May 30, 2014

Letting God Help Us Become Better

Jeph Jacques once remarked: “You ought to expect better of people. It encourages you to be a better person yourself.” One of the assumed articles of our faith is that God can take what we are, work with us, and create something in us new and better.

An artist once visited a woman and found her in tears. A handkerchief of exquisite beauty that meant so much to her had been ruined by a drop of indelible ink that fell on it. The artist asked her to let him have the handkerchief, which he returned to her several days later by mail. When she opened the package and looked at her handkerchief she could hardly believe her eyes. The artist, using the inkblot as the basis, had drawn on the handkerchief a design of great beauty with India ink. Now the handkerchief was more valuable and more beautiful than ever.

In strange and mysterious ways, God can take our mistakes, our blunders, our hurts, even our pain, and transform these into sources of beauty and strength. This is good news for me—and

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May 29, 2014

Preaching in Athens

May 25, 2014 - Sanctuary from FUMC of Arlington on Vimeo.

Dr. David N. Mosser's sermon "Preaching in Athens" from May 25, 2014.

Sermon transcript available for download here.


May 23, 2014

On Memorial Day

We all vow to remember the important things in life, but it is very difficult as the story I share proves.

My friend Will Willimon illustrates our high-minded intention of remembering with a story of just how difficult memory is for not only individual people, but whole communities bent on never forgetting. Willimon quotes Luminere, the man who invented motion pictures over one hundred years ago. Concerning the idea that people can immortalize motion on film Luminere said, “Death has been overcome.”

Willimon then goes on to tell a personal story of remembrance as he demonstrates the folly of such thinking:
Traveling in the South of England, our car broke down. While we awaited repairs, I wandered through the yard of the village church. Eventually, I found myself in the cemetery surrounding the church. Over in one corner of the cemetery there was a beautiful, low, brick wall enclosing fifty graves. The grass had nearly choked the plot. A large granite slab, set in the wall, bore the words, “WE SHALL NEVER FORGET YOUR SACRIFICE.”

Here were fifty graves of young men from the ages of seventeen to twenty-five and all from New Zealand. Who were these people and why did they die here, in this little English village, so far from home?

There was no clue at the churchyard as to who they were or the circumstances of their deaths. I wandered down into the village. I found the town’s museum and inquired there. The attendant at the museum told me, “Strange that you should ask, I have no idea, but given a few days I could certainly find out.”

As I was not going to be there a few days, I asked a couple of other people in the town. No one knew. I surmised that they were soldiers who were stationed in this little town during World War I. They were probably victims of the flu epidemic of 1918. And no one knew. The impressive inscription in granite was a lie. We had forgotten their sacrifice. No one could remember (William H. Willimon, from an unpublished sermon, “He Has been Raised,” Duke Chapel, Easter Sunday, 7 April 1996, appeared later in Pulpit Resource, Logos Productions)./

Whether human beings forget or remember is doubtless not our theological and biblical issue today. What is at issue is the fact that God remembers!

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May 16, 2014

Hammer Time!

I came upon this amusing story in Reader’s Digest many years ago.

“While I was sitting in my parked car on the street one day, a young woman in the car ahead came over and asked me if I had a hammer that she could borrow. When I said no, she got one from the man in the car in front of hers. She then deftly proceeded to smash out the vent pane on the side of her car. After returning the hammer, she opened her door, took out the keys, and waved them at us with a triumphant grin.

As she drove away, the fellow who lent her the hammer came over to me and said, ‘If only she had told me what she wanted the hammer for I think I could have helped her. I’m a locksmith.’”

How much do we tend to go through life hammering away at fragile and valuable things we do not understand and cannot solve, when there is power available to us just for the asking? We break and hurt so much in ourselves and in others when, if we would but ask, we could resolve the matter far less painfully.

Jesus once said: “Ask and it shall be given to you.”

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May 9, 2014

What Would You Do?

In our weekly lectionary study we have been studying 1 Peter. Here is an attention-grabbing text for us:
Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you. Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering. And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the power forever and ever. Amen (1 Peter 5:6–11).

Have there been times in your life when you felt that you were in over your head?

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police give all applicants an exam. The exam proposed to the would-be constables a hypothetical situation and what their response might be. He arrives at a gas explosion to find numerous casualties. He notices a drunk driver whom he recognizes as the wife of a senior official. A nearby woman starts to give birth. Someone is drowning in a canal, while a fight breaks out which could result in loss of life and damage. The question: “In a few words, describe what you would do.”

One applicant wrote: “I would remove my uniform and mingle with the crowd.” He was over his head and he knew it.

Sometimes the better part of valor is to recognize our limits and throw ourselves on God’s mercy. For as we read, “God of all grace…will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you.”

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May 2, 2014

A Season of Hope

Easter is not just a day of the liturgical year; it is a season too. As such, this Easter season is a season of hope. Spring has sprung and everything is now in its fullest bloom. Faith too offers hope to a world mired in despair. Are you part of the problem—or part of the solution?

I have a friend who was pastor of a rural church in Red Oak, Texas, for four years long ago. After about two years as a pastor in this community, he noticed each time he celebrated a funeral, three older women in the village would attend. His curiosity was triggered when they attended a funeral of a man, nearly a hundred years old, who had not lived in the community for many, many years. So he asked them, “Why do you three attend every funeral I preach in the Red Oak Funeral Home?”

They replied: “We never hear preachers talk about hope, except at funerals and we are old now. We need hope every week and that is why we come.”

If we were better at describing our common lives, we might say something similar. Life, even in its most ordinary guises, is difficult. To live life abundantly, we need words of hope. This is especially true when life disappoints and crushes. Experience has taught us that, if we live long enough there will be moments when our response to life will waver between hope and despair.

Easter is the time to share the hope God offers us in Christ. Please: share away.

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