On A Day In July

Acts 17:22-31 – The 6th Sunday of Easter – for May 25, 2014

“…I found among them an altar with the inscription, ‘To An Unknown God…’” (Acts 17:23)

According to the seventeenth chapter of Acts, Paul stood at Athens’ Areopagus and challenged the Greeks about worshiping an “unknown God.” In a city and an era where many gods were worshiped, Paul had stumbled across a local altar with words that declared allegiance to that “unknown” deity.

A modern view of the Areopagus in Athens...
A modern view of the Areopagus in Athens…

I’m impressed by Paul’s first-century speech in Acts. With rousing philosophical arguments, he out-Greeked the Greeks. Paul’s blunt exhortation about worshiping the one true God of his faith versus the many false Gods of their culture was thoughtful, faithful and persuasive.

The God Paul proclaimed was not unknown! God was real, and could never be understood by creating shrines of gold or silver. In a smattering of verses, the author of Acts had Paul recount creation, alluding to Adam and Eden, and declaring a confidence in a God that has “fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness . . .” The past was obvious. The future was set. All things were known.

How dare anyone worship an unknown God!

And yet I do. Continue reading →

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Heavenly Baggage

John 14:1-14 – The 5th Sunday of Easter – for Sunday, May 18, 2014

“In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places…” (John 14:2)

Do you have plans for a future trip to heaven?

Where will you unpack your baggage upon arrival?

Will you be shown to a mansion, room or dwelling place?

The King James Version, first published in the early 1600s, translated Jesus’ claim with, In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.

As a Sunday-school-attending, baby-boomer, I was raised on the Revised Standard Version’s, In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?

Much of my preaching and teaching used 1989’s New Revised Standard Version, In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?

Welcome to heaven?
Welcome to heaven?

Of course, John’s 14th chapter, regardless of translation, doesn’t mention heaven as the post-death zipcode for a “mansion” or “room.” Still, we think that way, don’t we? (Okay I think that way.)

With my current hospice ministry, I often hear grieving families declare a once-suffering spouse, parent or child is now “in a better place.” Isn’t “better place” another phrase for “heaven?” Continue reading →

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The Passenger Side Of A Hearse

Psalm 23 – The Fourth Sunday of Easter – for May 11, 2014

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want . . .” (Psalm 23:1)

Psalm 23 is an old friend, following me throughout my ministry’s journey. Indeed, even before ordination, Psalm 23 frequently starred in Sunday school lessons. As I kid, I might’ve wished for the Lord to act like a cowhand more than shepherd (since my grandparents’ ranch had cattle), but I understood the meanings . . .

How comforting that the Lord is my shepherd.
I easily picture green pastures, imagine still waters.
My cup overflows; goodness and mercy shall follow me.

Still waters...
Still waters…

Psalm 23 is like a favorite pair of jeans.

It’s comfort food, the macaroni-and-cheese of sacred scripture.

How each believer views the psalm’s still waters may be different, but every distinctive memory inspired by the ancient words calms and soothes. In the six spare verses, we can be transported to a favorite beach, to the bend of a placid river, to the view of a mountain lake when the sunset paints the water gold.

*      *      *

In the year after my ordination, I was an intern in a church, a newly minted clergy testing the ministerial waters. Three other full-time pastors served the bustling church. Except for one wedding, my more experienced colleagues celebrated every “I do” event. No one trusted me with a baby (let alone an adult), and I didn’t do a single baptism. I preached once, with my faulty memory recalling it as of those splendid summer Sundays where every preacher was on vacation and guess who’s left to proclaim the good news?

One wedding. One sermon. Zero baptisms . . . but wait! Continue reading →

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