Monday, September 03, 2007

Shane Update

Hi Guys,

Shane is taking Chemotherapy and is about at the last of it for awhile. I just saw him today and he is doing well. He is going to take a good sized break from treatment after the 5th of the month and is going for tests (to see any tumor shrinkage) on the 10th. Please pray for God's will here about the tumor and Shane's physical health. His spiritual health is doing well. Please pray that our Lord Jesus will bless him with strength and endurance of what he is going through (along with peace and joy in Our Lord Jesus Christ)

Thanks. God Bless You. Be Safe.

In Christ,

Richie

Monday, July 09, 2007

Redemption Day

Guys,

The "Redemption Day" lesson is now complete.

If you want look it up.

Redemption Day I

Redemption Day II

In Christ,

God Bless You. Be Safe.

Richie

Shane

Guys,

Keep praying for Shane. He still needs that prayer warrior help. He still has half of that tumor that I talked about earlier. Keep praying that either God heals him (God makes it go away), God works through the radiation treatment, and/or God's will (even if Shane has to go home to be with the Lord (which is great but we like having him around).

Thanks

In Christ,

God Bless You. Be Safe.

Richie

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

My Friend

Guys,

Everyone needs to be in earnest prayer for my friend Shane Hayes. He is undergoing neurosurgery tomorrow at noon for a cancerous brain tumor. This tumor is an apple and a half big and of course is very serious. What they don't get will be dealt with via chemo-therapy or other means.

He will be in VA in Lexington KY (It's part of UK).

Pray for me too. I have a Toon Language Lesson Pressentation tomorrow at 10am!!

God Bless You All. Be Safe.

In Christ,

Richie

Back In The Game

Hey Guys,

I just got switched to Google and can post again.

I have been decently busy making lessons for my website http://toonspiirt.net

Of these lessons, the latest that I am working on is "Redemption Day". I have made a link to part one (This is a Two-parter.

I hope this post finds everyone well.

God Bless You. Be Safe.

In Christ,
Link
Richie
Link

Friday, February 16, 2007

A Prayer from St. Columba

Here is a prayer from St. Columba that I found to be quite beautiful:

Let me bless almighty God,
whose power extends over sea and land,
whose angels watch over all.

Let me study sacred books to calm my soul:
I pray for peace,
kneeling at heaven's gates.

Let me do my daily work,
gathering seaweed, catching fish,
giving food to the poor.

Let me say my daily prayers,
sometimes chanting, sometimes quiet,
always thanking God.

Delightful it is to live
on a peaceful isle, in a quiet cell,
serving the King of kings.




Best wishes,
Mason Smith

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

A bit of humor from Ben Witherington III

Ben Witherington III, a professor of New Testament studies at Asbury Theological Seminary in Kentucky, has a wonderful blog (http://benwitherington.blogspot.com) that I can highly recommend. His posts are frequest and always intelligent. A recent post, copied below, is worth reading. The title is, "We Are the Light of the World, but Who Changed the Bulb?"

How many Presbyterians does it take to change a
light bulb? None. God has pre-ordained when the lights will be on and when they will be off.



How many Catholics does it take to change a
light bulb? None. They always use candles.



How many Episcopalians does it take to change a light bulb? Ten. One to actually change the bulb, and nine to say how much better they liked the old one.



How many Methodists does it take to change a light bulb?
"We choose not to make a statement either in favor of or against the need for a light bulb. However, if in your own journey, you have found that a light bulb works for you, that is fine. You are invited to write a poem or compose a modern dance about your personal relationship to your light bulb and present it next month at our annual light bulb Sunday service, in which we will explore a number of light bulb traditions, including incandescent, fluorescent, three-way, long-life and tinted, all of which
are equally valid paths to luminescence through Jesus Christ."



How many Baptists does it take to change a light bulb? What? CHANGE ????????????

Dr. Witherington has an interesting post on his site just below this one about the martyrdom of the Zebedee brothers. This post is more serious and more typical of the high quality of work he posts. I try to check his blog often: In addition to New Testament issues, he also posts movie and novel reviews and commentary on the daily news.

Best wishes,
Mason Smith

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

G.K.Chesterton's mad scientist


I ran across an interesting story in E. Christian Kopff's 1999 book, The Devil Knows Latin: Why America Needs the Classical Tradition. Kopff is writing about education issues, but the story is also important for present-day Christians who value "the treasures of tradition."
Kopff cites a story from G.K. Chesterton's book The Poet and the Lunatics:
G.K. Chesterton's poet Gabriel Gale meets a brilliant scientist devoted to the cause of emancipation from tradition and social conventions one evening at an informal gathering. Gale and the scientist are discussing with a few friends the scientist' s philosophy when Gale realizes that the scientists is mad. The poet rushes everybody away from the house just before the scientist blows it sky-high. Gale later explains to his bewildered friends that his suspicions were alerterd by seeing three goldfish gasping desperately in a pool of water on a table in the library. In accordance with his philosophy, the scientist had liberated them from their bowl (3).
A bit later, Kopff says the conflict between Gabriel Gale and the mad scientist "represents the most important contest of our age," and he continues:
The intellectual leaders of our age . . . feel that if they can only free themselves from the trammels of tradition in religion, science, art, and politics, true fulfullment will be theirs. For them tradition is merely memorizing what others have accomplished. Fulfillment, in their eyes, comes to those who have rejected the past, the handed-down, the socially constructed, in order the enter into a reality that is individualistic, innovative, and free. There is nothing innovative and free, however, in flopping about on a table in a pool of water. Tradition is not a cage. It is the goldfish bowl that keeps us alive (4).
Best wishes,
Mason Smith

Monday, January 29, 2007

John Chrysostom, Bishop of Constantinople, c. 407


Many Christians honor St. John Chrysostom, bishop of Consantinople, each year in late January (Jan. 27). He was born in Antioch in the mid-4th century, and went on to earn the title "Golden mouth" from the early church. This is quite an honor, among so many others known for powerful oratory. One of his many prayers is often used in the daily office and is included in The Book of Common Praryer in this version:

Almighty God, who has given us grace at this time with one accord to make our common supplication unto thee, and hast promised through thy well-beloved Son that when two or three are gathered together in His Name, thou wilt be in the midst of them: Fulfill now, O Lord, the desires and petitions of thy servants as may be best for us: granting us in this world knowledge of thy truth, and in the world to come life everlasting. Amen.

The web site http://www.chrysostom.org contains a wealth of information on his life and work.

Best wishes,
Mason Smith


Monday, January 15, 2007

January 15: Martin Luther King, Jr., Renewer of Society, Martyr, 1968

Signed by all 'heads of communion' of Churches Uniting in Christ (CUIC) member churches on the 21st anniversary celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and the fifth anniversary of CUIC, the letter urges "our congregations to join with other CUIC congregations in your community to discern ways to exercise common witness and common service as together we seek to dismantle racism and, in so doing, to be the voice and presence of God’s love in the world." In the Evangelical Lutheran Church, Presiding Bishop Hanson is asking all congregations to read the letter in worship on Sunday, January 14.> Read the statement (pdf)

The collect fot this day:

Almighty God, we praise you for the men and women you have sent to call the Church to its taks and renew its life, particularly on this day your servant Martin Luther King, Jr. Raise up in our day teachers and prophets inspired by your Spirit, whose voices will give strength to your Church and proclaim the reality of your kingdom; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

January 13: Hilary, Bishkp of Poitiers, 367

Today many remember and thank God for the life and witness of Hilarius or Hilary (c. 300367). Hilary was bishop of Poitiers ('pictavium') and considered an eminent doctor of the Western Christian Church. He was sometimes referred to as the malleus Arianorum ("hammer against Arianism") and the “Athanasius of the West”. His name comes from the Greek word for happy or cheerful, the same root as English "hilarious". His saint's day is observed on January 13th.

