Showing posts with label perspective. Show all posts
Showing posts with label perspective. Show all posts

Monday, April 24, 2017

City in Turmoil


Palm Sunday sermon 2017 based on Matthew 21:1-11. The question was who did the people of Jerusalem understand Jesus to be. That question remains for each and every one of us today.

Monday, October 17, 2016

No Scaredy Cats



Sermon based on 2 Timothy 1:6-10, delivered on October 2, 2016. The letter encourages Timothy to emulate the fearless faith of his mother and grandmother. It's still excellent advice.


Friday, June 10, 2016

Penmanship Epiphany

Years ago, my grade school teacher told me to loosen my grip on my pen if I wanted better penmanship. It has taken me all these years to realize she was asking me to following the often repeated biblical admonition, "Do not be afraid." If I'd just loosen up a bit, trust in the guidance given and tools received, life (and penmanship) would improve markedly. Sure enough, a looser hold on a pen and life brings greater results. However, white knuckling it through writing and life are hard habits to break!

Wishing you all the blessings of a life far freer of fear. 

Give Judging Others a Rest

In this highly charged political season, let's follow some sound advice from Jesus and from theologian Henri Nouwen. Henri Nouwen writes in his devotional, Bread for the Journey,
Essential to the work of reconciliation is a nonjudgmental presence. We are not sent to the world to judge, to condemn, to evaluate, to classify, or to label. When we walk around as if we have to make up our minds about people and tell them what is wrong with them and how they should change, we only create more division. Jesus says it clearly, "Be compassionate just as your Father is compassionate. Do not judge; ... do not condemn; ... forgive." (Luke 6:36-37)
If you have to evaluate, classify, and label, I hope you are in one of the sciences. Otherwise, along with judging and condemning, don't do it, please! Be friendly, be open, be hopeful, and offer a helping hand instead. And forgive others who have not yet learned this lesson and walk a darker, more difficult path. Pray that they will find this better way to live, and soon!  

Saturday, July 25, 2015

LBC Lemonade Sale Success

This morning, volunteers from Lansdowne Baptist Church conducted our first lemonade sale. One of our members handy with tools and wood created a sensational lemonade stand on wheels, complete with an awning and space in the back for an ice cooler. We had both adult and children volunteers who had a terrific time selling lemonade and meeting the community. The weather was ideal and the turnout was great. Many members of our community turned out, curious to see what we were up to.

Several generous people provided donations and asked for nothing in return. The lemonade, both regular and pink, sold out by the time the stand closed up at one in the afternoon.

One of our volunteers said of the experience, "The money we brought in doesn't completely describe the positive experience for our church, our kids, our volunteers, and everyone who supported the event. We met some very nice people, many who stopped by to get lemonade but wound up talking with us and the kids about the church."

I personally want to thank everyone involved who made the day such a success. We are very glad to have met so many people from our local community and look forward to seeing them again soon.


Friday, February 27, 2015

Choosing as Jesus Chose

In Mark 1:40-45, Jesus chose to help a leper, a real outcast in his society, a person others would neither approach nor touch. The man knelt before Jesus in humility and faith, saying, "If you choose, you can make me clean [to have leprosy was to be ritually unclean as well as ill]." Deeply moved by the man’s plight, both his illness and his social isolation, Jesus reached out. Jesus rejected all that society used to separate themselves from this sufferer. Most individuals in Jesus’ day would never have touched a leper, in part because that would have made the person touching the afflicted an unclean outcast as well. Jesus breaks through that isolation, touching this pleading victim. Jesus reached out in sympathy and compassion, something he would do time and again throughout his ministry. I wonder when the last time was that this sufferer had actually received a gentle touch? Jesus responded to the sufferer directly, stating, “I do choose. Be made clean!” The leper became clean.

Today, we Christ followers are supposed to be like Jesus. We too are to reach out to the outcasts of our time, the people who are seen as taboo for one of any number of reasons in our society. We are to choose to love, to help, to heal as we are able. By the way, "Christian" originally meant "little Christs," and was a derogatory name for Jesus' followers given to us by those outside the faith. The name was designed to ostracize us, but we have since made it our own. As the scholars of the Interpreter's Bible wrote, we are to live with "outstretched hands and outstretched lives." Let's choose to be those "little Christs" today and always.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

An Argument for Positive Activity

Dr's Henry Cloud and John Townsend have some wonderful advice in their book Boundaries. Included is this material on attempting to accomplish things, even if we fail. It is well worth taking to heart when considering what new direction God might wish you to go and whether or not to make the effort.
Human beings are responders and initiators ... God will match our effort, but he will never do our work for us. ... He wants us to be assertive and active, seeking and knocking on the door of life. ... The sin God rebukes is not trying and failing, but failing to try. Trying, failing, and trying again is called learning. Failing to try will have no good result; evil will triumph.
God bless you in your efforts. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Life Interrupted





The story of Jesus inviting four fishermen to interrupt their day-to-day lives and follow him instead is instructive for us all. We too are called to interrupt our routines and do things differently. How will we respond?

