Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Virual Advent Calender
Celtic and Nature Advent Calendar
Beliefnet Advent Calendar
Online Interactive World Advent Calendar
Episcopal Diocese of Washington
Online Advent Calendar Lutheran Hour Ministries
On-Line Resources for the Season of Advent
The Days of Waiting
Yahoo List of Virtual Advent Calendars
As we wait and watch and yearn and ache,
we look around for signs of your presence.
But what we see mostly are indications of our sinfulness.
The needy are overlooked.
Selfishness has the upper hand.
Hatred and violence triumph over peace and reconciliation.
Our commitments waver;
our resolve weakens;
and we find ourselves further away from the path
for which you have marked in Christ.
We long for a word of forgiveness and direction,
and for a sense of purpose and meaning.
Come quickly, Lord.
With mercy and grace, come quickly Lord.
Taken from Call to Worship
Monday, November 27, 2006
Sunday, November 26, 2006
Ephesians 6:1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.
So, I'm supposed to be sleeping right now, getting enough solace and rest to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for the morning worship service. Instead, it's the wee small hours of the morning and I'm checking through the internet for behavioral/disciplining tactics and strategies because some parents in the church are very concerned about one of our programs adopting a "time out" policy for misbehaving kids.
Why am I letting this get to me like this? Surely, I'm supposed to be a messenger of mirth, a pied piper of preaching, a glorified clown for Christ's Gospel? And church is supposed to be the one place where everyone can misbehave, right? After all, Tolerance is supposed to be every congregation's middle name.
So, I can't sleep. Parents are upset about their kids being upset with a "three strikes and time-out policy." I'm supposed to be preaching about "Christ is King" today, which is all about His Majesty and Authority over our lives.
Does that include those wee creative imps who don't like authority? And what about their parents? I've been a minister for over twenty years and over that time I've seen personal accountability and parental responsibility degress to the point that it's almost impossible to have any boundaries or standards established in church programs. Has the "Jesus of Suburbia" kicked out the King of all Creation?
Any suggestions, fellow Presbyterian bloggers? How do your churches and programs deal with misbehaving kids - or is our church the only one in eternity with time-out?
Sleepless in Knoxville
Saturday, November 25, 2006
Praised be my Lord for our sister, the death of the body, from which no one escapes.
St. Francis of
The pursuit of the Fountain of Life, the Fountain of Youth, immortality, or the cure for death has occupied the minds and efforts of countless women and men. Wither fueled by fear, curiosity, disbelief, or love a passion is evoked when death is discussed. In our American culture we may entertain various methods or dogmas in dealing with death. We are bombarded with euphemism of death. We are told we will pass away, pass on, bite the dust, depart, fade away, go to be in heaven with our father…rarely do we hear you will die, they have died.
We dance around the topic in our culture and in the church. We will spend billions on agents and aids that guarantee us a longer life, and younger looking life. We abstractly live our lives in denial that we too shall die. We secretly are thankful that dread and death visit others… “At least it is not me.”
We are entertained with satirical looks into death and dying. We are obsessed with romance and love that spans time and lasts forever. When in reality nothing is forever and all shall perish. In a recent film I saw called The Fountain Tommy, the male lead, wrestles with mortality, love, loss, death, and sorrow. Tommy’s wife is dying. He desperately seeks to find a cure for her ailment. He tests an unknown substance from the Central American rain forest on a monkey and sees dramatic results. Tommy’s wife is writing a book about the quest to find The Tree of Life. The movie intertwines these two components along a 1,000 year time span.
The common theme is the desire to cure death. There are Buddhist and Judeo-Christian influences in the film in regards to death. The film made me ponder our fascination with death and our unwillingness to speak of it in terms of finality or concreteness. What is the difference between the solace and peace gained when engaging death in a new-age or tribal context, Scientology, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, Jainism, Hinduism, Santeria, Voodoo, or Baha’i as compared to the peace and solace in death revealed in Christianity?
All of these religions offer some sort of tranquility and attempt to answer the human longing for reason, purpose, and function of death. In some perspective death is the continued return on a cosmic marry go round, unable to get of until you achieve understanding and enlightenment that all is nothing and nothing is all. In others you are rightly judged by you earthly merit and subjugated to eternal punishment or paradise. To some folks death offers nothing at all, no paradise, no hell, nothing… “blank screen”
In Christianity we believe in a renewal which takes place in the acceptance and proclamation of Jesus as the Christ. In our death we are reconciled threw Jesus. We are returned to the very creation to which God enacted in the “beginning”. It would not matter to convert anyone to Christianity without this dramatic life altering renewal of Jesus. The power lies not in the brand of religion one practices, rather the radical transformation which manifests in death, bringing forth creation via Jesus.
