Watch, Listen, & Believe 12-4-2016

December 2nd, 2016

Let me to take you on a little journey to a Big, Busy, Shopping Mall. Let me introduce to you someone.
He caused quite a commotion among the shoppers at the mall. Many dismissed him as annoying nut. He was dressed in a tattered flannel shirt and jeans. No one knew where he spent the night, but he was seen rummaging around the dumpsters for scraps of food from Orange Julius and McDonald’s. Every day he could be found by the beautifully lighted fountain near the mall’s food court. Despite his ragged appearance and that slightly “off” look in his eyes, there was a kindness and sincerity about him that drew people to him.
He would ask them why they would spend so much money for Christmas, why they would allow themselves to become so obsessed and stressed out over this tinseled holiday. “We like our Christmas with a lot of sugar, don’t we?” he would tease. But Christmas is about hope and love, he said – and that can be a struggle. Give gifts of kindness and compassion to each other. Seek forgiveness from family and friends who may be lost to you. Let the spirit of the Christ Child embrace every season of the year, not just December.
Those who listened would nod in agreement as he spoke – even as they tightened their grips on their shopping bags. Some were moved to quit shopping and go home to be with their families, others would go off and buy an extra toy or piece of clothing for charity; a few would even be moved to escape to a church or chapel for quiet prayer.
Sometimes he would rail against the insipid music and the gaudy decorations. When the mall Santa would walk by, he would make fun of him, asking the embarrassed Santa pointed questions about the real Christmas story.
Soon, though, the storeowners had had enough of his distractions. The mall managers had security escort him from the premises.
He wasn’t really hurting anyone, they realized.
But he had to go, they said.
He was ruining everyone’s Christmas.
“He Had to Go”. John the Baptists 2016. They come in all ages, sizes, shapes, colors, sexes and backgrounds. What do they do? They tease, they challenge, they poke us, and they point us to Jesus. To Jesus’ way of life.
Pray with me today, Advent 2016, that we will not be blind to the John the Baptists that come into our daily lives. Believe me – they will come. Watch, Listen, and Believe.

The Best I Could With What I Have 11-27-2016

November 25th, 2016

I saw a movie once where there was a man being pulled in 2 different directions. One arm being pulled by an angel in a white outfit with wings. The other arm pulled by a devil all equipped with a red outfit and horns. “Do this,” one would say. “No do not, do that,” the other would shout. The guys head was spinning and spinning.
I feel like this guy when I start thinking about Advent and Christmas. Bring up 3 people to help demonstrate being pulled apart.
A. On one side the Church is pulling, reminding me it is Advent again. Blue vestments, Advent wreaths, four candles, and special environment. A time of patient waiting. Special preparations for the Re-birth of Jesus in our life. All good stuff.
B. On the other side, Christmas carols 2 days after Thanksgiving, advertisements everywhere, “buy this, buy now, pay later”, Christmas decorations and parties and Santa Clauses everywhere. It is like we skipped from Thanksgiving to Christmas in one day. Being pulled apart.
I know for me I want to use the next 3 or 4 weeks, we call Advent, to deepen my relationship with Jesus Christ. I want to be more aware of where Christ is present in my everyday life.
I also know I will get caught up in the Christmas frenzy. That will be ok and a lot of fun. With that being said, I want Christmas to be different this year.
I remember one Christmas a few years back that was very different for me. My perspective was changed by an automobile accident. 5 innocent and unsuspecting people were killed in a head-on collision. (Snap fingers) It shook me and many others. I thought to myself, “that could have been me”. “That is the same road I travel to go see my mom.” It could have been me. This experience caused me to ask myself some significant questions. Maybe I need to ask them again during Advent 2016? Perhaps you could ask them to yourself?
1. Has my life on the earth made a difference for the better?
2. Am I doing the best I can to develop and share the gifts and talents God has given me?
3. What are my priorities? Are God and my family in the top 3?
4. Are there relationships or some area of my life that needs healing? Needs to change for the better?
5. The final question. Do I need to forgive someone? Do I need to forgive myself? Do I believe God could never forgive me?
Pick one or two of these questions and spend a few minutes thinking about your answers. Be honest. Ask God to help you make the changes you need to make now! Those few minutes might be the best way to make Christmas different this year. Pray for me as I try to do this and I will pray for you.