He holds the highest rank among the Latin writers of his century prior to St. Ambrose. Designated already by Augustine of Hippo as "the illustrious doctor of the churches"; he by his works exerted an increasing influence in later centuries; and by Pope Pius IX he was formally recognized as universae ecclesiae doctor (i.e. Doctor of the Church) at the synod of Bordeaux in 1851.

Hilary's day in the Roman calendar is January 13, from which the name of Hilary term is derived at Oxford University and other institutions.

Editions of his writings were produced by Erasmus (Basel, 1523, 1526, 1528). An English translation by E. W. Watson appears in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers. Several of his works have appeared in Sources Chretiennes (i.e. commentaries on Psalm 118 and St. Matthew, his attack on the emperor Constantius, on the Mysteries and most recently, in three volumes, on the Trinity).

He was, perhaps, mentioned by Augustine as being the author of Ambrosiaster.

A vita of Hilary was written by Venantius Fortunatus c.550 but is not considered reliable. More trustworthy are the notices in Jerome (De vir. illus. 100), Sulpicius Severus (Chron. ii. 39-45) and in Hilary's own writings.


Thomas S. Buchanon in Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christiainity, gives us a glimpse asto how Hilary thought as a Christian:



The fourth-century saint Hilary of Poitiers once pointed out that just as a coin is made by taking a piece of metal and stamping the icon of Caesar upon it, man is stamped with an icon of God. In some of us, this icon is blurry, like that of a coin whose image has been obscured through abrasive contact with other objects over the years. In others—the saints—the stamp of God is like the image on a freshly minted coin.

You may wish to give this prayer to God for Hilary, who was an icon of God:


Eternal Father, whose servant Hilary steadfastly confessed your Son Jesus Christ to be true God and true man: We beseech you to keep us firmly grounded in this faith; that we may rejoice to behold his face in heaven who humbled himself to bear our form upon earth, even the same your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Marcus Borg on Metaphoric Reading of Genesis


Marus Borg has an intesting paragraph in his 2001 book, Reading the Bible Again for the First Time on how to read Genesis (and the rest of Scripture) through metaphoric lenses--not literally. The subtitle for his book tells his approach: Taking the Bible Seriously But Not Literally. Borg quotes the early Christian writer Origen (c. 185-254 AD) as follows:
What intelligent person can imagine that there was a first day, then a second and a thrid day, evening and morning, without the sun, the moon, and the stars? [Sun, moon, and stars are created on the fourth day.] And that the first day--if it makes sense to call it such--existed even without a sky? [The sky is created on the second day.] Who is foolish enough to believe that, like a human gardner, God planted a garden in Eden in the East and placed in it a tree of life, visible and physical, so that by biting into its fruit one would obtain life? And that by eating from another tree, one would come to know good and evil? And when it is said that God walked in the garden in the evening and that Adam hid himself behind a tree, I cannot imagine that anyone will doubt that these details point symbolically to spiritual meanings by using an historical narrative which did not literally happen. (71)
Borg is translating Origen's De Principiis 4.1.6. The words in brackets were added by Borg.
As I read this passage, I thought how different would be the current debate about Creationism if 21st century Christians paid a little more attention to this 3rd century father of the Church!
Best wishes,
Mason Smith

Saturday, January 06, 2007

A Prayer for Epiphany



Today (Jan. 6) is celebrated in many churches as Epiphany--the day the Magi are believed to have arrived to worship the infant Christ. The Book of Common Prayer includes the following collect as a prayer for this day:

O God, who by the leading of a star didst manifest thy only-begotten Son to the peoples of the earth: Lead us, who know thee now by faith, to thy presence, where we may behold thy glory face to face; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

The daily office lectionary readings for today are: Isa. 52: 7-10; Rev. 21: 22-27, and Matt. 12: 14-21, accompanied by Psalms 46, 97 for the morning prayer, and 96, 100 for evening prayer.

Best wishes,

Mason Smith

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

December 26-31: The Witness Days


On the six days between Christmas Day and its Octave on 1 January, we remember five persons who have in various ways, by martyrdom or otherwise, born witness to the truth of the Christian faith.
(Note that the word martyros in pre-Christian Greek means simply "witness," and that it is not always clear whether early Christian uses of it (as in Revelation 2:13) ought to be translated broadly, as "witness", or in the narrow technical sense as "martyr", that is, someone who has explicitly chosen to die rather than to deny Christ as Lord.)

On December 26th, we remember St. Stephen (depicted in the print from the Nurenberg Chronicle), first member of the early Christian church to be put to death for his faith -- see Acts 6,7. He was "a martyr in will and deed."

On December 27th, we remember St. John the Evangelist, one of the Twelve Apostles. It is commonly believed that, although he was imprisoned and beaten for his adherence to Christ, he lived to old age and died a natural death. He was "a martyr in will but not in deed," meaning that he was willing to lay down his life for his Lord, but was not called on to do so -- See M 20:20-28 = P 10:35-45.

On December 28, we remember the Holy Innocents, the children of Bethlehem who were slaughtered by command of King Herod lest one of them prove a danger to his throne -- see M 2:16-18. They were "martyrs in deed, though not in will," and their deaths are a disquieting reminder that suffering on behalf of a good cause is not always restricted to those who have a choice in the matter.

The witnesses commemorated on these first three days are all from New Testament times. On the two days following, we commemorate witnesses from a later period in Christian history. Taking them in reverse order of days --

On December 31 we commemorate Sylvester, bishop of Rome from 313 to 335 -- that is, roughly from the Edict of Toleration issued by the Emperor Constantine to the death of the said Emperor, and thus the first bishop of Rome in the days after Christianity ceased to be an illegal and persecuted religion. With his term of office, we enter an era when to become a Christian is no longer to place oneself in automatic danger of being put to death by the government. However...

On December 29, we remember Thomas a Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, slain in his own cathedral in 1170, for his defiance of King Henry II. The death of Thomas reminds us that a Christian, even when safe from pagans, can be in danger from his fellow-Christians.
Two recent additions to the Calendar are John Wylcif (31 Dec), a pioneer of Bible translation; and Josephine Butler (30 Dec), who came to the assistance and defense of women whom society had, in effect, declared outside its protection. Neither was (in the technical sense) a martyr. Both are witnesses.

In recent years, it has become the practice of some groups of Christians to give the First Sunday after Christmas precedence over the observance of these days, and so to postpone by one day those commemorations falling on or after that Sunday.

Again, presumably to avoid commemorations close to Christmas (just as we avoid them within seven days of Easter Day), some Christian groups have adopted alternate dates for some of these celebrations.

Thomas the Apostle: 3 July
Stephen the First Martyr: 3 August
John the Evangelist: 6 May
The Holy Innocents: 11 January (after the Magi on 6 January)
Thomas a Becket: 7 July

On January 1st, we celebrate the Circumcision of Christ. Since we are more squeamish than our ancestors, modern calendars often list it as the feast of the Holy Name of Jesus, but the other emphasis is the older. Every Jewish boy was circumcised (and formally named) on the eighth day of his life, and so, one week after Christmas, we celebrate the occasion when Our Lord first shed His blood for us. It is a fit close for a week of martyrs, and reminds us that to suffer for Christ is to suffer with Him.

