Sunday, September 6, 2015

Faith and Works

I read the Scripture for today in worship. It was from James chapter two. "Faith without works is dead."

How do we apply that idea today? First comes faith and out of our faith in Jesus comes an understanding of how to live a Christ like life. It is easy for a person to say the right words of faith and many do and then do nothing about it. If we truly belong to Jesus we will then do what He calls us to do. Jesus not only taught the Gospel but lived it out as an example. We will help people in need with out being asked. We will love the unlovely with out question and we will be generous with what ever we have.

Today I see people who claim to be Christian doing and saying hateful things when Jesus taught love for all people. I remember in the Gospel of John, the self-righteous religious leaders brought to Jesus a woman caught in the very act of adultery and said to him, "The scripture says this kind of woman must be stoned. Now what do you say?" Jesus said, "Let the one of you who is without sin cast the first stone." They all went away.

When we do not accept the call to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and show hospitality to the stranger, we forget that Jesus said, "When you did it to the least of these you did it to me." In anger many Christians say to turn away people from our country who need our help. When there are millions of refugees in the world seeking a place to live in safety how can Christians turn them away?

It is a chilling thing to read the words in James, "Faith without works is dead."

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Marriage License Issue

With the recent issue of marriage license in Kentucky our junior Senator stated that perhaps the state should get out to the marriage license business altogether. I think I agree with that.

Until the mid 1800's the states did not issue marriage licenses at all. It was totally the realm of religions to perform marriages. In the mid 1800's some states began to raise revenue by requiring a license to get marred. That had the advantage of registering the marriage as a legal event. Perhaps divorce lawyers serving as state lawmakers saw an advantage in that. It was not until 1923 that all states required couples to register and get a license to marry.

So here we are today with the state involved in the marriage business and caught up in ways they never dreamed of dealing with when they chose to create a new revenue stream. Any time the government is involved it needs to treat all citizens equally. Drivers license, marriage license, gun license, hunting and fishing license and all the rest are to be open to all citizens on a equal basis.

So our question of the day is does the state really need to be issuing marriage license?

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Police and Fire Fighters

Police and other emergency service personal put their lives on the line every time they go to work. Over the more than 40 years of my ministry I have volunteered my services as a chaplain to these services. I am currently a Fire Chaplain but I have also served as a Police Chaplain and Emergency Room Chaplain.

Most of Police and Firefighters are honest hard working people who love what they do and they do it well. They keep us safe and serve the public with out regard to status when the need arises. There are a few who come to work with issues that can create problems when they loose control of their moral compass. This usually happens under a great deal of stress and that is when chaplains can help them. Once they loose control the results can cause a lot of trouble for them, their department and the community. As a country we are dealing with that loss of control. It is not an easy thing to deal with in advance but most departments are working on it all the time.

Pray for them all.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

What's Next

All through life we move from one stage to another and not always by choice. We start of as infants with almost no choice except to cry when were not happy. The early stages of life are exciting choices around growth and change. Our parents guide us as we go through school and our teen years.

Then it happens - life! As I turned 18 I was faced with the "What is next?" question. What do I do now? How do I do what I want to do? Because of some family issues I choose to Join the Navy and for the next six years the navy made all my choices. Then life changed and I once again had some choices to make.

Where do I live? What kind of career do I choose? I felt the urges to love some one else and that brought on other changes and children. Talk about choices changing your life! When you are responsible for a new life the question of what is next is not always your choice. I am still responsible.

What is next comes at retirement and a set of different choices and then things to choose from is not always good stuff, just necessary stuff. Here we are again asking, "What's Next?"

Monday, August 24, 2015

When Christian Leaders Fail Us

It was all over the news that a priest of a church near my home had abused his position as pastor of the church. He had a lot of child porn on his personal computer including inappropriate pictures of the congregations children. He was a much loved pastor but is now reviled. In this age of awareness how did he think to get away with doing that? His church has changed from covering up for priest to exposing their evil actions.

Human beings often fail to live up to their most important ideals. The failure to realize ideals is often a mixture of apathy, baseness, cynicism, self-interest and ego. Even in our increasingly secular culture there is a conscious desire for people to find a spiritual dimension to their lives. Early Christians were first called the “People of the Way.” Christians are in essence members of a community of faith who follow a definite and certain path of the way of Jesus the Messiah. Church traditions sadly sometimes confuse the issues of following the way of Christ faithfully.

We say amen when something we see or hear confirms our own impression. We also become agitated or furious when something we hear is out of kilter with our personal beliefs. What are the truly basic beliefs of the Christian faith? There is a sense of beauty in the ideals of the total commitment and submission to God, the ideal Christian community, justice and peace.

It is sad that these same ideas are frequently corrupted to justify and legitimize the authoritarian and even brutal actions of people who contend that they are right. We must not confuse the ideal of the Christian faith with its misuse and abuse by people with political or power issues. This problem is not unique to Christianity as other religions are also hurt by mean spirited, power hungry; ego centric people who miss apply the tenets of our faith to their own perverted needs.

We as individual Christians must focus on what the Gospels teach us and seek to truly be people of the way of Jesus. We are each capable of focusing our lives on the teachings of Jesus first and saying AMEN to following those teachings. The way of Jesus was never easy for Jesus calls us to a different way of living than the way of the world. Say amen [ may it be so] and be a follower of the Way of Jesus.

I pray for the healing of that congregation as they deal with the results of a leader who was all too human and failed to live up to even his own Christian ideals. He is now under arrest and will face time in prison where his fellow inmates will not take kindly to his actions.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Interesting Scripture Translations

One of the many things I enjoy about reading Biblical Archaeology Review is some authors come up with a new way to translate a word in the Bible. When I studied New Testament Greek and Hebrew I discovered that English translations leave a lot of room for opinions. Language scholars can come up with a variety of ways to translate one word. How a word is translated can make a significant difference.

So it is with the September/October issue of BAR An author questions what really happened in the garden of Eden when Eve was created. She states that the Hebrew word "tsela" in the context of the story does not mean rib as it is usually translated into English. Adam did not give up his rib for Eve to be created but his "baculum" and I will let you look that up.

Part of her argument is that human males still have an equal number of ribs but they do not have a baculum. Just because a male looses a rib in one generation does not mean that succeeding generations will not have that rib as DNA will still create equal ribs. I got a good laugh out of the article and yet she may be correct but it makes no difference to me.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

A Nation of Immigrants

For most of its existence North America did not have humans wandering over the land. Then about fifteen thousand years ago Asians came across the Bering land bridge into what is now Alaska and became the first immigrants into this land. From time to time since then other people from almost every where made it to these shores.

All of us are either descendants of immigrants or are immigrants ourselves. Each group of people have added to the mix that makes us Americans. What a mix it is! We have inter-married or have created babies in such a way that we share a lot of different DNA. This has been a good thing and has proven that there is only one race, the human race.

With this in mind I am amused by the anti-immigration rhetoric going around in this political season. In the American Southwest politicians are calling people from Mexico all kinds of bad names. I remember when we forced a war on Mexico and took their lands the inhabitants were mostly Mexican and native Americans. Anglos were the unwelcome immigrants who didn't bother to learn Spanish.

From the time we founded the USA people have come from all over the world to settle here and help make us what we are. Each new wave of people were met with suspicion and hate. Irish, Italians, Chinese, Poles, Germans and many more met derision and hate from those already established. When ever we act as though the immigrants don't belong here its time to look in the mirror as we are all immigrants.