Aug 29, 2014

Labor Day 2014

The late Rev. John Claypool (d. 3 September 2005) reminds us on this Labor Day: “When we offer up our daily work to the glory of God and the benefit of our families and communities, we proceed to play our roles in the daily struggle to make God more visible in the world and bring God’s realm into fuller realization.”

Labor Day is a day to celebrate the work we do in the world. Often, our work is one of the ways we define our lives and thereby celebrate our lives. I suggest that this week and in preparation for Holy Worship of God Almighty that we employ the following prayer from Reinhold Niebuhr, who offered it up to God and for us:
O God, you have bound us together in this life.
Give us grace to understand how our lives depend
on the courage, the industry, the honesty,
and the integrity of all who labor.
May we be mindful of their needs, grateful for their faithfulness,
and faithful in our responsibilities to them;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
May this Labor Day be a day of thanksgiving for our honest work in God’s Realm.

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Aug 22, 2014

The Intuitive Mind

School begins for all of us soon! It is curious but only those who have suffered under all the teaching and reading and instruction are in a position to appreciate the gift of a good education. I recently re-read a quote I copied from Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes:

You have to study and learn so that you can make up your own mind about history and everything else, but you can’t make up an empty mind. Stock your mind, stock your mind. It is your house of treasure and no one in the world can interfere with it. If you won the Irish sweepstakes and bought a house that needed furniture, would you fill it with bits and pieces of rubbish? Your mind is your house and if you fill it with rubbish . . . it will rot in your head. You might be poor, your shoes might be broken, but your mind is a palace.

I have always been a great advocate for education. But there are people who are formally uneducated who have a deep understanding of reality that defies education. I know people who have only finished 3rd grade, but have a unique kind of wisdom that one cannot get in a classroom.

There is a kind of learning that is more important than factual knowledge, as important as facts may be in the grand scheme of things. There is a kind of learning that is more essential than the frailty of human reasoning, as important as reasoning may be. It does not defy reason; it confounds—because it surpasses it. It is akin to faith; it resembles insight, and approaches intuition. Many years ago, I heard William Muehl, professor at Yale tell a story that says it well.

Back in the days when New Bedford, Massachusetts was a major seaport, scores of ships involved in the whaling industry went out from there each year. They often spent years away from their home base. Of all the captains made famous for their seamanship, none were more highly regarded than Elieasar Hull. He went out farther, stayed out longer, brought back more whale oil, and lost fewer men than anyone. When asked to explain his almost uncanny gift of navigation, Captain Hull would answer, “Oh, I just go up on the deck, I listen to the wind in the rigging, I get the drift of the sea, I take a long look at the stars, and then I set my course.”
Times changed as they always do, and the owners of Captain Hull’s vessel were informed that the insurance underwriters would no longer agree to cover a vessel that did not carry a formally trained and certified navigator. They were then confronted with the problem of how to break the news to Captain Hull. He must either sign on some young up-start fresh out of school, or go to navigation school himself. When they broke this news to Captain Hull he greeted the announcement with no particular emotion. He said he had always been curious about this new-fangled business of scientific navigation, and he would be glad to have a chance to study it. At the expense of the company, he went to navigation school and he graduated at the top of his class. Then he shipped out for two years.

The day Captain Hull returned to port after this first voyage, half of the population of New Bedford was on the docks to greet him. The first question asked was how he had liked the experience of navigating by scientific means. He said, “It was wonderful. I don’t know how I have gotten on without it all of these years. Whenever I want to know my location and how to get where I want to go, I go into my cabin, get out my charts and tables, and work the proper equations, and after about an hour I set my course with scientific precision. THEN I GO UP ON THE DECK AND I LISTEN TO THE WIND IN THE RIGGING, I GET THE DRIFT OF THE SEA, I TAKE A LONG LOOK AT THE STARS, AND THEN GO BACK AND CORRECT MY COURSE FOR ERRORS IN COMPUTATION.”
If we do not know about the wind in the rigging, the drift of the sea, and the long look at the stars, we suffer a kind of ignorance that no amount of education can cure. So let’s do our homework but never forget the marvel of God’s world.

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Aug 15, 2014

Haunting Stories

My friend and a person who has preached here at FUMC of Arlington in the past, Tom Butts, pastor emeritus in Monroeville, AL, has written a thought-provoking article. This story is for people like us who need to be reminded that what we do as a faith community is so important. Our common life on behalf of others is why God keeps us in business. Please study Dr. Butts’ words:
It has been said that we never get over what happens to us at home. That can be good or bad. One of my friends told me a story I’ve never been able to forget. There was a little boy in Shreveport, LA, who was causing all kinds of problems at the First United Methodist Church. He lived in one of the run-down neighborhoods nearby. He was always getting into cars in the parking lot or managing to slip into the church late at night. But no one could catch him, although they had a pretty good idea who he was.

