Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Journey of the Magi - By T.S. Eliot

A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.
And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times when we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities dirty and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wineskins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

This was written by T.S. Eliot on August 25, 1927. This was after his conversion to Christianity and his subsequent confirmation in the Church of England.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Matthew 2.13-23

This coming Sunday I will be preaching on Matthew 2.13-23. I want to spend some time looking at verse 23, that says: "There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, 'He will be called a Nazarene.'" The question that has caused me to spend time with this verse is this: What is the importance of Jesus being called a Nazarene? I think that this has two important aspects: 1) the unclean spirit in Mark 1.24 calls Jesus the one from Nazareth, and then in the same breath describes him as the holy one of God. This has a great deal to do with Numbers 6 ----- and figureheads like Samson, Samuel, John the Baptist and others. 2) This also has to do with the incarnation. For Jesus still introduces himself to Saul as Jesus of Nazareth in Acts 22.8. Why this is important is due to the fact that this is the resurrected Jesus answering Saul's question: "Who are you Lord?" How does this change our understanding of the resurrected Jesus when we confess that he is Jesus of Nazareth?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Eve Preparation

I had to share with you all this awesome quote that I read while preparing for preaching on Christmas Eve. It comes from Alan Culpepper and he says: "A humility born of need may be the prerequisite for entry into this new kingdom." Now that can preach!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Luke 2.1-20

This coming Christmas Eve I will be preaching on Luke 2.1-20. I love this passage ---- and especially how the King James Version (KJV) puts verses 11-14: "For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." The KJV just makes my heart remember days of sitting around and listening to my Dad read from Luke. When I hear "for unto you is born this day", I think that it is addressed to me. That this child ----- was born to me. Interestingly, notice that this address is presented to shepherds in the fields ----- and not to the child's parents. For this child ------ who has come to bring salvation to sinners ----- was born for the whole world. Even poor, peasant shepherds ------ even poor fisherman ------ even tax collectors and prostitutes ------ even the lame, the blind, the destitute ----- and even you and me. This child is our King ----- one who is to reign in our hearts and over all the earth, as we do like the shepherds did in verse 20: "glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them." Merry Christmas to all of you.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Westboro Baptist ?Church?

I have been doing a great deal of research lately on Westboro Baptist Church. I have actually found their protest schedule website. Apparently, this morning they are protesting a Methodist Church in Mulvane, Kansas. I would like to ask a question. After reading this snippet --- they actually make the case that this is helping them to love their neighbors. What do you all think of that claim?

Mulvane United Methodist Church in Mulvane, KS December 19, 2010 7:45 AM - 8:15 AM
WBC will picket the Mulvane United Methodist Dog Kennel to warn all who attend that there is death in that pot! So they poured out for the men to eat. And it came to pass, as they were eating of the pottage, that they cried out, and said, O thou man of God, there is death in the pot. And they could not eat thereof. (2 Ki. 4:40.) Don't walk, RUN from this place! The Methodists long ago dropped any pretense of believing or preaching truth when they allowed women to be preachers and when they began the satanic ritual called "affirmations" - blessing sodomite "couples". The same God who said "thou shalt not lie with mankind as with woman kind, it is abomination" (Lev. 18:22), also said "thou shalt not kill" (Ex. 20:13). When you teach the people that it's okay to be a sodomite, you teach them it's okay to conspire to commit murder. You have utterly failed in your duty to your neighbor to love them as yourself by lying to them about their sins. You did this because you hate God and you hate your neighbor. Not to worry though; we love our neighbor, so we will tell them the truth because that is the only hope for any human. If any of you have an ear to hear, come out from among them, do not partake of their filthy deeds and obey your God! Do that TODAY!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Matthew 1.18-25

This coming Sunday I will be preaching from Matthew 1.18-25. Something that has stuck out to me as I have been studying this passage is verse 19: "Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly." In this passage we can see that Joseph had got wind that Mary was pregnant and was wanting to not hurt her ---- but to "put her away" quietly. He would have been totally justified in not taking Mary as his wife. Here, Joseph loving Mary by dismissing her ----- rather than being harsh with her. We could put a term on Joseph such as chivalrous. He is not wanting to harm his betrothed, but at the same time he feels as if he cannot marry her since she is pregnant with another person's child.

Down South ---- we know about chivalry. I recently read a quote from Stanley Hauerwas on chivalry ----- it goes like this: "But I am never sure I know what women want. I think I need to know what women want because I was raised to think that my job as a male is to give women what they want. I am sure I learned that lesson from my mother. I have always assumed that my task is to make the world all right for any woman who is kind enough to love me. Paternalistic scripts die hard in the souls of Southern males."

For Joseph ---- he is not wanting to harm Mary ---- hence, he dismisses her. But God has different plans and sends an angel to appear to Joseph in a dream. God throws out the status quo ----- and writes Joseph into the gospel story. A story that is centered and focused on the salvation of sinners.

Do you all think you could have acted on this revelation from an angel of the Lord?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Isaiah 35.1-10

This coming Sunday we will be focusing on Isaiah 35.1-10. This passage begins by describing nature bursting forth in color and with joy. The natural world will give abundantly of itself ---- give rushing water, pools, streams, and swamps. And all of this is breaking forth at the traveler is moving along the highway called the Holy Way. This comes specifically from verse 8, which says: "A highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Holy Way; the unclean shall not travel on it, but it shall be for God's people; no traveler, not even fools, shall go astray." What does this say to us about the relationship of creation with God's people traveling through deserts and the wilderness?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Christmas Party 2010

For those of you that missed the Annual Christmas party, I uploaded a video from the party. The audio is really rough ----- sorry about that ----- there was a lot of background noise. Please enjoy this rendition of the 12 Days of Christmas, Person County style. If you cannot see this because you are on facebook, follow this link to my blog.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Flash Mob

You have to check this out. If you cannot see this because you are in facebook follow this link. This is one of the most awesome witnesses I have seen in a long while. Hallelujah chorus in a mall.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

John the Baptist

This week we will spend some time with John the Baptist. I will be focusing on Matthew 3.1-12. I have always wondered why John the Baptist had such a profound influence on the upper elites of Judea? Why would they come all the way out to a river to get baptized by this guy that seems to be such a ruffian? Just to prove my point, it says in verse 7: "But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, 'You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee form the wrath to come? Bear fruit worthy of repentance.'" This seems like an unlikely candidate for the upper crust of religion to come out seeking to be baptized. I wonder if it has something to do with the traditional role of prophet and royalty that is so prevalent in the Old Testament? What do you all think?