- Published on Monday, 09 May 2011 08:16
“for the Lord does not see as mortals see;
they look on the outward appearance,
but the Lord looks on the heart” (I Sam 16:7).
Do you remember these phrases from memory verses in our early Sabbath School divisions?
I memorized it in the King James Version:
“For man looketh on the outward appearance,
but the Lord looketh on the heart.”
- Published on Monday, 09 May 2011 08:06
Fasting and Fighting
Shofars are not very pleasant sounding instruments – but they sure get your attention.
“Raise your voice like a shofar”, [58.1] Isaiah is told. And he did. “You continue your business, You exploit your workers, Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife . . . You cannot fast like this [as you do today] and expect your voice to be heard on high.” [58.4]
Fasting ending in fighting. Not so strange. Although Adventists may not understand it. We don’t fast – or at least hardly ever.
- Published on Tuesday, 01 March 2011 00:04
Time: The Eighth Day of Christmas: January 1, 2011
Texts: Psalm 148
Title: Can Monsters Praise God?
Topic: The Sacred Calendar
Theme: Timely Dragons
Thesis: God’s redemption in time offers us a “sacramental quality for everyday living.”
Transitional Question: Is the sacred calendar as irrelevant to our real world existence as monsters are to our sacred stories?
New Years Celebration & the Secular Interruption of the Christmas Season
This morning, while others brave the outdoor elements (at the Pasadena Rose Parade), we gather in the comfort of this sanctuary. Every year Christians overlook (if not forgive) the rude intrusion that the secular New Year celebration imposes on the sacred season known as Christmastide. The eighth day of Christmas, for the sacred calendar, becomes the first day of the secular New Year. The New Years celebration, like an unwelcomed alarm clock, awakens us to the reality that two schedules run our time. What do we make of this reminder that bills and banking now focus our thoughts more than the babe from Bethlehem? How do we square with the irritating fact that removing Christmas lights now centers our activity rather than reflecting on the light of the world?
We carry on: all too aware that we operate on two different time clocks. One clock synchronizes to the rhythms of secular activity. To be relevant, we accept the realities of our historical conditions with its material demands. The other clock pulsates to the tempo of another world. To stay true to our proclamation that “the fullness of time is at hand,” we wear a timepiece made of different textile. Can we ever synchronize these two clocks? Christians accept this world’s schedule with its demands. But we do so reminded that time, redeemed by the very act of the incarnation, places new expectations on our datebooks. God’s work redeems and renews the whole temporal realm. Now, time holds creative and re-creative power. The Christmas season reminds us of this power.
- Published on Monday, 14 March 2011 13:02
"Song of Ascent Revisited"
As a devotionally observant teenager, I was secure in my worldviews about God and how events unfold in human history including my own. As part of my adolescent security system, answers to big questions, though not always apparent at first glance, were available, if not through basic logic and experimentation, then via faith in a divinely ordered universe. Of course, Japan’s horrific and heart-wrenching earthquake and tsunami had not occurred yet, but the Holocausts of World War II had, costing millions of lives around the world. So had Stalin’s 20 million-person purge. But these were caused by humans. Japan’s devastating disaster of a few days ago was not; it was, well, an “act of God.” From memories of my past, two movies stand out, one from these early years’ tidy theological packaging of the cosmos.
I didn’t see many movies as a kid partly because of our old B/W television set (I Love Lucy, the Honeymooners, boxing matches that my dad liked–these represented our viewing fare), and in part because we didn’t go to theaters (OK, I did see Peter Pan and The Shaggy Dog, which in southern California don’t seem as bad now as they did then in lands to the north). The first film I mention several of us teenagers watched in preparation for a week-long hike around Mount Rainier east of Seattle. It was earth-shaking for me in the early 1960s and has stuck with me ever since.
The film opened with a beautiful alpine scene in the mountains of the Pacific Northwest depicting hikers preparing to mount an excursion into God’s country, into the wilderness, into the place we should know something about in the end times, know how to flee there quickly and how to survive under the canopy of diving protection. I watched the movie’s opening frames in surprised horror as someone in the group was taking photos of the rest. The photographer kept backing up so that all his friends would be in the picture frame ... and backing up, and backing up ... until he backed off a precipice to his death. Without giving us so much as a nanosecond to recover from our shock, the title of the film emblazoned itself across the screen: The Mountains Don’t Care.
- Published on Tuesday, 01 March 2011 07:57
The Gospel text today consists of two contiguous units of the Sermon on the Mount, which is found in Matthew 5-7. The first unit, “On Serving Two Masters,” is in 6:24. The second, “On Anxiety,” follows in 6:25-34. Both units are also found in Luke, although there they are unrelated and widely separated. Because there is no comparable material in Mark, this Matthew-Luke material is part of a Double Tradition we call “Q”, from the German word Quelle meaning “source.” Matthew and Luke independently adopted and adapted these units from a common source(s) separate from Mark.
We note that these units, although missing from Mark, are reflected in other early Gospel materials outside the New Testament. The first unit is echoed in the Gospel of Thomas, logion 47. The second is reflected in Thomas 36. These texts probably existed about the same time as the versions found in the New Testament.
The location of these units in Matthew is typical of his tendency to gather similar materials together. The common element in this case is the matter of wealth and includes the two units of our text today along with the unit “On Treasures” in 6:19-21.