Copied from http://elvis.rowan.edu/~kilroy/JEK/12/26b.html

Monday, December 11, 2006

Jesus goes to the Mall & a Movie on Saturday

The picture at left is from the Des Moines Register's web site, and accompanied a story by Shirley Ragsdale. A United Methodist youth group took a life-sized cut-out figure of Jesus to a Des Moines mall on Saturday. The photo caption is below:

CHRISTOPHER GANNON/THE REGISTER
Samuel Ansong, 14, left, and Grayson McElroy, 14, of Lamoni United Methodist Church wheel a life-size cutout of Jesus through the lobby of a movie theater Saturday afternoon at Jordan Creek Town Center.

The story opened this way: "Jesus went to a mall and movie Saturday. As one might expect, he was welcome wherever he went."

Apparently the crowds in Iowa clapped and cheered to see Jesus (even a cardboard image of him) make an appearance at the festival in his honor.

Best wishes,
And (of course) Merry Christmas,
Mason Smith

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

December 5, Clement of Alexandria, Teacher and Apologist, 213 [?]

Titus Flavius Clements (later known as Clement of Alexandria) was born into a pagan Athenian family which valued learning and education. He was highly educated and well trained in classical philosophy. Upon his conversion to Christianity he began to seek out teachers, wandering from Greece to Magnae Graecia and then to the east to study under Assyrian, Palestinian and Hebrew Christian teachers. He ended up in Alexandria where he came to study at the Catechal School of Alexandria under Pantaenus, the dean of the school. With several periods of exile during times of persecution he remained in Alexandria and succeeded Pantaenus as the dean of the Catechal School.

Clement worked to combine the best of pagan Greek and Roman learning & science with the Christian faith. He saw it his task to demonstrate to pagans that Christianity was intellectually respectable and philosophically rigorous, and to Christians that Christianity was not only for the uneducated, but that Christians must no longer "fear philosophy as children fear a scarecrow." He was willing to go far in his affection for the Greek philosophers as to say that "the Law is for the Jew what philosophy is for the Greek, a schoolmaster to bring them to Christ." For Clement the Greek philosophers understood the truth revealed in God’s creation. God had, in fact, planted seeds of the Truth in all rational creatures, though these seeds were not sufficient to bring them to divine truth. [Stromata]

One of the key debates within the Alexandrian religious community concerned the teachings of the Gnostics who held that the essence of Christianity was a a secret knowledge passed down from initiate to intiate. Clement did not condemn the Gnostics outright, though he did dissent from their denigration of the physical. For him evil was not merely the failure to subordinate the body to the mind. Instead he argued that the Gnostics had gotten their gnosis [the Greek word for knowledge] wrong. Orthodox Christianity held the true gnosis, the Gnostic gnosis was false. This implied for Clement, that there was very much about Christianity that was philosophical and intellectual, and at times he stated that ignorance was in fact worse than sin.

Today this prayer is said by many in the Church:

O God of unsearchable mystery, who led Clement of Alexandria to Find in ancient philosophy a path to knowledge of your Word: Grant that your Church may recognize true wisdom, wherever it is found, knowing that wisdom come from you and leads to you; through our Teacher Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

_________

Source: http://www.bethel.edu/~letnie/AfricanChristianity/EgyptTheologiansClement.html

Monday, December 04, 2006

December 4: John of Damascus, Hymn-Writer, Defender of Icons, 750

Also known as John Damascene, St John of Damscus was a Greek theologian and the last of the great Eastern fathers. Born into a wealthy Christian family in Damascus about a generation after the armies of Islam had conquered the area, he lived his entire life under Muslim rule. He inherited his father’s positions as chief financial officer for the caliphs of Damascus and chief representative of Christians in the city. In 716, however, he left (or was compelled to leave) the court and became a monk at Mar Saba, a monastery in the hills near Jerusalem, where he was later ordained a priest. Most of the rest of his life was spent writing hymns and theological treatises.

The Iconoclastic Controversy was raging around the time St John entered Mar Saba. The earliest of his theological works was a series of three "Apologetic Treatises against those who decry the Holy Images”, written in response to an edict issued by the Byzantine emperor forbidding veneration of images or their exhibition in public places. An online article in Christian History & Biography summarises John’s defence of images:

From his distant post in the Holy Land, John challenged this policy [iconoclasm] in three works. He argued that icons should not be worshiped, but they could be venerated. (The distinction is crucial: a Western parallel might be the way a favorite Bible is read, cherished, and treated with honor—but certainly not worshiped.)

John explained it like this: "Often, doubtless, when we have not the Lord's passion in mind and see the image of Christ's crucifixion, his saving passion is brought back to remembrance, and we fall down and worship not the material but that which is imaged: just as we do not worship the material of which the Gospels are made, nor the material of the Cross, but that which these typify."

Second, John drew support from the writings of the early fathers like Basil the Great, who wrote, "The honor paid to an icon is transferred to its prototype." That is, the actual icon was but a point of departure for the expressed devotion; the recipient was in the unseen world.

Third, John claimed that, with the birth of the Son of God in the flesh, the depiction of Christ in paint and wood demonstrated faith in the Incarnation. Since the unseen God had become visible, there was no blasphemy in painting visible representations of Jesus or other historical figures. To paint an icon of him was, in fact, a profession of faith, deniable only by a heretic!
"I do not worship matter, I worship the God of matter, who became matter for my sake and deigned to inhabit matter, who worked out my salvation through matter," he wrote. "I will not cease from honoring that matter which works for my salvation. I venerate it, though not as God."

After prolonged controversy, political intrigue, and bloodshed, the Second Council of Nicaea decided the issue in 787. John’s position was accepted: iconoclasm was condemned and a statement produced which justified icons by reference to the tradition of the church and quotations from the Fathers.

The most important of John’s theological works is The Fount of Wisdom, the last part of which, Exposition of the Catholic Faith, was immensely influential in both the East and the West. A work of research and synthesis rather than original thought, it collected views of the Greek Fathers and presented them in a systematic and logical manner. It was a compendium of respected theological understandings. After being translated into Latin in the 12th century as De Fide Orthodoxa, it was cited by authoritative medieval theologians Peter Lombard and Thomas Aquinas. The De Fide was thus a valuable source in the formulation of Western medieval theology.

Among St John’s hymns is one that is frequently sung at Easter, “The Day of Resurrection”.



The day of resurrection! Earth, tell it out abroad;
The Passover of gladness, the Passover of God.
From death to life eternal, from earth unto the sky,
Our Christ hath brought us over, with hymns of victory.

Our hearts be pure from evil, that we may see aright
The Lord in rays eternal of resurrection light;
And listening to His accents, may hear, so calm and plain,
His own “All hail!” and, hearing, may raise the victor strain.

Now let the heavens be joyful! Let earth the song begin!
Let the round world keep triumph, and all that is therein!
Let all things seen and unseen their notes in gladness blend,
For Christ the Lord hath risen, our joy that hath no end.


St John of Damascus is sometimes regarded as the last of the Church Fathers. He was declared a “Doctor of the Church” in 1890 by Pope Leo XIII. A portal to the writings of St John of Damascus is found here. There are differences of opinion regarding important dates in St John’s life. Several online sources say he entered Mar Saba in 726 or later but, according to the three books I have at hand, that happened in 716.

The prayer for this day:

Confirm our minds, O Lord, in the mysteries of the true faith, Set forth with power by your servant John of Damscus; that we, with him, confessing Jesus to be true God and true Man, and singing the praises of the risen Lord, may, by the power of the resurrection, attain to eternal joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for evermore.