Saturday, January 17, 2015

New Beginnings





Genesis 1: In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, 2the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.

3Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.5God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

It is amazing the theological depths contained within these five verses and those that follow in Genesis 1-2:4. The sermon begins with a reminder of what is possible when faithful people work together to support those in need in our community. 

Friday, January 9, 2015

Leap of Faith





Here is a suggestion on how to face all the uncertainties of the new year, following Mary's example during the wedding at Cana. Wishing you all a blessed year.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Rejoice Always





The apostle Paul calls you to rejoice this Christmas season, and throughout the year. It's a matter of trust and a defiance of fear. It's also a healthy way to live. Wishing you a blessed Christmas.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Recommended Reading for Clarity


There is a lot of confusion out there today about Christianity and the Bible, where the Bible came from, how it is interpreted, what it has to say about specific topics, and more. Here are a few books that will provide some clarity for the truly curious.

For an introduction to the faith, try:

Nouwen, Henri J.M. Life of the Beloved. Spiritual Living in a Secular World. New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1992.

To come to grips with the powerful love of God for humanity, read:

Nouwen, Henri J.M. The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming. New York: Doubleday, 1994.

To approach the Bible with insight and clarity, the following are suggested:

Brash, Donald J. The Indispensable Guide to God's Word. Cleveland, Ohio: The Pilgrim Press, 2010.
Davis, Ellen F. & Richard B. Hays, eds. The Art of Reading Scripture. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2003.

To better understand where the sixty-six book library of the Bible came from and what a great stretch of time is covered in those books, see:

Lightfoot, Neil R. How We Got the Bible. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 1963, 1988, 2003.

Tackling some of the most challenging passages from the apostle Paul is:

Brauch, Manfred T. Hard Sayings of Paul. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1989.

To understand the complex imagery used in the Bible, and to understand slavery in biblical terms, read:

Ryken, Leland, James C. Wilhoit, and Tremper Longman III, eds. Dictionary of Biblical Imagery: An Encyclopedic Exploration of the Images, Symbols, Motifs, Metaphors, Figures of Speech, and Literary Patterns of the Bible. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press USA, 1998.

To grapple with the relationship of slaves with Christianity in the Antebellum South, read;

Raboteau, Albert J. Slave Religion: The "Invisible Institution" in the Antebellum South. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1978, 2004.

Please see the bibliographies of all of the above sources for additional reference material.

For the history of the American Baptist Churches USA denomination, including our fight against the vile historical institution of slavery in the U.S., read:

http://www.abc-usa.org/what_we_believe/our-history/

To understand how American Baptist Churches USA fights modern day human trafficking (slavery) today, read:

http://www.abc-usa.org/2013/12/12/abhms-endorses-iccrs-statement-against-human-trafficking/

Finally, if you wish to use study Bibles to dig deeper, see:

Coogan, Michael D., ed. The New Oxford Annotated Bible. New Revised Standard Version. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.

Since there are a number of sermons available on this site, if you would like some understanding on what is involved in creating a weekly sermon, read:

Allen, Ronald J. Patterns of Preaching: A Sermon Sampler. St. Louis, Missouri: Chalice Press, 1998.

and

Tizon, Al. Missional Preaching: Engage, Embrace, Transform. Valley Forge, Pennsylvania: Judson Press, 2012.


Saturday, November 1, 2014

Life Application: As You Judge, Matthew 7:1-5



"Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. 2For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. 3Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? 4Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? 5You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.

There are certain kinds of judgements we need to make each and every day. We must judge if the person or people approaching us on the street or in their cars are likely to be safe or not. Is the salesman being honest? Then there's election season ... but let's leave that one alone. Some judgments help us stay safe and navigate the world we live in successfully.

However, all too often we are encouraged by society to be hypercritical of everyone and make snap judgements about people based on ... almost no facts at all, skewed perspectives based on a variety of things including "how it used to be" (which is often viewed through rose-colored glasses ... working with the whole vision metaphor here ... and therefore never was quite that way), or on gossip among other possibilities. Lots of our entertainment today is based on harsh, critical, angry judgment, the very sort of thing we are being warned against in this passage. 