One evening Dr. D. L. Dykes, senior minister at the time, happened to be walking in one of the darkened halls. This little boy came scampering around the corner just at that moment and ran right into Dr. Dykes’ arms. He tried and tried to wriggle loose, but Dr. Dykes held onto him tightly and wouldn’t let him go. Finally, the boy gave up. He was only 8 years old, and he had no clothes on except an old pair of faded jeans—no shirt, no shoes, no socks.

Dr. Dykes decided to take the boy back to his home—not to the police station, not to the juvenile authorities, but back to the child’s home a block or two away. When they pulled up in front of the house the boy’s father was sitting in a rocking chair on the front porch. When he saw D. L. and his son walking up to the house he bounded out of his chair and came running right at the two of them. And when he got there the father swung at the child and slapped him across the ear. Then the father yelled at his son, "What in the blankety-blank have you done now?" Out of breath, he turned to Dr. Dykes and said, "I’m sorry, mister, for whatever he’s done. I’ve tried everything. I don’t know what on earth to do with that boy. I try to beat some sense into him every night, but it doesn’t seem to do any good!"

This reminded me of an experience of a young minister who was assigned to a downtown church. Trying to make the best of the situation the young man developed a program for inner city children. There were games; there was food after school, Bible stories, and singing. Forty-five, fifty, sixty children every day, games, food, fun, singing, and Bible study.

A mother came and said to the young minister, "Are you the one running this program?"

"Yes, ma’am."

"My son’s in this program."

"Well, we’re glad to have him. We’re having a good time. I hope he’s having a good time."

"Well, he can play the games, and he can eat the food, but I don’t want him listening to any of those stories."

"We just get them out of the Bible. They’re just Bible stories."

"Well, I don’t want him listening to any of those stories."

"Why? We’re not trying to indoctrinate him. We’re just telling Bible stories."

"He’s gotten to where he’s coming home now, thinking he’s as good as anybody in Kansas City, and you’re setting him up for bitter disappointment. I don’t want him to hear those stories anymore."

Dr. Butts concluded by writing: “Some stories haunt me. I hope they haunt you also!”

We as a church address the long-term problems that people acquired as children and never outgrew. No wonder we need God to help us in our ministry.

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Aug 14, 2014

All Star Wrestling

August 3, 2014 - Sanctuary from FUMC of Arlington on Vimeo.

Dr. David N. Mosser's sermon "All Star Wrestling" from August 3, 2014.

Sermon transcript available for download here.


Aug 8, 2014

The Truth Will Set you Free

We rarely see the people behind the spectacular accomplishments of others. For every one of our successes, there are people behind the scenes helping us accomplish great things. In the summer of 1989, Mark Wellman, a paraplegic, gained national recognition by climbing the sheer granite face of California’s El Capitan in Yosemite National Park.  

On the seventh and final day of his climb, the headlines of The Fresno Bee read SHOWING A WILL OF GRANITE. Accompanying the headline was a photo of Mike Corbett carrying his climbing companion Mark Wellman on his shoulders. A subtitle said, PARAPLEGIC AND PARTNER PROVE NO WALL IS TOO HIGH TO SCALE.

What many people did not know is that Mike Corbett scaled the face of El Capitan three times in order to help Mark Wellman pull himself up once.

Our task as the church is to help someone challenged by life to become a success. We need not worry about recognition, because God sees all and knows all.

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Aug 5, 2014

Too Many Wives

July 27, 2014 - Sanctuary from FUMC of Arlington on Vimeo.

Dr. David N. Mosser's sermon "Too Many Wives" from July 27, 2014.

Sermon transcript available for download here.


Aug 1, 2014

Good Things in Small Packages

In 1947, the University of Chicago scheduled Professor Chandrasekhar to teach an advanced seminar in astrophysics. At the time, Chandrasekhar lived in Wisconsin, doing research at the Yerkes astronomical observatory. He planned to commute twice a week for the class, held during the harsh winter months.

Registration for the seminar, however, fell far below expectations. Only two students signed up for the class. People expected Dr. Chandrasekhar to cancel, lest he waste his time. But for the sake of two students, he taught the class, commuting 100 miles round trip through backcountry roads in the dead of winter.

His students, Chen Ning Yang and Tsung-Dao Lee, did their homework. Ten years later, in 1957, they both won the Nobel Prize for physics, and so did Dr. Chandrasekhar in 1983.

For effective teachers, there is no such thing as a small class. Remember no matter the size, what we do is important in some small ways—perhaps we can contribute to God’s bringing in the Kingdom—if we remember the little things.

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