Monthly Archives: July 2015

One Calling

I find the process of boarding a plane perplexing. As soon as seating rows are called passengers dash for the head of the line, as if being a few steps closer might get them to their destination a few seconds sooner, or perhaps their carry-on items might find a better position in the overhead storage rack. But the plane will not leave until everyone is seated and their carry-ons safely stowed and we will all arrive at the same instant, no matter how quickly one boards the plane.

Airplane Seating (Photo Credit US State Department)What if instead of striving to get one’s self quickly boarded passengers would oriented themselves to getting everyone seated and everyone’s baggage stowed? Perhaps taller able-bodied passengers with a strong gift for spatial arrangement could board first and take charge of carefully loading each carry-on where its owner could readily find it, filling all the available space. Perhaps patient individuals could guide first time fliers to their seats showing them where to find their seat belt and light switches. Experienced grandparents might sit next to parents of young children, gently coaching them.

This is my vision for the Church. A place where the passengers on a spiritual journey use their gifts to assist those around them and to allow assistance by other travelers. A place where we recognize that striving for one’s personal advancement deters everyone, but gently and patiently striving for everyone’s progress with humility, advances the person.

I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord,
beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called,
with all humility and gentleness, with patience,
bearing with one another in love,
making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
— Ephesians 4:1-3 (NRSV)

I will have more to say about this passage on Sunday, August 2nd at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.

Spiritual Gardening

purple crocuses with closed bloom Français : D...
Purple Crocuses (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Everywhere I have lived I we have had a garden. They have varied by where we live. In upstate New York we had planted crocuses beside our front walk as soon as the snow melted they would pop up and bloom announcing the coming of spring. In central Indiana two white pines we had planted behind our home had grown tremendously since we left, now providing shade to that house. We brought our container gardens with us to Florida and merely days after planting the seeds had sprouted.

Redwoods among the fog (Photo credit Scott Catron)
Redwoods among the fog (Photo credit Scott Catron)

In traveling to various parks we have seen the variety of God’s gardens: sand dunes that continually shift with the wind, mountain fields that eek out an existence between the last snow melt and the first hard frost, brackish swamps that support trees brush just above high tide, and redwood trees that have withstood storms and droughts for centuries. While one can readily see the height and girth of a redwood tree, its roots are hidden. How deep must they grow to support such spires and weather the sun and the rain, wind and snow?

Growing in faith yields resilience to weather life’s tragedies and comedies, promotions and steady work. While the fruits of one’s faith may be readily seen by others —charity, prayer, calmness— resilience comes from having deep roots.

I pray that, according to the riches of the Father’s glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love.
—Ephesians 3:16-17.

I will have more to say about this passage on Sunday, July 26th at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.

Click below to hear this sermon.

Us and Them

I suppose people have always separated into factions: those like us versus those other people.

The news media seems to relish showing differences between Republicans and Democrats, even highlighting rifts within each party. Is a particular candidate conservative enough or liberal enough to be true to their party? Or has a particular candidate’s remark gone too far, serving more to excite an extreme segment of their party?

Listening to this harsh rhetoric every four years leaves me almost surprised that parties can come together to support one candidate for the general election. That the divisive rhetoric between parties continues between elections leaves me amazed that our various legislatures can accomplish anything.

The Apostle Paul had encountered similar divisiveness in the church at Ephesus between Jews and Christians.

For [Christ Jesus] is our peace;
in his flesh he has made both groups into one
and has broken down the dividing wall,
that is, the hostility between us.

— Ephesians 2:14

But what does he mean by “citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God”? Are we to unite in a middle ground, ignoring our differences or are we to value our differences and find a new harmony?

Elsewhere Paul described the Church as like a human body with different parts serving different functions. If we were all the same, we could accomplish little. If we were all eyes, we would lack teeth to eat with, or feet to walk, or hands to grow crops.

The problem with divisions is not our differences, but hostilities used to maintain those divisions.

Instead when we work together, enjoying our differences, we become a dwelling place for God.

When have you experienced harmonious collaboration?

I will have more to say about this passage on Sunday, July 19th, 2015.

Click below to hear this sermon.

Blessing All

Thank you for reading my blog this week. Your participation in my ministry by reading and occasionally telling me how my writings have affected your life and spiritual journey have been a real blessing to me.

May God bless you and your life this day, so that you may grow stronger in our Lord Jesus.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
— Ephesians 1:2

The apostle Paul began most of his letters with a blessing and prayer for his audience leading me to wonder how the world might change if we were to follow this practice, blessing our listeners at the beginning of each conversation. Such blessings might be generic, as some of the recipients would be unknown when the blessing was written. For example, I do not know who all is reading this blog, and since it may be available for years to come, you might be reading this entry after a current reader shared it with you perhaps months or even years after I wrote these words.

Which leads to questions about the sincerity of the blessing. Are blessings offered so easily valued by the recipient? Or conversely, when a blessing is offered before the giver meets the recipient, is a blessing so offered valued by the giver? At what point do freely offered blessings get lost in the blizzard of advertising we receive each day.

Some three-hundred years after Paul, Augustine of Hippo had written blessings for Caesar; blessings universally expected, but widely recognized as lies. Yet the blessings in Paul’s letters differ from such banal pro forma fluff for he uses the rest of his letter to give depth and substance to the divine blessings he lists at the beginning of this letters.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.
— Ephesians 1:3-4

On the other hand, if the blessings are sincerely offered and openly received, perhaps the communication that follows will have greater honesty and usefulness.

Below you can hear (most) of my sermon from Sunday, July 12th.