Tag Archives: Life changes

What is Life All About?

Maybe we don’t think about this question and all the questions it generates until we face the end of  our life.    Then the questions come quickly!  What have I accomplished by my life?   Have I been successful?   Has my life made a difference?   For whom?    How do I want to be remembered?    What legacy have I left behind?    When people think of me after I’m gone, if they do, what will they think about? In general, what meaning does my life have?

As one who just went on hospice this week, I think I can speak to this topic with a far deeper insight than I could  have done two weeks ago……

I’ve had a great life!   My office walls contain many awards, commendations,  mementos; three higher education degrees (a Bachelor of Arts and 2 Master’s degrees),   Recently on my 80th birthday reception more than 100 people from all over Kansas showed up to celebrate with me.  They included extended family, friends, colleagues in ministry, etc.–.     I have enjoyed a wonderful loving and caring relationship with my wife Kay the past 4+ years.   She has a deep love for God and a deep love for me that doesn’t stop when the going gets rough, as it is now.  I am so blessed by her love.       In my lifetime  I’ve been able to travel to Russia and have memories and souvenirs from there, as well as traveling to Alaska and other parts of the U.S.       I’ve had reasonably good health up to the last year which enabled me to remain active..    I’ve served many churches  as pastor and earned from them the title I appreciate the most—pastor.    I have awards in both education, including membership in the educational fraternity, Phi Delta Kappa and am listed in Who’s Who in Education. after 30+ years of teaching in high school and college.  In Christian ministry I have the “Honored Minister’s pin: and am a “Minister Emeritus in the region of Kansas—-all highly significant awards.

But what I want to express here is my most important possession, although it is not  really a possession.     I am loved!       I am loved by God;  I am loved by my wife;   I am loved by my children and grandchildren; I am loved by my step-children and step-grandchildren and by many of my  former students and parishioners and by people I have worked with in both the regional church and the  individual parishes I have served.

As I contemplate it, my life has been surrounded by love and all of the accomplishments that I could have made—-are all built around that LOVE.    By the love and support I have received.  Everything I have accomplished has been because someone loved and supported me.   To give every instance as an example would be to write my biography.    However, two of the accomplishments that I am most proud of that  are built around love are my son and daughter.   They came out of  love for my first wife Dee, they were raised knowing that we loved them.    I remember a conversation with them a few years back when I said—“you know we didn’t always do things right when we were raising you—-we made a lot of mistakes.”   Their reply was that the mistakes were not that  important to them now.  What was important they said was that they always knew they were loved and we were there for them when they needed it.  Both of these children are now independent, loving and caring individuals.   They are an accomplishment of love.

The apostle Paul wrote in the 13th chapter of II Corinthians these well-known words.   They apply so well to what I am truing to say:

If I speak in the tongues of mortals and angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.   And if have prophetic powers and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love;  I am nothing.   If I give away all my possessions and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love;  I gain nothing…..

Put love at the center of your life.   Give it and receive it freely.   It is the most important possession that  life can give you.   Love is the source of all the meaningful accomplishments you make in life.  THEY COME FROM LOVE FOR GOD AND LOVE FOR OTHERS.  AND WHEN YOU PUT LOVE AT THE CENTER OF YOUR LIFE YOU PUT GOD THERE   BECAUSE  GOD IS LOVE.

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Spring and Resurrection

This February I celebrated my 80th birthday!      I must admit that at times during the year I questioned whether I would make it to that milestone, because my health has been deteriorating.   But,thanks be to God and to the care of my doctors and my wife I am seeing another Spring.     Perhaps that is why I am seeing Spring in a different way this year!   I am reminded  by what I see around me that Jesus told his disciples that a seed must die before it can be brought forth (resurrected) and bloom and produce fruit.    As I was coming home from my doctor’s office today, the flowering pear trees were blooming, the trees were budded and will soon produce leaves, and the somber and stark winter landscape is rapidly becoming green and inviting and beautiful again.    That is the miracle of spring.   That is the miracle of resurrection!

Nature each year goes through the process of death and resurrection, as Richard Rohr reminds us in many of his books.    As part of God’s creation, why should we think we will not go through the same process,  and that after we die we will be resurrected to something glorious and beautiful, just as the trees and flowers that I see all around me this Spring?