This post is based on the latter:

J. D. Douglas, gen. ed. New International Dictionary of the Christian Church (Zondervan, 1978).

David Farmer, Oxford Dictionary of Saints, 5th ed. (Oxford UP, 2004).
Bert Ghezzi, Voices of the Saints (Doubleday, 2000).

Source of icon: Anno Domini: Jesus Through the Centuries, an online exhibition from Virtual Museum Canada; Theme 7: Jesus, the True Image; Jesus, the Image of God in John of Damascus.

Source of prayer: Praying With the Saints, by Woodeene Koenig-Bricker.

For all of the above, I'm indebted to StatGuy's post of April 19th, 2006, at http://magicstatistics.com/category/christianity/prayers-liturgy/prayers-of-the-saints/

Lectionary Readings for Advent


As we move into Advent (Sunday was the first day of Advent for this year) the Daily Office Lectionary of The Book of Common Prayer shifts from Year Two, back to Year One. This is the start of the Christian year, and a good time to begin a lectionary program. Below are the readings for each day of the first week of Advent. Each reading is in five parts: Morning Psalms, Evening Psalms, Old Testament reading, New Testament (usually epistles) reading, and a Gospel reading. So the first week looks like this:



Sunday (Dec. 3)
146, 147, + 111, 123, 113 (these are the Morning and Evening Psalms)
Isa. 1: 1-9, 2 Peter 3: 1-10, Matt. 25: 1-13.

Monday (Dec. 4)
1, 2, 3, + 4, 7
Isa. 1: 10-20, 1 Thess. 1: 1-10, Luke 20: 1-8

Tuesday (Dec. 5)
5,6 + 10, 11
Isa. 1: 21-31, 1 Thess. 2: 1-12, Luke 20: 9-18.

Wednesday (Dec. 6
119:1-24 + 12, 13, 14
Isa. 2: 1-11, 1 Thess. 2: 13-20, Luke 20: 19-26.

Thursday (Dec. 7)
18:1-20 + 18: 21-50
Isa. 2: 12-22, 1 Thess. 3: 1-13, Luke 20: 27-40

Friday (Dec. 8)
16, 17 + 22
Isa. 3: 8-15. 1 Thess. 4: 1-12, Luke 20: 41—21: 4

Saturday (Dec. 9)
20, 21:1-7 (8-14) + 110:1-5 (6-7), 116, 117
Isa. 4: 2-6, 1 Thess. 4: 13-18, Luke 21: 5-19.

You’ll notice that the readings are chosen with some care. Often the OT readings will shake hands with something in the Gospels, or a reference St. Paul makes in one of his letters.

The lectionary readings can be found online at the Presbyterian Church USA’s web site under Daily Lectionary http://www.pcusa.org/devotions , or from the Daily Office of the Mission of St. Clare http://www.missionstclare.com/english/index.html.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Andy is back from Haiti

After a week in Haiti with Christian Flights International friends, I got back just in time to drive down to Georgia for Thanksgiving. Jennifer Tucker kept a journal of our goings-on that you may wish to see. And I've post a few thoughts and pictures at Your Family Blog. In the photograph to your left, I'm working on improving the water system with Andy Long, a math professor from Northern Kentucky University, who with his wife Anna and their son Thaddeus, is on a work sabbatical in Ranquitte, Haiti, for nine months. Check Andy Long's journal!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Prepare for Advent by Making an Advent Wreath


Advent begins on Sunday, December 3. On this first Sunday of Advent you may well see an Advent wreath in your sanctuary. In some parishes the beginning of Advent is a time for the hanging of the green, decoration of the church with evergreen wreaths, boughs, or trees that help to symbolize the new and everlasting life brought through Jesus the Christ. Some churches have a special weekday service, or the first Sunday evening of Advent, or even the first Sunday morning of Advent, in which the church is decorated and the Advent wreath put in place. This service is most often primarily of music, especially choir and hand bells, and Scripture reading, along with an explanation of the various symbols as they are placed in the sanctuary.

The Advent wreath is an increasingly popular symbol of the beginning of the Church year in many churches as well as homes. It is a circular evergreen wreath (real or artificial) with five candles, four around the wreath and one in the center. Since the wreath is symbolic and a vehicle to tell the Christmas story, there are various ways to understand the symbolism. The exact meaning given to the various aspects of the wreath is not as important as the story to which it invites us to listen, and participate.

The circle of the wreath reminds us of God Himself, His eternity and endless mercy, which has no beginning or end. The green of the wreath speaks of the hope that we have in God, the hope of newness, of renewal, of eternal life. Candles symbolize the light of God coming into the world through the birth of His son. The four outer candles represent the period of waiting during the four Sundays of Advent, which themselves symbolize the four centuries of waiting between the prophet Malachi and the birth of Christ.

The colors of the candles vary with different traditions, but there are usually three purple or blue candles, corresponding to the sanctuary colors of Advent, and one pink or rose candle. One of the purple candles is lighted the first Sunday of Advent, a Scripture is read, a short devotional or reading is given, and a prayer offered. On subsequent Sundays, previous candles are relighted with an additional one lighted. The pink candle is usually lighted on the third Sunday of Advent. However, different churches or traditions light the pink candle on different Sundays depending on the symbolism used (see above on Colors of Advent). In Churches that use a Service of the Nativity, it is often lighted on the fourth Sunday of Advent, the final Sunday before Christmas.

The light of the candles itself becomes an important symbol of the season. The light reminds us that Jesus is the light of the world that comes into the darkness of our lives to bring newness, life, and hope. It also reminds us that we are called to be a light to the world as we reflect the light of God's grace to others (Isa 42:6). The progression in the lighting of the candles symbolizes the various aspects of our waiting experience. As the candles are lighted over the four week period, it also symbolizes the darkness of fear and hopelessness receding and the shadows of sin falling away as more and more light is shed into the world. The flame of each new candle reminds the worshippers that something is happening, and that more is yet to come. Finally, the light that has come into the world is plainly visible as the Christ candle is lighted at Christmas, and worshippers rejoice over the fact that the promise of long ago has been realized.

The first candle is traditionally the candle of Expectation or Hope (or in some traditions, Prophecy). This draws attention to the anticipation of the coming of a Messiah that weaves its way like a golden thread through Old Testament history. As God’s people were abused by power hungry kings, led astray by self-centered prophets, and lulled into apathy by half-hearted religious leaders, there arose a longing among some for God to raise up a new king who could show them how to be God’s people. They yearned for a return of God’s dynamic presence in their midst.

And so, God revealed to some of the prophets that indeed He would not leave His people without a true Shepherd. While they expected a new earthly king, their expectations fell far short of God’s revelation of Himself in Christ. And yet, the world is not yet fully redeemed. So, we again with expectation, with hope, await God’s new work in history, the second Advent, in which He will again reveal Himself to the world. And we understand in a profound sense that the best, the highest of our expectations will fall far short of what our Lord’s Second Advent will reveal!

The remaining three candles of Advent may be associated with different aspects of the Advent story in different churches, or even in different years. Usually they are organized around characters or themes as a way to unfold the story and direct attention to the celebrations and worship in the season. So, the sequence for the remaining three Sundays might be Bethlehem, Shepherds, Angels. Or Peace, Love, Joy. Or John the Baptist, the Magi, Mary. Or the Annunciation, Proclamation, Fulfillment. Whatever sequence is used, the Scripture readings, prayers, lighting of the candles, the participation of worshipers in the service, all are geared to telling the story of redemption through God’s grace in the Incarnation.

