Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Again, again

Only a few hours had past from posting a prayer on this blog concerning the Boston Marathon bombings entitled "Again" that it happened again. The West fertilizer plant exploded with devastating and deadly fury. Again people had their lives changed literally in the twinkling of an eye. There were losses at every level of humanity and with every loss came a dozen questions flooding the soul, mind, psyche, and heart. How, why, why, why, why, who, how, what, what again. How did it happen? Why did it happen? How do they move on? Who did you know? Again and again we ask, again and again the answers aren't adequate. The more honest simply admit: "I don't know."

Before the shock had worn off and the grief process started for Boston and West, news of the Colorado avalanche, the China earthquake, the mid-west floods and the shootings in Seattle tended to push the last horror off the news with the new horror. And the questions, grief, and prayers started again. Can that amount of pain and suffering be absorbed? Can some well-intentioned but theologically poorly informed saint really glibly say in the face of such tragedy, "well, the Lord never puts more on us than we can handle." Really? Who can handle the cruelty, arbitrariness, timing, and pain that life can inflict? I can't handle all that  much I guess. My heart breaks; my mind shuts down; my anger rises; my soul is confused.  I grow numb.

So what did I do? I started with prayer. I didn't know how to pray really but I bounced familiar words off the ceiling and read some Psalms as prayers. Psalm 27, 31,42,46,80,90,103,120...well you get the idea. I took the nearest disaster, West, and inquired with phone calls to see how I (we) could help. I went and checked on a couple of our White Bluff volunteer firefighters who went over that horrible night. At that point I was told to seek donations and prayers, and stay away a few days. We organized the church to make donations and offerings. Manpower available when and as needed. (I must say I am very proud of the church I pastor. We average about 200 in worship and these folks gave over $5500 the first Sunday\week and will take an offering again on the next Sunday.) Then I read my prayer again from the Boston bombings. Some, if not much of that prayer was answered on many levels. Seeing that I looked at the title again, "Again," and had a thought.

I went to the Bible and looked up how the word "again" was used in scripture and thought of how we use it in our daily lives. Just a simple word, 'again,' but listen again...

Roy and Dale used to sing "till we meet again."
Genesis 8-9 say "never again" five times.
My granddaughter says "again" into the skype camera when she wants her MiMi to play giddy up horsey again.
Buck Owens sang about being "Together Again" to his lover in the old country song.
"It happened again" is in some versions of the Bible and on our lips regularly.
John 3 tells us we must be "born again."
We know what it means for something, whether good or bad, to happen 'again and again.'
Paul tells us to "again rejoice" and also go to some effort to "remind you again."
And Jesus "rose again" from the grave.

I believe this: This world is sick with sin. It will burden us again and again with pain and sorrow; weeping and grief. Good people will rise up again and meet the pain, sorrow, horror, grief and death with courage, sacrifice, compassion, love, and goodness. There is coming a day when these tragedies will happen never again. So let me also remind you again, especially you who have lost so much, that you will laugh again; you will hope again; you can love again. And for all who have lost so much, in Christ, you will see them again.

In the meantime, seek again the face of Christ, till He comes


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Again...(a prayer)

Dear Father,
     It has happened again. We knew it was possible, even probable, but when it happened we were stunned.  Grant us your grace in our shock of Boston's bombings. May this grace be especially real and near to those so devastatingly close to the act of terror. Our words aren't enough to express the loss, the shock is too raw, too soon. Our words may never catch up with our grief. They seem to catch up more quickly with our anger.

We cry out for healing, relief, and comfort--so deeply needed by the victims of the acts of cowardice. But we also cry out for healing, relief, comfort, and answers in a world seemingly exploding with evil.  Remind us of your loving presence, in, especially in times of trouble. May we be quick to remember that there are evil forces loosed in our world seeking to devour and destroy that which is good, and right and noble. May we also quickly remember that in this world where we have tribulation, through your Son you have overcome evil and have been given the power of truth, faith, mercy and love for us to resist evil and prevail against it.