Death does not bring forth new in the midst of old. New is eternally present, eternally available. The presence of death reveals this and its acknowledgement in living allows us to participate in life. We attempt to master and understand the why’s and what’s before we experience what death in Jesus means. We seek to reason our faith to validate the absurdity of what faith in Jesus requires of us.
To embrace Christianity absent of death makes no difference as you hold just another life draining misguided attempt at offering reconciliation absent of transformation. The only place to obtain life transformation is at the feet of the cross in the presence of Jesus as we encounter death. We must face death. In Jesus we are given courage, faith, evidence…to transcend fear. Faith does not remove fear. Faith provides in moments of fear.
What is needed is a response that fulfills in us the courage provided in faith as we face death. We must face death with new anticipation absent of the dull aestheticism which reflects in our desire to be sexy, beautiful, or handsome. The only difference between Christianity and all other religions is a faith of new in the midst of the old by which death is the vehicle of transformation. It is in this tension to which we find ourselves today. We are seeking peace, understanding, more, more, more. Yet we are ill equipped to deal with death. A human being will be ultimately judged by whether or not they have reached and can stand this tension. To endure it is more horrible and more difficult than anything else in the world. And yet, to endure it is the only way by which we can attain to the ultimate meaning, joy, and freedom in our lives. Each of us is called to endure” (Paul Tillich’s sermon, Escape from God). There is no room for a lukewarm response or ascetically pleasing visions. A diet of Death embarks us on a journey into this tension to which we are called. Anything less than this would be a waste.
Friday, November 24, 2006
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
you gave us your Son,
the beloved one who was rejected,
the Savior who appeared defeated.
Yet the mystery of his kingship illumines our lives.
Show us in his death the victory that crowns the ages,
and in his broken body
the love that unites heaven and earth.
We ask this through your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever.
Monday, November 20, 2006
We are in the process of getting new elders for the coming year. But how do we minister to those elders who have served (in some cases six years) and are now going off the session? In my experience, I have lost some of them from the church altogether. They were used to being incredibly active, in the loop and so forth. I almost think we need a twelve step approach for those recovering from Session! Seriously, what have you found to enable those active elders who now are suddenly inactive (as session members) interested and active?
Sunday, November 19, 2006
It's hard to know what to pray for these days. There are so many different areas of need and conflict in the world that it is difficult to focus and concentrate on what 's really important. Whether it's lives lost through war, property damaged by hurricanes or hostages killed by terrorists; there just seems to be so much pain and suffering in the world that it overwhelms even the strongest of Christians.
In my office, I have a small picture of Abraham Lincoln that someone gave me when I first came to the United States. Below the portrait, there is a sentence that Lincoln wrote during the Civil War. Whenever I get dismayed with what's happening in the world, I look across my desk and think about these words from Lincoln:
"I know that the Lord is always on the side of the right. But it is my constant anxiety and prayer that I and this nation should be on the Lord's side."
(PS Today is the anniversary of the Gettysburg address)
In the midst of all that's happening, we need to remember that God is right in the middle of all of this, working out His plans to thwart evil and overcome suffering. His side is the best side and we should surrender our prayers, our anxieties and concerns into His will. When we do that, He will guide us what to focus upon, what to pray about and what to do.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, You suffered an agonizing, painful and shameful death, which broke God's heart and yet healed the world. In times like these, we need Your guidance, Your goodness and grace to restore our hope, faith and confidence in God's plan for the world. Be with us now and lead us. In Your Holy name, we pray. Amen.
Stushie is the writer of the Heaven's Highway blog and the host of the weekly Seven Days relgious news show
Friday, November 17, 2006
If you would like to listen to the show, tune in via your computer. We're live at 4.00PM EST from www.southernrootsradio.com
Get your friends to listen; especially your girlfriends - this just might save their life one day.
Stushie - writer of Heaven's Highway blog and host of Seven Days Radio show.
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
How do you know when its time to stop fighting, allowing someone the right to die and allowing hope for a medical miracle to remain? Is it even possible?
Sunday, November 12, 2006
It's no coincidence that this Scripture appears in the lectionary on the Sunday that most of us celebrate Stewardship Sunday. Out of all of the Sundays in the year, this is perhaps the hardest one to preach. No pastor that I know likes to talk about money, and when we use the pulpit to make challenges about giving, some people think, unfairly, that we are meddling in their lives and preaching "money,money,money" all of the time.
During all my years at seminary, I never once heard a professor or teacher do a series on Stewardship. And yet, this is one of the most important issues that we are facing today. If you don't thinks so, just have a look at the financial shortfalls that our own denomination is experiencing. The amount of people and congregations that are presently disenchanted with the PC(USA) has reached critical proportions. Local churches are more into designating their giving more than ever, and even individuals are earmarking their offerings for missions rather than ministry.
