May 14, 2017

April 9, 2017

Challenge to Our Identities

Our news channels are filled with scary events in far away places.   Fear-mongers would have us believe that we are in immediate danger and should “batten down the hatches,” lest saboteurs do us in.

Have American Christians and Jews become such weak and cowardly people that we should be in fear?   No!

Life does hold many dangers…you may be attacked by a wild bear or lion (yes, there are bears and lions in the USA).   You may be hit by a stray bullet from some shooter (yes, there are more people shooting guns in the USA than ever before.)   You may catch some fatal disease (there are some although most diseases can be healed by modern medicine).   You may be maimed or killed in an automobile accident (very little likelihood of this, if you are careful.     Actually, the world is filled with dangers.   And, you will die some day.

But, worry about any of this is total foolishness.   It is Thanksgiving time.   Thank God…NOW. Thank God tonight, tomorrow morning….and all through the day.   Thank God for life and health.   Thank God for America.   Thank God for freedom.   Thank God for prosperity.   Thank God for those who love you.   Thank God for the church, and the gospel of Christ.   Thank God for the liberating presence of Christ in your life.

When I was a child in Sunday School, I learned a hymn which included these words:

“Count your many blessings, name them one by one,

Count your many blessings, See what God has done.”

I believe that there is great wisdom in that.   I have dealt with many injuries, illnesses, hospitalizations, severe and copious pain.   I don’t like any of those things and if I had a choice would have avoided them all.   But that kind of wishful thinking is sheer nonsense.   Bad things happen. Bad things happen to good people.   That is just the nature of life.

You and I and all others will die.   Think of it as simply going to sleep.   When our bodies are worn out and our minds depleted death is gift from God.   Browning wrote “He giveth His beloved sleep.”

Life itself has been a rich gift. We all have so much for which to be thankful.     I have been richly blessed.   How about your?   Let’s make this year’s Thanksgiving the most joyful of them all!

Thanksgiving

There was a time in America when Christmas and Easter were the main Christian Holidays, celebrating the birth of Jesus, and His sacrificial death and resurrection.   In recent decades merchants have turned these holidays into commercial shopping sprees, and secular celebration.

One holiday remains with strong elements of that which is holy: Thanksgiving!   AND, it is originally a state holiday as well as a religious holiday.   The first Thanksgiving in America was proclaimed by Gov. John Winthrop in the Massachusetts colony.   There the government was by the church, the Congregational Church, the Mother of the United Church of Christ.

Later Thanksgiving was proclaimed by President Lincoln.   Later still it was proclaimed by President Franklin Roosevelt and all his successors in office. Hence, not only Christians, but also Jews, Mormons and Muslims celebrate this holy day in our time, as well as those of other faiths or no faith.

Surely, there is no prayer that gets one closer to God than prayers of Thanksgiving.   Nor is there any prayer which better cleanses our souls and readies us to practice our faith than a prayer of Thanksgiving.   Being thankful readies us to receive the presence and the leading of God.

There is probably no time in America when Protestants and Catholics are closer than at a community Thanksgiving service.   Whether you are traveling or at home, surely you will want to be close to God at Thanksgiving.

This Thanksgiving let us pray especially for the families and congregations of those American Rabbis who were viciously murdered in Jerusalem.   Let us also pray for the innocent people in Syria who are being brutally murdered by their own government with us use of scrap metal bombs whose contents literally tear victims apart.

Let us pray for our own leaders that they will find the right course to deal with the failed governments of Middle Eastern Muslim countries.   Let us pray that order may come to those countries, that murders and killings may cease and order may come to them.   Let us pray for the brave men and women of our nation’s armed forces who are being sent into the maelstrom of national insanity in which Syria, Lybia, Iraq, and Afghanistan now exist with the disorder, violence, viciousness and cruelty and brutality that are so prevalent.

Pilgrim Chapel

Mt Adams Pilgrim Chapel has served as a spiritual center on “the hill” for 130 years…welcoming people of all ages, races, sexual orientations, and religious backgrounds.   We gather to study, question, grow, give, serve, and celebrate the love of God.

With roots in Lutheran and Reform traditions, and other roots in the Separatist tradition of the Mayflower Pilgrims who came in 1620, founding such colleges as Harvard, Yale, Williams, Amherst and dozens more, Pilgrim Chapel prizes learning and celebrates science, observing “Evolution Week” annually.

While specifically Christian, looking to spiritual teachings of Rabbi Jesus for central guidance as “the founder and finisher of our faith,” Pilgrim Chapel extends respect, friendship, acceptance and hospitality to those reared in other traditions who come in peace seeking growth and harmony.

