Along with a An Open Door Sermon
You Tube Link:
Along with a An Open Door Sermon
You Tube Link:
A Passage, Post and Poem for Lent
The Lord called to Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting. He said, 2 “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When anyone among you brings an offering to the Lord, bring as your offering an animal from either the herd or the flock.
3 “‘If the offering is a burnt offering from the herd, you are to offer a male without defect. You must present it at the entrance to the tent of meeting so that it will be acceptable to the Lord. 4 You are to lay your hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it will be accepted on your behalf to make atonement for you. 5 You are to slaughter the young bull before the Lord, and then Aaron’s sons the priests shall bring the blood and splash it against the sides of the altar at the entrance to the tent of meeting. 6 You are to skin the burnt offering and cut it into pieces. 7 The sons of Aaron the priest are to put fire on the altar and arrange wood on the fire. 8 Then Aaron’s sons the priests shall arrange the pieces, including the head and the fat, on the wood that is burning on the altar. 9 You are to wash the internal organs and the legs with water, and the priest is to burn all of it on the altar. It is a burnt offering, a food offering, an aroma pleasing to the Lord.
Grunting, squealing, they left the trailer, entered pens to wait their turn to be led single file to slaughter: Caged, electrocuted, flopping out, to be hung on meat hooks, then jerkily travelling the killing floor where their carcasses were scalded, skinned, and sliced up, divided into bacon, ham, chops, loins, and ribs, that, once cooked, make a pleasing aroma to consumers.
Reading Leviticus reminds me of bringing hogs to market, few of our “piggies” stayed home, and none ever had pudding. Leviticus drips with blood; Smoke and ashes waft up, sting our eyes of faith, though, it’s a pleasing aroma to God, as we read.
The LORD’s dry instructions tend to distance us from the hands on brutality of it all, the bloody messiness with the acrid smell of burning flesh and fat, along with the sight of charred bones and a blood stained alter, from which blood-red rivulets run, and pool.
The LORD’s Priests are Holy butchers, enacting worship as a deadly serious ritual, twice daily and more, day after day, ad nauseum, to show the cost of sin, death; Represented in the killing of animals, in place of people.
Reading what the LORD says in Leviticus starkly confronts us with the bloody deadly cost of sin! His detailed instructions were enacted repeatedly until Golgotha, an exposed hill like a skull. There, once for all, our sins were and are atoned for by one death, of a person.
Now, thanks to the Lord’s calling, we no longer tread the killing floor. Our lives are a pleasing aroma to God in Jesus Christ.
POEM: “And The LORD called…” (Hebrew – WAYYIQRA AKA Leviticus)
…for blood and gore
Because we’re all whores.
Blood pours from the gashes,
fat, flesh, and bone become ashes,
float and fall, from scroll, page, or screens.
What’s that sound?
Can you hear the screams?
Best of the breeding stock,
because Yahweh won’t be mocked!
What’s that Smell?
Like burnt toast,
it’s roasted grain,
with a pinch of salt.
All to keep sin at bay.
Can’t just hit alt-delete,
and make it all just go away.
What’s that you see?
List after list,
like a deadly mist,
so many sacrificial trysts,
from tabernacle to temples,
all a series of deadly examples
long before Golgotha!
The real thing, once for all,
by one alone.
He changes whores,
raises the dead,
who now tread,
the killing floors,
Its branches silhouetted
in a fiery halo.
A million miles plus some more.
Not so for us.
As in this:
“Nearer, my Saviour, still nearer to thee”
Closer than Moses, footwear and all.
All because of Golgotha’s
its constant proximity
unchanging through centuries,
us, sin scathed,
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How I trooped back to church through Rock with some monks. January 2021
After forty years of church, seven as a pastor, I lost my religion.
I wanted nothing to do with it. I was frustrated, burned out, and angry. Depression and anxiety overwhelmed both medications and counselling. The anger was rooted in hurt, disappointment, and tiredness. It led to behaviour “unbecoming a pastor”, storming out of meetings, or swearing at an elder.
These have consequences, rightly, and sadly so. I was retired for health reasons, burnout and depression. Thankfully, this allowed me to retain my ministerial credentials. An irreverent Reverend. Some desired stronger consequences, which I admit, had some justification.
After forty dutiful years – church attendance, Christian Schools & Colleges, Catechism, Small Groups, Seminary, and pastoring – I was free falling, with further to go.
I was bad to the bone in the province of stinking thinking. To make ends meet I drove transport, long haul. Its cab, was my cell, jail and monastic, retreat and remand. Here, I wrestled with God, swamped in self-pity. I believed no one could understand my despair and humiliation. I grieved for a job I’d loved and lost, more than I’d done for any person. Talk about stinking thinking!
