight words. I invite you to read the scripture passage from Matthew this week and come prepared to hear the other six words.
See you in our Lord’s house on Sunday as we come prepared to worship God.
Grace & Peace,