The third candle, usually for the Third Sunday of Advent, is traditionally Pink or Rose, and symbolizes Joy at the soon Advent of the Christ. Sometimes the colors of the sanctuary and vestments are also changed to Rose for this Sunday. However, as noted above, increasingly in many churches, the pink Advent candle is used on the fourth Sunday to mark the joy at the impending Nativity of Jesus.

Whatever sequence is adopted for these Sundays, the theme of Joy can still be the focus for the pink candle. For example, when using the third Sunday to commemorate the visit of the Magi the focus can be on the Joy of worshipping the new found King. Or the Shepherds as the symbol for the third Sunday brings to mind the joy of the proclamation made to them in the fields, and the adoration expressed as they knelt before the Child at the manager. If used on the fourth Sunday of Advent, it can symbolize the Joy in fulfilled hope.

The center candle is white and is called the Christ Candle. It is traditionally lighted on Christmas Eve or Day. However, since many Protestant churches do not have services on those days, many light it on the Sunday preceding Christmas, with all five candles continuing to be lighted in services through Epiphany (Jan 6). The central location of the Christ Candle reminds us that the incarnation is the heart of the season, giving light to the world.

Source: Dennis Bratcher, The Season of Advent: Anticipation and Hope

December 1: Nicholas Ferrar, Deacon, 1637

Today we remember Nicholas Ferrar (1592-1637), the founder of a religious community at Little Gidding, Huntingdonshire, England, which existed from 1626 to 1646. His family had been prominent in the affairs of the Virginia Company, but when that company was dissolved, he took deacon's orders and retired to the country. At Little Gidding, his immediate family and a few friends and servants gave themselves wholly to religious observance. They restored the derelict church near the manor house, became responsible for services there, taught many of the local children, and looked after the health and well-being of the people of the neighborhood. A regular round of prayer according to The Book of Common Prayer was observed, along with the daily recital of the whole of the Psalter. The members of the community became widely known for fasting, private prayer and meditation, and for writing stories and books illustrating themes of Christian faith and morality. One of the most interesting of the activities of the Little Gidding community was the preparation of "harmonies" of the Gospels, one of which was presented to King Charles I by the Ferrar family. The community did not long survive the death of Nicholas Ferrar. However, the memory of the religious life at Little Gidding was kept alive, principally through Izaak Walton's description in his Life of George Herbert: [Ferrar] and his family . . . did most of them keep Lent and all Ember-weeks strictly, both in fasting and using all those mortifcations and prayers that the Church hath appointed . . . and he and they did the like constantly on Friday, and on the vigils or eves appointed to be fasted before the Saints' days; and this frugality and abstinence turned to the relief of the poor . . . ." The community becamse an important symbol of many Anglicans when religious orders began to revive. Its life inspired T. S. Eliot, and he gave the title "Little Gidding" to the last of his Four Quartets, one of the great religious poems of the twentieth century.

Here's the collect for our remembrance of Nicholas Ferrar:

Lord God, make us so reflect your perfect love; that, with your Deacon Nicholas Ferrar and his household, we may rule
ourselves according to your Word, and serve you with our whole heart; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

_____

Source: Parish Life, Church of the Good Shepherd, Episcopal, Covington, GA. December 2005.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

November 30: St. Andrew the Apostle

On the day of my baptism, November 30, 1937, I was given the name of Andrew, in honor of my patron saint. Please pray with me and thank God for the witness of this Saint and Apostle.

Almighty God, who gave such grace to your apostle Andrew that He readily obeyed the call of your Son Jesus Christ, and brought his brother with him: Give unto us, who are called by your Word, grace to follow him without delay, and to bring those near to us into his gracious presence; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Remembering the Darker Side of Christmas



Below is an editorial from the current issue of Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity. We don't usually include entire articles, but this one is beautifully written, and I found it of interest--in fact, deeply moving. The article, "God Rest Ye Merry," was written by Wilfred M. McClay. The Touchstone web site is linked at right.



God Rest Ye Merry:
On Celebrating the Darker Meaning of Christmas


A number of years ago, our friend Joseph Bottum, editor of First Things, made a nice observation about his experiences of successive Christmases, one that has stuck in my mind as equally true for me, and perhaps for many of us. He observed that every year there seems to be a particular Christmas carol that grabs his attention early in the season, often because one particular line or image in that carol suddenly opens itself, revealing a fresh meaning that he’d never before noticed.

I’ve had the same experience. I remember being struck a couple of years ago when, in listening to the French carol we call “O Holy Night,” a song I always tended to find both schmaltzy and tedious, I noticed the words “Long lay the world in sin and error pining,/ Till he appeared, and the soul felt its worth.”

Maybe it was just a quirk of timing, but those last six words hit me with unexpected force, and I wondered why I had never noticed them before, even though I’d long ago committed the lyrics to memory. It could have been partly because there are several extant “translations” into English, which vary in the way they render that phrase (and bear little resemblance to the French). But the more general point stands. And I now listen to “O Holy Night” with new respect.

I believe others have similar tales to tell, of carols that somehow come suddenly to life for them. The experience of hearing and singing and sharing these familiar carols every year, year after year, is like the best experience of liturgy, in its combination of familiarity and fresh moments of discovery, when universally known words that have for years passed through one’s lips in rote repetition suddenly blaze forth with meaning, vividly and achingly true.

Like the oldest and best liturgies, these songs are no one’s personal property, time and usage having wiped away nearly all distracting fingerprints of authorship and “originality.” Instead, they belong to all of us. They are old friends to us, and like the best old friends, they are comfortable and reassuring, and yet also full of mysteries and surprises and strange, hidden delights. Our Christmas carols are among the most precious shared possessions of our fragmenting, fraying culture, and for all that we abuse them and demean them, they seem to remain imperishable.

This year, somehow it’s been “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” that has stuck in my brain, and particularly these words, in the first verse: “To save us all from Satan’s power/ When we were gone astray.” We move through these sibilant words so quickly and rhythmically. I know I always have. And yet how plainly those few words sketch in a somber background, a whole universe of presuppositions without which the song has a very different, and diminished, meaning.

The merriness being urged upon the gentlemen (one should always remember that, in the lyrics, there is a comma between “merry” and “gentlemen”—they are not “merry gentlemen” being encouraged to “rest”) comes amid a great darkness, a darkness that never disappears, that beckons and threatens, a darkness whose presence is subtly conveyed by the minor key with which the song begins and ends. The black ship with black sails lingers on the far horizon, silent and waiting.

Dark Reminders

There are constant reminders of this darkness, if one has ears to hear them, running through the great liturgy of our Christmas carols, with their memorable evocations of bleak midwinter, snow on snow, sad and lonely plains, the curse, the half-spent night. The spooky and antiseptically sterile depiction of winter in C. S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and its cinematic adaptations is, in that sense, very close to the spirit of the older carols, and to the biblical account of the matter—much closer than the hearty merriment of rosy-cheeked seasonal songs like “Sleigh Ride” or “Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow.” [In the Witch's Narnia, it was "always winter, never Christmas."]

The older lyrics are laced with just such evocations of darkness. They help us remember why it is symbolically right, even if historically wrong, to celebrate Christ’s birth in winter.
We are constantly reminded to “keep Christ in Christmas” and to remember “the reason for the season.” And of course we should. But, if I may be permitted to put it this way, we must also keep Satan in Christmas, and not skip too lightly over the lyrics that mention him.

For he and the forces he embodies are an integral part of the story. It utterly transforms the way we understand Christmas, and our world, when we also hold in our minds a keen awareness of the darkness into which Christ came, and still must come, for our sake.

