Mother’s Day Trauma (a pastor’s perspective)

I confess it is my least favorite holiday and I don’t think it’s because I’m a scrooge or a grinch.  I may be that, but I don’t think that’s what this is about.

Mother’s Day is huge in our culture, a major impact on the economy in flowers, jewelry, candy, and eating out, I don’t normally contribute much to that economy, so there you have your proof of my grinchness. But please, don’t misunderstand me. I want to honor mothers, along with fathers, the most significant influence in our lives, whether present or absent. I want to encourage mothers and hope that my rather unorthodox sermon on Mother’s Day will encourage them. I love and honor my mother, now in heaven for 30 years. I love and honor my wife of 42 years who is the mother of my children, now for almost 39 years.

But I also know that Mother’s Day is a day of suffering and pain for millions of women and I don’t want to add to their pain or call attention to it in a way that makes it worse. I know many women, devout believers in Jesus, who will not attend church on Mother’s day because they are afraid of what might happen to them. Just last week, a professional woman told me she would not be here that day because it is too hard. But because we don’t understand experiences that aren’t ours(or at least that of someone very close to us), we tend to be insensitive, we don’t get it. Certainly perilous for me to try and explain it to you, so I’ll turn that over to Amy Young in her recent article An open letter to pastors (A non-mom speaks about Mother’s Day).

I will acknowledge Mothers on Sunday, trying to choose my words very carefully. I do not have a traditional text, not Proverbs 31 or 2 Timothy 1.  I’m preaching on the resurrection from 1 Corinthians 15 and the implications of it for mothers and everyone else. If Faith Church is your home church, I hope you will come and not be afraid and have a good experience and go home excited that the resurrection is true and all disappointments will one day be resolved… because He Lives!


The Gospel of Ecclesiastes?

Meaningless! Meaningless! says the teacher, Utterly meaningless!  Everything is meaningless.

With that start, Ecclesiastes in the Bible may be as challenging as Proverbs in finding links to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But it will take us in a different direction. Ecclesiastes is similar to Proverbs in that it includes proverbs, lots of them, yet has more cohesion from start to finish as the writer seeks meaning in life and finds it difficult, virtually impossible. So, where is the Gospel in Ecclesiastes?

The Need for Gospel Good News is evident as the writer seeks meaning in every imaginable pursuit, all of them coming up empty, whether it be vineyards, gardens, parks, fruit trees, lakes, herds, flocks, silver, gold, musicians, women… I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. 2:10   The verdict? everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun 2:11.  Even the pursuit of wisdom did not satisfy, knowing that whether wise or foolish, it would all end in death. 2:18

One might begin to despair that even God is scarcely found in this book, let alone any hint of the Gospel. But don’t give up yet. Continue reading “The Gospel of Ecclesiastes?”

The Gospel of Proverbs

Okay, this may be my toughest challenge yet in The Gospel in the Old Testament series.  Proverbs is not the first place I would go to find the Gospel in the OT.  It is certainly not explicitly there nor prefigured as in the sacrifices of Leviticus or the examples of substitute sacrifice in Esther or the combination of the two concepts in the Passover account of Exodus.  So what of the Gospel is found in Proverbs?

To know wisdom, the first words of Proverbs, set the tone for the whole book. and the source of wisdom is stated explicitly, The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the holy one is understanding.” 9:10  The words “wisdom” and “wise” are found more than a hundred times, but there are numerous other near synonyms that carry the same thought, such as “knowledge, learning, and understanding.” Almost as frequent to wisdom are “righteous” and “righteousness,” about ninety examples.

What do wisdom and righteousness have to do with the Gospel? Continue reading “The Gospel of Proverbs”

False Gospel of Job’s Friends

Major space is taken in the Book of Job with the record of speeches by Job’s three friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, rebuking and challenging Job, explaining the definitive cause of all his troubles and calling him to repentance. In the end, when God speaks, it is these three friends who are rebuked by God, I am angry with you…because you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has. Job 42:7

What did Job’s friends get wrong? Continue reading “False Gospel of Job’s Friends”

The Lost Vision of World Vision

March Madness took on a new meaning this week as World Vision, a once great and solidly Christian organization, tragically caved on a central biblical principle regarding marriage, Then after 24 to 48 hours of feedback, reversed their position.  I was glad for that reversal, but not resolved in my mind, not satisfied that this puts the matter to rest. Why not?

