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Palm Sunday in Exile
Today is Palm Sunday of 2020 – a day that is marked by great rejoicing and, inevitably, great sorrow and fear. In this year of 2020, we experience sorrow and fear in our separations and isolations; yet we can rejoice in our spiritual connection through worship,...
Another week in exile! For people who are normally busy with good works and occupations, the exile is not normal! We find ourselves immobilized, inert, and certainly bored!! The joy of “unexpected vacation” is certainly hampered by fear and uncertainty. Yet, the certainty of the festival of Easter and the confidence that comes through our faith in an all-loving God helps to ease the burden.
London is a city rich in history. You can live into a long history of a great nation just by touring around the streets of London: places like Westminster Abbey, the Tower of London, the Houses of Parliament, and the, mostly neglected, Cabinet War Rooms which served so vitally during the second World War. Being in London is like traveling in time.
Here’s a quotation I came across. It speaks to us as we continue our exile in this most joyous of seasons. The quotation is by Frederick B. Speakman, and I have no idea who he is! But, I like what he says: “Easter is no time for argument. Lilies don’t argue: they bloom. Springtime doesn’t argue: it comes. Music doesn’t argue: it sings. Love doesn’t argue: it outlives our griefs.”
These days, who cannot identify with the words of the spiritual: Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen? Almost everyone can state personal stories of pain, rejection, sorrow, and inconvenience.
Have you ever sat in church on a Sunday morning (remember when we could do that?) and listening to a familiar Bible story being read, for instance, of Jesus healing the leper? You have heard the story many times before and you believe that it is true. But, while you are in worship, your good friend is hanging by a thread in a local hospital dying of cancer. Fear and anxiety fill your heart and, although your mind believes that Jesus had the power to heal your loved one, your heart is blinded by the seeming reality of impending death.
By the Waters of Babylon –Ps 137:1 [Tomorrow is the Feast of the Ascension of Jesus – read Acts 1:1-11] Acts 1:10-11: Two men dressed in white said, “Galileans, why are you standing there looking up at the sky?” Those two verses remind me of a popular schoolboy...
Not too long ago, a famous aerial acrobat suffered a bad fall from his high trapeze. He barely escaped death. Later, in an interview, he said that as soon as his bones mended, he would be back up in the air again.
When each of my children was born in England, the hospital gave every new father a set of things to think about. Let me quote them here and see if they resonate.
There was once a teacher whose job it was to visit children in a big hospital and help them keep up with their lessons. When she was given the name and room number of one particular boy, she first called his regular teacher and learned that his class was studying nouns and verbs.
When I was young, I would go to my grandmother’s house and eat the grapes growing in her backyard. Of course, most of the time, they were not ripe and very, very sour. I could never quite figure out that they were only good to eat in the fall, so, all summer I would try every time I was there to see if they were ripe yet, and they usually weren’t.
The Church is in turbulence; this is not news to anybody. Its turbulence is more acute now that we are separated by a quarantine. Maybe the following will help. It is by an anonymous author and appeared in the “Church Times” (England) about twenty-five years ago.
There’s a scene in the classic 1962 film, To Kill a Mockingbird, when Atticus Finch, the defense attorney played by Gregory Peck, gets word that a mob is planning to storm the jail the night before the trial. The plan is to lynch Atticus’s client, a black falsely accused of lynching a white woman. Atticus Finch calmly takes a floor lamp from his living room, goes down to the jail, hauls a chair from the sheriff’s office out onto the porch of the jailhouse, and sets himself up there for the night.
In 1977, a quiet and traditional Roman Catholic priest named Oscar Romero was consecrated Archbishop of San Salvador. The country of El Salvador was in turmoil at the time, with leaders committing government-sanctioned murders. Initially, the government authorities considered Romero to be a safe bet for Archbishop, but their killings began to affect Romero deeply. He sympathized with the priests who were aligned with the poor people of the country. Many of his priests, and ultimately Romero himself, considered the Church to be among the people but surrounded by wolves.
As we enter yet another month of necessary, but uncomfortable, isolation, I wonder about the solidarity of our church communities.
One day, two monks were walking through the countryside. They were on their way to a neighboring village to help harvest the crops. As they walked, they spied a very old woman sitting on the side of the river. She was upset because there was no bridge, and she could not get across the river on her own.
Exile Twenty One
Two men were walking along a crowded city sidewalk. Suddenly, one of the men remarked, “Listen to the lovely sound of that cricket!!” The friend walking alongside him could not hear the cricket sound at all.
Exile Twenty Two
It was either a bold gesture of courage or an act of supreme foolishness. The occasion was the state funeral of Leonid Brezhnev, the leader of the Soviet Union.
Exile Twenty Two
For anyone who wants to grow spiritually, I highly recommend anything written by Clive Staples (C.S.) Lewis. Lewis’ is a real story of Christian growth – from his university atheism, through several life tragedies, through to real spiritual leadership in the Church of England. I would recommend anything by Lewis but especially recommend Mere Christianity. Here is a piece from Lewis’ Mere Christianity about Love.