But what's all of this got to do with the widow's mite? It's this. She never selfishly designated what she gave to a particular mission for widows or orphaned children. She gave everything that she had to the common good. Perhaps this is the lesson that we need to be broadcasting from our pulpits. When we give, we give purely to the Lord. If we designate it, then we are giving to an idol of our own choosing.
Prayer: Lord, on this Stewardship Sunday, help us to give up control of what we give to You. Teach us to give in faith, which places no boundaries on our offerings but rather trusts Your Spirit to work for the common good throughout the church. In Your Holy Name, we freely give and faithfully pray. Amen.
Stushie is the writer of Heaven's Highway Blog and host of the weekly Seven Days religious radio show.
Friday, November 10, 2006
I have utilized an excessive amount of resources to investigate the historical context, the composition, and the engagements of audience. I have read many different English translations, looked at internal and external evidence for the pericope and the translations. I even tried my hand at rough translation and illustrate the disposition of the pericope. This left me with many questions.
Since I only have experienced Greek for fifteen weeks I am a bit of a novice. I have only a small range of understanding and three other classes and a job to compete from my time. This leaves me struggling immensely. I have sought to read commentary after commentary to glen a bit of wisdom and further understanding. I have meditated and prayed over the text. I have patiently waited for a voice on high.
So far I am left with one emerging thought and countless reasons I am wrong. This thought you ask…Jesus heals the paralytic via the fours faith. A faith that in founded in the conviction to assist one that cannot do it alone. A faith that cost them much. They are responsible to restore the building to its original shape and possibly face penalties for their actions. They knew this going into this. They were willing to face physical, mental, and spiritual penalty to assist one that could not.
How often do we find ourselves in a situation like this? How often do we respond with utter and total abandon for self and sacrifice our very life? Imagine a world filled with a Christianity that sacrificed self for those that cannot. A letting go of one master to be absorbed and oblige to another.
Is this possible in our nations today? YES! I see Jesus challenging us to let go of the consumer mentality, the denominational pettiness, the prideful insecurities, the self righteous voice and claim, the hording of resources…People of God, this is a call to stewardship, a demanding of more, and full acceptance of grace and return to holiness, and magnified and proclaimed gospel of transformation. This is the hermeneutical bridge to salvation.
In a world full of magical enchantment and global consumer oligarchy we are to witness to another way, the way, the light, the truth. We are not to posses it, nor with hold it. We are to be transformed by it, sacrificing all in the process. We are to reorientation our eyes to the hills, towards Christ. We are to lower those that cannot towards an awaiting Jesus, who is already in the process of healing. As we move towards Advent let us be reminded that Christ was born to this world to penetrate the sin that binds us. This same Christ died and bore our sin. This same Christ conquered our death. This Christ heals those that cannot heal themselves. This same Christ restores the Body one paralytic at a time.
So I ask…whom shall you carry and what shall you sacrifice?
Thursday, November 09, 2006
Today the guest pastors will be discussing the outcome of the elections and asking whether the Religious Right is now being left behind by church and society. We'll also talk about a special AIDS ministry for HIV sufferers in Knoxville; and we'll debate about a controversial issue from Britain where doctors are asking to be allowed to mercy kill severely disabled babies: is this compassion or social engineering?
If you listen and want to join in the conversation, the station has a toll-free number at 1-888-859-1180.
John Stuart - www.sevend.net
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
send peaceful sleep
to refresh our tired bodies.
May your help always renew us
and keep us strong in your service.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
Into your hands, O Lord, we commend our souls and bodies, beseeching you to keep us this night under your protection and strengthen us for our service on the morrow, for Christ's sake. Amen.
Archbishop Laud (1573-1645)
Sunday, November 05, 2006
30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' NIV
Remember, remember the Fifth of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
That’s an old rhyme which people in Britain still recite at this time of year. It refers back to the assassination plot led by Guy Fawkes in 1605. He wanted to kill King James (of the King James Bible) and all the parliamentarians as they gathered for the opening of parliament at Westminster Palace. One of the cellars was stacked with gunpowder and he almost got away with what would have been the 17th century equivalent of 9/11. Informers gave him away and the plot was squashed. All the conspirators were horribly tortured and barbarically executed.
The event is still remembered each year on the Fifth of November. This coming Sunday, families from all over Britain will gather at Fireworks festivals and build bonfires to celebrate the event. It’s Britain’s equivalent of our 4th of July celebrations. It’s also a festival of defiance, because the fireworks remind Britain’s political representatives that the real power of the land belongs to the people.