Something to ponder…..

Milestones

Text:   Ruth 1:1-11

 Life is a Journey! That journey is described in very different ways.   For example, in Shakespeare’s play “King Lear”—-Lear defines the journey of life in this way:   “Life is a tale, told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing!” Jesus, on the other hand, told his disciples that He came to bring life and to bring it abundantly to those who follow him.

            The journey of life contains many hardships to endure as well as joys to celebrate.       It contains achievements that reward us for our journey as well as failures that cause us pain. All of these joys, hardships, failures, and successes are milestones that we leave for those who come after us as we go on the journey of life—-they are Milestones —-markers to guide oncoming generations and help them avoid our failures and achieve our successes.   Milestones are the legacy that we leave for those who follow after us to guide their way.

            In this journey of life we are either nomads or pilgrims. What is the difference?   A nomad is a wanderer.   Nomads pay no attention to the milestones and have no goals for where they are going—-and so they wander aimlessly.   They say “I don’t know where I am going, but I’ll get there because I am an individual and no one is going to tell me how to live my life.    A pilgrim follows milestones left by generations before to avoid problems and live a more abundant life.   They take note of the milestones left behind by previous pilgrims.  

That brings us to the story of Ruth that we read as our scripture text today. It is the story of a journey.   The journey begins with a family of Israelites facing a time of famine, and making the decision to move away from the little town of Bethlehem and journey to Moab.   When you think of this famine, think of the Great Depression of the 1930’s and the Dust Bowl.   The mother in the family was named Naomi and she traveled with her husband and two sons to the land of Moab to survive the famine.   Naomi’s husband died soon after they arrived in Moab, and eventually the two sons married Moabite women—Orpah and Ruth.   After about ten years of marriage the two sons died, leaving Ruth with only her two daughters-in-law.   Since there was no way Naomi could take care of herself and them in Moab, she decided to move back to Bethlehem where she would have the support of her extended family.   She began the journey with Orpah and Ruth, but on further thought, decided that Orpah and Ruth would have the best chance to re-marry if they stayed in Moab, as the Jewish people were quite prejudiced against Moabites. “Go back to your mother’s house” Naomi urged, “May the Lord deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me.”    Naomi knew that her relatives in Bethlehem had a negative view of Moabite immigrants—you know—-they don’t pay their taxes, they bleed the welfare system dry, they take jobs away from the Jews, and so on as deeply entrenched prejudice always holds—-even today.  

            Orpah kissed her mother-in-law goodbye and returned to her family in Moab; but Ruth surprisingly clung to her mother-in-law and refused to go—-saying:   “Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God.   Where you die, I will die—there will I be buried……”

            To complete the story; God smiled on Ruth’s determination to movie in this new direction and in time Ruth met and married Boaz and they had a son named Obed.   Obed would become the father of Jesse who was the father of David, the greatest king Israel .   And David was the ancestor of the carpenter Joseph of Nazareth who took Mary as his wife and a son was born named Jesus—The Messiah— distantly related to Ruth.—-ALL OF THE ABOVE WERE MILESTONES USED BY GOD THAT POINTED TO JESUS THE CHRIST.!   THE LONG AWAITED MESSIAH!

            What we see in Ruth’s story were people on a journey.   Naomi and her family on a journey to Moab; Ruth on a journey with her mother-in-law to a place unknown to her called Bethlehem. All were milestones left along the way toward the destination of the coming of God to earth in the form of Jesus of Nazareth.

 What are milestones?   They are significant places and people through our journey through life who leave behind them a legacy of examples for us to live by.   The idea comes from the book of Joshua.   In the book of Joshua we read that when the entire Hebrew nation had crossed the Jordan River into the promised land, Joshua said:   “Select twelve men from the people, one from each tribe, and command them, “Take twelve stones from here out of the middle of the Jordan, from the place where the priest’s feet stood, carry them over with you, and lay them down in the place where you camp tonight.   …..When your children ask in time to come “What do those stones mean to you? “ then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off in front of the ark of the covenant of the Lord when it passed over the Jordan. So these stones shall be to the Israelites a memorial forever.” (Joshua 4) They were called “Milestones”.   And they marked a significant place in the history of the Jewish people’s journey from being slaves in Egypt, through the Wilderness; and finally to the Promised Land.