Exile Twenty Three
An old friend of mine, from seminary days, tells about a time, years ago, when he was in a horrible car accident. His car was totaled, and when he woke up for the first time days after the crash; he was in a hospital bed in a strange hospital. There was no one in the room as he woke so he felt himself over gingerly to see if there were any injuries.
Exile Twenty Four
Most people know about the folk hero, Johnny Appleseed, who moved across the heartland of America during the early western expansion of the frontier. He became famous for scattering seeds as he walked, planting apple trees everywhere he traveled.
Exile Twenty Five
The news has been full of tributes to Ruth Bader Ginsburg, of blessed memory. Some of the best tributes to RBG are through the words she said over a long career of wisdom and caring. One quotation stood out to me this past week, and I want to share it and reflect on it.
Exile Twenty Six
Kate Bowler was a professor at Duke Divinity School in Raleigh - Durham, North Carolina. In the early days of her career as a professor, she was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer. Her last book, Everything Happens for a Reason and Other Lies I’ve Loved dealt with her cancer and the reactions she received from the people around her.
Exile Twenty Seven
Consider two men, born decades apart, who both were significantly changed after meeting Jesus and devoting themselves to him. C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) grew up in the Church of England but, by the age of 15, decided he was an atheist, mostly because of God’s silence and the ineffectiveness of his prayers to prevent his mother’s death when he was 10.
Exile Twenty Eight
A mission team from an Ohio church came to help us right after Katrina went away. Among other things, they helped build a house for a low-income family up in Delisle. When they arrived, they found that the concrete footer for the house had been poured the previous week by another work crew.
Exile Twenty Nine
A comment made at Bible Study last Monday reminded me both of a line from Matthew’s gospel, and then a story I heard many years ago. The comment was (loosely quoted), “How you spend your money shows what is important to you.” And the line from Matthew: Do not store up for yourselves treasure on earth.”
Corrie ten Boom was a woman who, during World War II, worked with the Dutch underground. Corrie, her sister Betsie, and their elderly father were all Christians. Because they were Christian, they felt that they should help all those who came to their door fleeing from the Nazi terror.
Exile Thirty One
Going to church on Sunday morning – it’s a habit for many people. Is it so much a habit that it becomes unreal? Are the rote and routine so familiar that what we hear and say in Church is kind of unreal to us? Can we restore the feeling that every encounter with God in Church is new every morning?
Exile Thirty Two Part 1
The year 1991 was a very good year for former President George Bush. He faced a very difficult situation when Iraq invaded Kuwait. He promised to free Kuwait one way or another, using sanctions first, and if they failed, he told Saddam Hussein force would be used. We know what happened next. Using an unlikely military coalition, the allied troops routed Iraq’s army in short order, and Kuwait was liberated.
Exile Thirty Two Part 2
Several years ago, a Twilight Zone episode portrayed a man who led a shallow, careless life. He managed to live it up all the time. He took advantage of others, engaged in all kinds of wickedness, and only cared about riches and satisfaction for himself. He knew he was lost and had accepted that when he died, he would end up in a less than acceptable place.
Exile Thirty Three
Each of us has fingerprints that differ from all the other billions on the earth. Our talents are unique in such a way that if we could measure and code them, we would find them as different as our fingerprints.
Exile Thirty Four
Some signs and symptoms of Advent...
Exile Thirty Six
What follows is a repeat of last week’s message, which mysteriously got lost in the ether and did not get to most of you. But, before that, let’s celebrate the fact that this Advent has brought us special blessings and new hope for the future.
Exile Thirty Seven and a Half
Tom was fourteen years old and big for his age – physically. But mentally he was about four – severely, educationally impaired. Nevertheless, he had faithfully attended Sunday School for practically all of his fourteen years. Tom was certain about one thing, and that was that Jesus was his Savior.
Exile Thirty Eight
Go back and read last Sunday’s Old Testament lesson (Isaiah 61:10 – 62:3), which is important as we try and understand the miracle of the birth of Jesus in this season of an international pandemic.
Exile Thirty Nine
Today is January 6th – the traditional Feast of the Epiphany. The Church in the Orthodox world celebrates this day in a Christmas fashion – family gatherings, presents, telling of stories, feast-food. For the rest of us, Epiphany marks the end of the twelve days of Christmas.
I am sure that the other disciples resented Thomas. This time, after Jesus’ death and resurrection, wasn’t the first time that Thomas’ candid honesty had irritated the other disciples. At the Last Supper, Thomas had asked Jesus, “Lord, we do not know where you are going, how can we know the way?” The other apostles probably resented the question as uninspired and very poorly timed.
2 Easter Exile
I am sure that the other disciples resented Thomas. This time, after Jesus’ death and resurrection, wasn’t the first time that Thomas’ candid honesty had irritated the other disciples.
3 Easter Exile
This is the Sunday when the story of the risen Jesus meeting some of his disciples on the road to Emmaus is to be read. It is difficult to put ourselves into the chaos that must have confused those disciples. So, today, in the midst of our own chaos and exile, perhaps we can seek to find some peace in the confusion.