Many Pilgrim congregants throughout the year work and share in the ministry to some of Cincinnati’s most deprived people in Camp Washington, together with other congregations in cooperation with Washington United Church of Christ.

Performers from CCM, or other splendid young talents, contribute to the service most Sundays.   For some of these young people Pilgrim Chapel becomes “their” church for their times away from home base.

In a world so often riven with hate, ignorance, hunger, violence, injustice, partisanship, acrimony and dishonesty, Pilgrim Chapel hears the call to a better world, and is dedicated to developing people whose lives will make this world that better world: safer, kinder, more just, freer, and open to growth.

Pilgrim Chapel’s humble antique Meetinghouse regularly hosts meetings of 12 step groups and many others offering constructive, artistic, healing, or learning services.

The late Father James Keller, founder of The Christophers, borrowed from and old Chinese proverb and gave America a slogan…..”it is better to light one little candle than to curse the darkness.”

So, let it be.

2014 Baseball Winners

Here are the 2014 Mt Adams Pilgrim Chapel Baseball Raffle winners from the drawing held September 7.

1.  Four Cincinnati Reds Club seats – No. 161 Ken Milar

2.  Two Cincinnati Reds Diamond seats – No. 282 Nancy Stephens

3.  $100 Montgomery Inn Gift Card – No. 082 Barbara Whitworth

Secrets to a Long Marriage

Lately I have been asked, “How does one stay married for 60 years?” My lady and I are in Iowa celebrating our 60th Anniversary. How DOES one remain married so long? Truthfully, I can only answer this from the point of view of a male, Protestant American. First you get married young and you live to be old. And you must practice patience, forgiveness, determination, and a willingness to grow and change in your love. Above all, grow in your love.

Second, you must learn to fight fair. In all marriages, there are disagreements. Fighting fair means sticking to the issue and not introducing exaggerated things about your mate’s attitudes, family, his/her behavior or statements. Sometimes one must forgive huge transgressions; but forgive we must.

Take 3-4 day “mini-moons”; to get away for revival! Renew your love and your FREINDSHIP!

Play together. Don’t be afraid to work together.

Support your spouse through terrible times of great stress from career change, illness or depression. Simply forget yourself and do what needs to be done for your “other”. Do it with grace, love and patience. Try to put yourself in his/her place.

Keep no secrets from one another about job pressure, financial problems, romantic attraction to someone else or terrible weights.

Have a friend or other friends, and do things with him/her that are special to that friendship. I have gone away for a few days each year for many years to play golf with my pal.

Sometimes, of course, marriages do grow apart and marriages fail. Divorce may be the kinder and better road than continuing a bad marriage. If that is the best answer, do it with respect, courtesy and grace. Throw out your anger, defensiveness or judgment.

For Bev and me, having a long marriage meant being Christians (as best we could be). It meant being “regular” at church attendance, and being “tithers;” that is, giving 10% of our taxable income to the church. During the several years I experienced a “burn out” in the ministry, we were involved in the church in the same way as were laymen. Tithing can be a difficult challenge. Because of that difficulty I have never pushed others to do it. However, I do know it has helped us in our effort to be Christ-filled people.

Love God, love each other, and practice courtesy, kindness, and generosity to everyone.

Voice From Within

This past week I heard a young man who had been a Pastor in Louisiana, give his testimony. He had studied the Bible very carefully, and had come to the discovery that there are untenable contradictions in the Bible. Because he is an honest man, he forthrightly proclaimed that he had lost is faith and is now an Atheist. In his small town in LA, this brings rejection, insults and abuse. He is now a pariah. How sad. His new Atheist friends have been kind to him, and have reassured him.

He had learned some things that all mainline Protestant ministers know: different historians writing on the same subject and at different times are often contradictory, just as some books in the library contradict others. So it is in the Bible. The Bible as the “Word of God” means that a divine message can be found in it.

He had not learned some things that religion is about meanings, values, relationships, conduct, and faith (meaning “trust” more that “belief.”) He had not learned that at the Heart of it all is Mystery, Holy Mystery. Science presents far better tools for understanding physics, astronomy, biology, paleontology, etc. But nothing in science contradicts liberal religion.

As seeking, learning, growing Christians we must always remain humble about what we know. Often today’s “truth” is disproven and replaced tomorrow by a more accurate understanding. At one point in my life, I taught science. Science heightened my appreciation of our universe, and the mystery and wonder at the heart of it.

In the Christian scriptures, we read “God is love: God is spirit,” God can be seen and felt in others. We learn that keys to happiness in life are in our internal lives and in our relationships with each other. Be in an attitude of thankfulness and appreciation as much as is possible. Treat others as you would like to be treated. Respect others. Respect your own body and mind. Hold on to the resoluteness of Jesus. Live so that your death will be a door to a new dimension. (Scriptures call it “the resurrection.”)