Given this calling from society to play harsh judge, these verses are extremely useful for us today. Jesus calls us not to judge others. We are warned that the way we judge others is the way we will be judged. This is not simply dealing with judgment we face before Jesus at time's end. No, we are warned that in the here and now to judge others harshly will have a serious backlash. Those who judge others the most severely are frequently surprised when they are treated no more generously by those who know them than were the victims of their own harsh assessments. Jesus calls us to steer clear of this trap. It's wonderful advice.

He softens the blow with the wonderful joke about the log in your eye. But there is also a tempering message here. We are to mind our own business, deal with our own flaws, and let others worry about their own specks. It's excellent advice, advice to live by, advice to grow a loving community with if we care to be so countercultural and take it.

Oh, and by the way, "you hypocrite" may well refer to ... according to scholars ... Greek actors for the stage, meaning you are not to act out your faith without really meaning it. An interesting interpretation in this context.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Meditation On Our Limits

In The President's Devotional, by Joshua DuBois, there is a meaningful passage by the Bishop Kenneth Untener from "Prophets of a Future Not Our Own" that reminds us of our limits ... and for whom we work. Bishop Untener wrote:

It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God's work.
Nothing we do is complete, which is another way of saying that the kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the Church's mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
This is what we are about:
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water the seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need future development.
We provide yeast that produces effects beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
an opportunity for God's grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results,
but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders, ministers not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.

What a wonderful, humbling meditation. We are not going to do it all. We can focus on doing our small part well and taking joy in the fact that we were called to do that bit by the master builder. 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Changing Our Names





This is a little experiment we are conducting here at Lansdowne Baptist Church. While personally I hate to see and hear myself recorded like this, I'm putting those preferences aside if video sermons can be of help to others, including members who are away and who cannot leave their homes. This sermon was given prior to recent events but has relevance to all that is going on in that it reminds us of how God sees us and changes our names from the less-than-helpful names the world is so inclined to give us.



I hope you find this helpful. Have a blessed day.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Bible Verses to Live By

For Christians, the Bible is our foundation, the library of books through which God tells us of God's love for us. That love is best expressed through Jesus Christ. We learn about Jesus and what Jesus had to say about God, God's love for humanity, and God's plan for us all best through the books of the Bible. There are great truths to be found among the 66 books of both the Old and New Testament--for the careful reader. There are times in life when certain passages will speak to faithful readers as they never have before and will provide valuable guidance. 

Here are some verses you might find useful: 

Jesus tells us about those who are blessed by God's standards rather than our own: 


Matthew 5:1-12: When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you."
Jesus also reminds us who we should love: 


Matthew 5:43-48: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect."

Jesus states who we should forgive ... and why. Please note here that Jesus used humor to make points for his hearers ... something we worked hard to forget for hundreds of years and are now coming, fortunately, to rediscover and with hope lighten up a bit ourselves.: 

Matthew 7:1-5: Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.  Why do you see the speck in your neighbor's eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, "Let me take the speck out of your eye," while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you can see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor's eye.
Jesus has some sage advice about great wealth: 


Matthew 6:19-21: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

Jesus also has some very useful advice on worry ... which we all struggle to follow with varying degrees of success to be completely honest: 

Matthew 6:25-34: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."
“So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today."
Here is a story of deep faith, in which a Centurion, a soldier of the occupying Roman army, meets Jesus and surprises him with his deep and abiding faith: 


Matthew 8:5-13: When he entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, appealing to him and saying, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, in terrible distress.” And he said to him, “I will come and cure him.” The centurion answered, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only speak the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and the slave does it.” When Jesus heard him, he was amazed and said to those who followed him, “Truly I tell you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith. I tell you, many will come from east and west and will eat with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the heirs of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go; let it be done for you according to your faith.” And the servant was healed in that hour.
Jesus tells us our greatest of all the commandments are based on love ... and in the parable of the Good Samaritan we learn that our neighbor can be anyone, even an enemy:  
Matthew 22:34-40: When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
And finally, for now, from the beautiful language of the Old Testament prophet Isaiah, we are called to work for justice, that we may be the restorers of the streets where we live: 

Isaiah 58:6-12: Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am. If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday. The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail. Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in. 
All of these verses may be applied directly to life in the modern world. Working for justice, having strong faith, freedom from fear and judgment of others, freedom from greed, knowing who we should love, forgive, and accept forgiveness from, and knowing who is blessed by God's standards, all of these things are ours in these few verses. There is a lot more to be had in those 66 books of the Bible, a great deal of which will provide the reader with joy. 

God bless you as you adventure among the Scriptures.  

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Bag Lunch Bible Studies: Wednesdays Noon to 1

If you are in the neighborhood and curious, you are invited to the Lansdowne Baptist Church "bag lunch Bible studies" on Wednesdays between noon and 1 PM, beginning on September 17, 2014. We will be looking at how we can apply the Bible to our lives, making those important connections between Scripture and daily living that add a richness to life.

