“Thoughts On Good Shepherd Sunday”


Some random thoughts on this the 4th Sunday of Easter, often called “Good Shepherd Sunday”.

I happened to, because of the way the day works, listen to two different messages that focused on today’s lectionary readings. In both cases, the speaker spoke of encountering a herd of sheep while traveling in Ireland.

In the Gospel reading for this morning, we hear Jesus say that all the sheep know His voice (echoing words from Isaiah where we are called by name). Now, there are some who are going to feel that God has somehow forgotten them, that they call out and no one answers.

For them, God does not exist. But is it that God doesn’t answer or that we don’t hear the answer? Could it be that we are so wrapped up in troubles that it creates a blanket of noise that keeps us from hearing the quiet, almost inaudible voice of God saying that He loves us and that He will never abandon us?

Both speakers that I listened to also spoke of the need to envision the Gospel reading, of Christ calling us by name, as something that we needed to do as a community. This call for a community offers a way to remove the noise that prevents us from hearing God and continuing God’s work.

Two closing thoughts – Back in 1995, when I was living in Pittsburg, Kansas, there was a cemetery across from my apartment complex. Within its boundaries were graves that may or may not have been the graves of family relatives. The sad part is that because of our family history, or rather the lack of records for the family history, we will never really know if there is a link between our present family and the family there.

I also saw several graves in this cemetery with lambs atop the grave stone. Such markers tell us that a child was buried there and it tells, in one way, the story of a community that struggle to make a go of it in southeastern Kansas. That particular part of Kansas used to be a mining area and families from the Balkans came to build a new life in the soil of Kansas, Oklahoma, and Missouri. The lambs tell us it was not an easy struggle to build that new community.

Finally, if one speaks of the Good Shepherd, one needs to remember the song that Jefferson Airplane and Crosby, Stills, and Nash sung back in the late ’60s – “Good Shepherd”. This song has its origins in the Gospel of John 21: 1 – 19 and was originally written by a Methodist minister in the 1840’s (see my notes on this song in “A Rock and Roll Revival”).

We have been called by the Good Shepherd and we have been asked to help others find the Good Shepherd.

Life, death, and the garden : Lifestyles


Life, death, and the garden : Lifestyles.

I just posted this article from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Facebook with the following comment, “There are those who understand why I posted this. Of course, no one is ever going to believe that I am a gardener but gardeners need quartermasters to get the things they need and that is what I am. My congratulations to this church for producing as much produce as they did!”

“A Day Of Two Anniversaries”


There are two important anniversaries to note for today which are perhaps linked together in how we move into the future.  Today marks the 100th anniversary of the introduction of chemical weapons into modern warfare. It also marks the 45th anniversary of Earth Day.

This juxtaposition of events speaks to the challenges that we has citizens of this planet face. Shall we use the knowledge that we have to create a better world or destroy the world that we have?

Fritz Haber, the noted German chemist and co-developer of the Haber-Bosch process (the conversion of nitrogen into ammonia), worked on the development of chemical weapons such as chlorine, phosgene, and mustard gas.

Regarding war and peace, Haber once said,

“During peace time a scientist belongs to the World, but during war time he belongs to his country.”

This was an example of the ethical dilemmas facing chemists at that time. (Novak, Igor (2011). Science: a many-splendored thing. Singapore: World Scientific. pp.247–316. ISBN 9814304743. Retrieved 16 September 2014 – from Wikipedia)

Haber would rationalize the use of such weapons by saying death was death, by whatever means it was obtained. By then I remember what Robert E. Lee once wrote,

It is well that war is so terrible, otherwise we should grow too fond of it.”

He would also state (revering, I think, to the Civil War but which can be applied to many other wars,

The war… was an unnecessary condition of affairs, and might have been avoided if forbearance and wisdom had been practiced on both sides.”

A note from my grandfather’s diary

October 5, 1918 – Received 3 letters from Elsie, 1 from my mother. First that I had received in some time. Gas is no stranger to us now.

This is the only reference he ever made. In a report I heard on NPR yesterday, they said that French and Belgium farmers are still digging up unexploded chemical shells from their fields.

Later, my father would make some comments about the impact of the use of atomic weapons on Japan and what it meant in terms of World War II ending.

Today is also the 45th anniversary of Earth Day. There are those today who rather this day be ignored; they show it in their callous attitudes about climate change, water usage, and water and air pollution. I have even hear some take the words of Genesis to mean that we can do whatever we want to this planet.

But the words of Genesis task us with taking care of the planet, not destorying it or misusing. This is the day we say to the people of this planet, you have a chance to make this a better world.

This is a day of two anniversaries; one that takes to death and one that takes us to life, which shall you choose.

