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.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Christmas Wish List

ONE OF THE TRADITIONS OF MY YOUTH was the writing of the annual Christmas wish-list. On that every-lengthening list were my requests for what I would like to receive from Santa, my dad and mom, my brother, my relatives, my friends, and anybody else who would like to give to a “worthy cause;” me. I really was not a greedy child, or selfish or spoiled, I just wanted all that I believe I needed, deserved and had coming to me. It was my right as a child of the “greatest generation.”

Sadly, this “Christmas Right” did not end with the aging of my generation, if anything it has turned from a “right” into a down-right issue of “entitlement.” I think it is time for things to change. As we have learned from the past year’s economic crisis, things can not maintain unabated without some dire consequences down the road.

Now, before you start decrying that I am nothing more than an Ebenezer Scrooge, let me assure you that I am anything but. In fact, a recent re-encounter with Dickens’ tale (A Christmas Carol) I am reminded that the rebirth of Mr. Scrooge resulted in that subtle move from gifts to giving. It was a wholesale change in attitude which resulted in a outright change in action. In simpler terms he moved from getting to giving.

Last year I was made aware of a group that was asking the question, “Can Christmas Still Change the World?” (The Advent Conspiracy) Their call to the church was a call to move away from acquisition of more goods and to turn to the action of doing good, specifically in providing for the needs of the “least of these.” (Matthew 25:31-46) Personally, my heart was drawn to this need to move from consumption to compassion and so I made my desire know to family and friends that if they were contemplating giving me a Christmas gift that they would rather give to an organization that would minister in practical ways to those who need the very basics, like clean water.

In truth, last Christmas was one of the best as I opened little cards and read that a gift was made to those who need it most. That food was being delivered (Food for the Hungry) and wells were being dug (Living Water) as gifts this year. I cannot express the contentment I felt receiving the news of the gifts that were given. Of course, when my family asks again this year, “Dad, what do you want for Christmas?” my answer is the same, “Take and give to others and the blessing will be multiplied. For when we so give, God is blessed, the needy are blessing, I am blessed, and so will you.

So, when making out your Christmas Wish List, I encourage you to place upon it gifts of compassion for those who need it most, and receive the blessing that comes from hearing your Heavenly Father declare, “Well done good and faithful steward.” (Matthew 25:21-23) What better Christmas gift could you receive?

In the words of Charles Dickens’ Tiny Tim, God bless us, everyone!”
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Sunday, November 22, 2009

THE ADVENT OF THANKS

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THANKS-GIVING IS WHAT WE ARE TO DO CONSTANTLY, so writes the Apostle Paul to the early church in Thessalonica. (1 Thessalonians 5:18) But the truth is sometimes we forget that admonishment, or are too under a load of care to raise our voice in thanks. Thankfully, we have times where we are given cause to remember all the things for which we can give thanks, such as this week of our national holiday of Thanksgiving.

No matter what your faith (or non-faith) tradition, it is good to be thankful, and we have much for which to be thankful, even in these days of crisis and uncertainty. This is especially true for those who have placed their faith in the Person and work of Jesus Christ. As Christians it should not escape our notice that Thanksgiving is an appropriate way in which to welcome the Advent celebrations of the birth of the Savior.

With that in mind here is our annual opportunity to stop, ponder, and give thanks. To help you along that journey use the following project to stir your heart towards thanks.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

KISS THE COOK

WHEN OUR SON, JORDAN, was old enough to get down from the dinner table on his own, I would often tell him to be sure to kiss the cook (mom). He would go over and say thanks for the meal, give her a kiss but then blow a raspberry on her arm (Yep, all boy). What was hopefully being learned was that saying “thank you” is good, and attaching some grateful action to the words was even better.

Throughout Scripture we are encouraged to give thanks to the Lord for His abundant love and provision. Whether that care comes in the form of manna or mercy, forgiveness or food, we are to give thanks to the One who showers us with compassion. The giving of thanks would often include a tangible sacrifice, the giving of something of worth, to show the depth of ones thankfulness.

Worship, sacrifice, singing, even dancing or fasting, was to show the Lord ones thankful heart. But there came a point in the life of Israel where kissing the cook became the blowing of raspberries and this became detestable to the Lord. The thanks that the Lord desired of His people was to show His compassion and care for us through the compassion and care of others. Thus, His chastisement through the prophet Isaiah,

6Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:

to loose the chains of injustice

and untie the cords of the yoke,

to set the oppressed free

and break every yoke?

7Is it not to share your food with the hungry

and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—

when you see the naked, to clothe him,

and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

Isaiah 58:6-7

So, during this season of the year when we turn our hearts toward giving thanks and giving gifts, let us remember to not only say, “thank you,” but let us kiss the Cook, too.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

RHYTHMS

LIFE HAS ITS RHYTHMS. Sometimes we are driven by a march, sometimes things slow to a dirge, and then sometimes things are just rockin’. How we respond to these life rhythms determines our day to day reactions to life and to the people we encounter along life’s journey.

This past week I encountered a vast array of rhythms all placed upon the musical score surrounding the life of our brother in Christ, Gene Carlock. Gene’s passing afforded me the opportunity to experience the rhythms of joy and sorrow, laughter and tears, singing and silence, each deepening the music God was writing upon my heart. As I witnessed the near constant stream of friends and family that gathered at Gene’s side each brought richness to the score.

As I listened to these rhythms, humbled by the sound of so many loved ones words, I realized once again the importance living within the rhythms of the lives of others. The reason so many gathered around Gene was because he had gathered around them. He had in loving and gracious ways added to the rhythms of their lives. But it was not just as another drummer beating out a new beat, it was because Gene was moved not so much by life’s rhythms, but by the rhythm of Life. Gene sought in his life to march to the beat of Him who is the Life, Jesus Christ, his Lord and Savior. And as Gene so played to the rhythm of the Lord in this life, so he does more fully today.

Play on brother, play on!

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Thursday, November 05, 2009

Calling All Saints

THE DAY AFTER HALLOWEEN, many churches celebrate what has become known as, All Saints Day. Originally, it was a day set aside by the Catholic church to remember the martyrs of the church. Over time is has adapted and morphed to fit well within the confines of both Western orthodox tradition, be ye Protestant or Catholic.

Whenever this day comes around, especially when it falls on a Sunday, I take a moment to ponder my status as a saint. With my loss of hair over the past few years I do think I look a little “monkish,” but a saint, really? The older Catholic tradition left sainthood for those who had departed this world and now rest in heaven. And to be classified a saint meant also that one had to meet a rigorous set of qualifications. Once again, I was sadly left out (seeing that I am still here).

Some faith traditions grant saint status to those who are still living, but who have lived the Christian life above and beyond the “normal Christian life.” Once again, I don’t think I have reached that status of sainthood. I am still just a little too normal, and sadly, sometimes I am living at below that standard.

But faith traditions aside, what does the Bible say about being a saint? The Apostle Paul gives us some insight in the way he addressed his letters. In often would call the recipients of his letters, “saints,” those who are loved by God (Romans 1:7), those who are faithful in Christ (Ephesians 1:1), those who are part of the local church family (Philippians, Colossians). What becomes clear is that being a saint, is found more in whose you are, rather than in what you do. Your sainthood in granted because of the finished work of Jesus Christ, and your response to follow Jesus as the Savior and Lord of your life.

With that in mind, this day is your day, O saint. It is a day to give thanks to our gracious Lord for our new status as saints by His gracious gift of holiness in and through Jesus, the Christ. Therefore, let us so live our lives.

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