 On this All Saints Day we look back at the journeys of our loved ones that have departed the earth this past year.   Each of them, if we were to speak to their loved ones who remained behind have left milestones for us to follow.   They have left a legacy concerning how life should be lived.  And we, their loved ones have a share in that legacy and as we journey through life as pilgrims we also will leave milestones behind for those who follow after us. The legacy of a life well-lived.  

   I have only seen two of the legacies or milestones left for us in the person of Frances Campbell and Pop Warner, but all of those named today in our bulletin insert whom we remember in this service have left behind their milestones on their journey through life—their legacies , I am certain.   They are in the hearts and minds of their children, grandchildren, and fellow pilgrims trying to walk the way of Jesus.  

            And all of the saints who have gone before us at Christian and Congregational Church have left their milestones behind for us who follow in their footsteps.   Those who had a dream and founded this church.   Those saints that through the years supported this church and contributed to its impact on the community.   A long line of saints have gone before us in this church and we live today because of their contributions of their lives to their church which is now our church.  

The writer of the Book of Hebrews in the N.T. wrote about the legacy we are left by saints gone before us and the duty we have to follow in their steps:   “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith….”   (Heb. 12:1-2)

 An unknown poet points our duty as we follow the milestones of past saints in the present:

 Hold high the torch!

You did not light its glow—

‘Twas given you by other hands, you know.

‘Tis yours to keep it burning bright,

Yours to pass on when you no more need light

For there are other feet that we must guide,

And other forms go marching by our side;

Their eyes are watching every smile and tear

And efforts which we think are not worthwhile

Are sometimes just the very help  they need,

Actions to which their souls would give most heed;

So that in turn, they’ll hold it high

And say, “I watched someone else carry it this way.”

If brighter paths should beckon you to choose,

Would your small gain compare with all you’d lose?

 Hold high the torch!

You did not light its glow—-

‘Twas given you by other hands, you know.

I think it started down its pathway bright,

The day the Maker said: “Let there be light”

And He once said, who hung on Calvary’s tree—

You are the light of the world”…..Go!….. Shine for me!

 

    

 

Climbing Ladders

There is a drive in all of us to achieve success in our lives.   That is what our ego’s, or as Rohr puts it “our false self” feeds upon.   Seldom do we take time to really define what “success” is.    What is “success” for you?   You will have to answer that question, I can’t.   I have a hard enough time answering  the question for myself!

On my wall above my desk are some physical signs of what might be called success.   Three college degrees (including two Master’s degrees);  Awards of various kinds from both the Education field (Who’s Who in American Education, e.g.)  and the field of Christian Ministry (Minister Emeritus of Christian Church in Kansas, e.g.).   Does that mean I’m a success?   No—it means some people think that I am a success, I feel.

I have pictures in my office of my two children, a boy and a girl.   They are now adults and are doing well—but most important they are loving and caring individuals who are contributing to society.   Does that make me a success?   I’d like to think so,  but who knows but what they would be the same despite me being there to help raise them—-and I have to share any success in that area with my wife who did more to raise them than I was able to do while working two jobs to support my family.

I have a nice, comfortable home in Wichita and a loving wife to share it with after the death of my first wife.   We have two cars and a half-garage full of woodworking tools that I love to use.    My life is comfortable and I’ve had reasonably good health for my age in the late seventies.   Does that make me a success?   It may mean that I am blessed by God far beyond what I deserve, but I do not believe material things make me a success.

Wherein should my feeling of success lay then?    As I write this I am reminded of the words of Thomas Merton:  “People may spend their whole lives climbing the ladder of success only to find, once they reach the top, that the ladder is leaning against the wrong wall.”

I am trying, at this point in my life, to lean my ladder of success on the right wall—God’s wall.   The only true success I can strive to attain is in an ever closer relationship to God.    I found at the sudden death of my first wife that all the knowledge and skills that I had were of no value in dealing with an event over which I had absolutely no control.   I turned to God and said:   “Help me God, I can’t do this without you.”   And I felt a peace come over me and knew that God heard and began the healing process of my heart at that point.

