Sunday, December 04, 2016

Sunday Supplication - Welcoming Our Redeemer

Merciful God, we thank you every voice you’ve sent into our world to preach repentance and proclaim the way of salvation. Give us contrite hearts and help us to turn away from sin. And give us open and receptive hearts that joyfully welcome the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer.

Help us in this Christmas season to honor Jesus in thought, word, and deed.  Help us to follow him and to walk in the light as he is in the light.  We confess our sins, trusting that you are faithful and just to forgive us and purify us from all unrighteousness.

Thank you for the forgiveness and renewal you have given to us through Christ Jesus.  Make us able and ready to graciously forgive those who have sinned against us.

Restore and renew us today, O God. And make our lives a testimony of your power to restore and renew us. Help us to live by faith. And make our lives shining demonstrations of your promise to save and restore.

Through Christ, we pray. Amen.

Friday, December 02, 2016

Friday Favorites - Gwen Ifill

For many years, Gwen Ifill has been a favorite journalist of mine. I was so saddened when she died last month. I will miss the strong, positive, and kind presence she was on PBS and NPR. 

I just came across a wonderful tribute to Ifill written by her friend and colleague David Brooks. It reminded me of the reasons I appreciated her so much, and gave insights into why she will be so missed greatly.


From "The Life and Example of Gwen Ifill" by David Brooks...
Gwen worked in a tough business, and being an African-American woman in that business brought its own hardships and scars, but Gwen’s smile did not hold back. Her whole personality was the opposite of reticent, and timidity was a stranger to her. When the Ifill incandescence came at you, you were getting human connection full-bore.
CLICK HERE TO READ THIS WONDERFUL TRIBUTE

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Thursday Thinking - Oldest Christmas Sermon

This may be the oldest Christmas sermon ever preached. It's from St. John Chrysostom (c. 347–407, Greek: Ἰωάννης ὁ Χρυσόστομος), Archbishop of Constantinople, who was an important Early Church Father. He is known for his eloquence in preaching and public speaking.


St. John Chrysostom’s Christmas Homily (386AD)

BEHOLD a new and wondrous mystery. My ears resound to the Shepherd’s song, piping no soft melody, but chanting full forth a heavenly hymn. The Angels sing. The Archangels blend their voice in harmony. The Cherubim hymn their joyful praise. The Seraphim exalt His glory. All join to praise this holy feast, beholding the Godhead here on earth, and man in heaven. He Who is above, now for our redemption dwells here below; and he that was lowly is by divine mercy raised.

Bethlehem this day resembles heaven; hearing from the stars the singing of angelic voices; and in place of the sun, enfolds within itself on every side, the Sun of justice. And ask not how: for where God wills, the order of nature yields. For He willed, He had the power, He descended, He redeemed; all things yielded in obedience to God. This day He Who is, is Born; and He Who is, becomes what He was not. For when He was God, He became man; yet not departing from the Godhead that is His. Nor yet by any loss of divinity became He man, nor through increase became He God from man; but being the Word He became flesh, His nature, because of impassability, remaining unchanged.

And so the kings have come, and they have seen the heavenly King that has come upon the earth, not bringing with Him Angels, nor Archangels, nor Thrones, nor Dominations, nor Powers, nor Principalities, but, treading a new and solitary path, He has come forth from a spotless womb.

Since this heavenly birth cannot be described, neither does His coming amongst us in these days permit of too curious scrutiny. Though I know that a Virgin this day gave birth, and I believe that God was begotten before all time, yet the manner of this generation I have learned to venerate in silence and I accept that this is not to be probed too curiously with wordy speech. For with God we look not for the order of nature, but rest our faith in the power of Him who works.

What shall I say to you; what shall I tell you? I behold a Mother who has brought forth; I see a Child come to this light by birth. The manner of His conception I cannot comprehend.