I was going through a “teenage rebellion” in my forties, or midlife crisis. So I turned the Rock up loud, from the fifties to the naughts, and beyond. The defiant screams, heart-broken anger, and biting lyrics with raucous guitar riffs and heavy back beat, articulated my state of mind for several years.
Chuck Berry, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Sammy Hagar, Styx, Trooper, Bob Seger, Bruce Springsteen, Bryan Adams, John Couger Mellencamp, and of course, U2 & Midnight Oil, plus others.
They did what no one else could do, stick with me, in a living hell of heart and mind. Providentially, they were backed up by God, through the prayers of my Men’s Group, spouse, family, and friends.
Eventually their prayers infiltrated the driving rock lyrics to say, “Hey Mister! It’s a beautiful day, don’t let it get away! Someday you’ll get it right! But today, as a man in motion, start taking care of business again, provide for your faith life, stop letting the four strong winds toss you about, feel the hand of God reaching out for you, making your own Northwest passage.”
God did not speak so inarticulately. Yet, overtime, He impressed that and more on my heart. I began salting my Rock with Cistercian Chant. Then one day I noticed I was praying for others. Then rock was joined by Jazz, Western, Classical, followed some time later by Fernando Ortega, John Michael Talbot, and Newsboys. Gradually church attendance crawled from 5 times/year, to once per month, which stepped up to twice per month, then I was back into a steady, weekly pace. I was in church again!
I told my men’s group, “I really don’t know, how I got from where I was seven years ago to here. From a mental hell, to something beautiful today, not quite heaven, but at least walking on sunshine more often than not.”
Their response, “Remember, we prayed for you…, A LOT!”
Have I found religion again?
Well, I’m not free falling anymore. My faith’s been restored. There are things I don’t like, so I raise a little hell with God, who changes me to see something beautiful despite the ugliness.
Some beautiful things are I am now at home in not one, but two congregations, and two small groups. Plus, I work part-time for my denomination again. All faithful, not perfect, like me, partnering with God to change the world to the place where the streets have no name.
“How do we get there?”
“It could be a name, yet, it’s a thought that changed the world.”
Did mine, thanks to Rock and monks, I found myself still in the hands of God.
A DEVOTIONAL POST:
Is God in your horoscope?
It was for three wise men in the Bible (Matthew 2:1-12). They were eastern scholars in the tradition of Daniel and his friends from Babylon. The wise men saw in the movement of stars and planets the birth of a Jewish King. Today some think this was the Great Conjunction between Saturn and Jupiter, that happens every 800 years.
We may think “superstitious” reading such connections between planetary movements and world events.
Yet, God guided them through their astrological education. He led them on a journey to Bethlehem to present gifts to Jesus, a toddler at the time. An act of adoration and worship. In the Bible others too looked to the stars and worshipped!
In Psalm 8, David looked to the expanse of stars, and wondered “What is humanity that You are mindful of them?” He saw both the stars and us as God’s handiwork. He saw our insignificance in comparison to the vastness of creation and worshipped a God who was yet mindful of him.
Like David, people today look to the stars and planets, some through astrologers’ horoscopes. They see in their movements a direct influence on their lives, the why and how for their good and bad experiences.
When you look to the stars, what do you see?
Some see what the wise men saw, movements predicting and influencing world and life events.
Others connect them into constellations. They see their movements in relation to earth’s orbit around the sun, marking times and seasons.
Still others feel themselves shrink beneath the vast, ever-expanding universe all around and over us.
And some see all these and more. They perceive the God of the Bible. He comes to them in a journey across a wilderness, within or without. Here they gain wisdom and knowledge through lived experiences, and encounters with God. These shape their lives for good, even through the bad.
You can see God in the stars because He made them. He created them to mark the seasons and times, thus they also mark our celebrations and festivals during the year. But before these secondary marker lights existed, God was The Only Light! David saw that! I pray that you may too. May the stars point you to an infinitely creative God, who influences your journey for the better as you come to worship Him through Jesus.
June 2017 updated January 2021
The distance between then and now is not great, yet the difference is. From a previous post we know the power of ‘yet’! ‘Then’ was like being covered in a damp grey rag, trapped in a valley with overhanging hills, and low lying cloud. ‘Now’ is a day open to possibility. It is a high plains panorama, where dusty green landscape steps across horizon’s line to take flight into azure skies. Now is when the black dog has run off, and the dove has returned that is hope.