Rabbi Jesus promised abundant living to all those who enter in the kind of relationship He had with God (the eternal source of life and light.) Abundant living is not all about “getting all you can and canning all you get.” Abundant living is about appreciation of everything and everyone in your life. It is about escaping worry by working at solving whatever problem causes the worry. It is about generosity and giving. It is about faith in yourself and faith in others. It is about laughing a lot. It is about playing hard, praying with reverence, singing and dancing, and “listening for the still, small voice within!”

Abundant Living

This past week I heard a young man who had been a Pastor in Louisiana, give his testimony. He had studied the Bible very carefully, and had come to the discovery that there are untenable contradictions in the Bible. Because he is an honest man, he forthrightly proclaimed that he had lost is faith and is now an Atheist. In his small town in LA, this brings rejection, insults and abuse. He is now a pariah. How sad. His new Atheist friends have been kind to him, and have reassured him.

He had learned some things that all mainline Protestant ministers know: different historians writing on the same subject and at different times are often contradictory, just as some books in the library contradict others. So it is in the Bible. The Bible as the “Word of God” means that a divine message can be found in it.

He had not learned some things that religion is about meanings, values, relationships, conduct, and faith (meaning “trust” more that “belief.”) He had not learned that at the Heart of it all is Mystery, Holy Mystery. Science presents far better tools for understanding physics, astronomy, biology, paleontology, etc. But nothing in science contradicts liberal religion.

As seeking, learning, growing Christians we must always remain humble about what we know. Often today’s “truth” is disproven and replaced tomorrow by a more accurate understanding. At one point in my life, I taught science. Science heightened my appreciation of our universe, and the mystery and wonder at the heart of it.

In the Christian scriptures, we read “God is love: God is spirit,” God can be seen and felt in others. We learn that keys to happiness in life are in our internal lives and in our relationships with each other. Be in an attitude of thankfulness and appreciation as much as is possible. Treat others as you would like to be treated. Respect others. Respect your own body and mind. Hold on to the resoluteness of Jesus. Live so that your death will be a door to a new dimension. (Scriptures call it “the resurrection.”)

Rabbi Jesus promised abundant living to all those who enter in the kind of relationship He had with God (the eternal source of life and light.) Abundant living is not all about “getting all you can and canning all you get.” Abundant living is about appreciation of everything and everyone in your life. It is about escaping worry by working at solving whatever problem causes the worry. It is about generosity and giving. It is about faith in yourself and faith in others. It is about laughing a lot. It is about playing hard, praying with reverence, singing and dancing, and “listening for the still, small voice within!”

 

A Repeat Essay from the Past

Will Rogers was quoted as having said “I am not a member of an organized political party.   I am a Democrat.”

Irrespective of partisan politics, democracy may be messy, but it best respects people.   When any group of people gathers to discuss or decide most any question, there are differences of perspective and differences of opinion.     That is one of the reasons I love being a minister in the United Church of Christ.   In the UCC we debate many issues and we hold a variety of views.

But, these efforts are always to find the Mind of Christ, to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.

The Christian Church is in a transition period.   Is it our duty to venerate ancient culture, ancient values and ancient thought forms?   Oxford Professor Richard Dawkins, a biologist, has written books and articles attacking the idea of God, published several months ago in the WALL STREET JOURNAL. At the bottom of his argument however, is an attack on trying to use ancient views for contemporary understanding.   Before the solar system, or the atom, or microbes and viruses were known, mankind explained the world in ways unacceptable to knowledgeable people today. It is a huge challenge for “traditionalists” to hold that all spiritual truth was recognized in one ancient culture before there was scientific knowledge of the universe.

To me the Biblical declaration “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today and forever” speaks of the unchanging power of divine love.   It does not mean that we must perpetuate ancient culture, ancient thought patterns, ancient language and ancient values. We must apply eternal principle to contemporary needs in relevant ways.

UCC believes that we ought not be prisoners committed to maintaining the ancient culture where women are uneducated chattels; nor should we uphold ancient culture where slavery was tolerated.   Even in the Holy Bible itself, Saint Paul writes of a slave that he should be content with his slavery! (Philemon 16)   Does this not fly in the very face of the notion of divine love that recognizes the dignity and worth of all people? That direction is culture conditioned; not eternal word!

While “the faith once delivered to the saints” may be the same from age to age, its understanding must always be in terms of the contemporary age and culture.   As the poet wrote “new occasions teach new duties.”   That is why justice is so important to UCC Christians.