Since that time, as God helped heal my grief and led me to a loving caring and Godly  woman that would share my life and become my wife,  I have realized more and more that the ladder to success for each of us mortals is the ladder to God.   The happiness my wife and I feel today is the result of a “God-thing”, we both agree.   So I have endeavored to place my ladder of success on the wall of God.

And the greatest thing about the ladder  to God is that we don’t have to laboriously climb it from day to day with great fear of falling and failing—-instead our God of love and grace comes down the ladder to dwell  with us now; right here,  and will do so forever.    Amen

The Candles of Advent—Love

 

“Do We Really Want This Baby?

Text:  Luke 1:26-38

            Do We Really Want this Baby??    Due to the invention of the birth control pill and the legalization of abortion, that is a question often asked in our country these days.   Our discussions about abortion often generate a lot more heat than they do light on the subject.   Listening to the arguments, that can be vicious on either side of the question, you would think that in the U.S. children are very important!!

            I’m not saying that children are not important.  I am saying that sometimes we have mixed emotions in the United States as well as the rest of the world about children.

            On the one hand, we have couples who spend thousands of dollars at fertility clinics trying to have a child.  On the other hand, we have couples who want to abort their prospective children if they are the wrong sex, have some physical disability, or if they think they are “not ready yet.”   So what do we really think about having children.    In truth, when we look at it statistically in the U.S., Germany, and Japan we see a we see a baby bust, not a baby boom.   People are having fewer and fewer babies.   In the U.S., the total birth rate has dropped from 3.2 children per woman in 1920 to 2.1 children today.   In Europe, the birth rate is even more changed—from 2.8 children to 1.5 over the period of 1970 to 2000.  WHY?  Lots of “experts” give lots of reasons that vary from:

The cost of children in the U.S.—that exceeds $200,000 per child, not including college.

The fact that we have good retirement insurance and don’t need children to take care of us in our old age.

The shift from an agricultural/non-industrial culture which needed lots of children to help do the work and keep the family alive, to a technical/industrial culture which needs less children.

A world dominated by terrorism threats causes parents to hesitate to bring children into such a world.

Whatever the reason might be, these statistics raise the question as to whether we as a nation are less welcoming to children, less willing to bring them into the world than we once were.   

“Do we really want this baby?”   the sermon title asks.   That is a question that Mary might well have asked as we look at our text this morning.  In that text we heard how the angel Gabriel visited a young peasant woman named Mary, who was engaged to Joseph, a carpenter in her hometown of Nazareth.

            We often don’t realize how alarming what the angel said to Mary must have been to her!    “You will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus.”

            That wasn’t necessarily good news to a young woman getting ready for her wedding night to find out that she was going to be pregnant although she had not yet been with her husband Joseph.  !    Her first question was:   “How can this be?”   It might well have been  “What am I supposed to tell Joseph?”

            In  first century Jewish culture what she had just learned would be seen by her religious neighbors as adultery and was grounds for stoning and not just grounds for divorce or breaking the engagement!   An engagement or betrothal was as binding as marriage.   Mary’s life was endangered by this news!

            Mary questioned the news saying:  “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” and the angel answered her:  “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called the son of God.”   WOW!!  And the angel told her that the child’s name would be “Jesus”—the Greek form of the Hebrew word “Joshua” that means “He will save” in the Hebrew.   WOW!!!

            Mary could have said:  “No way, Gabriel!   I’m not going to touch this baby thing with a 10 foot pole!   Way too much at risk here—my marriage, my very life is at risk.   Sorry—find someone else.  I don’t need this kind of a burden at this time of my life!

            What Mary said was“Here I am, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word!”  In other words:  “Yes, Gabriel, I want this baby if that is God’s will for me!”

The same question comes to us this Advent Season as we read the announcement of the angel Gabriel– The question is:  Do we really want this baby Jesus? Are we really ready to birth and cradle this Christ child in our own lives?   Are we really ready to welcome the adult Jesus that he will grow into as a part of our world today?    Are we??

            Or are we more inclined upon hearing the claims and risks involved with accepting this Jesus into our world to hit the road and get outta town?   Because when we birth and cradle this Christ Child in our lives we will find that this baby grew up and that the Christ will challenges us to be transformed as a member of God’s kingdom on earth that he came to proclaim.  He will challenge us to also reach out our arms to others who will need our love and and the God of love that Christ proclaimed  in their lives.  And that might be inconvenient!   That might be risky!   That might we dangerous!  That might make demands on us we don’t want to meet!

