In an age of increasing “digitization” (is that a word?) where we are increasing moving away from paper books, I have several treasures and they are books. Books that my father and grandfather once held in their hands, read, highlighted and wrote notes. Mr. Jones Meet the Master was written in 1949 as a record of the sermons of Dr. Peter Marshall compiled by his wife Catherine. Marshall was a Presbyterian minister and the 57th Chaplain of The United States Senate.
On March 31, 1946 he had a heart attack while preaching, but that did not stop his passion to preach the gospel. He died on January 25, 1949. In the book referenced above, these words of Marshall reveal his eloquence with communication:
“When the clock strikes for me, I will not go one minute early, and not one minute late. Until then, there is nothing to fear. I know that the promises of God are true, for they have been fulfilled in my life time and time again. Jesus still teaches and guides and protects and heals and comforts, and still wins our complete trust and our love.
The measure of a life, after all, is not its duration but its donation. How much will you be missed?
What a profound statement and question. Take a moment to hear it again and think about it, The measure of a life, after all, is not its duration but its donation. How much will you be missed?
Marshall’s words and question are relevant for us today. I invite you now to carefully read the words of a prayer he wrote nearly 65 years ago. They seem quite appropriate.
Our Father in Heaven, give us
the long view of our work and our world.
Help us to see that it is better to fail
in a cause that will ultimately succeed
than to succeed in a cause that will ultimately fail.
May thy will be done here, and may Thy program
be carried out, above party and personality,
beyond time and circumstance,
for the good of America and the peace of the world.
Through Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Amen.
Is your life about duration or donation?
Patience with others is love
Patience in situations is hope
Patience waiting on God is faith
I am indebted to my wife Shawn for sharing this story with me.
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For a disciple of Christ everything after ones first awareness of God’s grace is unfinished work.
We will meet God in the storms and trials of life
Just as often as we will meet God in the triumphs and joys
(Words before sermon on Sunday, April 21, 2013)
Following the events of this past week in Boston and West, Texas I would like to offer the comments as a catalyst for a faithful response as we process and try to understand tragic events in our world.
The layers of pain and human response to tragic events often leaves us numb; too often, well intending people offer words in the context of faith which at a simple level can trivialize the pain and at worst exploit others unintentionally.
We can confuse our “cause and effect” world with the reality that some things simply defy human explanation. And at times I suggest that, in attributing things we do not understand to God, we alleviate our responsibility to be ambassadors for the love of Christ, peace- makers, and participants in advocating for the Kingdom of God’s reign in our world today and can mis-re-present God to a broken and hurting world.
Our God is a God of redemption, the One who can redeem, the One who can bring good from bad, life from death, wholeness from brokenness, joy from sadness, laughter from tears and HOPE from Tragedy.
In the face of tragedies, I look first to Scripture and then listen to the wisdom of the saints in the life of the church.
What do we do as people of faith? It is NOT everything, but it must include three things:
1. Trust that God knows our pain
“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18)
2. Have Faith in God when NOTHING makes sense
1 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
3 though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult. (Psalm 46:1)
In varying degrees we let our faith nudge out our fears.
3. Commitment to LIVE and BE Hope
One constancy in Jesus’ teaching was that we should not just talk about the Kingdom God, we participate in it.
When the disciples want to send people away, Jesus says “You give them something,…” (Mt. 14:16) You get involved.
If we Choose, we can be a part of the redeeming love of God in this world – not with trivial answers, but with tangible hope that cries with those who mourn, that walks with those who grieve, that reaches out when those who are wounded are unable to reach back.
In the text for todays’s sermon in a moment you will hear in Acts 9:2 that Saul’s target (prior to his conversion) was “any there who belonged to the Way.” The word in greek for “way” is “hodos”, and it means “a course of conduct in one’s thinking, feeling, and deciding.”
Our “hodos” in life is the way of Christ.
From the wisdom of St. Augustine’s prayer, may we now find strength to be faithful:
God of our life, there are days when the burdens we carry chafe our shoulders and weigh us down; when the road seems dreary and endless, the skies gray and threatening; when our lives have no music in them, and our hearts are lonely, and our souls have lost their courage.
Flood the path with light, we beseech Thee; turn our eyes to where the skies are full of promise; tune our hearts to brave music; give us the sense of comradeship with heroes and saints of every age; and so quicken our spirits that we may be able to encourage the souls of all who journey with us on the road to life, to Thy honor and glory. Amen.
— Augustine, Bishop of Hippo in North Africa (354-430 A.D.) As quoted in “All Will be Well: A Gathering of Healing Prayers”
For inspiration after our wonderful Holy Week and Resurrection Sunday celebrations, may I recommend that we all become a bit more “Crabby”. That’s an odd assertion after Easter, isn’t it? Unless we take a lesson from the world of the crustacean.
Unlike most animals that grow as an entity during their lifespan, crabs, with their hard outer shells, cannot. As we grow as humans, our organs, limbs, and facial features grow right along with us. But a crab’s shell stops growing when it gets to a certain size. Crabs have to shed their outer shell in order to grow a new one. They have to leave the old behind in order to step into something new. This process is called “molting” and the crab can teach us a powerful lesson about growing our faith. Sometimes, in order to grow, we have to leave behind something – or many things.
Crabs instinctively know this truth about life. They know that without letting go of their old shell, they’ll never grow a new one. But we tend to resist change – especially when it involves leaving behind a part of us.
We read in Exodus 13:17 : “When Pharaoh let the people go…” However, if we translate this verse literally from the original Hebrew, we get this: “When Pharaoh sent the people away…” The Hebrew teachers explain that when it finally came time for the Israelites to leave Egypt, they were hesitant to go. Pharaoh had to literally push them out the door!
While we may have assumed that the children of Israel would jump at the chance to escape their lives of slavery and bitterness, they didn’t. Hebrew history teaches that 4 out of every 5 Hebrews – about 2 million Israelites–stayed behind in Egypt! Were they crazy? No. Just afraid. Afraid of change and letting go of the familiar, even if it was slavery.
The reaction of the Israelites to the opportunity for freedom is actually quite natural. As human beings, most of us fear the unknown. But there is something even scarier than the unknown: It’s staying with something – staying in the same place – that we know is not good for us,
The Resurrection Celebration occurs during the Hebrew Passover and in both traditions it is a time for stepping out in faith. It’s a time of letting go of the old in order to make way for the new. It is a time of dying to those habits and behaviors that are “life draining” and embracing Christ’s resurrection in our lives for something new.
Pharaoh let the people go. We need to let ourselves grow! Where are you growing in your faith? Your service? Your discipleship?
If you are having difficulty carrying that resurrection momentum past Easter Sunday, try being a little more “crabby”. You can’t grow and go where God is leading until you let go of where you are.
On the journey of faith with you!
Recognized by the Roman Catholic Church, Jerome (c.347-420) is best known for his work of translating the Biblical text from the Hebrew and Greek into Latin. This translation is known as the Vulgate.
In his commentary on Mark 1 (Letter 125, To Rusticus 7) and the role of John the Baptist as one his the “forerunner” for Christ, Jerome points to the historical pattern of that John the Baptist was following, “Later the spiritual descendants of the prophets, who were the monks of the Old Testament, would build for themselves huts by the waters of the Jordan and forsaking the crowded cities live in these on pottage and wild herbs.”
Jerome then goes on to say something applicable to each of us. The word “cell” below is not your cell phone, but a confined space.
“As long as you are at home, make your cell your paradise, gather there the varied fruits of Scripture, let them be your favorite companions, and take its precepts your heart.”
What do I gather? Who are my companions in my quite time? What do I take to heart?