Wednesday, March 30, 2016
Monday, March 28, 2016
Friday, March 25, 2016
Thursday, March 24, 2016
"On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?” He replied, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.’ ” So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover." - Matthew 26
Tuesday, March 22, 2016
Sunday, March 20, 2016
Monday, March 14, 2016
(Having lived most of my life in Missouri and Kansas, I have always been intrigued by the red-tailed hawk. I remember reading a great article about the hawk some time ago in the Kansas City Star by legendary columnist Charles Gusewelle. I recently happened upon the article, and thought I would share some excerpts from it.)
It is the season of the hawk. The sky pales. Frost burns the prairie grasses, and the north wind coming across the vastness of the Flint Hills sets seed pod rattling dryly on leafless stalk. The surplus of greener time has been drawn down, the land laid bare. All is seen now as if in a photograph of incredible sharpness, but drained of tone. And above that the hawks turn, or frown down motionless from their post-top perches.
Most of us have never looked near at hand into a hawk's eye. Some of us might care not to. But the fierceness of that stare can be imagined. Certainly the small furred things that creep among the grasses can imagine it - though they have never seen it either, and if they do, will see it only once.
Under such a sky, on such a day, with feathered hunters wheeling on the wind, we climb a pitch of prairie barrens and drop down into a fold where trees mark the course of a winding seep, then climb again. Ahead of this crest, other land-waves roll away without evident end.
Except for the hawks, the cattle specks and us, there seems to be no other life in that immensity. We have not walked far, but now the day has gotten lazy. The sun is obscured and the vastness around us becomes briefly a confusion. The hills are alike, and also the tree-bordered rivulets between them. In a word, we are for a moment lost.
Something brown scuttles in the grass at our feet. A vole we guess it to be. Then a prairie chicken takes wing nearby and sails over the lip of the hillside. These are the things we are able to see, on a day when the wither of autumn has laid the country open to our eye.
What then must the hawk see, with their cold and infinitely finer vision? Above us they hang on the wind in their astonishing numbers. No doubt they see the whole pattern of the land, and so are never lost as we are lost. They see the larger objects - three figures walking down a slope and up another and down again, bound on some errand about which hawks are indifferent.
But their purpose is more discriminate. Patiently they turn - for long minutes - for effortless hours. But in an instant the wings fold back, and cowering among the dead sterns, some creature hears the rush of wind and looks a first/last time into hunger's yellow eye.
Hawks rule here, and this is their season. By the pure luck of being an awkward size for a meal, we are able to gain the valley and find the car.
Friday, March 4, 2016
Natural disasters, terror attacks, national tragedies ... they've happened in the past and they will surely happen in the future. What do we do about them? What do they mean? How are we supposed to respond?
That question was on the minds of those who came to Jesus as He was traveling from Galilee to Jerusalem. They came up to Jesus and told Him about a political and religious atrocity, in which Pontius Pilate had taken the blood of some Galileans he had killed and mixed it with the blood of their sacrifices. For the Jews this was an outrage. It was offensive, appalling, disgusting. The people expected Jesus to be outraged as well.
They wanted Jesus to say something bad about the people who died, something bad about Pilate, something bad about Rome. They wanted him to start playing the blame game. But Jesus turned the thing around on them – and made it a call to repentance.
"Do you think these Galileans were worse sinners than the others, because they suffered this way?
What do you think? Do sin and suffering go together, like crime and punishment? Most people of Jesus’ day thought that way. Those who sin should suffer; and those who suffer must have sinned. It’s pretty simple. That’s how Job’s so-called "friends" analyzed Job’s pain and suffering. That’s how the disciples reacted to the man born blind. “Who sinned, this man or his parents?”
After any tragedy, whether man-made or natural, there are always those who will point the finger at all the “sinners” out there who brought this calamity on themselves. It happens whenever there is an earthquake, tornado, hurricane, or disaster. People hear the news or read the headlines and try figure out what God is up to. Why did this happen? Who can we find to blame? People love to play the blame game.
This Galilean incident was a pretty big headline at the time, a hot topic in Jesus day. The people ask Jesus about it because they want to figure out Jesus’ politics, his ambitions, his plans for possibly overthrowing the Romans. What did he think about this? Was God on their side or not? Why did God let this happen?
But Jesus can't be cornered that easily. He answers their question with a question.
"Do you think these Galileans were worse sinners than all the others, because they suffered so?"
“Unless you repent, you will all perish as well." And then He brings up another tragedy from the local headlines. "What about the tower in Siloam that toppled over and killed eighteen people?"
An act of God? A freak accident? Dumb luck? Being at the wrong place at the wrong time?
"Do you think those people were worse sinners than all the others in Jerusalem?” Jesus turns it around on them. “Unless you repent, you will all perish as well."
The proper response to sudden and tragic death, whether it be political, religious, man-made or natural, is always repentance. To repent is to re-think, to re-do, to re-turn, to make a u-turn back to God. And in doing so, to recognize that death, even tragic death, is not the worst thing that could happen to you. The wages of sin is death. That doesn't just mean temporal death - that means eternal death. And unless we repent, we'll be worse off than the Galileans in the temple or the eighteen killed by the tower of Siloam.
One of my seminary professors would always tell us, "don't ask why". Why? Because that's God's business. We aren't in the why business. That's God's job, not ours. He's the judge - not us. What we need to worry about is what we are going to do with what we have been given. “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ, our Lord."
So in the future, when you hear of tragic death on the news, or when disaster hits dangerously close to home, remember there’s only one thing do. Repent. Confess your sins. Seek God’s mercy.