Monday, March 25, 2013

The week that changed the world

I am still getting used to writing a weekly blog, under the watchful eye of JJ, our Communications Director. She assures me that it’s worth doing and that you are actually interested in these ideas rattling in my head. I find that hard to believe; not the part about things bouncing about in my brain, but that folks are actually interested. I must admit the comments about my blog have all been very kind. Truth be told, some are better than the blog!

My blog mentor insists that I keep it both thoughtful and humorous. Easy for her to say, she's not writing them! But it seems to be sound advice. How else could I get away with talking about the importance of Heinz ketchup and the theological implications of Selection Sunday?

This week, however, is different.  No humor that I can see, but there is a lot to think about.

This is the week that changed the world. Oh, it starts out fine enough with a parade into Jerusalem. Lots of cheering from the crowds and waving palm branches.  There’s nothing quite like a parade.

The twist is that it’s all downhill after that. Luke tells us that when Jesus saw the Holy City, he wept over it.   It’s hard to imagine how just seeing a city could do that to you. Of course it wasn’t the city so much as it was the mission he was on for the people he loved. I think that's what got to him, the people he loved. Anything that brings Jesus to tears must be worth my attention.  

And it goes from bad to worse. He upset the tables of the money-changers. He got in the face of the religious leaders. He scolded them and told them they had turned the church into a den a thieves, when it's supposed to be a house of prayer.

It really makes me wonder how Jesus feels about the prayer life of Sardis. Seems as if he’s less interested in activities and more concerned about your spiritual well being.

Well, Jesus doesn’t turn tables over these days. But he still upsets people and turns the world upside down with his outrageous demands.  You know, commandments about forgiving without calculating, loving without keeping score and caring for others, especially those who get the table scraps.

He talks about losing your life in order to save it. Says everyone matters and no one has any room to brag in the church, especially not the clergy type or the pious holier than thou type. There’s nothing worse than hypocrisy, in his book. Then you toss in the notion that the light rail to heaven has nothing to do with how good you are, how long you’ve been a member, the number of diplomas you have framed, the address on your mail box, or the size of your bank account.  Instead he says it all comes down to grace through faith. It’s a gift that no one can earn and no one deserves. No one.

Why, such talk could get you crucified. And it did.   

Monday, March 18, 2013

Selection Sunday

I write my blogs so they are ready to post on Monday mornings, so by the time you read this, everyone will know who is in and who is out in this year’s men’s NCAA basketball tourney. Yesterday was Selection Sunday. 

There is usually general agreement about the top seeds and the traditional top tier teams. Everyone expects to ink in Kansas, Louisville, Indiana and Gonzaga. I like the teams that squeak in and get the last few spots in the bracket. For some of them the invitations are few and far between. I have to wonder which is more exciting–knowing you’re a shoe in, or waiting to hear your name called at the last moment?  

There will be lots of surprises again this year. There always are. That's why they actually play the games! Some Cinderella team will knock off one of the perennial giants, as David once again meets Goliath and…well, you know the rest of the story.

There will be buzzer beaters, causing both heartache and uncontrollable hysteria. I think the writer of Ecclesiastes knew a little about buzzer beaters when he wrote, “Time and chance happen to us all.” Sometimes the ball rims out; sometimes it’s nothing but net.

Then there are the schools that will be wallflowers this year at the big dance, no invitation for them. Not welcomed. They will have to wait for another year and another Selection Sunday.

Wonder what would happen if we had Selection Sunday at Sardis. You know, deciding or selecting who gets in for worship and who is not welcomed. Remember Will Willimon’s comment, “If you are not here on Good Friday, you don’t get in on Easter!”  

You may have noticed the words prominently displayed on our sign.  It reads, “All Are Welcome.” It’s never Selection Sunday at Sardis. No one gets picked to come and worship, while others wait outside. There aren’t any “top seeds” entering the sanctuary. No one has to improve and get better. At Sardis, we really mean all are welcome, in our church and in God’s kingdom.   