Hope is a will-o-the-wisp, intangible, ephemeral, yet oh so real. You know when it’s there and when not. It is a gossamer string pulling one into the future towards a place of realization. That is hope!
Real but unrealized, yet oh so needed to keep moving forward!
How did such a great change occur over so short a distance?
Why did the black dog run off, and the dove return?
Change in medication is part of the answer, maybe the whole part. If so is hope a chemical, as simple as having enough serotonin in the brain, perhaps? Besides a new medication, there were new experiences too while waiting for the medications to have their full effect: Attending workshops at the Employment Education Centre, meeting with a job coach, redoing my resume, attending a job fair and joining a writer’s group. These were significant in getting me to review and appreciate my abilities. It helped me realize I still have things to offer despite my illness, and the seeming disappointments, plus failures I’ve had in my life up to this point. So others were harbingers of hope for me during this difficult recovery time.
In Genesis Noah sent out a dove three times. It returned twice, the second time with an olive branch. The third time it did not return as the land was now dry enough to find materials to build a nest. Noah’s hope was realized: They could now leave the ark.
Like this dove hope is out there, even when it is not immediate. But to feel this, ah, that’s key, perhaps it’s as short as the distance between one medication and another on a pharmacist’s shelf, or it’s the distance traveled to join a group, or it’s both, or none, or more. It depends as depression affects each person differently as the link to the following article suggests: We may have different breeds of the black dog.
May 2017 updated 2021
How many consider suicide?
How many daily, wondering how to do so as painlessly as possible, and with the least impact as possible on those they love?
Perhaps, on a cold winter’s day, driving a secluded stretch of highway, just pull over, and walk out into the woods as far as possible, to lie down, and fall asleep, never to wake again.”
I once did.
I did not!
I did not take that final step to flee my pain, fear, and anxiety, constantly stinging like a swarm of bees. Butterflies are the popular, more bucolic metaphor. But I had bees, swarms of them, not yet killer, but man did they sting! At times, I didn’t know what to do with myself, insides flailed raw like with a cat-of-nine-tails. That’s when suicide seemed appealing!
Yet, I did not.
Well, it wasn’t me hanging on for dear life. Yet, I’m still here. There’s that word: ‘Yet!” Just three small letters, but together they lift more than their weight! They hit above their fly-weight class! “Yet” can have a big impact on any sentence! “Yet” signals a change, could be positive, could be negative. As in “we did all we could yet he still died”. Or “he’d given up all hope, yet he was saved”. Granted, “yet” does seem slightly questioning, whether at the beginning or end, of one’s sentence.
Yet…, I’ll take it, questioning and all!
The positive power and presence behind my yet is God. He did not let me go! That’s why I’m here, yet. I could not by my own bootstraps pull myself up, and cling to life, yet God did, and does pull me up! That’s the Biblical reality of Sovereignty and Grace, packed into that three letter word “yet”.
Yet, Jonathan Edwards (1703-58) came at sovereignty and grace from the negative side in his sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”. He was a Presbyterian theologian influenced by two Johns, Knox and Calvin, plus the more austere aspects of their theologies. He described us, and I paraphrase him loosely as ‘worms dangling helplessly by a thread over fire’. The footnote below may put a better spin on this with more context. But they are self-flagellating, terrifying images, bordering on abusive in the wrong hands!
Now, there’s Biblical truth in what Jonathan Edwards wrote. Yet, it’s not the whole truth. A more positive spin (Really all theology is a form of spin) a more positive spin, or gracious spin, is God, with Jesus’ nail-pierced hands holds onto us, pulling us from the deadly flames of hell into the fiery warmth of His light and life. He does so even with us kicking and screaming, as C.S. Lewis wrote of his own conversion. Yet, He did not let go of him and does not let go of me. God is the only reason I’m still here, yet, no question about it!
 The imagery in the first part of the sermon graphically underscores the theme of the lot of the unregenerated. They should not deceive themselves about their status or their strength. Their vaunted trust in their own wisdom, prudence, care, and caution is but a self-delusion and will not save them. Before God’s almighty power, they are but “heaps of light chaff before the whirlwind” and “dry stubble before devouring flames.” They are like worms that crawl on the earth and are easily crushed underfoot; they are hanging as by a slender thread that is easily singed or cut. The glittering sword of justice is whetted and is brandished over their heads. The flames of the fiery pit below them rage and glow, hell’s gaping mouth is ready to swallow them, the devils like hungry lions are straining to get at their prey, the arrows of death are poised at them. What Edwards tries to pound into his listeners is the notion of life’s uncertainty: Death is always but a breath away.
Imagining the world in Lego
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