Dec 30, 2016

Happy New Year

Many people know that I am somewhat enamored with Winston Churchill. He was a brave soul during WWII and managed to inspire his nation to hang on until help came against the Nazis.

I subscribe to Churchill’s famous approach to success: “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” He should have known about this as he was both the biggest success and failure in the 20th century. And another great leader from that century, Nelson Mandela, also reminds us, “The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”

The New Year affords us something that we all crave and probably need: the ability to start over. It is a great blessing to start over because it means that all those mistakes from which we were supposed to learn something can be tested. After all, if we have learned something we do want to know if we really learned it. So here we are near the beginning of 2017.  We stare down a new year and hope for the best.

One image of the new year I like best is of the two calendars side by side: the old and the new. One is tattered and torn—covered by coffee spills, smudgy finger-prints, and smeared. The old calendar represents commitments made and kept. Next to the old is the new calendar. Clean with no awkward markings yet—and it represents opportunities that await.

Happy New Year and keep track of where you plan to go!

Come, Worship
Stay, Learn
Go, Serve

Dec 16, 2016

Advent: A Time of Expectation

Advent is a time of expectation and our expectations often set the trajectory of our lives.

Paul was a person that could have been easily disillusioned by life. But Paul was not disillusioned for one reason—he had no illusions about his life or human life in general. This is not to say that Paul did not have ideals—because he did. Rather it is to say that Paul’s sense of truth and reality led him to one certain conclusion. This conclusion is that people without God are as good as dead.

To think that we can live without God is to live with a set of ridiculous expectations. Expectation is a perspective that we bring to human experience. If you have a certain expectation, then you will experience life in a certain way. Everyone has expectations, and those who expect nothing from life have that dour viewpoint as their expectation.

For example, in the 1960s a teacher was given a roster showing the actual IQ test scores of the students of one class, and for another class a roster in which the one column had been (mistakenly) filled in with the students’ locker numbers. The teacher assumed that the locker numbers were the actual IQs of the students when the rosters were posted at the beginning of the semester. After a year it was discovered that in the first class the students with high actual IQ scores had performed better than those with low ones. But in the second class the students with higher locker numbers scored significantly higher than those with lower locker numbers!

What are your expectations for this Christmas and for the new year 2017?

Come, Worship
Stay, Learn
Go, Serve

Our Service of Remembrance & Healing will be held this Sunday, December 18, at 4:00 pm in the Chapel. All are welcome.

Dec 9, 2016

Christmas Culture

In the olden days, Jews and Christians were experts in taking over secular festivals and giving them theological meaning. Pentecost is one such example. People in the ancient world celebrated the festival or feast of the harvest. Yet at some point, Christians and Jews co-opted this secular holiday and turned it into a sacred holy-day. Now, secular culture has co-opted Christmas and made it a secular holiday. Nevertheless, contrary to popular secular belief, Christmas remains, for believers, a religious holiday.

We Christians celebrate the festival of Christmas as a holy day and season. We do so to remind ourselves of the original gift God gave in a manger—the Christ child. Angels, shepherds, and wise ones worshipped this Jesus as the Christ of God. I suppose, in some respects, that the world forgot the original meaning of Christmas and we believers are, to one degree or another, responsible.

After all, if we do not keep the meaning of Christmas alive for our children and the rest of our culture, then who will?

Come, Worship
Stay, Learn
Go, Serve

Don't forget, our annual Christmas Ring and Sing is this Sunday at 5:00 pm in the Great Hall! 

Dec 2, 2016

The Season of Gift Giving

Christmas is the season of gift giving. We spend a great deal of time thinking about gifts, selecting gifts, talking about gifts, and paying for gifts. Even when we wrap gifts, there is deep meaning in the wrapped presentation of our gifts. A Swiss psychiatrist of an earlier generation writes:

This great hunger for gifts is not so much a hunger for pleasure as for affection. People’s need to be loved is universal and limitless; it is of the essence of life. Freudians have amply demonstrated this point. Jean-Paul Sartre, in one of his early writings, states that the thing which counts in human psychology is not the facts but the meaning of those facts, that which they mean to the people involved. The meaning of gifts is in the love that they express, the love both given and received. All people have this need to give their affection and to feel that it is appreciated. All are equally seeking proofs of their being loved, and of feeling that those who love them have great pleasure in this. We do not want a totally impersonal love; it would only be a dry and humiliating act of charity. Mutuality is the very law of love: There is no pleasure in loving unless the other enjoys equally in being loved.

Every person needs to feel that someone is really interested in him or her, her affection, his life, or even in the smallest gift possible. This need is imperative, far more so than most wish to admit. Repeatedly, and in a more or less hidden manner, they are going about begging both for affection and for someone to whom they may, in turn, show affection (Paul Tournier, The Meaning of Gifts, John Knox Press, Atlanta, 1961, pp. 52-53).

Humans need to know that they are loved and they need to show that they love other people. It is this all-too-human motive that stands behind the gifts we give and the gifts we receive. Our relations to other people are the attachments that make us truly human. We need to love others. We need for others to love us. Sometimes life can be boiled down to a philosophy that is just this simple.  

Come, Worship
Stay, Learn

Go, Serve

Don’t forget: Chancel Choir's presentation of Vivaldi's Gloria is in all Sanctuary services this Sunday, and our Children’s Christmas Pageant is also this Sunday, December 4th at 5:00 pm

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