May 2017 Streams of Thought
Mother, Mother! You remember the lunch I took today?
Five little loaves and two dried fish? I gave it all away!
They gave me back some bread He blessed, and some, too, of the fish.
Mother, Mother, all five thousand ate all they could wish.
Yes, and there were little children and their mothers, too.
Oh, but they had all they wanted, I brought some back to you.
No, no, Mother—I'm not crazy, they had naught to eat;
One called Andrew told the Master, “Here are bread and meat.”
In His strong, firm hands He took them, (How His face did shine!)
Blessed and broke, and fed them all with my food, Mother, mine!
I was frightened—all those people! Such a little bit!
Mother, Mother, just suppose I had not given it!
—Mrs. S. May Wyburn
Grace and Peace,
April 2017 Streams of Thought
Easter, as you know, is a bit later than usual this year. Next year it will fall on April 1. Other times it falls at te end of March. It always falls on the Sunday immediately after the full mooncorresponding to the Jewish Feast of Passover (that's the short answer).
The practice started in the Early Church saw every first day of the week (Sunday) as a kind of Easter celebration because the Resurrection occurred on what became Sunday. Easter tells us God in Christ, as Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 15, has defeated "the last enemy which is death." Death came into the world because of sin (Genesis 3) and God in Christ gave us a tangible sign of His power over death (something He has always had).
There is at least one resurrection in the Old Testament (the prophet Elijah raised a young boy from the dead) and there was a general belief among Jews that God had the power to resurrect the dead.
Jesus confirmed that belief and power by raising 3 people from the dead and rising from the dead Himself as a sign and promise to God's people that death was a defeated enemy.
Death still causes wrenching grief and an often unspeakable sense of loss. But it's power has been broken and one day, according to the Book of Revelation, even death will be destroyed. By
trusting in Christ for salvation we are able to share in the power of His resurrection and know the hope that it brings.
May God bless you with this hope this Easter season.
Grace and Peace,
March 2017 Streams of Thought
March 1 is Ash Wednesday, when millions of Christians will receive ashes on the forehead, often in the form of a cross. As the pastor
or priest applies the ashes, the following words are intoned: "Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return." Sometimes the phrase "Repent and believe the Gospel" is often used too.
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, a season of worship and reflection that ends with Easter. Ash Wednesday grew out of Early Church practices dating to the 2nd Century A.D. that were inspired by Old Testament references where ashes symbolized repentance and/or mourning.
The Church, growing out of 1st Century Judaism, adopted this and other practices (including baptism) to symbolize and profess faith in Christ. The two phrases mentioned earlier remind us of our mortality and that while we live we can repent of sin and live by God's grace in Christ. Each one of us will one day, as Shakespeare famously said, "shuffle off this mortal coil."
Ash Wednesday reminds us life comes from our Creator and we have limited time on earth to serve God. The Apostle Paul wrote we should "make the most of every opportunity" to live the Gospel
(Ephesians 5:15-16). We all eventually return to the dust from which
we were created (Genesis 2:7, 3:19). I admit this is something I think about from time to time as I have adult children and am on the near side of 50.
It's vital to remember how God's grace sustains us through life's twists and turns. Mortality also compels us to realize our lives count; we matter to God who created us. While some argue for immortality through genetic engineering (the transhumanist movement) the Biblical view is that mortality makes us conscious and aware of the great gift of life that comes from God.
As the Westminster Catechism says, "Q: What is the chief end of man? A: Man's chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever." That is what it means to be mortal. Have a blessed Lent as we prepare for a glorious Easter.
Grace and Peace, Pastor Brian
February 2017 Streams of Thought
In his provocative and insightful book The Ragamuffin Gospel, the late Brennan Manning's main thesis is that we are, regardless of status or achievement, ragamuffins in desperate need of God's grace.
Consider the Apostle Paul's observation that our personal successes are little more than "garbage" (Philippians 3:8). This seems a bit harsh as does Manning's contention. But Manning does not leave us there (nor does Paul)--in relation to God's grace we are more like ragamuffins than Park Avenue tycoons.
But when we embrace God's grace and come to the Father through His Son we become "joint-heirs with Christ" and we draw upon the "riches of His glory in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:17; Philippians
4:19). We will always retain the deep need, spiritually-speaking, of the ragamuffin but we have access to infinite spiritual riches in Christ which bring strength, courage, healing, redemption,
forgiveness, mercy, and abundant eternal life
Grace does not approve of or gloss over sin; it forgives and assures us that we are loved by God even when we fail Him. But it also
pushes us toward being controlled by Christ (Romans 6). The Ragamuffin Gospel is one of the best books I've read on the
messy, holy reality of God's grace; it's messy in the sense God is not
afraid to take on all the effects of sin in our lives. It's holy in the sense it transforms us and helps us live in the power of Christ.
We will always need God's grace, coming to Him as ragamuffins with furtive glances and excuses for why we are the way we are or do what we sometimes do. But God, as Manning reminds us (and Paul does in different language) receives ragamuffins in all their messiness. He cleans them up in the grace and blood of Christ and sends them back into the world to serve and love others in His name.
Grace and peace,
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