What the Church Is All About
September 20, 2018

Recently, I finished reading Foolishness to the Greeks, by the British writer, theologian and missionary to India, Leslie Newbigin (1909-1998). The subtitle of the book is “The Gospel and Western Culture.”

The book prompted in me deep thinking about God, philosophy, theology, science, church history, the Enlightenment, missions, and the nature and mission of the church.

Here is one of Newbigin’s statements about the church and the gospel.

“The church is the bearer to all nations of a gospel that announces the kingdom, the reign, and the sovereignty of God. It calls men and women to repent of their false loyalty to other powers, to become believers in the one true sovereignty, and so to become corporately a sign, instrument and foretaste of that sovereignty of the one true and living God over all nature, all nations, and all human lives. It is not meant to call men and women out of the world into a safe religious enclave but to call them out in order to send them back as agents of God’s kingdom.” Page 124.

Think of what this world would be like if every Christian understood and lived out the truth of this biblically accurate description of the church.

Unusual blessing
September 4, 2018

When we think of a blessing from God, we often think of something peaceful or comforting, but some time ago I came across a different kind of blessing.

It has been making the rounds under the name “A Franciscan Blessing” or “The Four-fold Blessing.” However, from Joshua Hopping’s online blog, “Wild Goose Chase,” you can learn that this blessing or prayer actually has no connection to the Franciscans.

Instead, it was written by the Benedictine Sister Ruth Fox of Sacred Heart Monastery for a Dickinson State University graduation in 1985. Sadly Sister Ruth Fox’s name has been removed from the blessing/prayer as it made the rounds online.

For the record, here is the original blessing:

May God bless you with discontent with easy answers, half truths, superficial relationships, so that you will live from deep within your heart.
May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression, abuse, and exploitation of people, so that you will work for justice, equality, and peace.
May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation and war, so that you will reach out your hand to comfort them and to change their pain to joy.
May God bless you with the foolishness to think you can make a difference in this world, so that you will do the things which others tell you cannot be done.

If you have the courage to accept these blessings, then God will also bless you with:
◦ Happiness – because you will know that you have made life better for others.
◦ Inner peace – because you will have worked to secure an outer peace for others.
◦ Laughter – because your heart will be light.
◦ Faithful friends – because they will recognize your worth as a person.

These blessings are yours – not for the asking, but for the giving – from One who wants to be your companion, our God, who lives and reigns, forever and ever. Amen

Think about what your life might become if you live in the reality of these four blessings. We would give witness, in big or small ways, to the in-breaking kingdom of God.

The amazing street “carpets”
April 23, 2014

We are still in Antigua, Guatemala, for this report the processions of Holy Week. One of the beautiful and creative elements in the celebrations is the street art, the creation of designs on the streets where a procession will pass through. These “carpets” (alfombras in Spanish) are designed and created by anyone who wishes. Here is a sampling of what we saw – and the work as it was being done.

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The elements in the carpets are typically colored sawdust, flowers, flower petals, pine needles, leaves and pieces of fruit or vegetables.

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The above two views feature the Quetzal (ket-zal), the national bird of Guatemala. I talked with students from The University of Texas at Austin as they worked on two alfombras. The Quetzal may have been one of their projcts, but I can’t trust my memory on that point.

As you see, many of the carpets present themes from nature or geometric designs. But some show a religious theme.

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Do you see, in the distance, Jesus on the cross? And in the middle left, is Jesus in Gethsemane, with an angel appearing to him, as one of the Gospels says.

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The most elaborate  alfombra I saw was the following.

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Take a second look at the roses. They are made of turnips, with some of the root tips still showing. You might try making this at home.

The beauty of the carpets is short-lived because of the processions. The first walkers in a procession, including the banner carriers, early trumpeters (if there area any) and rows of robed escorts, all walk on the sides of the streets, carefully avoiding stepping on the carpets. Then the float carriers walk right through the carpet, destroying it. Similarly, the band members walk over the carpet remains, then the general pilgrims, then the carriers of the Mary float, and finally the second band.

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Last of all comes the cleanup crew with their front loaders and dump trucks, shoveling and sweeping the street clean.

For me, the symbolism of the alfombras is profound. All of earth’s beauty and much of our creative efforts are temporary and short-lived. But we should not  lament this fact, for we know from the Scriptures that only the kingdom of God is forever. And God invites everyone to enter this kingdom through repentance and faith. Though our bodies, through death, return to dust, they will be raised in a new and glorious body like our  Savior has.

To God be praise and glory for ever and ever.

The Carpentry Shop in Xela
June 28, 2011

Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Quetzaltenango (or Xela), Guatemala

Our daughter Melanie and her husband Julio serve in this city with InnerCHANGE, a Christian order among the poor. They work with homeless street boys to help them to a responsible way of life, and help them become established in Christian faith. The “boys” are ages 14 to 21.
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London Journal – Friday, May 15, 2009
May 16, 2009

I have started reading again the Gospel of Mark. I noted the way Jesus began his preaching ministry.
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London Journal – Wednesday, April 29,2009
April 29, 2009

During the past two weeks I have been reading the Letter to the Hebrews.

Today I was impressed with this statement from chapter 12, verse 28: (more…)