April 17, 2014

Maundy Thursday

If you're looking to understand Maunday Thursday better, see Will Willimon's book, Thank God It's Thursday. You can get it for under $5 at Cokesbury.com.


And here's a good book about Good Friday also by Will Willimon. You can get either a print or ebook for about $10.


Have a great Holy Week. We continue at our church tonight with a Maunday Thursday service.


April 15, 2014

God's Plan for You

Last Sunday was Palm Sunday and next Sunday is Easter. Many Christians are all to happy to celebrate the triumphal entry and the glorious Resurrection, but not so keen on what happened between.

The New Testament  is very clear that Jesus did not simply get swept up into events when they got out of control. He had a plan. He had a plan then; he had a plan for his followers; and he has a plan for each of us now.

Even before Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the donkey, he had things planned out. He directed his disciples to go get the donkey. He could do this because he had made arrangements ahead of time. Before the Last Supper, Jesus tells his disciples to prepare the meal in a place that's he's already "booked." While the disciples might be clueless and stumble, Jesus never does. He prayerfully planned and stuck to it, even when tempted to go a different way in the Garden.

Jesus was a planner, but his planning do not conflict with his dependence on God. The Gospel of Matthew quotes the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9. The messiah would come riding humbly on a donkey. He's not humble because of the donkey. He's humble because of his total reliance on God. This was his refuge when he suffered and wrestled with his will in Gethsemane . He gave himself over the God's will, which always intends only the good for us.

But if you're like me, sometimes we have difficulty understanding the line between our plan and totally relying on God. Depending on God does not mean that we just let happen what's going to happen or that we just fling ourselves headlong down a particular path. It means consulting with God as we make our plans, so that they reflect God's desires in the first place. So when things get dicey or we want to chicken out, we can fall back and depend on the steadfast loving kindness of God to move us forward and along that road to perfection.

Hope you find ways to reflect Christ in your life this week.

Nashville, TN

April 14, 2014

Cosmos Rewrites History

The FOX series, Cosmos, is truly wonderful. But it also shows that even something that advertises itself as strictly factual can stoop to rewriting history or presenting history as they wish it had been--as their version of the story.

Take, for example, the cartoon scene where the series talks about first buds of democracy in the Greek city states. Here the show plays fast and loose with history. When the Greeks talked about "the people," they had a highly selective group of people in mind: no women, no slaves, no children, no foreigners, no one who was not a citizen. Perhaps the show should have said, democracy was it was understood in the 19th century, not as we understand it today.

Next, Neil DeGrasse Tyson mentions Democritus as the "father of science" and he was indeed an important thinker, but he was also student of Leucippus. These are both shadowy figures at best, and it is difficult to attribute what ideas originated with whom. If the show wants accuracy, some things have to be nuanced.

Then there is the wildly inaccurate cartoon scene of ancient Greek men and women sitting together informally discussing philosophy. Very appealing but highly unlikely that women were allowed to mix with men on an equal basis and be allowed to speak with authority in the public sphere. This is just wishful thinking.

All this to say, that viewers need to be careful when watching even a great show. With the limitations the producers have to work with, they do a fine job. But not all of what it shown and said is reliable. You can't bank on all of it. The show exhibits its own degree of prejudice. They should leave the history to real historians and let the scientists do science.

Grace, Kathy

When Is the Church not the Body of Christ?

We are all familiar with Paul's letter, First Corinthians, which tells us that "You (you plural) are the body of Christ." And sometimes the Church does act like the Body of Christ. But like Israel went astray, chasing after false gods, so can the Church. The Church is meant to be active in the world, helping reconcile its people to God. But all to often, it becomes self-preoccupied and not only forgets its mission, but forgets whose mission it is anyway. It's not our mission but God's. The Church is only a means God can use to offer people salvation--healing and wholeness.

Too often, the Church gets caught up in its own organization and committees. When that happens, the Church takes its eyes off God and thus opens itself up for temptation to follow something or someone else, whether it is a self-proclaimed guru who promises success or the shiny god of a particular political ideology.

In our conference appointments are finished. And there is nothing that speaks to the human character of the Church like this process of sending pastors, despite the fact that Cabinets often fret and stew over them. Sometimes bishops and Cabinets have to make painful decisions that they know will hurt the pastor and/or the pastor's family--for the "good" of the Church.

As we approach Holy Week, let's remember what the Church is called to be and what we as individual Christians are called to do. Let us, at least for this week, keep our eyes on Jesus.

Grace, Kathy

April 7, 2014

The TV series Cosmos, hosted by Neil DeGrasse Tyson, inspires awe, as viewers enjoy learning about the wonders of the universe. And it is a good reminder of our place in it.

We are infinitesimal. And watching the series has given me new depth of meaning to the Psalms--"Oh, LORD, my Lord, how majestic is your name." Yes, our God is beyond all imagining. And we are so small in comparison. This fact alone can go a long to remedy human pride and concupiscence. Earth is only one planet in one galaxy in one star system in the visible universe.

Cosmos, as a voice from science, can serve to remind us that, in the grand scheme of things, even all together, we really don't matter very much. But as the series also points out, individuals bear the weight of discovery. And without these people, we would still be living in caves with lifespans half of what we now enjoy. And God loves us individually.

The fact that God cares for us blows my mind. The fact that God came to us is beyond belief.

As Paul says, "we see in a glass darkly, but then face-to-face." Consider that we can never experience the broad spectrum of sound and/or light waves. We know in part and we understand even less. What really matters is faith, hope, and love.

Surely, seeing how small we are and how contingent our planet is when compared to the vastness of the universe will encourage us to seek even greater dependence on God. For God is the ground of our hope and a ready source of help in time of trouble.

Grace, Kathy