Friday, December 30, 2016

He Speaks in a Baby's Cry

“No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.”  St. John 1:18

God speaks to His people.  This is where all Biblical religion begins, with a God who knows us and who addresses us, who wishes us to know Him and the truth about Him.  He has spoken, our Epistle lesson says, “at sundry times and in divers manners.” 

All things began with His speaking, “let there be,” and it was—by the Word, Saint John assures us, “everything was made that was made.”  God speaks through the creation itself—in vistas that take our breaths away, in the ordered progression of sun and moon, in the complex laws of nature.  The heavens tell His glory, the Psalmist assures us,[1] and all things return the cry, “bless the Lord, praise Him, and magnify Him for ever.[2]

God speaks in the conscience, our common faculty for knowing right and wrong, that “light that enlightens every man that comes into the world.”  He speaks through our deepest longings and highest aspirations, our yearning to know that which is noblest and best, and to be united with it.  He speaks in our desire to love others, in our search for deep stillness, in our persistent sense of justice. 

God's Peculiar People: A Christmas Sermon

“He gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity,and purify unto himself a peculiar people.”  Titus 2:14

Christmas is our American family holiday.  Or maybe better, it’s the holiday when we all aim to cobble together, if only for a few candlelit hours, the version of family we would really like to be.  Expectations are ratcheted up by Norman Rockwell paintings, sentimental holiday movies, and “There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays,” and most of our families have at least one special “holiday person,” who seems to live for the thrill of whipping the whole spectacle into shape each year. 

Most families have Christmas rituals, even if they aren’t otherwise all that ritualistic.  There’s a certain way we open gifts.  Decorations go in certain places.  The main meal is always served at the same time (and we simply can’t imagine how anyone would do it another way).  A few of you may have ended up here this evening for reasons that run along these same lines. 

Saturday, December 24, 2016

A Gift and a Bringer of Gifts

Also printed in The Potomac Almanac, 22 Dec.

I fumbled in my wallet for a bill, my fingers a little numb from the frosty air.  The man ringing the bell flashed me a smile and waited patiently for me to drop it into the red kettle.  “God bless you, my friend,” he said.  I thanked him for what he was doing, grateful he’d given me the chance to bless someone else in this special season. 

This is my first Christmas in Potomac.  It’s only been a few weeks since my family and I moved here from Virginia so I could begin serving as the pastor of Saint Francis Church in the middle of the village.  But like many of you, I’ve been dropping money in those kettles for years.  It was a comforting sight to see the ringer and the kettle outside the Giant last Saturday. “The Salvation Army,” I thought to myself, “they’re here, too.  They make Christmas feel a little more like Christmas, and this town feel a little more like home.”

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Ponder:"to wait is a distinct kind of activity"

"A new aspect of the eucharist comes to life when we think of it as a sign that we are waiting for the day of the Lord’s return. To wait is a quite distinct kind of activity. It means recognizing that someone else is the prime mover or principal actor. It means admitting that we ourselves are in secondary roles, so secondary that we do not know the time schedule. It means living in patience and hope. This is the spirit of much of the Bible, especially of the Psalms which are such a regular part of traditional public and private prayer. This is the spirit in which the New Testament speaks of breaking the bread and drinking the cup until the Lord comes."
H. Boone Porter, "The End of Advent"  Covenant, 15 Dec. 2016

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Good News from a Far Country

“Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see.”  St. Matthew 11:4

They ran a picture with his obituary in The Washington Post on Tuesday, “Star of the Green Hornet Dies at 82.”  I’d never seen Van Williams, the masked man with his gun pointed at the camera.  His starring role lasted only one season, back in 1966, more than a decade before I was born.  That had been the high point of his acting career, one show that no one really liked as much as Batman.  Williams had played a character here and there after that, and then hung it up to be a deputy sheriff and then a fireman in Southern California.[1]

I’ve read quite a few stories like this lately, as we slowly bid farewell to so many who stepped briefly into the public eye in that great flourishing of popular culture in the decades after World War II.  A few weeks ago, there was a famous dancer who had married a respectable dentist in her early twenties.  He didn’t like the way men looked at her on the stage, and she hung up those satin slippers for decades of ferrying children to music lessons and a hand of bridge once a week at the country club.  There was a man a few months before that who hit 23 home runs one golden summer in the mid-fifties.  He hurt his shoulder, and spent the rest of his life selling insurance in Western Nebraska.

Second acts can be very hard indeed.  Our talents fade.  Public taste is fickle.  The next generation always seems a little more clever and ambitious.  We wonder about the thoughts running through their minds as they watched the stop light and turned over restlessly in bed.  Was it all worth it?  Did I do something wrong?  Who am I now?  What will I do with the rest of my life?

The Story that 'Whispers His Name'

The cover, awash in oranges and blues, with little insets of Bible scenes, will look a little out of place among the serried ranks of prayer books and hymnals in our beautifully renovated church.  That’s purposeful, and if the aesthetics grate a bit for a few of you, I hope you will learn to be patient for all the right reasons.

Because putting a copy of a children’s Bible, perhaps especially a children’s Bible as good as Sally Lloyd-Jones’ The Jesus Storybook Bible in every pew at Saint Francis Church makes a statement about what has been important to us here for a very long time.  We love Jesus.  We want our children to come to know Him also, which is why we welcome them to stand and kneel with us as we worship Him week by week.  We discover Him in His Word, which is above all a story that “whispers His Name,” as this particular Bible’s subtitle has it.