Later in “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” the visiting angel tells the shepherds in the field that Christ has come “To free all those who trust in him/ From Satan’s power and might.” Being subject to that “power and might” is, as we are likely to put it these days, the default setting of our human existence. But the Christmas story plays havoc with all such defaults.

It reveals the putatively normal and settled features of our world to be something very different: the ruins and aftereffects of a great and ancient calamity, the tokens of a disordered order. It lifts the veil of illusion about who we are and what we were made to be. Which means that the “comfort and joy” of which the song speaks are not merely outbursts of seasonal jollity.

Captives’ Gratitude

They bespeak the ecstatic gratitude of captives and cripples who recognize that, in and through Christ, the entire cosmos has been transformed, and their lives have been made new. Nothing can ever be the same again.

The darkness does not go away. Not now, not yet. But the light that shines into it can make even the bleakest midwinter into a landscape glistening with promise. So may it be for each of us, this and every Christmas.


Monday, November 27, 2006

Commemoration of Kamehameha and Emma, King and Queen of Hawaii, 1864, 1865.

This evening begins the Commemoration of Kamehameha and Emma, King and Queen of Hawaii, 1864, 1865. When in Hawaii earlier this year, I heard a little bit about them, but remembered nothing substantial. Here's what I now know:

Within a year of ascending the throne in 1855, the twenty year old King Kamehameha IV and his bride, Emma Rooke, embarked on the path of altruism and unassuming humility for which they have been revered by their people. The year before, Honolulu, and especially its native Hawaiians, had been horribly afflicted with smallpox. The people, accustomed to a royalty which ruled with pomp and power, were confronted instead by a king and queen who went about, "with notebook in hand," soliciting from the rich and poor funds to build a hospital. Queen's Hospital, named for Emma, is now the largest civilian hospital in Hawaii.

In 1860, the king and queen petitioned the Bishop of Oxford to send missionaries to establish the Anglican Church in Hawaii. The king's interest came through a boyhood tour of England where he had seen, in the stately beauty of Anglican liturgy, a quality that seemed attuned to the gentle beauty of the Hawaiian spirit. England responded by sending the Rt. Rev. Thomas N. Staley and two priests. They arrived on October 11, 1862, and the king and queen were confirmed a month later, on November 28, 1862. They then began preparations for a cathedral and school, and the king set about to translate The Book of Common Prayer and much of the Hymnal.

Kamehameha's life was marred by the tragic death of his four year old son and only child, in 1863. He seemed unable to survive his sadness, although a sermon he preached after his son's death expresses a hope and faith that is eloquent and profound. His own death took place only a year after his son's, in 1864. Emma declined to rule; instead, she committed her life to good works. She was responsible for schools, churches, and efforts on behalf of the poor and sick. She traveled several times to England and the Continent to raise funds, and became a favorite of Queen Victoria's. Archbishop Longley of Canterbury, remarked upon her visit to Lambeth: "I was much struck by the cultivation of her mind...But what excited my interest the most was her almost saintly piety."The Cathedral was completed after Emma died. It was named St. Andrew's in memory of the king, who died on that Saint's day.

Among the Hawaiian people, Emma is still refered to as "our beloved Queen."

Proper:Acts 17:22-31 Psalm 33:12-22 or 97:1-2, 7-12 Matthew 25:31-40

O Sovereign God, who raised up King Kamehameha IV and Queen Emma to be rulers of Hawaii, and didst inspire and enable them to be diligen in good works for the welfare of their people and the good of thy Church: Receive our thanks for their witness to the Gospel; and grant that we, with them, may attain to the crown of glory that fadeth not away; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

A (mildly ) humorous paragraph from John A.T. Robinson on Biblical scholarship



John A.T. Robinson closes his book Redating the New Testament with the following paragraph which he had found in an obscure journal some years ago. He didn't intend this note to be taken too seriously, but it made a point that his book also makes. (Robinson argues--on the basis of how little mention is made in the New Testament of the destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70--that all important New Testaament materials, including the Gospel of John, must date from before A.D. 70.) Robinson's position is not the one held by most scholars today. But on to the quote:

There is a world--I do not say a world in which all scholars live but one at any rate into which all of them sometimes stray, and which some of them seem permanently to inhabit--which is not the world in which I live. In my world, if The Times and The Telegraph both tell one story in somewhat different terms, nobody concludes that one of them must have copied the other, nor that the variations in the story have some esoteric significance. But in that world of which I am speaking this would be taken for granted. There, no story is ever derived from facts but always from somebody else's version of the same story. . . . In my world, almost every book, except some of them produced by Government departments, is written by one author. In that world almost every book is produced by a committee, and some of them by a whole series of committees. In my world, if I read that Mr. Churchill, in 1935, said that Europe was heading for a disastrous war, I applaud his foresight. In that world, no prophecy, however vaugely worded, is ever made except after the event. In my world we say, "The First World War took place in 1914-1918." In that world they say, "The world-war narrative took shape in the third decade of the twentieth century." In my world men and women live for a considerable time--seventy, eightly, even a hundred years--and they are equipped with a thing called memory. In that world (it would appear) they come into being, write a book and forthwith perish, all in a flash, and it is noted of them with astonishment that they "perserve traces of primitive tradition" about things which happened well within their own adult lifetimes (356).

Robinson's book was originally publsihed in the mid-1980s, and has recnetly (2000) been reprinted. It's an interesting book to read, because of the originial argument he makes and his natural wit. In defense of the quote, it does seem that quite a bit of what passes for New Testament scholarship these days is similar to science fiction--a drop of scientific truth and a gallon or two of fantasy.

Best wishes,

Mason Smith

Friday, November 17, 2006

Pray For Andy

Hello,

Last Sunday, there was a dedication for the people going on the mission trip to Haiti. Andy is one of those going. We need to praise God that Andy's and everyone else's involved are led in this way. A lot of the places in Haiti are poverty stricken and run down. Let's pray that this mission trip is a success. The only way that this will happen is if all of these missionaries are pumped full of the Love and Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. I do want to say that I appreciate these hearts that are so led; as I believe all of us on this blog do.

God Bless You. Be Safe.

Richie

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

November 2: The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed


On this day we remember those among us who have died as beloved of God. This is a day to thank the Most Holy Trinity, our gracious God, for the great host of witnesses who have lived in the Father's mercy, the grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the communion of the Holy Spirit. With the following prayer you may remember them before God:

ALMIGHTY God, with whom do live the spirits of them that depart hence in the Lord, and with whom the souls of the faithful, after they are delivered from the burden of the flesh, are in joy and felicity: We give thee hearty thanks, for that it hath pleased thee to deliver this our brother out of the miseries of this sinful world; beseeching thee, that it may please thee, of thy gracious goodness, shortly to accomplish the number of thine elect, and to hasten thy kingdom; that we, with all those that are departed in the true faith of thy holy Name, may have our perfect consummation and bliss, both in body and soul, in thy eternal and everlasting glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

If a friend of yours has died in the mercy and love of God, you may wish to remember your friend before God with this prayer:

Into your hands, O merciful Savior, we commend your servant _____, now departed from the body. Acknowledge, we, humbly beseech you, O Lord, a sheep of your own fold, a lamb of your own flock, a sinner of your own redeeming. Receive (him/her) into the arms of your mercy, into the blessed rest of everlasting peace, and into the glorious company of the saints in light. Amen

--------------------
The image in this posting, The Martyr Saints of Korea, is from http://jimmyakin.typepad.com/defensor_fidei/2006
/11/happy_all_saint.html





Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Feast of All Saints

This evening begins The Feast of All Saints, once known as All Hallows' Eve, now often called All Saints Day. This day is a universal Christian Feast that honors and remembers all Christian saints, known and unknown. In the Western Church (esp. Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Anglicans) it is kept on November 1. The Orthodox Churches observe it on the first Sunday after Pentecost.