I became aware of the new policy through Christianity, World Vision:  Why We’re Hiring Gay Christians in Same-Sex Marriages. As I read the article and the World Vision basis for this new policy, what I noted first was that the headline grossly understated and frankly misrepresented the decision. This was not about who could be hired to work for World Vision. That is a different and debatable issue as to whether all or certain employees must adhere to all the beliefs and values of an organization.

What happened is that while claiming to affirm a long held position that all World Vision employees must “restrict their sexual activity to marriage,” but opening the definition of marriage, based on those states and denomination that embrace same sex marriage, thus giving endorsement to same sex marriage as a legitimate option for Christians. And they claimed to do this as if still holding to biblical authority while somehow serving the interests of Christian unity. Continue reading “The Lost Vision of World Vision”

The Gospel of Job

It is the classic work on the problem of suffering.  For all the efforts of modern writers to explain “When Bad Things Happen to Good People” or “When Bad Things Happen to God’s People,” nothing touches the book of Job for realistically dealing with these questions. No, Job doesn’t give “the answer,” if that is what you want.

In fact, if you are demanding an explanation for the problem of suffering, the lack of justice in it, why the relatively innocent suffer and the obviously wicked get away with it and prosper, Job will probably not satisfy you. Psalm 73 actually addresses those questions more directly, reminding us that the famous quote attributed to William Gladstone and others, “Justice delayed is justice denied,” is not ultimately true. Continue reading “The Gospel of Job”

Ash Wednesday

Well, the Brits won!  The annual Shrove Tuesday International Pancake race between Olney, England and Liberal, Kansas is over for another year, won by Devon Byrne, who broke the record she set last year, covering the 415 yard course from The Bull Pub to the Olney Parish church while carrying her frying pan and flipping her pancake in 55.61 seconds.  More details in the Wichita Eagle.

If you didn’t read my previous post, this will probably make no sense to you; and if you did read my previous post, it still may not make any sense. You just have to be from Kansas or England.  It was disappointing in reading the article with the race results that there was barely a hint to the religious background.  Instead of calling it the Shrove Tuesday Pancake race, it is now the International Pancake race.  Tsk-tsk, now even the Pancake race has been secularized. Continue reading “Ash Wednesday”

Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday, Pancake Day

It doesn’t get much weirder than this.  While New Orleans celebrates extreme decadence the day before the start of Lent on Ash Wednesday, the folks of Olney, England and Liberal*, Kansas have a different way and a healthier way of preparing for Lent –  a pancake race.  Yes, a pancake race.

And no, it is not like the Gingerbread man who jumped out of the pan and ran away.  This is no fairy tale.  It all started in 1445 AD in Olney, England. Here is the explanation from the website of International Pancake Day  Continue reading “Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday, Pancake Day”

February 17 – The Day My Mama Died

I got the call early in the morning.  My mother had died overnight. I was with her briefly the day before, but I had expected to see her again.  Oh,I knew she was very sick.  She had battled ovarian cancer for more than a year. But somehow, I was still surprised.  Psychologists call it denial.  No matter the reality, we create our own false reality and then are surprised when the obvious occurs.

So February 17 is now among those most significant dates in my life.  My birthday I suppose is on the list, certainly the day I got married (42 years ago this June), the days each of our four children were born, our six grandchildren and other milestones.

But February 17 is in a category of its own.  I was already in my eighth year as a pastor.  I had done plenty of funerals, hard funerals, not just the glorious funerals of aged saints.  My first funeral, five weeks after I became a pastor was for still born twins, placed together in an infant casket and taken to the cemetery in the back seat of my car Continue reading “February 17 – The Day My Mama Died”