            You see, if we truly welcome this Christ into our lives, our lives are going to be changed in a significant and total way, just as Mary’s life was changed significantly and totally!  

            It is significant that Mary said “yes” to the angel and to God and was willing to risk her reputation, her marriage, her very life, in order for the Son of God to enter the world.   She didn’t worry about her engagement, her social standing, her health, or her long-term financial security.   She didn’t spend a minute thinking about retirement benefits or whether she could use a child to take care of her in her old age.   Instead she said “yes” to a baby who would grow up to be called Jesus of Nazareth, and be called the Son of God who would proclaim the good news that God’s kingdom and rule had entered the world and who would reveal God to us in a new and wonderful way as a God of love.   Are we receptive to this rule of God in our lives?   Are we hearing the call of God through Jesus to be transformed?   Are we willing to embrace the Christ Child and the man, Jesus of Nazareth and allow his proclamation and his teachings and his example to make a difference in our lives?

            If we say “yes” to these questions,  we’ll find ourselves changed.   If our lives are not changed by saying “yes” then we really haven’t said it with honesty.   Because if we say “yes” then we will become a person who has Christ at the very center of who we are, just as Mary received the life of Jesus into the deepest and most intimate part of herself.   We’ll turn into a person who can say along with Mary:   “Here I am, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your will!!   Are we willing to say that?

What we are talking about in this sermon is the word that we don’t find in the Bible but that the church invented to describe the mystery of Jesus’ birth—-INCARNATION.    John’s gospel tries to describe it as “the word became flesh and dwelt among us.”  The prophet Isaiah spoke of the word as “Immanuel”—God with us.”     The incarnation means that our God, who stands outside of time—who is infinite (without ending)—-becomes finite (ending).   The God who is all powerful becomes all-vulnerable.   The God who brought the world into being now is born of Mary’s womb to bear the good news of God’s love for the world.  

This is the gift of Christmas—the gift of God’s love for the world that came as a flesh and blood baby—Jesus.    This Jesus was not some glow-in-the-dark-Christ- Child        Jesus, the very God incarnate, was a real, live, ordinary, crying, cooing, sleeping, eating, wetting baby.   And just as with all babies, his greatest need was to be held in human arms, touched by human hands, soothed by human words of love and reassurance.              

He in turn, as we was brought up with love by Joseph and Mary, would reach out in love and show us that God was a God of love.   That God cares for us.   That God is with us at all times.   And that challenges us, because as God seeks us through the incarnation, God’s love demands that we answer this question:   DO WE WANT THIS JESUS IN OUR LIVES?

            If we do, we will be forever changed, just as Mary was forever changed—-and we, in turn, will reach out to others,   not just in this season of advent, but in all seasons, saying:   “HERE WE ARE, SERVANTS OF THE LORD.   LET IT BE ACCORDING TO YOUR WILL!    ARE WE WILLING TO DO THAT?

            Let me close with a story that took place during World War II:   

            A soldier was concluding sentry duty on Christmas morning outside London.  It had been his custom in other years to attend worship in his home church on Christmas Day, but here in the outlying areas of London it was not possible.   And so, with some of his buddies, the soldier walked down the road that led into the city just as dawn was breaking.    Soon the soldiers came upon an old greystone building over whose entrance was carved the words:   “Queen Anne’s Orphanage.”   They decided to check and see what kind of celebration was taking place inside.   In response to their knock, a matron came and explained that the children were war orphans whose parents had been killed in the London bombings.

            The soldiers went inside just as the children were tumbling out of their beds.   There was no Christmas Tree in the corner and no presents.   The soldiers moved around the room, wishing the children a Merry Christmas and giving as gifts whatever they had in their pockets; a stick of gum, a Life Saver, a nickel or a dime, a pencil, a knife, a good luck charm.   The soldier noticed a little fellow standing alone in the corner.   He looked a lot like his own nephew back home, so he approached and asked,  And you, little guy, what do you want for Christmas?   The boy replied,  “Will you hold me?”   The soldier, with tears in his eyes, picked up the boy, nestled him in his arms and held him close.” 

