504 Java Profile

504 Java Profile
Two of my favorite things

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Time of Refreshing

Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord. Acts 3:19

This Sunday (tomorrow), I am beginning a series at University Baptist Church in Baton Rouge where I am the interim pastor. The series seeks to see ordinary people become heroes as God empowers them, and my first text is from Acts 4. Doing a bit of background, I came across a verse that I highlighted in a previous reading, the verse above.

I need times of refreshing. Like the rest of you, I am weary of politicians acting like middle schoolers on a playground (with apologies to middle schoolers). I am weary of (borrowing a phrase from Paul Turner's blog), paying taxes to a government that does not seem to represent me any more. I am weary of travel, though it energizes me to be around good and godly folk. I am weary of thinking that there isn't enough money for two kids in college and the seminary to keep going and, and, and.

So you wouldn't think that to find refreshing, I would have to look inward to do some soul searching, would you? You would think that I can blame politicians or late arriving airplanes, or "those people" who need to give to the seminary. You would think I could just make my kids work more hours to support themselves and for my wife to return to June Cleaver days with slippers ready when I get home.

None of that. The Scripture (context is Peter's sermon to a 1st century culture that is a lot like a 21st century culture)says that I need to repent and return. I would like to claim ignorance as Peter allows for the hearers in v. 17, but I can't. I am the one who insists on attitudes, appetites, and actions that do not put me closer to Jesus in my journey, but farther apart. I am the one who sins, not everyone else.

I am again sitting in the Atlanta airport where so much of my blogging is done. I helped Adam and Kristen get married today, a beautiful couple so refreshed by the ceremony celebrating their vows of faithfulness to God and to each other. But I am aware that I have taken for granted the covenant relationship that God allowed me to have through His Son.

So I repent. And return. And allow that once again, He wipes my sins away and allows my spirit to be refreshed from the presence of the Lord. If you join me, I bet worship will be better tomorrow.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

My Favorite Easter Story

Philip's Egg (author unknown) is my favorite Easter story (besides the original). I think that the story of redemption that is found when we "get it" regarding the true meaning of the resurrection--that God made a way to set us free from our sin, our darkness, and our indifferent-ness. Enjoy.

Philip was born with Downs Syndrome. He was a pleasant child . . .happy it seemed . . . but increasingly aware of the difference between himself and other children. Philip went to Sunday school faithfully every week. He was in the third grade class with nine other eight-year olds.

You know eight-year olds. And Philip, with his differences, was not readily accepted. But his teacher was sensitive to Philip and he helped this group of eight-year olds to love each other as best they could, under the circumstances. They learned, they laughed, and they played together. And they really cared about one another, even though eight-year olds don't say they care about one another out loud.

But don't forget. There was an exception to all this. Philip was not really a part of the group. Philip did not choose, nor did he want to be different. He just was. And that was the way things were.

His teacher had a marvelous idea for his class the Sunday after Easter. You know those things that pantyhose come in . . . the containers that look like great big eggs? The teacher collected ten of them. The children loved it when he brought them into the room and gave one to each child.

It was a beautiful spring day, and the assignment was for each child to go outside, find the symbol for new life, put it into the egg, and bring it back to the classroom They would then open and share their new life symbols and surprises, one by one.

It was glorious. It was confusing. It was wild. They ran all around the church grounds, gathering their symbols, and returned to the classroom.

They put all the eggs on a table, and then the teacher began to open them. All the children gathered around the table. He opened one and there was a flower, and they ooh-ed and aah-ed. He opened another and there was a little butterfly.

"Beautiful!" the girls all said, since it is hard for eight-year old boys to say 'beautiful.' He opened another and there was a rock. And as third-graders will, some laughed, and some said, "That's crazy! How's a rock supposed to be like new life?" But the smart little boy who'd put it in there spoke up: "That's mine. And I knew all of you would get flowers and buds and leaves and butterflies and stuff like that. So I got a rock because I wanted to be different. And for me, that's new life." They all laughed.

The teacher said something about the wisdom of eight-year olds and opened the next one. There was nothing inside. The children, as eight-year olds will, said, "That's not fair. That's stupid! Somebody didn't do it right."

Then the teacher felt a tug on his shirt, and he looked down. "It's mine, Philip said. It's mine."

And the children said, "You don't ever do things right, Philip. There's nothing there!"

"I did so do it right!" Philip said. "I did do it right. The tomb is empty!"

There was silence, a very full silence. And for you people who don't believe in miracles, I want to tell you that one happened that day. From that time on, it was different. Philip suddenly became a part of that group of eight-year old children. They took him in. He was set free from the tomb of his differences.

Philip died last summer. His family had known since the time he was born that he wouldn't live out a full life span. Many other things were wrong with his little body. And so, late last July, with an infection that most normal children could have quickly shrugged off, Philip died.

At his memorial service, nine eight-year old children marched up to the altar, not with flowers to cover over the stark reality of death . . . but nine eight-year olds, along with their Sunday School teacher, marched right up to that altar, and laid on it an empty egg . . . an empty, old, discarded pantyhose egg.

And the tomb is empty!