Friday, January 12, 2018
Tuesday, September 5, 2017
Sermon delivered on September 3, 2017, exploring the scripture Luke 18:1-8. This sermon reminds us we must be as persistent as the widow seeking justice from a corrupt judge. See how prayer plays into that persistence and what it has to do with us in this day and age.
As time was limited, we didn't get into some of the other ways Christians are working for justice. We prayed for and provided guidance to all interested in helping the survivors of Hurricane Harvey during our announcements and pastoral prayer time.
For another perspective on persistence, see: https://lansdownebaptistchurch.blogspot.com/2017/08/persistence-is-key.html
Sunday, August 13, 2017
Courage is an inner resolution to go forward despite obstacles.Cowardice is submissive surrender to circumstances.Courage breeds creativity; Cowardice represses fear and is mastered by it.Cowardice asks the question, is it safe?Expediency ask the question, is it politic?Vanity asks the question, is it popular?But, conscience ask the question, is it right? And there comes a time when we must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but one must take it because it is right.”
Saturday, February 18, 2017
Sermon based on Matthew 5:13-20, encouraging Jesus' disciples and us to not hide our faith away, but share it, being salt and light, savor and illumination, willing to mix into the culture in positive ways. Sermon delivered February 5, 2017.
Monday, November 7, 2016
Sermon based on Matthew 22:36-40, the greatest commandments. No matter the situation (even in a contentious election season), Christians are called to love God and neighbor. Doing so transforms the lives of those who attempt this very tall order and those who are on the receiving end of that love. Give it a try. Jesus challenges you to do so.
Thursday, October 20, 2016
Monday, June 20, 2016
A few highlights:
We offer our deepest sympathy to the families and friends of the victims of the horrible tragedy in Orlando. We extend love to those of our family directly affected. We grieve with our American Baptist brothers and sisters who are part of the LGBTQ community. My message to them is, never mistake our debates and disagreements with the depth of our love for you as part of our family. To the rest of the ABC family my message is, even in the midst of profound disagreement, let us love as Christ loved.
~Interim General Secretary Dr. Susan Gillies
Following Gillies remarks, Rev. Judy Fackenthal said, “As President of ABCUSA, I concur with Interim General Secretary Susan Gillies that any act of violence against any part of the human family is fully outside the vision of God’s gracious love for all people. While American Baptists may not agree on a wide variety of issues, we claim God’s love as a just and all-encompassing love. I pray for the people of Orlando, particularly the LGBTQ community as well as the Hispanic community that has been particularly affected by this horrific violence. May we work together to seek to end hate and the outcomes associated with it.”
“The events of last week hurt me deeply, as a Christian, Baptist and as a Puerto Rican,” said Dr. Josue D. Gómez-Menéndez, vice president of ABC. “At this time I would like to express my solidarity with all the people who are suffering from the effects of violence, misconceptions and separation. In the end what we discover in the depth of love is that we find our essence and human reality, our claim to the dignity of the human being and our real choice to reflect Jesus in every step.”
Friday, June 19, 2015
Our is the pain of constantly pitching our tent and folding it up again, of befriending strangers and bidding them goodbye, of loving the world but never truly being satisfied with it, of pouring our heart and soul into a project others have begun and still others will finish. If we would not be torn in two by the tensions of this truth, we must learn to live provisionally--to measure the road well. We need to make the most of the occasions when we gather by the roadside to break bread together and compare directions. Joy must be discovered in the going as we never really arrive, not even in a lifetime.Wishing you many happy occasions to gather along the roadside, break bread, and compare directions and much joy in the going.
God bless you all.
Saturday, February 21, 2015
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
Faith is a living, daring confidence in God's grace, so sure and certain that a [person] stakes life on it a thousand times.
Faith is taking the first step, even when you don't see the whole staircase.
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.
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?
Friday, October 3, 2014
“Debate is about humiliating your opponent. Dialogue is about inviting your friend into conversation. Jesus was a master dialogist. He didn’t use power to overcome; he used kindness to overwhelm. To dialogue successfully, listening trumps talk and reflection trumps reactivity.”