Long Live the King 11-20-2016

November 19th, 2016

I mentioned before today is the feast of Christ the King, what does this feast mean? What can we do to appreciate Jesus as King?
I have an idea I’d like you to think about. Bear with me because you’ll think I’m a little crazy as I develop it, but eventually I think you’ll see the point I want to make. Let’s spend a little time thinking about how we use the word “king” in our conversations. We speak of the lion as the king of the beasts and we have all heard of King Kong, a powerful but much maligned oversized gorilla. And the Schlitz people boast that theirs is the king of beer. If you want a great burger you go to Burger King. A few years ago a Nike commercial declared Michael Jordan the king of the court. Then there’s that old cowboy, Roy Rogers, king of the cowboys, and there’s a lesser known king, the polka king, Frankie Yankovitch. But enough is enough! What is the point in rattling off a list of kings as varied as the hamburger king and the polka king?
As we listen to the list, we realize that however diverse, all these kings share something in common – they excel at what they do. They all have some crowning achievement. For example, the lion has a roar that would frighten anyone, and King Kong made the earth tremble when he beat his hairy chest. Schlitz claimed it had the best beer and Burger King the best burgers in the land. Nike declared that Michael Jordan could sky higher than anyone else.
Today we celebrate Christ as a king. What does he excel at? What’s his crowning achievement? Well, we know what he wasn’t the best at. He wasn’t the best liked, certainly not by the Scribes or Pharisees; the best dressed (a one-piece tunic and that was it); the best looking (nowhere do we read he looked like Charleton Heston); the best likely to succeed (the cross did not hold the sweet smell of success); the best behaved (sweet, simple Jesus he was not).
Well, then how did he excel? What was he best at? He excelled at being human. If you want to know what it is to be a powerful gorilla, you look to King Kong; if you want to know what it is to be the king of the court, you look to Michael Jordan; if you want to know what it is like to be human, you look to Jesus.
But what does Jesus excelling at being human mean? I’d say it means three things:
You count!
I’m for you!
Come to the party!
“You count!” We know what it means not to count. It means to be: looked through, overlooked, under looked, nobody, a no account, nothing.
“You count!” This means: all the runny noses matter, all the overweight’s matter, all the underweight’s matter, all the just-so’s matter, all the wallflowers, confused, questioning, dropouts matter.
Jesus made everybody feel they counted. He made little Zacchaeus feel ten feet tall. He named Simple Simon “the rock.” He turned the prostitute into Dulcinea.
Secondly, Jesus let everybody know, “I’m for you!” Period! Not, “I’m for you…”
…if you pass a test,
…if you get your hair cut and your nails cleaned,
…if you get smart and well-mannered,
…if you get the earring removed,
…if you’re tops in everything.
No, “I’m for you” as you are, warts and all, neuroses and all. You can rely on me, lean on me, trust me. I’m no fair-weather friend. I believe in you!
Thirdly, Jesus invited everybody to the party. No one was to be: excluded, rejected, turned back, cast out, sent on their way, refused admittance.
His parties were not: mutual admiration societies, elitist gatherings, old boy’s club meetings.
“Come to the party”: whites, blacks, browns, polka dots, men women, poor, rich, tall, short, old, young, suburbanites, city folk, country dwellers! You are all welcome!
Christ’s message was and is: “You count, I’m for you, and come to the party.” But what about his crowning achievement? The touch of glory? His crowning achievement was and is the cross. No big roar. No polka. No razzle-dazzle on the basketball court. Just the cross.
Certainly the cross represents others’ attempts to cut short and put an end to Jesus’ message. But it is also Jesus’ way of saying you can’t stop a winner, a king. He went all the way to put himself on the line for us, and he made his point most eloquently on the cross. Because on that cross he said to another reject: “You count; I’m for you; this day you will be with me at the party in everlasting life!
Long live the king!