“Why Do You Believe? The Challenge For Faith Today”


Thoughts for April 12, 2015, the 2nd Sunday of Easter (A)

I realized during the services on Sunday, April 12th, that I was subconsciously channeling the Gospel reading from John (where Thomas questions the Resurrection but only because he had not seen the evidence) in this piece. Funny how things work out.

This isn’t about what you believe, it is about why you believe. Even atheists must have some sort of belief system for even saying that you do not believe creates a belief system. (Always remember that no page is ever completely blank and the subset of no numbers contains something.) So why do you believe?

I believe in God because I see His presence in the many faiths and cultures which attribute creation to a Supreme Being. God may have many names but only one identity. I believe in God because, as Dr. Francis Collins noted in a recent interview, I see His existence in the beauty of the world around us and in the vastness and intricacies of the universe in which we reside.

And there are those questions which come from what we know. We know that, based on the evidence we have today, the creation of the universe occurred some 13 billion years ago.

This means two things; first, how did we arrive at that particular length of time? This answer, along with other answers are derived from the physical evidence left behind. This means that our lives require an understanding of science.

But even in knowing that the universe began 13 billion years ago, we still don’t know why there was a creation or what caused it . And no matter whether the creation was an accident, a fortuitous event, a coincidence, or even if the universe has always been hear, we have to ask how it all happened. And, for me, that implies the Hand of God.

Now, it should be noted that own thoughts on this matter have developed over the years and are a by-product of both my secular and sectarian education. But it should also be noted that this self-study seems to run counter to current societal beliefs that say we should let others decide for us what it is that we are to believe and that we don’t need to seek further answers to such questions.

And there are those, on both sides of the spectrum, who will tell you what to believe. And they will tell you that there are no alternatives.

Such approach, of a fixed and inflexible answer, does not allow for creativity and while it may provide the answers for questions that may have already been asked, they do little to find answers to questions that haven’t been asked. And there are gaps in the knowledge such fixed answers provide.

The answers to such questions, the ones to fill the gaps or solve new problems, can only come from each individual. One can offer suggestions as to what the answers might be but it is still each person’s responsibility to seek the answers.

Personally, I think that leaves in you in the greatest position possible because now you have the opportunity to explore and determine the outcome for your life. But where do you go to find your answers, what questions do you ask, and ultimately how do you seek the truth?

The good news is that we can do this but we have to step back for a moment and think about how we learn. Right now, our learning process is more memorization than anything else. There is a place for memorization in the education process but simply memorizing things doesn’t lead to creativity and analysis; it only provides the basis for doing that.

As I have studied the Book of Revelation and considered what it might mean, I often envisioned what it might have been like were John the Seer, the author, to live in today’s society and offer the vision the same vision he provided in his Book of Revelation. I think that we would most likely label him crazy and/or weird and possibly wonder what type of drugs he might have been taking.

But if we had studied or understood what was taking place at the time he was writing this interesting closing volume of the Bible, we would arrive at a different conclusion from that of those late 19th and early 20th century fundamentalist who see it as the prophecy of doom for today’s society.

When Jesus gave what some call the Great Commission, he gave those who heard His words the task of making those they would encounter disciples. But disciples are not simply followers of the Teacher, they are students as well. And students are taught what to believe, not told what to believe.

Each book of the New Testament, from the four Gospels through the letters of Paul to the Seer’s Revelation, was written for the people of their time, to tell them what took place those three years in the Galilee. But it wasn’t written as a history but a telling of the story, so that others would also come to know what happened.

The authors of the Gospels wrote the Gospels in such a way to make sure that we understood that things changed when Jesus walked the roads of the Galilee and a group of people followed and listened and then carried on that same mission.

So I believe in part because I was taught and because I was given the freedom to seek more information about Christ. When we accept Christ as our personal savior, when we begin to believe as so many before of us have done, then we accept the challenge, to teach others what Christ taught us.

I believe, not because I have seen the wounds in Jesus’ hands, feet, and side but because I have been allowed to seek Christ and I have found Him.

Letter to the IRS


DrTony:

This is an only but a goldie and worth reading again!

Originally posted on A Grace-Filled Life:

H&R Block rep’s Note: Sometimes a story comes to our attention that needs no polishing or enhancement to make it a good Block tax story. This is one of those. It is a real letter submitted to the IRS in 1995 in the midst of the previous year’s weird and bizarre denial of dependents, exemptions, and credits. We believe the letter speaks for itself.

Dear Sirs:

I am responding to your letter denying the deduction for two of the three dependents I claimed on my 1994 Federal Tax return. Thank you. I have questioned whether these are my children or not for years. They are evil & expensive. It’s only fair that since they are minors and not my responsibility that the government (who evidently is taxing me more to care for these waifs) knows something about them and what to expect over the next year. You may apply next…

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