Ephrem Syrus (d. 373) mentions a Feast dedicated the saints in his writings. St. Chrysostom of Constantinople (d. 407) was the first Christian we know of to assign the Feast to a particular day: the first Sunday after Pentecost. The Feast did not become established in the Western Church, however, until the Roman bishop Boniface IV consecrated the Pantheon at Rome to Christian usage as a church on May 13, 609 or 610. The Feast was observed annually on this date until the time of Bishop of Rome, Gregory III (d. 741) when its observance was shifted to Nov. 1, since on this date Gregory dedicated a chapel in the Basilica of St. Peter to "All the Saints." It was Gregory IV (d. 844), who in 835 ordered the Feast of All Saints to be universally observed on Nov. 1.3

As mentioned above, All Saints Day is celebrated by Roman Catholics, the Orthodox, Anglicans, and Lutherans However, because of their differing understandings of the identity and function of the saints, what these churches do on the Feast of All Saints differs widely. For Roman Catholics, the Orthodox, and to some extent, Anglicans, All Saints is a day to remember, thank God for, but also to venerate and pray to the saints in heaven for various helps. For Lutherans the day is observed by remembering and thanking God for all saints, both dead and living. It is a day to glorify Jesus Christ, who by his holy life and death has made the saints holy through Baptism and faith.

When Our Enemies are in Our Prayers

John N. Day's "The Pillars of Imprecation: How to Pray for Your Enemies by Praying Against Them" in Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity (November 2006) gives us a fine essay on how we might pray those psalms which ask God to destroy those who oppress and terrorize us. Day's essay focuses on Psalm 83, the very psalm which The Daily Prayer of the Church asks us to use on Mondays in Week I.

When praying such a psalm, Day urges us to place our imprecations before God as follows:
  • only is settings of extreme enmity (as, for example, in Dafur)
  • only while we practice persistant love of God and mankind (Matthew 22.37-39)
  • only as we relinquish all personal desires of revenge (Leviticus 19.18)
  • only as we appeal to God who has told that He alone is the Avenger (Deuteronomy 32.35)
  • only as we plead with "the perfected saints in heaven" (Revelation 6.9-11)
It is, of course, difficult to keep such admonitions and cautions in one's heart and mind as we "pray for our enemies by praying against them." As I was reading/praying Psalm 83 yesterday morning and in the post-psalm silence thought about how it as it relates to the Church's (and thus to my own) prayer life, I found it difficult to collect my thoughts adequately after the silence. The DPC's "after-silence" collect (usually good) was inadequate and did not help very much. To help me next month (or whenever I come across psalms of imprecation) last night I wrote this collect:

O God, in your mercy You have promised to deliver suffering and oppressed peoples from the hands of those who hate you; as we live between Your command to love our enemies and Your promises to undo those who murder, rape, and pillage the innocent, we ask that You fill those who are evil with shame that they may seek Your name and repent of their evil; seeking to be obedient to your will and forsaking every personal desire for retaliation, we implore You to execute Your divine justice for the sake of those who suffer oppression; within the Company of Heaven and in the love and justice of Christ, we offer ourselves and these petitions through the same Jesus Christ, who lives and rules with You and the Holy Spirit forever.

If you would like to read Day's essay, let me know, and I see to it that you receive a print copy. And let me know how the collect above might be improved so that I might learn how to pray for my enemies while praying to God against them.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

A Prayer for Saint Simon and Saint Jude

Today, many Christians around the world will pause to honor the lives of Saint Jude (photo at left) and Saint Simon. The Book of Common Prayer contains the following prayer in honor of these servants of Christ:

O God, we thank thee for the glorious company of the apostles, and especially on this day for Simon and Jude; and we pray that, as they were faithful and zealous in their mission, so we may with ardent dovotion make known the love and mercy of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

You know, we all have odd throughs at 3 a.m. on sleepless nights, and one of my ramblings is to wonder what would have been contained in a new book if Luke had written "Acts 2," or "II Acts." He continued the Gospel that bears his name with the book of Acts, but Acts seems to end right in the middle of things. Paul is in jail; the church is suffering persecution, and Peter is--well, where? What's going on back in Jerusalem? Acts 1 doesn't tell us about the deaths of Paul and Peter in Rome, and the careers of several of the apostles are not mentioned at all.

I think this is remarkable. After all, Luke was such a careful historian, why didn't he record the rest of the information that he must have known? Even the traditions of the Chruch give only partial clues to what these men and women did with their ministries and how they met their deaths.

A friend of mine told me once that the Bible contains enough information to save us, but not too much, which would overwhelm us. She cited John 21:25. I suppose we don't need to know these extra stories, but sometimes--at 3 a.m. on sleepless nights--it would be interesting to think about . . . .

Best wishes,

Mason Smith

Thursday, October 26, 2006

"October Prayer"



Each month Christianity Today includes a page of quotations, "Reflections." This month the page includes a short poem by Esther Popel titled "October Prayer." It goes like this:

Change me, O God,

Into a tree in autumn.

And let my dying

Be a blaze of glory! (82).

Best wishes,

Mason Smith

Monday, October 23, 2006

A short ghost story

So here we are near Halloween, and I thought a short ghost story might be in order.

I was reading Katherine Ramsland's Ghost: Investigating the Other Side recently, and ran across the following paragraph in her conclusion. She is discussing what her research--years of reading about and interviewing vampires and ghost hunters--had revealed to her:

Perhaps the most startling revelation to me was the apparent communication from "them"--those who had died--that the way we live here affects the way we may exist over there. If we don't like who we are, we'd better make some changes. According to one report, it's more difficult to change over there. If true, that really makes one think about what might make eternity worth the experience and what might make it miserable. (295)

The funny part of this quote is that Ms. Ramsland, a Ph.D. in philosophy who has taught at ivy-league universities, has spent years learning what the church has been teaching openly for centuries: What happens in life really matters. We'd better make some changes. It's hard to change "over there." Eternity could be worth the experience, or it might be miserable.

On a more serious note, the book was distrubing because she spent nearly 300 pages searching for contact with an evil personality who had been a killer in life and who she believed was following her from beyond death. Why would anyone seek contact with a demon? And she jumped through all the New Age, paranormal hoops.

Years ago, my parents were good friends with our local Presbyterian minister. I remember Mr. Thompson was totally set against paranormal "games" such as Ouija boards and the like. He claimed that such things would never pull up anything but an evil spirit.

I've always wondered what the Rev. Thompson had experienced that might have led to this belief. He wasn't entirely consistent. He'd tell you, "Ouija is just a game," and then in the same breath, "Don't ever play it."

Regardless of how dangerous paranormal games might be, if Ms. Ramsland wants answers to the mysteries of life, it seems to me she'd do better to pick up a Bible rather than try to contact a dead, murderer-vampire via seances.

Best wishes,
Mason Smith

Friday, October 20, 2006

Prayer and Ministry

Hello All,

I want to talk about the value of discernment, prayer, and ministry. This is both a testimony to God's greatness and a prayer request for a friend of mine that needs prayer badly.

In my Christian walk I am led to go to restaraunts frequently. This week (Monday), I was led of God to go to Madison Garden-- a restaurant/bar here in downtown Richmond Ky. The first thing I saw was an ambulance about to take a young woman away to the hospital. She had passed out for a minute or two and came around. She could have had this happen for a number of causes and we don't know why. She cut herself on the corner of a table or something. She is said to need stitches. All I could do was sit still for about 10 or so minutes and pray for her to be safe and well.