Nature here rested, while the Will of God labored. O ineffable grace! The Only Begotten, Who is before all ages, Who cannot be touched or be perceived, Who is simple, without body, has now put on my body, that is visible and liable to corruption. For what reason? That coming amongst us he may teach us, and teaching, lead us by the hand to the things that men cannot see. For since men believe that the eyes are more trustworthy than the ears, they doubt of that which they do not see, and so He has deigned to show Himself in bodily presence, that He may remove all doubt.

Christ, finding the holy body and soul of the Virgin, builds for Himself a living temple, and as He had willed, formed there a man from the Virgin; and, putting Him on, this day came forth; unashamed of the lowliness of our nature’. For it was to Him no lowering to put on what He Himself had made. Let that handiwork be forever glorified, which became the cloak of its own Creator. For as in the first creation of flesh, man could not be made before the clay had come into His hand, so neither could this corruptible body be glorified, until it had first become the garment of its Maker.

What shall I say! And how shall I describe this Birth to you? For this wonder fills me with astonishment. The Ancient of days has become an infant. He Who sits upon the sublime and heavenly Throne, now lies in a manger. And He Who cannot be touched, Who is simple, without complexity, and incorporeal, now lies subject to the hands of men. He Who has broken the bonds of sinners, is now bound by an infants bands. But He has decreed that ignominy shall become honor, infamy be clothed with glory, and total humiliation the measure of His Goodness.

For this He assumed my body, that I may become capable of His Word; taking my flesh, He gives me His spirit; and so He bestowing and I receiving, He prepares for me the treasure of Life. He takes my flesh, to sanctify me; He gives me His Spirit, that He may save me.

Come, then, let us observe the Feast. Truly wondrous is the whole chronicle of the Nativity. For this day the ancient slavery is ended, the devil confounded, the demons take to flight, the power of death is broken, paradise is unlocked, the curse is taken away, sin is removed from us, error driven out, truth has been brought back, the speech of kindliness diffused, and spreads on every side, a heavenly way of life has been ‘in planted on the earth, angels communicate with men without fear, and men now hold speech with angels.

Why is this? Because God is now on earth, and man in heaven; on every side all things commingle. He became Flesh. He did not become God. He was God. Wherefore He became flesh, so that He Whom heaven did not contain, a manger would this day receive. He was placed in a manger, so that He, by whom all things arc nourished, may receive an infant’s food from His Virgin Mother. So, the Father of all ages, as an infant at the breast, nestles in the virginal arms, that the Magi may more easily see Him. Since this day the Magi too have come, and made a beginning of withstanding tyranny; and the heavens give glory, as the Lord is revealed by a star.

To Him, then, Who out of confusion has wrought a clear path, to Christ, to the Father, and to the Holy Ghost, we offer all praise, now and for ever. Amen.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Wednesday Words - Adult Advent Announcement

O Lord,
Let Advent begin again
In us,
Not merely in commercials;
For that first Christmas was not
Simply for children,
But for the
Wise and the strong.
It was
Crowded around that cradle,
With kings kneeling.
Speak to us
Who seek an adult seat this year.
Help us to realize,
As we fill stockings,
Christmas is mainly
For the old folks —
Bent backs
And tired eyes
Need relief and light
A little more.
No wonder
It was grown-ups
Who were the first
To notice
Such a star.

“Adult Advent Announcement” by David A. Redding,
from If I Could Pray Again (1965).

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Tuesday Tome - Soul Keeping

I'm going to be reading through this book with a few friends from church in the months ahead.

Soul Keeping
by John Ortberg

Publisher's Description...
The health of your soul isn’t just a matter of saved or unsaved. It’s the hinge on which the rest of your life hangs. It’s the difference between deep, satisfied spirituality and a restless, dispassionate faith.
In an age of materialism and consumerism that tries to buy its way to happiness, many souls are starved and unhealthy, unsatisfied by false promises of status and wealth. We’ve neglected this eternal part of ourselves, focusing instead on the temporal concerns of the world―and not without consequence.
Bestselling author John Ortberg presents another classic that will help you discover your soul―the most important connection to God there is―and find your way out of the spiritual shallow-lands to true divine depth. With characteristic insight and an accessible story-filled approach, Ortberg brings practicality and relevance to one of Christianity’s most mysterious and neglected topics.

