Pealing the Hour

Grandfather Clock

Matthew 24:36: “About that day (of Jesus’ return )or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”

 I don’t know if you’ve ever owned or been around a grandfather clock that chimes the hour. We’ve had one for a long time. It’s a beautiful instrument, with a cherry case and a cool dial that shows the phases of the moon. I’m not sure what to do with a knowledge of the moon’s phases, but it’s there if I need it. I stopped wearing a watch a while back, but found I can tell the hour from the chimes, which I can hear all over the house. (The clock can chime on the quarter hour as well, but we only use the hourly chime. There’s such a thing as too much chiming.)

When we first brought the clock into the house and I heard it chime for the first time, I was impressed by the full, rich sound. I thought the chimes would be metal tubes about an inch and a half in diameter and three or four feet long at most. When I looked into the back of the clock, I was surprised to find that the chimes were not tubes, but rather metal rods the diameter of a pencil, and eighteen inches long.. When struck, they reverberated in the hollow body of the clock, which amplified and reinforced the sound. I realized then that even if the clock maker wanted to use tubes, there wouldn’t have been room. It’s all a matter of reverberation, echoes and overtones.

I was thinking that we as Christians are like the rods in our clock. By ourselves, we aren’t much, but if God is present in our lives, we can call on the power of God to accomplish God’s will and do great things. Our good deeds and loving attitude can ring out like chimes, letting the world know that God is great and God is love. Thanks be to God for multiplying our efforts and allowing us to ring out the Good News wherever we are and wherever we may go. Amen.

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Losing the Lockers

High School Lockers

Look quickly–these may be gone soon!

Matthew 28:20: “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

I don’t know if you’ve heard about what has happened to lockers in high schools across the country. They have not been lost, as my title might suggest. Rather, they’re being ignored. High school students are not stopping by their lockers to get what they need for their next class. Instead, they are carrying backpacks filled with everything they will need the entire school day. The Post article I read about this said they look like Sherpas overburdened with supplies on their back, toiling across snow fields or, in this case, up and down the halls at schools.

While some students say that it’s difficult to go by their lockers and get to class on time since some schools are so large, but some of the overburdened students are paying the price with back problems. They’re also missing the opportunity to see other students between classes, share gossip, put notes into the locker vents, ask someone to prom, check each other out and fight one other. Believe me, I know about that. And I wonder what effect not being able to spend a little time talking to each other at their lockers will have on students and schools. That remains to be seen.

Students take everything with them because what they need to do their work has become smaller. Imagine trying to stuff an ENIAC computer into a backpack. You couldn’t, because it filled a large room. A smart phone is, of course, much, much smaller and can do everything an ENIAC could. It has 1300 times the computing power of the earlier machine.

As I was thinking of students making their nomadic way around high schools, carrying everything with them, I thought of Abraham before God called him to go to the land of Canaan. The tribes that became the children of Israel were nomads, staying for a while in one place, and then moving on, joining their animals in carrying everything they owned and everything they needed.

When the call came to go to the Promised Land, they were accomplished in knowing how to take everything they owned. They had plenty of practice, after all. So God chose them to make the move and become the nation of Israel. Abraham and his family responded in faith, and that is the point of all this. They knew they could move, but they also learned that God was always with them through any change that came their way. God does not change—God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow, throughout eternity.  This same promise that Abraham and his people believed is one we can count on as well. Praise God for God’s faithfulness, steadfastness and for leading us through all the days of our lives and throughout eternity. Amen.

I Don’t Really Know What Time It Is

What Time Is It

Ecclesiastes 3:11:  He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

I don’t know if you’ve ever had the experience of being around a friend or relative or someone from work, usually later in the day, when one of you looks at the clock, which reads four PM, and says something like, “It seems like it should be five o’ clock, or later.”

The interesting thing to me is, every time this happens, the other person agrees. I don’t think they say what they do this just to be agreeable. It’s simply a matter of a shared sense of time which comes, no doubt, from spending a lot of time together and sharing a number of experiences during a day. We’ve found that if we’re busy, we think it’s later than it is. Conversely, if we’re doing very little (which almost never happens), we think it’s earlier than it is because there wasn’t anything much to fill those hours.