The above wasn't even half of my story about what happened. Soon afterward, I met a total stranger named Ron (talking with strangers is one of my spiritual specialties that God has given me to use for Him). We talked for about four hours about life, the Christian faith, and some small talk. This man has to be about the loneliest man that I have ever run across. Ron is a Christian, but because he has been lonely for an extended period of time (divorced 17 years), he started to crack a little and was there to pick up women. He said he knew his motives were not pure because he just wanted attention and love. Of course, a good woman might be the ticket if the relationship is wholesome. Ron was not after a wholesome dating relationship at all. Instead of him finding a lust party, God sent me to Ron so his heart wouldn't be as badly tarnished or hurt as it could have been. I prayed over him after everything was said and done and he took me home. He and I hope we see each other again (I believe and know I will in heaven). He just needed a strong Christian to help in a time of spiritual and emotional crisis. God gave Ron what he needed, not his actual heart's desire of a lady. He however got his heart's desire for love and attention. Praise be to the Lord Jesus Christ for now and forever for the grace that He shows to people who are down and out (or down and almost out) whatever the case may be. This man also drinks (he says not above his tolerance, just until he becomes light-headed--In my opinion, lightheaded = just a little too much to drink, so it might be a problem--this part I don't know), he smokes decently heavily and he uses bad language quite a bit (I told him that these are a hinderance to a good Christian walk--which he understands perfectly). The reason for the swearing habit he said is that he had been in the Navy Seals and was immersed in this bad stuff (drill sergeants motivate in this way he says), and he was expected to do the same--the way I understand it. He has two teenage sons that he has lost precious time with because they don't exactly have a lot of common ground right now (hobbies, interests etc.). This makes him even lonelier.

In short, this person needs a lot of prayer and help. The praise of it is that God showed His greatness that night because I know that God helped Ron through me. I promised that I would raise a prayer warrior army--full of faith and mostly love.

We need to pray for discernment so God can give us the blueprint for our lives of witness and ministry. Grace is needed by all of us. I just am glad God is full of all the grace we need and/or want. Prayer is one of the biggest engines we have to do ministry and make a difference!!!! Praise be to the Lord God Almighty, who forever is, was, and yet to come--The Alpha and Omega.

God Bless You. Be Safe.

Richie.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

St. Luke's Day, Oct. 18



Today (Oct. 18), many Christians will pause to remember the Third Evangelist, St. Luke.

His gospel--which contains some of the most-loved stories in the New Testament--is apparently based on a variety of sources, as he suggests himself in the opening verses:

"Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught" (Luke 1.1-4, NIV).

The introduction to his gospel in the NIV Study Bible has the following to say about Luke's biography:

"Luke was probably a Gentile by birth, well educated in Greek culture, a physician by profession, a companion of Paul at various times from his second missionary journey to his final imprisonment in Rome, and a loyal friend who remained with the apostle after others had deserted him (2 Tim. 4.11). Antioch of Syria and Philippi are among the places suggested as his hometown" (1564).

The introduction continues: "Luke had outstanding command of the Greek language. His vocabulary is extensive and rich, and his style at times approaches that of classical Greek (as in the preface 1.1-4), while at other times it is quite Semitic (1.5-2.52)--often like the Septuagint (the pre-Christian Greek translation of the OT)" (1564).

The Book of Common Prayer suggests the following prayer on this day:

Almighty God, who inspired your servant Luke the physician to set forth in the Gospel the love and healing power of your Son: Graciously continue in your Church this love and power to heal, to the praise and glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Best wishes,

Mason Smith

Friday, October 06, 2006

Remembering William Tyndale

Today (Oct. 6) many Christians will pause to remember English reformer and Bible translator William Tyndale (c. 1494-1536). He is perhaps best known for an early translation of the Bible into English--well before the Authorized (King James) Version of the Bible of 1611. In fact, he was finally executed for his work in translating and making the Scriptures available to the people.

Historian David Daniel, in his introduction of a modern edition of Tyndale's New Testament has this to say:

William Tyndale's Bible translations have been the best-kept secrets in English Bible history. Many people have heard of Tyndale: very few have read him. Yet no Englishman--not even Shakespeare--has reached so many.

Tyndale translated the New Testament twice, and continually revised. His 1534 New Testament was his greatest work. . . . [We now know that ] much of the New Testament in the 1611 Authorized Version came directly from Tyndale, as a glance at Luke 2 or most of Colossians or Revelation 21 will show. [In many cases] the rest was [only] subtly changed (vii).

Christians in the English-speaking world owe this 16th century scholar a massive debt of thanks. We might pray a short prayer for him as follows:

Almighty God, thank you for the life and work of your servant William Tyndale, who labored and died that we might have your Holy Word in English. Thank you for this priceless gift, which has comforted and inspired countless millions of English-speaking people around the globe. Please, Lord, bless today the men and women who continue to work to translate and make available the Scriptures to native peoples who have no other avenue to your Gospel. Grant them stength and wisdom in their work, and grant them protection from those who would have this work stopped. We ask this in Jesus' name, Amen.

Best wishes,
Mason Smith

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Walking the Danville Labyrinth in Prayer


I'm taking part in a Wednesday night small group discussion at church titled "Worship Alive." Among the topics we've discussed is the ancient practice of walking a labyrinth.

In this practice, the walker enters the path to the center of the labyrinth, walking slowly and in a prayerful manner, and makes his-or-her way along the path. At the center, the walker must turn around and walk the same path back out. (The labyrinth is not a maze--no dead ends here, just one way in and back out again!)

The most famous labyrinth is set into the floor of Chartre Cathedral in France. Flying to France would be quite a trip for me, but I recently discovered that a labyrinth has been built in a park at Danville, Kentucky, near the campus of Centre College. This is a Chartre-style labyrinth, and is (as you can see) in the open air.

There are two links for this topic: http://www.elmwoodinn.com/labyrinth.html and http://www.labyrinthsociety.org/assets/flash/labyrinth.html. This last link takes you to a virtual labyrinth.

The act of movement in prayer helps to concentrate the mind. And the twisting path of the Chartre Labyrinth suggests certain themes for meditation. One thinks, or example, of the four seasons of the year, of the turns and twists in a normal life, and of the search for peace at the center. A cross divides it into four quadrants, which are interconnected.

I'm told prayer inside a labyrinth can be very deep and meaningful.

Thoughts? Comments?

Best wishes,
Mason Smith

Monday, September 25, 2006

A prayer that Huston Smith might like

In a previous post, I discussed Huston Smith's new book, The Soul of Christianity (right). One argument he makes in that book is that the Christian world view--and the view of all of the world's major religions--is that the physical universe isn't the only reality.

Our physical universe of matter and energy is at present the only universe that science can access, which is the basis for the modernist view that foregrounds materialism. One thinks of Carl Sagan's introduction to Cosmos back in the '70s, when he said, while a beautiful series of star views played across the TV screen, "The Universe. It is all that exists. It is all that has ever existed, and all that ever will exist."

Huston Smith argues that the Invisible Universe is just as real as "reality." In fact, as physicists tell us, "reality" i.e. matter, is really a form of congealed data. Reality is in some sense information, not stuff.

Anyway, I found a beautiful prayer in The Book of Common Prayer that I thought Huston Smith might enjoy. It's actually Proper 20, the prayer for this week, and it runs as follows:

Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The ancient words sound surprisingly current, don't they?

Best wishes,
Mason Smith
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