Wednesday, January 13, 2016

POTUS

Lately I have noticed some of my "friends" both real and on line, write about the president using the term POTUS. At first I scratched my head and wondered what is this. Then I remembered that when I was in the Navy acronyms were the order of the day. The military used the acronym POTUS for President Of The United States. It is a perfectly good acronym and has been applied to all of our presidents for a long time.

The interesting thing about its current use is that those applying it to our current president are those who are very anti Obama. I have to ask why do this now? It is clear that they use it as a derogatory measure perhaps to keep from using his name. They could do that simply by saying the president. As I ponder possible motives I notice that PONTUS when pronounced sounds like pontiff as in one who pontificates. What ever the motive it is an interesting way to use the acronym established by the military for communications shorthand.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

True Worship

Many people believe that going to church is worship and it can be worship. One can also attend a church worship service and not worship God at all even though they go through the rituals. Private personal devotions can be either worship or an act of piety for its own sake. This is a very narrow concept of worship of God. So what constitutes true worship?

I like the broader found in the "Two Great Commandments" found in the Gospel according to Matthew chapter 22:37-39. Jesus said, "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 the second is like it; "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." On these two commandments hang all the law and prophets.

Worshiping God is much richer than anything found in a worship service at a church. True worship of God involves our being in a relationship with God with every thing we have and are mind, body and spirit. To worship God means to have my whole being oriented toward God in my emotions, desires and activities at all times.

The true worship of God has two objects God and neighbor. When we love our neighbor we worship God indirectly. These two parts of worship are interrelated for you can not hate your neighbor and love God at the same time. When we truly worship God we live our whole lives in the presence of God. Every aspect of life even our most personal relationships are part of our loving God.

Monday, December 21, 2015

The Way of All Flesh

This year we have endured too many family funerals and we have one more to take care of before the end of the year. The older I get the more common these life events become. The term “The Way of All Flesh” refers to the fact that all who are born also die. This is part of the master’s plan and I am comfortable with the fact that at some point my physical body will cease to function and my soul will return to the creator of the universe.

"Doctors think that you only call palliative care when your patient is about to die," says Diane Meier, M.D., director of the Center to Advance Palliative Care at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York City. "Patients don't know what it is and don't demand it. They don't realize they have a right to care focused on improving function and quality of life."

As a pastor I have watched many people go through the process of moving from their physical life to their spiritual life. Some people make that journey suddenly because of accident or a swift illness. Others go slowly with advanced age or by way of a slow painful illness. When it comes to the later most doctors don’t like to give up on finding a cure and that is their training.

We each do have a choice to make now before the event of our death is close and emotional. Do I want to fight for life to the bitter end no matter the cost or pain? Do I want to choose the conditions where I can say enough is enough let me go? I have already done that by creating and signing my “Advance Directives” and informed my family and my doctor.

It is your right and your choice, either way you want, to choose how you prefer to die given a terminal illness. The time to make that decision is now while you have a clear mind and are in control. My death and yours is not a matter of "IF" but "When and how."

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Where was Jesus born?

In the Gospels Jesus is born in Bethlehem and that is all we really know for sure. People over the centuries have assumed that Jesus was born in a stable but the Gospels do not say that. People have added to the story the stable with cows and donkeys but they are not noted in the scripture. It tells us in Luke only that they laid him in a manger but that does not necessarily mean in a cave or a wooden stable out back of the house. That could have happened but we are not given that detail. A manger could have been brought inside a home.

We are told that there was no room in the "inn" as though the motel six was full. Many people in the Jerusalem area had a second story that they rented out to travelers especially during the high holy days when a lot of people made the journey to the temple. It was a good way to make extra money. Remember the upper room that Jesus and his disciples used during Passover? So the rented space or inn may have been full but seeing that Mary was about to deliver the home owner/inn keeper may have welcomed them into the lower part of the house.

Some first century homes also had a place for animals in the lower section of the house, see the picture below of what it might have looked like.

Friday, December 11, 2015

The Words of Christmas

We can all see the sights and sounds of Christmas all around us carols and decorations fill our senses. We can also speak the words of Christmas, words that carry power and feeling. Most of us are most comfortable with the Familiar words like family, friends, fellowship, feasting, trees, lights, surprise and memories.

There are also Bible words like love one another, love our neighbor, love the stranger, love our enemies, and love the Lord with all your heart. These all come from the love God shared with us on that first Christmas.

Then there are the Season's words like peace, service, sharing, gifts, fairness, honesty, greetings, and have a happy. These are words that flow like a gentle stream from Thanksgiving through New Years.

At last there is the Supreme word: Christ, without whom there would be no Christmas. Preachers always want to remind us to keep the Christ in Christmas and I am no different. When ever you are speaking the words of Christmas remember that one supreme word that gives us all the rest.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

John The Baptizer

Growing up I remember bible stories about John the Baptist as a crazy Jewish wild man wandering in the desert. So strange was this preacher dressed in camel hair cinched with a leather belt eating locust and honey. So many people came to hear him preach and be baptized thatI often wondered why they would do that. Well we have a lot of crazy preachers that people flock to today so we have not changed all that much.

As a student of bible history I later discovered the real reason that so many people, including the elite, went out to the Jordan to hear John preach and be baptized. It was so unusual for ordinary people to be baptized that John was known as John the Baptizer. Because the ceremony was mostly for the ritual cleansing of the priest and for converts to Judaism it was most unusual ordinary people to be baptized. Yet here was John baptizing lots of people every day and not for ritual cleansing but for forgiveness of sins.

The Gospel According to Luke gives us some clues in the first chapter when we are introduced to the father of John the Baptist who was Zechariah a Priest who worked in the Temple. His wife Elizabeth is also a descendant of the tribe of Aaron the first high priest of Israel. That by itself makes John the Baptist a priest of Israel by birth so he was not just any wild man preaching in the desert.

As if that is not enough Luke’s description of what Zechariah was doing is most intriguing for the student of bible history who pays close attention. It puts Zechariah in the sanctuary of the Lord alone while all the others are out side. You may read that as the Holy of Holies where he offers an incense offering. WE note that because of his encounter with the angel his stay in the Holy of Holies was a lot longer than usual and the other priest outside were wondering what was going on. They could not go in to find out because only the High Priest was allowed in there.

This tells us that John was the son of a high priest and would have been in line to become a high priest him self. Truly he was no ordinary man preaching to the people. Even though the Gospels don't say so, John likely spent time as a priest serving in the temple. So one can imagine the talk of the people when the son of a former high priest shucks his priestly garb and puts on camel hair to go preach in the wilderness. No wonder they went out to hear him and be baptized.

On a side note we also learn that Mary the mother of Jesus was relative of Elizabeth perhaps a second cousin so that she also was of the house of Aaron and Jesus would be too. Very interesting!

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Fundamentalism Its Own Religion?

I have been reading David Brooks of the New York Times writing about the Religion of Fundamentalism. Almost all religions have their own fundamentalist groups. They have so much in common that they could be their own religion. I do not mean to paint all people who identify themselves as fundamentalist with the same brush, but most follow the same pattern.

Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist or Hindi fundamentalists see themselves as the "True Faith." They are literalist and are not tolerant of any one who does not think like they do. They lack compassion for those who are different and unwilling to convert. Often, they are willing to kill those who are different, seeing them as a threat to the true religion. Quite often they attack members of their own faith who are moderate.

As one who has studied world religions, it appears to me that fundamentalists become so ridged that they wind up going against the founder of their faith in order to promote the narrow view of their particular group. The preaching of hate and killing in the name of god must be countered by faithful people of all religions who know that the true faith preaches love God, love others, and get the word out.