Feb 28, 2010

A New Style of Law

Many people know I am an admirer of Abe Lincoln because of his unorthodox common sense which appeals to the pragmatism I try to carry around with me. Here is a fine story of Lincoln who always seemed to know just what to do to make everyone happy (except for that whole Civil War thing).

Once, back in the late 1830s, a rich man in Springfield, Illinois insisted a poor man owed him $2.50. When it was evident the poor man was not going to pay, the rich man contacted a young lawyer, Abraham Lincoln. At first, Lincoln did not want to take the case. He finally agreed, if the rich man would pay his fee up front . . . $ 10 in cash. The client readily agreed and produced the money.

Then Lincoln went to the poor man and offered him $5 if he would settle the alleged debt. Thus Lincoln received $5 for himself, the poor man got $2.50 and the claim was satisfied. The rich man paid three times the original debt, just to gain satisfaction. The Gospels are clear, Jesus always came to the aid of the poor and the oppressed, such as in the Jerusalem Temple. No wonder he ran into opposition from the religious authorities and the Romans.


Whenever we fail to forgive the debts of others—as God has forgiven us—there will be a price that we pay. Sometimes that price is three times what is necessary only to get our satisfaction. If we could pass along the gifts to others that God has first offered us, just think of what a redeemed world we would inhabit.

During Lent perhaps we might forgive all those measly $2.50 debts people owe us and save ourselves a lot of grief in the process.

Feb 19, 2010

Waiting and Waiting

A great deal of life is simply waiting around for one event or another. In some churches all the talk is about waiting for the Lord’s return. Of course, if one were in the first century, as were those who read Mark’s Gospel, waiting for the final curtain of history to drop was part and parcel of what it meant to believe in Christ. Yet, Luke takes a longer view of the God’s timetable because Luke recognized that God’s time and our timetables may differ somewhat.

We bear in mind that Psalm 90:4 relates about God’s time: “For a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when it is past or like a watch in the night.” Other people too have a perspective on waiting. For example, the late George Carlin, comedian (d. 2008) once quipped: “Some national parks have long waiting lists for camping reservations. When you have to wait a year to sleep next to a tree, something is wrong.” Regardless of what we think about waiting, we all do it.

To be faithful to our task as Christians is to encourage one another in the faith while we wait for the Lord’s return—whenever it may come. My friend Rod Wilmoth: from an unpublished sermon tells us a story about people’s worth and how they spend their time—in the meantime:

There is a story of a king who wanted to honor the greatest subjects in his kingdom. He sent out his advisors, and they found 4 persons to be so honored. The day came for the presentation of the awards. The first man to be honored was a man of great wealth. He was honored because he had used his wealth to benefit so many worthy causes in the kingdom. The second man was a physician. He was honored for his assistance to so many who were ill and dying over the years. The third honoree was a judge. She had acted wisely and carefully in many cases which came before the courts of the land.

The fourth person to be honored stepped forward. She was an elderly woman, bent with age, wearing very plain clothing. “Why are we honoring this woman?” the king asked in some confusion.

Came the reply: “Your majesty, this woman was the teacher of the other three.

The way we spend our waiting time may matter a great deal to God—perhaps?

Feb 12, 2010

What is Ash Wednesday?

On 17 February 2010 we begin the Lenten season of the church year with a liturgical day designated as Ash Wednesday. Whereas Roman Catholics make a great deal of the day, often Protestants let Ash Wednesday go more or less unnoticed. As United Methodists, who stand for all intents and purposes between these two Christian traditions, many UMs observe the day. In some respects it is easy to see why people would avoid Ash Wednesday as it is a day that is all about sin. Here is a situation posed by John Killinger in his sermon titled “Some Notes on Sin in the Modern World.”

It was one of those afternoon talk shows. I happened to be flipping channels and caught it for a moment. Several young people were sitting on the stage, with an audience out front. They were discussing lifestyles. Somebody accused a young woman, who apparently had just confessed to something she was doing, of being a sinner. There was laughter and applause from the audience.

It didn’t flap the young woman. She appeared in high gear. “Does anybody really sin anymore?” she asked. “I mean, here we are living among all these rapists and serial killers and mass-murderers, the shadow of the Holocaust and all those assassinations and terrorists bombings, and everybody’s doing whatever he or she wants to. Does what I do really matter?”

Nobody said anything. It was a big question, and they weren’t sure of the answer. Does it matter what we do anymore in the kind of world we live in (Pulpit Digest, March/April 1998, Logos Productions, St. Paul, MN, p. 35)?

Truly, Killinger has hit upon one of the foremost questions of our time—a question that Ash Wednesday addresses in no uncertain terms.

Come to worship on 17 February 2010 and join us at FUMC in the sanctuary at 7:00 pm for our Ash Wednesday service—and maybe you can see Rev. Estee Valendy shed some light on a dark subject.

Feb 4, 2010

On Being Set Apart

In the midst of our grief and pain over the incredible suffering among the people of Haiti which began almost three and a half weeks ago and will continue for a long time, we are thankful that all the members of our congregation understand the need for compassion. We all know that we cannot do everything, but very few of us can say we cannot do anything. Our generosity toward Haiti and its people is awe-inspiring.

I have had several people seek me out to say a special word of thanks to me for the church’s dedication to missions and outreach. I wish I could take some credit for this but this church has long had a heart for outreach. For example, although some focus has be lessened in our commitment to our sister church in Russia, we nonetheless have a dedicated youth ministry fellowship that is once again collecting blue jeans for our sister church in Svetlaya, Russia. Our youth and their effort were such that every child the church ministers to received a pair of jeans last year. You can help by donating $25 or a new pair of jeans. The youth collections will end this week.

A church of 4900 people—our official end of the year report number—is large enough to have several vital mission projects operating at any given moment. In a most important faith sense this is why “we are in business.” This Sunday we will share a ministry to our older adults in Arlington and how we show them love this coming Valentine’s Day!

In 2009, our church committed to the One Mile Mission, a focus on reaching out to the community within one mile of our church. In 2010, we will “go the second mile” in our mission outreach. Each month, we will focus as an entire church on a project with which everyone can get involved. Look for information about our monthly projects in new and improved (the mini) The Chimes and on our website. Join us as we take our baptism seriously and go the second mile!

PS. Note to those who missed it: to misquote Bob Dylan—“The Chimes, they are a’ changing!” To keep our congregation better informed about the ministries of our church, we will now be publishing on a semi-monthly schedule. In addition, at least for the time being, we will continue to print the large, glossy Chimes on a quarterly basis, near holy-days and other big events. And remember, the national The United Methodist Reporter, is available at the church. It contains news regarding Central Texas Conference and our national church.

 
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