That’s what Emmanuel, God with us, means.   .  That’s what Jesus taught us:  God does not keep us at arms length, but reaches out lovingly to us and hold us as the soldier held the little boy.  

            IF CHRIST IS BORN IN US THIS CHRISTMAS, WE TOO WILL REACH OUT WITH OPEN AND LOVING ARMS TO THOSE IN NEED—WE TOO WILL HAVE A HANDS-ON LOVING RELATIONSHIP WITH ALL AROUND US.   WE WILL SHOW BY OUR CHANGED LIVES THAT WE REALLY DO WANT THIS BABY JESUS!   Amen.

          Today we light the 4th Candle of Advent—the Candle of Love. And the birth of Jesus tells us:    IT’S ALL ABOUT LOVE!!    God so loved the world that he sent his only Son!    Jesus—that Son, told us that all the law and commandments and the prophets were summed up in this simple yet profound statement—-“You shall love the Lord Your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength—-and your neighbor as yourself!”   

Jesus  didn’t say just at Christmas time!    He didn’t put any limits on how much or how often!   And when he said “love”  he said  “love as I have loved you!”    Amen.

Being Both Here and There

It’s hard to be two places at the same time—-we would probably agree that it is impossible!!  It’s a paradox!   And paradoxes aren’t rational.  We have to be one place or the other according to our dualistic minds!     Sometimes we are here and sometimes we are there.   If you are sitting in church  you  can’t be at the golf-course!   If you have something pressing to attend to elsewhere, you must leave “here” and go “there”.   When you do go “there”, what was once “there” becomes“here.” for you.   Everybody knows that you can’t be in two places at the same time.

Now we can fantasize about what it would be like if we could do so.  For example, I often dreamed that I could be in my dorm room sleeping while also sitting in my 8 a.m. class at college.   While I tried to master the art of sleeping in class with my eyes open, I must admit that it didn’t work well for me!   I think everyone here would agree that it would be nice to be at work and also lounging on the beach at Malibu.   However,  we know it’s not going to happen!

But according to the Book of Revelation that was what happened to John, the writer of Revelation—-he was in two places at the same time.

John wrote that he was on the island of Patmos.   That is a tiny island in the Aegean Sea.   It’s a beautiful little place now, it is said, but in the time that John lived it was a Roman prison colony—similar to the place we call Alcatraz.    When you went to Patmos during  John’s time you only needed a one-way ticket—-you hardly ever came back from Patmos!!   And that was where John was—on Patmos, and yet he was not only there, he was also in God’s Kingdom as  he wrote:   “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day.  And he wrote of seeing God’s throne and a vision of Jesus  “on the clouds” and of the coming completion of God’ Kingdom  as he was  “caught up” and transported to another place  He was at two places at the same time!!

            Although John is in a difficult place on Patmos and probably awaiting a sad fate—he was also in a blessed place in his life—in the Kingdom of God.   

I would suggest to you this morning that Patmos is not only a place, a geographical location, but a frame of mind.  We all can be on our Patmos islands because Patmos is wherever and whenever we find  ourselves trapped and imprisoned by our actions and  our life.   There are many people who feel they are trapped on their  islands of Patmos.   Somehow life has given us a one-way ticket  and we feel as though we are trapped in a prison of our own making or someone else’s making—-but nevertheless  we are “trapped.”

            The reasons for our being on Patmos are as many and as unique as each of us are unique and individual human beings.   We may be there because of bad decisions that we made.   Or we may be there because of bad decisions others made that have affected us.

We may be imprisoned by a disease that is slowly taking our energy and eventually our life.   We may be imprisoned by habits that dominate and ruin our lives and that we have not been able to overcome.  We may feel life has “done us dirty” and that we shouldn’t be on Patmos—-but all of us spend some time on our  “islands of Patmos”.