There seems to be no end to the enemy's schemes and explosions of hate. May we always know that even so, the weapons of our warfare far outnumber his. Grant that your church always move toward the trouble with grace and hope and love as so many brave souls did to attend to the victims in Boston.  We are so thankful for their courage and help. But we also ask that you move swiftly with justice and bring to justice those who would so seek to hurt so many innocents.

We have grown tired of the pain, suffering, and injustice we see when your truth of salvation is ignored or refused.  May the enemy grow tired and weary, more so than we, in the face of a people, of a church that never runs out of worship, praise, hope, love and service even when it has to be expressed through tears of sorrow.

And as we cry, grant that with one tearful eye we cry with grief for the pain of victims,  for a world at war with itself, for the lost-ness of people who don't know the joy and peace of your salvation, for the destruction that follows behind evil, but with the other eye may our tears be tears of resolve to rise up with love, truth, courage, faith, and all that expresses the heart of God and stand in a fallen world with a cross shaped commitment to proclaim the glory of God and the endurance his truth secures.

Now turn us loose, dear Father, as more than conquerors through him who loves us; equip us with your full armor of truth, righteousness and the gospel of peace and salvation. Encourage us with the thought that in your Son we have already triumphed.  Renew our hope, not in the goodness of man, but in the holiness and righteousness of Christ as we look forward to the day when when prayers like this are never prayed--again.

In Jesus' strong and holy name,

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Theology's Gone to the Dogs

                                                 Theology's Going to the Dogs

 I live in a split home. Those two free moral agents that occupy and exercise limited rule over the boundaries of our estate are at odds with one another. I'm speaking of my dogs. One is definitely a Calvinist, the other strictly Arminian.

Let me explain how I know this. One day last week I went out to walk the dogs. I go out from the side of the garage and walk to the backyard with their leashes in hand. I unlock the gate and call for the dogs to come. The male, responding to what he believes are words from his god, (me) comes joyfully to the gate. He finds it closed, but the latch is not latched, it is merely leaning on the latch. It looks closed. But knowing the call of his master and the character of his master, and seeing the leash that leads to the bliss of walking, he jumps and  pushes with nose and feet and effects his freedom. He has taken this step by faith. He has heard the call to come and he comes freely and gleefully exercises his free will to join me in a journey, an adventure with his god (me).

Now the lady dog responds at a more leisurely pace. She is a sweet, pleasant soul and sometimes stubborn. Did I mention she was female? Anyway, upon her arrival to the gate, she finds it has swung back to its original position after the exit of the male dog. It is not fully latched, merely leaning on the the latch. For her it looks closed. I call to her "come." She sits down inside the gate and looks longingly, mournfully for her god(me) to come and execute my sovereign will to expedite her exodus. I begin to move away from the gate with the male dog. She cries out in prayer (barking) and yet does not move. We move further away and even give loud and enthusiastic words of encouragement to push, lean, jump or in some way exercise free will and initiative against the dark forces (unlatched gate) confining her to the backyard. She remains inside the gate, waiting for her god(me) to come back and receive her to myself. We are now some fifty yards away and her will is steadfast as her cries are mournful. I return and spend time teaching sanctification to the lady dog. I show her repeatedly how the gate may be moved and convince her that it is her god's (me) will for her to jump on the gate with her paws and open it. She finally does and we begin our faith walk together.

Obviously, I have a Calvinist and an Anminian dog. Upon our return from our walk we discussed these issues and both made their cases. The male made his defense for free choice and his experience was born out by the longer freedom and joy he experienced by simply giving a push in the direction toward his god(me). The female made her defense by pointing out that her belief in her god's(me) absolute sovereignty was born out by the fact that her god(me) did in fact return and set her free thus confirming her beliefs. Neither would give in and neither would win this argument. I fed them and retired to the house(heaven).

I'm not sure how these two dogs raised in the same home with the same god (me) came to two totally different conclusions about my will but they did. I see their points of contention with the other and agree with some of their points and disagree with others. At my advanced age,  I view it somewhat philosophically. For a river to flow two banks are required. God is sovereign; man is free to choose and is responsible. So what does one do? This I know: stay in the flow of God's will to love one another and do justice. The last I checked, there is a river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. (Rev. 22: 1-3)

Stay in the river,