Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A Voters Guide

An Inkling
Last week and again this week our E-News is running an article explaining why the Session does not want us to put out “non-partisan” voters’ guides.  To that word allow me to add this:  a non-partisan voters’ guide – ha!  To bring your Christian values to bear on next week’s election, I offer these suggestions:
Pray.  That’s one thing you can do regardless of your political views.  Pray for the candidates and their families.  Pray for the voters to discern wisely.  Pray for those you find it easy to disdain.
Study.  One reason political ads (and thus political spending) have such an outsized impact is that for many voters these are the only source of information.  That’s scary, since many of the ads are designed to deceive!  Study the issues.  And that means listening to some different voices.  If you usually read The Washington Post, check out The Washington Times, and vice versa.
Discuss.  It really is possible to have civil conversations about politics!  We make better judgments ourselves when we hear how others sort out the issues, and they’ll make better judgments when they hear how we do.   
Weigh.  Matters on which the scripture is both clear and urgent must be given greater weight.  For example, the scripture is clear that God judges a nation in large part by how it treats its most vulnerable – “as you’ve done it to the least of these.…”  That would include the unborn and the poor.  But scripture is neither clear nor urgent about the size of government or how to deal with public debt.  We must weigh accordingly.  (And the complexity of such weighing drives us back to pray, study, and discuss!)
Vote.  It’s easy to opt out, driven either by apathy or disgust.  It’s hard to do all that is necessary to vote well.  Do the hard thing, both for your nation and your Lord.
Rejoice.  Next Wednesday some will be celebrating and others mourning.  Whatever our response, we can rejoice that the One who is not at all subject to our elections is unfailingly gracious and good.  His is the Kingdom, the power, and the glory forever!  Which means we can rejoice!


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Much Obliged

An Inkling
It was less easy to remake me than to make me...  But he who made me by a single word, in remaking me had to speak many words, work miracles, suffer hardships,...  and even unjust treatment...  In his first work he gave me myself; in his second work he gave me himself.  When he gave me himself, he gave me back myself.  Given, and regiven, I owe myself [to God] twice over.  (Bernard of Clairvaux, 12th century French monk)
Profundity hardly needs commentary.  I simply would add that being obliged to God is not a bad deal.  “Obliged” is a word that came to us from the Latin, via French.  Its root means to be bound to, and is the same root from which we get our word “ligament.”  To be obliged to God twice over is to be bound to life itself.
We love to fancy ourselves as fully independent, masters of our own fate, bound to no one.  That fancy was first suggested to humanity by a serpent, and it led to our unmaking.
The same serpent still whispers.  Far better is it to attune our ears to the One to whom we’re now obliged twice over.  For only in taking up that obligation are we finally free.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

What If They Laugh at Us?

An Inkling
What if they laugh at us?  None of us want to be the butt of a joke.
But on second thought, why not?  If your goal is to have it all together, or at least appear to, then there is no joy in being the butt of the joke.  But if you’re living in the grace of Jesus precisely because you don’t have it all together, then laughter at you is laughter with you – and, as it turns out, laughter with God.
Tim Hawkins has a marvelous gift for eliciting such laughter, as you can see from this video.  He has a bunch more on youtube.  Check him out, and find joy in being the butt of the joke.
What if they laugh at us?  Or more to the point, what if they don’t?!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Praise in Many Voices

An Inkling
I was away last week for study leave, the parts of which made for an interesting variety:  a healing conference at Orkney Springs, a seminar on ministry to those with dementia, a mission celebration for I.C.M., and a weekend spent in a small fishing village.  If variety is the spice of life, the week was well seasoned.
That seasoning included a wide variety of music.  Kenny Davis led the healing conference worship, with songs ranging from gospel hymns, to upbeat praise choruses, to spontaneous singing in the Spirit, to motion songs in which we snatched back God’s stuff from the devil (I’ll leave those to your imagination). 
Kathy Berry led the seminar on ministry to those with dementia, which included some music.  She played some pieces that connect well for those with a diminished capacity to process – single voice, single instrument renditions of well known songs like Amazing Grace and Jesus Loves Me.  The simplicity was refreshing.
The I.C.M. mission celebration featured the “Men of Music,” a southern gospel trio from Jackson, MS.  They majored in tight harmonies, which they sang to the accompaniment of full instrumental tracks, and interspersed with good ol’ boy bantering.
The fishing village is on Tangier Island, where we worshipped with the Methodists.  They have a “class meeting” early on Sundays, during which several folks shared what they had learned from scripture and their interactions with the Lord during the week.  After each one spoke, a woman with a strong voice led the group in singing one verse of a hymn that they all knew by heart.  She chose hymns that resonated with the testimony just given.  It made for an interesting weaving of praise and instruction.
We have a pretty broad span of worship music in our services here at St. Giles.  Yet the musical patterns of this week’s songs were largely unknown to me, and served well to stretch me.  It was a good reminder that the full breadth of God’s praise reaches far beyond our little span.  And in the fullness of time the span will only broaden.
Getting ready,