            The great psychotherapist, Victor Frankl, writes of his “Patmos” in his book “Man’s Search for Meaning”.    Frankl was arrested by the Nazis in W.W. II Germany and sent to a Nazi prison camp.   It was a horrible prison camp and most of his fellow prisoners soon died under the terrible conditions, the brutality, the starvation and the resulting hopelessness.   But Frankl survived.   How?    He describes how he survived by recounting that on his way out to the work site every morning, he would be composing a book, all in his mind.   He would go over the book, chapter by chapter.   He would form each page in his brain, imagining in great detail the grand book that he was going to write once he got out of the Nazi prison.   And that kept him going.   In his body he was a slave in a horrible prison camp—-his Patmos—but in his soul he was free .   He was in two places at the same time!!

Part of the human condition is that we don’t have control over everything that affects our lives.   The one thing we have control of is how we cope with the things affecting our lives—-such as was the case with Victor Frankl.

John on the island of Patmos, was in the same circumstances as Frankl.   He had been imprisoned by the emperor—-probably because he was a Christian.   There he was languishing on the island of Patmos, right?   Wrong!   That is not what John says about himself.   Rather he wrote that he “was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day”.   John was in prison, in exile, far from home and loved ones, but he managed to “be in the Spirit on the Lord’s day.   In other words, he was in a quite different place and a long way from the island of Patmost.   He was with God through the Holy Spirit on the Lord’s Day and God was showing him about wonderful things to come in God’s Kingdom.

 John was in two different places at the same time—-and so can you be.   You can always be with God, no matter what your life’s circumstances may be.  

  Think about it!  

 

             

 

Acting Christian

It was a cold winter day when Mary  decided to go into a McDonalds for breakfast.    The restaurant was crowded and as she waited in one of the lines, she noticed that the other lines were long and hers was short.   In fact, people were moving away from her line to get in other lines.   Soon she recognized what was going on.   Toward the front of her line were two homeless men.   They hadn’t shaved in days, their hair was matted and dirty, and they “reeked” of body odor.    They were being ignored by the waitress and were trying to come up with enough money to buy a cup of coffee.   They were obviously hungry and cold.  Mary stepped forward to the two men in spite of the smell and asked them if she could help them.    They were very grateful and asked if she could help them get a cup of coffee to warm themselves.    Mary said, I am here to have breakfast, so why don’t I just buy breakfast for all of us and we will share it together.   She did so, paid for it and went to a table with the two men to eat with them.

The men, who were used to being ignored, threatened, or completely shunned by other people, were amazed.    They couldn’t believe this was happening to them!  One of them asked Mary for a hug and she gave each of them one as tears ran down their faces.   One said:   It’s been a very long time since I’ve had a hug.  Why are you doing this for us?        Mary told them  “I am a follower of Jesus, and I know that God loves each of you—-and so do I.  I’m just doing what I think Jesus would do”.

Jesus began his ministry, according to the Gospel of Luke, at his home synagogue in Nazareth.   He defined the purpose of his ministry  in the words of the prophet Isaiah:  “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.   He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.      And after rolling up the Scroll he told the synagogue crowd:   “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

Jesus came proclaiming the Kingdom of God and showed us that God was a God of love and mercy.  He didn’t just tell us that, he showed it by what he did.   Jesus healed the sick;  he opened the eyes of the blind; he raised the dead; he advocated for the poor and the helpless , the outcasts and the discarded in his culture.   Mary (above) was right.   What she did was what Jesus would have done because that is what he did when he walked this earth.

In our world today we see and hear much about Christianity.    Jesus is talked about a lot.In polls, 85% of us in the U.S. say we are Christians.  Of that number two thirds say they’ve made a personal commitment to Jesus.   Posters on FaceBook say “Like if you love Jesus”.    Tee shirts, bumper stickers, posters, all tell of love for Jesus.    Talk is cheap.    Words do not transform people. Actions do!     The Epistle of James gives this good counsel:   “But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves.”

Richard Rohr describes our “Christian” nation  well in his book Jesus’ Plan for a New World:    “We keep worshiping the messenger.   Keeping Jesus up on statues and images, so we can avoid what Jesus said.   It’s the best smokescreen in the world!   We just keep saying, “We love Jesus”    The more we talk about Jesus the less we’ll do what he said.”

Jesus told his disciples as he journeyed to Jerusalem where he would be put to death, and he says the same to any of us who want to follow him today:   “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”   (Mark 8:34)

Be doers of the word and not hearers only!  This world would be a better place if all of those who say they are Christians acted like Christians.