Our first book to study will be Matthew, which is said to be full of daily life applications. This is a first time experiment for us and we'll be very interested in seeing how it starts and grows.

Bring your lunch with you and come ready to be engaged ... and spiritually fed. We look forward to seeing you there.

Again, classes begin Wednesday, September 17, 2014, at noon. We hope to see you there. You will be most welcome.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Lansdowne, Pennsylvania's, 4th of July Parade


During the march, many groups, many balloons

The DAR prepares in the background

On July 4th, Lansdowne throws a parade for everyone to enjoy. Those marching represent a wide variety of organizations in town, including churches, clubs, Veterans organizations, the DAR, political organizations, school bands, string bands, and more. I caught up with my friend Nancy, the pastor of the Presbyterian church, whose members are involved every year. The were passing out leaflets about the church and Nancy told me they have someone new come to the church every year based on their efforts. I could tell turning out and participating in the parade was important as I moved along the parade route and heard people commenting on Nancy's nice church as they participated.
March prep on the side streets

I was representing Lansdowne Baptist in an informal way this year, walking along the parade route, meeting wonderful people involved in the parade and watching, handing out all the flyers I had about our church, which people readily accepted, and receiving multiple flags from a young member of the boy's swim team, which was handing out American flags to everyone who they could reach in the crowd. I gave each of mine to some person who had been missed, knowing my new friend would soon give me another.

Friends and Presbyterians both represented
It was a wonderful parade, a very civic-minded project, and one for which tropical storm Andrew behaved itself, holding off on rain until the parade was over. Next year, I hope and intend for LBC to formally participate in the parade. We shall see. This is one of those moments when God is calling us all out to be part of the larger community. Right now in the United States, only 51% of churches do that. I'm hoping this friendly turnout and wonderful parade will encourage us to do more ... and to have a positive impact on our community when we do.
Being Philadelphia, we had string bands!

Parading in style!
String band in Hawaiian shirts!
Our 4th of July flyer about LBC
Come join our family. ALL are welcome here!

For a meditation on our freedom from the apostle Paul, see: http://lansdownebaptistchurch.blogspot.com/2014/07/paul-reminds-us-of-our-freedom-always.html


Thursday, April 3, 2014

A Little Perspective When Burning Issues Flare in Churches

There come times in churches and denominations when we end up divided over some "burning issue of the day." To add to the intensity, this issue is often declared "the defining issue of our time!" Arguments over such issues have ended friendships, split churches, and divide denominations. While not all such issues lack long-term import, many can be put into better perspective with the following story from Mr. P.T. Barnum.* He relates a story about what happened in the little New England church where he was raised back in the early 1830s. 

There was but one church or “meeting house” in Bethel, which all attended, sinking all differences of creed in the Presbyterian faith. The old meetinghouse had neither steeple nor bell and was a plain edifice, comfortable enough in summer, but my teeth chatter even now when I think of the dreary, cold, freezing hours we passed in that place in winter. A stove in a meetinghouse in those days would have been a sacrilegious innovation. The sermons were from an hour and one-half to two hours long, and through these the congregation would sit and shiver till they really merited the title the profane gave them of “blue skins.” Some of the women carried a “foot-stove” consisting of a small square tin box in a wooden frame, the sides perforated, and in the interior there was a small square iron dish, which contained a few live coals covered with ashes. These stoves were usually replenished just before meeting time at some neighbor’s near the meetinghouse.  

After many years of shivering and suffering, one of the brethren had the temerity to propose that the church should be warmed with a stove. His impious proposition was voted down by an overwhelming majority. Another year came around, and in November the stove question was again brought up. The excitement was immense. The subject was discussed in the village stores and in the juvenile debate club; it was prayed over in conference, and finally in general “society meeting,” in December, the stove was carried by a majority of one and was introduced into the meetinghouse. On the first Sunday thereafter, two ancient maiden ladies were so oppressed by the dry and heated atmosphere occasioned by the wicked invention, that they fainted away and were carried out into the cool air where they speedily returned to consciousness, especially when they were informed that owing to the lack of two lengths of pipe, no fire had yet been made in the stove. The next Sunday was a bitter cold day, and the stove, filled with well-seasoned hickory, was a great gratification to the many, and displeased only a few.

This was the "burning" issue of the day. Seems silly in hindsight. So many of our burning issues and intense arguments do ... upon reflection and with perspective. Thanks P.T. for that perspective.

*You can find this little gem and many others in The Life of Barnum: World-Renowned Showman.