I think that the spiritual truth of this is that God’s time is always right—not too early, and not too late. We may think that God is late delivering on what God has promised, but that’s not true. When God does come through, in retrospect we see that we were not ready for what happened before that, for various reasons. But God sees all things and knows all, so God comes through just at the right time.

Praise God for knowing us, for knowing what we need most, and for being right there with us through time and beyond, to where time does not exist, to eternity. Amen.

A Sketch of Fingers Holding Pencils

 

Fingers Holding Pencil

Deuteronomy 6:4: Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.

In rehearsal, the choir members—sopranos, altos, tenors and basses—

Hold pencils to mark their music—

Entrances, stresses, rhythms, crescendos, decrescendos, rests, D.S.’s, codas,

And all the rest, and as I look around me, I see that the pencils

Held by the fingers of all the singers in all the sections

Lie at the exact same angle, just for a moment.

How this happens, I don’t know,

But I have heard that the hearts of singers in a group,

In rehearsal or in performance, no matter the season or how long they

Have sung together, or how the music is going,

The hearts of the singers beat as one. No one knows why or how

This happens, but it does. Hearts beat as one, just as fingers

Hold pencils at the same angle,

Those same fingers that signal and wave, that comfort and indicate,

Touch and sign, gesture and point, these fingers hold the warm wood

Of pencils at the same angle, and these heart beats and these

Angles are indications that fingers and hearts are one

As the singers are one

And all people are one

And the world and the universe

Are

One

And God is one,

Hear, O Israel, and hear, O singers,

The Lord our God is one God.

Amen.

Calling

 

Stop Calling Me

Revelation 3:20 : Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.

I don’t know if you’ve ever been sitting at home doing something important like taking a nap or having a piece of chocolate pie when, wouldn’t you know it, the phone rings and interrupts what you’re doing. It might be important, but because you’re no fool, you look at the caller ID to see if you want to answer. What you see on the little screen is a “703” area code and a “368” exchange number followed by four numbers that don’t matter. Based on this, you figure it’s someone you know and care about, so you answer the phone, expecting to hear the soft tones of someone you like.

Instead, a young woman with way too much energy says, “Hi! My name is Kristie and I want to talk to you about reducing your credit card debt.”

Now it’s here that, because there are so many things to say, I have to hesitate so I can pick which one to use. That doesn’t matter to Kristie—I know that she will blather on until she asks, “Can I sign you up?” so I have plenty of time to consider my options. Frist of all, we’re blessed to not have any credit card debt, so maybe this call is a wrong number. Or Kristie is trying to make me think I do have the debt and offer me a loan at a high rate of interest to pay it off.

What I really want to do is to start screaming and continue until she stops talking (although she might win that contest), but then I think, Screaming is not good for my voice, and my director would not like it if I blew out my voice by screaming. I also could say, “Stop calling me! Stop right now! Quit! Go away! Leave me alone or I’ll hold my breath until I turn blue!”, but I don’t. I could as well say, “Put me on your ‘do not call’ list,” but I don’t know if there is one of those anymore. Apparently not, since I’m getting these kinds of calls. There’s too much going on to think straight so I interrupt Kristie—actually I don’t, since she continues to talk, remember?—I just say, “I’m not interested,” and hang up. It’s rude and probably breaks Kristie’s heart, but she deserves it. She was keeping me from my pie.

When this happened to me the other day, I thought that it’s good that most of us don’t try to convince people we’re someone or something else. It’s also good that the majority of us don’t force someone to talk to us when they don’t want to. Jesus understood this when he said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.” He is all that, and we can trust his saying so. It’s also important that Jesus allows us to come to him without force or coercion. He said, “I stand at the door and knock.” He has to knock since the door to salvation, like doors of Jesus’ time, can only be opened from the inside, from within our souls.  We make the decision to open our lives to him freely, openly and with a full knowledge that when we do, all is taken care of, and we will live with Jesus forever.