One of the most popular times for people to visit or come back to church is on Easter morning. And you probably know some people who would love an invitation to come and experience Sardis this Easter. The music will be stirring and triumphant. The sanctuary will look beautiful and the crowds will be filled with smiling, friendly faces. And we will hear the most glorious news of all–the promise of eternal life.

What if you said to a few acquaintances or friends this week, “Hey! Want to come to church with me on Easter?” It could be just the invitation they’ve been waiting for.

Monday, March 11, 2013

What happens at 2AM?

Have you ever wondered where that lost hour goes when we turn our clocks ahead, like we did Sunday morning at 2AM? And who picked the time of 2AM as the time to spring forward? I don’t know anyone who waits up just to adjust the alarm clock.

This whole thing of turning the clocks ahead started out as a kind of humorous idea. Lexie Rigden says it was the brainchild of Ben Franklin who, with tongue in cheek, wrote to the editor of the Journal of Paris with the idea. Like many concepts, it went into hibernation until 1916 when Germany was the first to “spring forward” during WWI to help cut the cost of fuel. Other countries eventually followed suit. The USA picked up on the notion in 1918, only to repeal the law the next year. It’s been an on again, off again affair ever since.

While the logic of trying to save more daylight seems rational to me, I did wonder about whose hair-brained idea it was to instigate all of this at 2AM. Evidently, it was found to be the least disruptive time for most Americans. By 2AM, everyone was back home for the night. Trains rarely ran at that hour and restaurants and taverns were closed. Sort of makes sense to me now. And to tell you the truth, I can’t remember the last time I was awake at 2AM, except when I had indigestion.   

Well, like it or not, it is Daylight Saving Time. It’s always a good opportunity to take a peek at how we spend our time each day. Here’s a quick inventory:
  1. Do you spend too much time on one part of your life at the expense of others?
  2. Are you taking time to deepen your relationship with God, invest in family, and care for yourself?
  3. Do you find time to serve others who are less fortunate?
  4. Do you feel like your schedule is well-balanced or out of whack?  

The Psalmist says, “Teach us to number our days, that we might apply our hearts unto wisdom.” In other words, it does us all a world of good to pause and reflect on how we spend our time.

It wouldn’t matter if there were 23 or 45 hours in a day, what matters is how we use the hours we are given. Is there one thing you would like to do differently with your time?

Monday, March 4, 2013

In like a lion

A couple of days ago we turned the calendar and welcomed March back into the neighborhood. Feeling a little rusty on March's history, I looked to Wikipedia for some answers.

I was surprised to learn March was the start of the new year until 700BC when Numa Popilius, the second king of Rome, added January and February. Gosh, you think a king would have more important matters on his hands than messing with the calendar.

Named for Mars, the Roman god of war, March was the time of year that war cranked up again. At first I found this quite odd, but then wondered if the warring countries simply made a pact to stop fighting during the harsh winter months. Don't know how well that would work today.

For me, March means none of this. As a child in the north, I often heard that March “came in like a lion and went out like a lamb.” In other words, March ushered in the last of biting cold winds and snowy days. But by month’s end, the lion of winter became the lamb of spring.

March was the season of expectation. Time to put the snow shovel in storage and dust off the golf clubs. It was the season of hope. Robins returned whistling from their summer vacations. Bright yellow daffodils poked their heads through the thawing earth.  

Now that I live in the land of grits, I don’t have to wait for the end of March to see a robin or daffodil.  We have it pretty nice down here.

I also remember March as the month of anticipation. It meant Easter was on the way. Every spring, all six of us kids picked out a new Easter outfit for church. I don’t remember most of my selections, except the year I had my heart set on a Nehru suit. It went out of style as fast as it came in!

What do you like about March? Do you remember buying new clothes for Easter? Did you ever wear an ensemble that would give today’s fashion police a migraine?

What are your expectations and hopes for spring? 

Funny, that expression “Lion and the Lamb” is also biblical. The great hope and expectation that someday, when God’s Kingdom arrives, the Lion and the Lamb will lie down together in peace and love. And that's something we should all work and pray for in every season of life.