The Pondering Pastor

These "Ponderings" originally appeared as articles in our church newsletter or bulletin or just as the musings of one bald pastor. I place them here to encourage you, my fellow blogite and maybe to help us all in our pondering.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

How to Read

DR. SEUSS ONCE WROTE, “I can read with my left eye. I can read with my right. I can read Mississippi with my eyes shut tight.” This might be good reasoning in “seussic poetry,” but it really does make reading difficult, if not down-right impossible. Sadly, this is how many of us approach our reading, be it newspapers or Scripture. We read what is before us, but often with the eyes shut tight.
We sometimes sing the chorus, “Open the eyes of my heart, Lord,” but along with the eyes of our heart we need to have the eyes in our head open as well. Open so that we can see what is before us and to see the deeper realities that lie beneath the surface of what we are reading. We need to see the real people contained in the stories we read in the news articles and in the events of Holy Scripture. Too often we read with our eyes shut tight, and we do so in order to not encounter the depth of trial and pain which lie before us.
As followers of the One who declared Himself the Light of the world, we are called to open our eyes and see. The Lord Jesus tells us to see the fields of lives that are ready to be harvested and brought into God’s bountiful kingdom. (John 4:35) He admonishes us if we see a person in need to minister unto that person’s need. (Matthew 25:31-40) These activities are difficult to accomplish if we do not keep our eyes open. We need to pray for open hearts and open eyes. To have a heart ready to lovingly and actively extend the grace of God and eyes that are open to see the need of those right in front of us.
So, if the challenge to keep our eyes wide open seems a bit overwhelming, let us at least heed the final words in Dr. Seuss’ poem,
If you read with your eyes shut, you’re likely to find
That the place where you’re going is far, far behind.
So that’s why I tell you to keep your eyes wide,
Keep them wide open ... at least on one side!

What's in a Name

GAYTON JOSEPH FRANCIS MILLER, JR. III. That was the given name of one of my best friends in grade school. Of course we all called him, “Guy.” The cool thing about Guy’s name was that each one had great family meaning. It was his connection with his heritage. I kind of envied him for that.

Throughout Scripture much weight is placed on names. They tied a person to the past and can even lay down direction for the future. In today’s sermon passage, John 8:48-59, Jesus names Himself with the divine Name of God. He states in John 5:58, “Before Abraham was, I AM. He uses a that Name reserved only for the sovereign LORD of eternity. It is the Name that speaks of His past, (the One who was), His present (the One who is), and of His future (the One who is to come.) It is this divine Name that not only helps us to understand of who Jesus is, but it also brings us comfort and hope.

As followers of Jesus, the Messiah, we too are given new names. Names, that when applied to us, change our past, affect our present, and set our direction for the future. We carry the name, “Christian,” reminding us that we are now marked out as those who belong to Christ (Acts 11:26). We are given the name “Child,” reminding us our forgiven relationship with the Father (Romans 8:16). We have been called “friend,” by Jesus, as ones who have been brought into the inner circle of His actions (John 15:15).

And there is coming yet another name to be given, a name of which we know not, but God does. A name of our salvation and of God’s possession written upon our foreheads, “Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name.” (Revelation 3:12)

What a great day of naming that will be! A new “christening” for God’s beloved. A new name! A new family! A new heritage! A new Hallelujah!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Eggs in One Basket

COMMON WISDOM TELL US not to put all our eggs in one basket, and in light of the recent fallout from the economic crisis it seems like this wisdom still holds true. The idea of spreading things around seems like a good idea. Don’t put all your savings into one place. Don’t put all your time into one hobby or project. Don’t put all your faith into one God.

What?

It may sound a little far-fetched, but that’s how many people approach the whole idea of spiritual things. Let’s not put all our spiritual eggs in one basket because what if that system of religion fails, then where will we be? Sounds reasonable, if you believe that all spiritual belief is the same, but the truth is they’re not.

That’s what this unique Sunday is all about.

This Sunday we celebrate the truth about the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. This day, and the reality that surrounds it, is what sets Christianity apart from all the other “egg baskets” of our world. As Christians we have chosen to believe in and follow Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God. He is not just some religious leader who taught well, loved all, and died a martyr’s death, but He is the One who died the atoning, substitutionary death for us, AND who rose from the dead three days later as proof of the total effectiveness of His sacrificial death.

When we consider that Jesus is the only one to accomplish this reality, we can also see that we can take Him at His Word in regard to all that He teaches. Wisdom tells us that this is one “basket” in which we can place all our eggs, and in which they will be completely secure.

This Resurrection Sunday we invite you to put your faith and trust in Him who died and rose again for you. Come and join us on the journey of following Jesus, our gracious Savior and powerful Lord.

For He is risen!

He is risen, indeed!

Monday, April 06, 2009

Alone?

HAVE YOU EVER FELT ALONE IN A CROWD? Well, you’re not alone in that regard, because I have felt that same feeling many times. Often that sense of being alone comes from the belief that no one around us truly knows us. No one really knows our hopes and dreams, our fears and failures. We live in that space between being misunderstood and not being understood at all. Yes, it is truly a lonely place.

Jesus knew those feelings as well, especially as He rode into the city of Jerusalem on the day that became known as Palm Sunday. Though He was encompassed by cheering crowds, replete with waved palm branches and a cloak-strewn path, He was very alone.

No one in that crowd of celebrants really knew what Jesus had come to proclaim and do. No one fully understood His hopes and dreams for His creation, though there were a number present that deeply misunderstood Him. However, as the writer of the letter to the Hebrews tells us, that Jesus, “for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame,” (Hebrews 12:2) He still moved forward with a sorrow that caused Him to weep over the city and its people. Jesus knew what it was to be alone in a crowd.

Travel forward a few days and once again Jesus finds Himself in the midst of a crowd, this time the cheering has become jeering. The cries of “Hosanna!” have become outburst of “Crucify!” Even His closest friends have left Him. Jesus knew what it was to be alone.

In a few hours, Jesus is again in the crowd, hanging upon the cross of crucifixion. In the midst of pain of body and soul He cries out, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?” He is alone. Terribly alone. Yet, in His aloneness Jesus reaches out to one hanging next to Him, to offer Him the welcome of God, “Today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” And, in the end, Jesus offers Himself into the total care of His loving Father.

Jesus knows your aloneness. Jesus understands your heart. Jesus says, “come to me, and I will never leave you nor forsake you.” You need not be alone.

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