Kristie is probably a nice young woman who is trying to make some money, but I wonder if I should have invited her to come to church. She might have turned me down—that would be her choice, after all. Or she might have come, and seen what a difference belief could make in her life. And maybe she would stop misrepresenting herself and asking people to do something they really don’t have to do.

Praises to God for not forcing anything on us and for loving us so much that we have the choice whether to accept his gift of salvation or not. And praise to God for God’s love and bountiful, eternal salvation through Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

The Seat of Majesty

 

The Throne of God Revelation

Isaiah 6:1: In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple.

I don’t know if you think a lot about chairs. I tend to, since I like to sit down because I’m lazy. Maybe some of us don’t think a lot about them because they are so common. But such was not always the case.

The earliest chairs we know about came from Egypt during the Early Dynastic Period (3100 to 2686 BC). They were covered with cloth or leather, were made of carved wood, and were much lower than today’s chairs – chair seats were sometimes only about ten inches high. In ancient Egypt chairs appear to have been of great richness and splendor. Fashioned of ebony and ivory, or of carved and gilded wood, they were covered with costly materials, magnificent patterns and supported upon representations of the legs of beasts or the figures of captives. Generally speaking, the higher ranked an individual was, the taller and more sumptuous was the chair he sat on and the greater the honor.

It is possible that the Israelites would have been aware of these chairs during their time and captivity, that this awareness might have influenced their ideas about the throne of God. Notice in the passage from Isaiah that God is “high and exalted.”

Other ancient cultures such as those in China and India also had chairs, although their use was rare until the twelfth century.

So, chairs were for many centuries a symbolic article of state and dignity rather than something for ordinary use. Because of this history, committees, boards of directors, and academic departments all have a ‘chairman’ or ‘chair.

The chair did finally come into common use in Europe around 1600 during the Renaissance, and by the 1880’s, chairs had become common in the United States.

The visions of Isaiah and that of Revelation which show God “high and lifted up” are meant to convey a sense of power and authority not only to believers but also to those who not, who may choose to change that unbelief. God’s power and nature are not dependent on anything, including creatures who believe or not. God is absolute, eternal and loving, and one of the miracles about God is that, as Christ incarnate, he came down from his high throne to walk in the dust with those like us. Praise God for his majesty, his goodness to us, and for his sacrifice made so that we with God may be, one day, high and lifted up ourselves. Amen.

 

Vicarious is as Vicarious Does

 

Sand Lot Players

Mark 16:15: And Jesus said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.”

I don’t know if you’ve heard of a baseball league for kids that is run by the kids themselves. It’s called “unorganized baseball,” and adults are not allowed to have anything to do with the game. They’re not supposed to cheer the players, although some do occasionally. And they certainly are not supposed to advise, cajole or berate the players. A player from each team acts as an umpire, and that helps insure that the calls will be fair. There are no uniforms, no pressure, no tantrums, and no crying because the game is relaxed, much as the sand lot games were that we used to play as kids. The idea is to have fun, enjoy the game and get some exercise.

Of course, we know about the pressure and stress that can be a part of league play. Unfortunately, some parents who perhaps didn’t do well playing baseball when they were young want their children to do what they could not, and so they use their youngster to play vicariously through them. The harm caused by their yelling, scolding and berating their child is immense, and even though some leagues try to prohibit what the parents do, the adults persist. I hope “unorganized baseball” will grow and make an impact of how kids play other games, as well as on their lives.

I was thinking about these parents who live vicariously through their children and what a mistake it is, and believe that our faith is decidedly not vicarious. In the Great Commission, Jesus told his disciples and tells us to go ourselves into the world and made disciples. We are not allowed to send someone for us or send our money. That doesn’t count. We have to be involved in sharing this great treasure that is salvation and in continuing to walk with God. Praise God that we can be a part of God’s great plan for everyone, and that we can continue to be with God, supported by the Spirit to share the news of the sacrifice in love of the Savior. Amen.