Table of Contents
Foreword by Dr. Henry Cloud
Prologue: The Keeper of the Stream Introduction: Holy Ground

I. What the Soul Is
 1. The Soul Nobody Knows
 2. What Is the Soul?
 3. A Soul-Challenged World
 4. Lost Souls
 5. Sin and the Soul

II. What the Soul Needs
 6. It’s the Nature of the Soul to Need
 7. The Soul Needs a Keeper
 8. The Soul Needs a Center
 9. The Soul Needs a Future
 10. The Soul Needs to Be with God
 11. The Soul Needs Rest
 12. The Soul Needs Freedom
 13. The Soul Needs Blessing
 14. The Soul Needs Satisfaction
 15. The Soul Needs Gratitude

III. The Soul Restored
 16. Dark Night of the Soul
 17. Morning

Epilogue
Acknowledgments
Bible Versions
Sources

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Sunday Supplication - The Light of Your Son

Almighty God, we ask you to help us turn away from sin and darkness, and instead to embrace the light of your Son Jesus Christ who came to live among us in great humility. We look forward to the day when he will come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, and raise us to immortal life.

Help us in this Advent season to honor Jesus in thought, word, and deed.  Help us to follow him and to walk in the light as he is in the light. Thank you for the forgiveness and renewal you have given to us through Christ Jesus.  Make us able and ready to give forgiveness to those who have sinned against us.

Save us, O God, from trouble and help us to trust you completely. Grant us a deep sense of your loving presence when the troubles of life threaten to overwhelm us. Remind us of your faithfulness. Calm our hearts. Help us to be still and know that you are God.

Through Christ, we pray. Amen.

Sunday Supplication - The Light of Your Son

Almighty God, we ask you to help us turn away from sin and darkness, and instead to embrace the light of your Son Jesus Christ who came to live among us in great humility. We look forward to the day when he will come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, and raise us to immortal life.

Help us in this Advent season to honor Jesus in thought, word, and deed.  Help us to follow him and to walk in the light as he is in the light. Thank you for the forgiveness and renewal you have given to us through Christ Jesus.  Make us able and ready to give forgiveness to those who have sinned against us.

Save us, O God, from trouble and help us to trust you completely. Grant us a deep sense of your loving presence when the troubles of life threaten to overwhelm us. Remind us of your faithfulness. Calm our hearts. Help us to be still and know that you are God.

Through Christ, we pray. Amen.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thursday Thinking - Newbigin: Jesus & Scripture


“…the confession of Jesus as the unique Son of God who by his incarnation, ministry, death and resurrection has acted decisively for the redemption of the world and for the renewal of the whole creation…provides the hermeneutical key with which I seek to understand the scriptures as a whole.

When we read, and meditate on, and immerse ourselves in the Scriptures, we become aware of the basic tensions within the Scriptures.

Place, for example, the book of Joshua alongside the Sermon on the Mount. Place the exclusivist writings of Ezra and Nehemiah alongside the inclusivist writings of Jonah and Ruth. Put Paul and James side by side on the doctrine of justification, or put Romans 13 and Revelation 13 side by side in search of a doctrine of the state. Plainly, these are simple examples of an immense internal critique which is going on throughout the whole of the Bible.

And that critique is part of the very life of the church, because a tradition remains living when it is constantly wrestling with questions of truth.

And the hermeneutical key to which I have referred—namely, the actual incarnation and ministry, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ—is the point at which this internal tension is historically actualized, which at its very heart is the tension between the holy wrath of God and the holy love of God, the ultimate tension which has its final manifestation and resolution in the atoning work of Jesus Christ, is the key by which we can understand the great internal tensions within the Scriptures.