This year, we will have something going on at the church to remember the Fifth of November. It’s nothing to do with fireworks or explosions. It’s to support a wonderful cause – the Race for the Cure. Over the years, I have marveled and been in awe of the amount of women who courageously face, confront, and survive breast Cancer. Their positive attitude in the midst of very trying circumstances is a worthy example to all of us about how the human spirit can face fear, overcome sickness, and triumph in the midst of trials and tribulations.
So about a month ago, I challenged the congregation to raise money for the Christy’s Angels group, who were running in memory of Christy Blanchard, a great friend and member of Erin Church. I also wanted to do this in memory of Pearl Swallows and others in our congregation, and even those whom I knew in Scotland who had dealt with this disease.
So what did I do? I told the congregation that if they could raise $1000 for the Race, then on Sunday 5th November, I would have my beard, moustache, and hair shaved off at the end of the morning service. I am glad to say that the donations have been coming in, so there is every chance that I will be completely bald on November 5th. By the time you read this devotion, I will be as bald as a pool ball.
Some people wonder why I want to do this: it’s because many of the brave women who undergo chemotherapy and radiation for Breast Cancer lose their hair. It’s my way of identifying with them. When you watch thousands of them running and walking together, survivors and sufferers, families and friends, you realize how much of themselves they give to one another.
I must admit, I’m a wee bit worried about losing my hair and my family are not so sure they want to see this happening, but it’s all for a good and worthy cause.
Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
When Stushie will shave off the lot!
May God bless and be with you all.
Stushie is the writer of the Heaven's Highway blog; the Sky Pilots site for Busy Pastors, and also the host of the radio pragam "Seven Days."
Saturday, November 04, 2006
Nothing is what it seems
There we sat our eyes glazed, fixed to what was transpiring. What civility was being tarnished by these ghastly acts? Can this man truly be doing what I am bearing witness to? It cannot be real! I want to believe. I want to be a part of this. What authority does this man wield? I must be near. I must understand. I must be careful.
This is what was going on in my mind as I watched the film, The Illusionist. I was utterly mesmerized by this film. The story of love, reality, death, mystery, and power catapulted me into a frenzy of contemplation. The tagline of the publicity campaign is “nothing is what it seems”, truly this is an insight into the gospel.
The messiah is coming! The messiah is here! The messiah has been crucified. What?!? This cannot be true. The messiah was to lead us. He was to become our king and return to us governance and a kingdom... There must have been many astonished and broken people when Jesus was crucified and died on the cross. We have the benefit of millennia of theology, discussion, and revelation to form and shape our understanding of the cross. The citizens of the first century have witness to the death and resurrection of Jesus. What do they believe? I imagine in the sharing of the good news must include the account of Christ’s death and something to the effect “nothing is what it seems”.
I have encountered many circumstances in my life that ask me to suspend my disbelief and trust, have faith if you will. The common theme in these encounters has been my inability to suspend my disbelief and the terror that was instigated as I realized that I was not in control. In one of these encounters I was given this counsel, “The blood of Christ offers you the blessing of not believing what you see or feel…you are bound to the promise of provision and abundance not matter your current predicament.” At the time I held on to it without understanding it. I just wanted relief from the hurt and torment of my disbelief.
I make the connection today that “nothing is as it seems”. The illusion that many folk held on to of Christ is overcome by the resurrection. As we enter into the last few weeks of Ordinary time and enter into Advent and the coming of our Lord I am meditating on the idea of “nothing is as it seems”. The passion, the annunciation, the fall, the Passover, the crucifixion, the birth of Jesus all form a witness to us. A witness that seems amazing, difficult to believe…yet it is most amazing and real.
It is faith that allows us to realize the thin boundary that exists between illusion and reality, love and obsession, public service and self-interest, life and death. It is faith that brings us in from the shadows of life and lights the path to Christ. Faith permeates the depraved and sinful nature of creation. Faith departs our nakedness and covers us with the blood of Christ. Faith in our connection to the mystery of God via the intercession of Christ illuminates the illusion. Faith proclaims “nothing is as it seems”.
Friday, November 03, 2006
I recently found a web page, www.Biblememory.us, that for $5 a year will help you memorize Bible verses. Ok, it isn't perfect. Supposedly a customizabel version is being developed. For right now you get the web page's pick of Bible verse (you start with Job 19:25, "As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and that at the last he will take his stand on the Earth.")
You do get your choice of several translations. I use the NASB. There are several others available. You get an e-mail every day but Sunday with a link in it. That link takes you to a web page with a space for each word of that week's verse. Some or all of the spaces will be blank. You have to fill them in.
It makes it easy and simple to memorize a short verse a week.