Jesus, the master dialogist, said, “Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.”
“Never spend time arguing with a fool—because from a distance people can’t tell who’s who.”
Friday, September 26, 2014
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, September 4, 2014
The same God who knit us together in our mother's womb, who formed our emotions and character and innate worth, who orchestrated our lives up until this point--that God placed us where we are today. In our jobs, in our families, in this place.*
There are some moments when the light of that purpose burns clear and bright but others when we can barely discern it through the fog. Regardless, we must work "as working for the Lord." Serving a heavenly Christ, even through our earthly tasks.
*While this is generally true, if you should find yourself in an evil place among those who would harm you, that is not God's doing. God is never the author of evil and you should strive for freedom from that harm.
Thursday, August 21, 2014
I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial "outside agitator" idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.
You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city's white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative.
In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self purification; and direct action. We have gone through all these steps in Birmingham. There can be no gainsaying the fact that racial injustice engulfs this community. Birmingham is probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States. Its ugly record of brutality is widely known. Negroes have experienced grossly unjust treatment in the courts. There have been more unsolved bombings of Negro homes and churches in Birmingham than in any other city in the nation. These are the hard, brutal facts of the case. On the basis of these conditions, Negro leaders sought to negotiate with the city fathers. But the latter consistently refused to engage in good faith negotiation.
We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was "well timed" in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word "Wait!" It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This "Wait" has almost always meant "Never." We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that "justice too long delayed is justice denied."
The bold, italics, and underlining are mine. The statement is Rev. Dr. King's. The truth is timeless. Justice too long delayed is justice denied. When militarized police take to the streets and point their weapons at unarmed citizens, including children, it is time to act. When peaceful protesters are interlaced with those who would loot stores and throw Molotov cocktails, it is time to act. When a pastor praying in the streets is shot with a rubber bullet for promoting peace, it is time to act. When one protester shoots another as a night descends into chaos, it is time to act. Justice must not be delayed ... and denied.
As Rev. Dr. James McJunkin, Jr. quoted, the Apostle Paul writes, if one part suffers, every part suffers with it. (1st Corinthians 12:26)
Read the entire letter from Rev. Dr. King, Jr. for yourself at: http://www.africa.upenn.edu/Articles_Gen/Letter_Birmingham.html
For related posts, see: http://lansdownebaptistchurch.blogspot.com/2014/08/philadelphia-baptist-association.html, http://lansdownebaptistchurch.blogspot.com/2014/08/actively-working-to-end-violence.html, and http://lansdownebaptistchurch.blogspot.com/2014/08/changing-our-names.html
Thursday, July 31, 2014
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:Jesus also reminds us who we should love:
“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."
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.:
Jesus has some sage advice about great wealth:
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.
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."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:
“So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today."
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.
Thursday, July 3, 2014
Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of—throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.Will you follow where God would lead you today? Will you place your faith in the one who loves you best and wants to transform you in ways you never expected? I hope you will. I invite you to give it a try. A lot of time, effort, sacrifice, and pain will come ... but, oh, the places you'll go, the things you'll do, and the joy you'll experience ... if you place your faith in God.
Thursday, April 3, 2014
You become conscious that you were sent here for just a short time, for twenty, forty, or eighty years, to discover and believe that you are a beloved child of God. The length of time doesn’t matter. You are sent into this world to believe in yourself as God’s chosen one and then to help your brothers and sisters know that they also are beloved sons and daughters of God who belong together. You’re sent into this world to be a people of reconciliation. You are sent to heal, to break down the walls between you and your neighbors, locally, nationally, and globally. Before all the distinctions, the separations, and the walls built on foundations of fear, there was unity in the mind and heart of God. Out of that unity, you are sent into this world for a little while to claim that you and every other human being belongs to that same God of Love who lives from eternity to eternity.Will you accept that you are so loved by God? If you really, truly believe that you are beloved by God, will you also let others know they are equally loved and sought by God? This could be the ongoing project of your life.
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.