Which means that when we read the Scriptures, we do not simply read individual passages by themselves and take them as they stand to be God’s Word for us, but that take the Scripture always in its canonical wholeness and read the whole of it within the perspective of its canonical wholeness and with the hermeneutical key of the ministry, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

– Lesslie Newbigin, “Scripture at the Locus of Truth,” The Trinity Journal for Theology and Ministry 4.2 (2010): 43-44


From Boston University School of Theology...
Newbigin, J(ames) E(dward) Lesslie (1909-1998)
British missionary bishop in India, theologian, and ecumenical statesman

Born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England, Newbigin was educated at the University of Cambridge, where he was brought to Christian faith through the ministry of the British Student Christian Movement, which he later served for two years as secretary in Glasgow. In 1936 he was ordained by the Church of Scotland for missionary work in India. He served as a village evangelist (1936-1947), as an architect and interpreter of the Church of South India (CSI), and as a bishop of the CSI in Madurai (1947-1959). In 1959 he became general secretary of the International Missionary Council (IMC) and guided it in 1961 to integration with the World Council of Churches (WCC), which he served until 1965 as associate general secretary, with responsibility for the Commission on World Mission and Evangelism. He then returned to India as CSI bishop of Madras until 1974. During his postretirement years in England, he [was] professor of ecumenics and theology of mission at Selly Oak Colleges in Birmingham (1974-1979), moderator of the United Reformed Church (1978-1979), and pastor of a small inner city United Reformed congregation in Birmingham (1979-1989). In 1982 he organized the Gospel and Our Culture group to explore the form of Christian mission to pagan Britain.

Newbigin was preeminent as a theologian passionately devoted to the mission and unity of the church. The influence of his thought and style are found in countless ecumenical conference reports he wrote or edited, in articles, sermons, and biblical studies throughout his career, and in his books, especially The Household of God (1953) and The Open Secret: Sketches for a Missionary Theology (1978, rev. ed. 1995). At the same time, engagement of Christian faith with the spirits and worldviews of modern society was his constant theme. His Honest Religion for Secular Man (1966) foreshadowed the substantive theology and social analysis of his later works, Foolishness to the Greeks (1986) and The Gospel in a Pluralist Society (1989).

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Wednesday Words - Thanksgiving for Two


The adults we call our children will not be arriving
with their children in tow for Thanksgiving.
We must make our feast ourselves,

slice our half-ham, indulge, fill our plates,
potatoes and green beans
carried to our table near the window.

We are the feast, plenty of years,
arguments. I’m thinking the whole bundle of it
rolls out like a white tablecloth. We wanted

to be good company for one another.
Little did we know that first picnic
how this would go. Your hair was thick,

mine long and easy; we climbed a bluff
to look over a storybook plain. We chose
our spot as high as we could, to see

the river and the checkerboard fields.
What we didn’t see was this day, in
our pajamas if we want to,

wrinkled hands strong, wine
in juice glasses, toasting
whatever’s next,

the decades of side-by-side,
our great good luck.

"Thanksgiving for Two" by Marjorie Saiser, ©2014 by Marjorie Saiser.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Tuesday Tome - Good Grief





I'm reading through this little book and hoping to find it a short but helpful resource to read along with people recovering from loss of a loved one.

Good Grief
by Granger E. Westberg

For fifty years Good Grief has helped millions of readers, including NFL players and a former first lady, find comfort and rediscover hope after loss. Now this classic text is available in a new edition with a foreword by one of the nation's leading communicators of medical health care information. An afterword by the author's daughters tells how the book came to be.

Good Grief identifies ten stages of grief--shock, emotion, depression, physical distress, panic, guilt, anger, resistance, hope, and acceptance but, recognizing that grief is complex and deeply personal, defines no "right" way to grieve. Good Grief offers valuable insights on the emotional and physical responses persons may experience during the natural process of grieving. The anniversary gift edition includes space for readers to record thoughts about their personal experience with grief.

Whether mourning the death of a loved one, the end of a marriage, the loss of a job, or other difficult life changes, Good Grief is a proven steady companion in times of loss.