From the Pastor's Desk
Are you old enough (almost all
of us are) to remember the railroad crossing signs that had the warning of "STOP, LOOK, AND LISTEN" on them?
Some of the early ones were black and white oval shaped signs. In later years the railroads (or the road departments)
standardized the signs to the flattened cross (X) shape that is still used today. The signs were reminders that to safely
continue across the tracks, you should "stop" instead of just speeding across, then "look" both ways because
a train could come from either direction, and "listen" for the bell or whistle from the train. This is good
advice even today.
The Gospel readings for the last two Sundays of February came from Luke 6. They are
a portion of what is called the "Sermon on the Plain" that loosely matches the "Sermon on the Mount" in
Matthew. Each week I reminded our worshipers that Jesus turns the world upside down -- He reverses what the world considers
to be normal. We are approaching Lent which begins on Ash Wednesday and continues until Easter. I think the RR
signs are good for our Lenten attitudes -- except Jesus might reverse them.
The first Lenten practice should
be to "LISTEN" to the Word of God. We should be doing that all the time, but if we are not, then Lent is a
good time to start. God’s Word is a lot more than just a warning sound, like a whistle. It is also a guide
to a better life. Sure, there are a lot of "Thou shalt nots" in the Word, but there are also a lot of "Thou
shalts" to go with them. Thou shalt not steal, but thou shalt be generous. Thou shalt not kill, but thou
shalt love your enemy. These aren’t just God-rules for the sake of being commanded, they are good rules to develop
and nurture relationships.
The next Lenten practice should be to "LOOK" at our selves and our lives.
Honestly look. What kind of a person are we? What kinds of things are we doing? If some people saw Jesus
at our house, would they say, "Jesus is eating with a sinner again"? Of course he would be - because we are
all sinners. But I hope we are not poster-children for sin. We need to look though the lens of God’s Word
that we should have been listening to instead of through the lens of the world that is pushed on us. Remember the reversal
The next Lenten practice would be to "STOP" whatever wrong things we saw in our lives when
we looked with Jesus-eyes. And then ask for forgiveness from God and anyone we may have harmed. The Biblical term
is repent. That was John the Baptist’s sermon theme, and the message Jesus started his ministry with. They
wanted us to change ourselves to show we are children of God. We should live like brothers and sisters of Jesus and
of each other.
Lent is not a time of punishing ourselves to see if we can go six and a half weeks without eating
chocolate or watching TV. It is a time to bring our lives closer to the path that God wants us to be traveling on.
PREVIOUS NOTE FROM THE PASTOR
As I sit at my computer and work on the newsletter, the weather
forecasters are excitedly talking about below-zero temperatures coming later in the week. Their excitement is not as
high as it was last December when Lexington set an all-time recorded rainfall for the year. It must be a high point
of their job to inform us about things that make us miserable. I totally understand that - imagine telling people day
after day that it is going to be sunny and 75 degrees. For a weather person, unusual weather is something to look forward
The cold weather is worth being excited about -- but in a negative way -- because it can bring great hardships
to people. If you work outside, it is miserable to be so cold. If you can stay inside, your heating bills will
be higher than you planned for. If you are homeless, well, it can be deadly. Again this winter our church has
been giving some men from the Hope Center a warm place to sleep at night. We can’t bring in very many, but we
help make room for more at their own facilities. The men who are here seem to like having some extra space and the quiet
they find in our Fellowship Hall.
Cold weather is not the only cold that can be deadly to a person. I came
across this poem that I had never read before. It brings up a kind of cold that should be unknown to a Christian - a
follower of Christ Jesus.
THE COLD WITHIN
James Patrick Kenney
Six humans trapped by happenstance,
in bleak and bitter cold,
Each one possessed a stick of wood,
or so the story’s told.
dying fire in need of logs,
The first man held his back,
For on the faces around the fire,
He noticed one
The next man looking across the way,
Saw one not of his church,
And couldn’t bring
himself to give,
The first his stick of birch.
The third one sat in tattered clothes,
He gave his
coat a hitch.
Why should his log be put to use,
To warm the idle rich?
The rich man just sat and thought,
Of the wealth he had to store,
And how to keep what he had earned,
From the lazy, shiftless poor.
The black man’s face bespoke revenge,
As the fire passed from his sight,
For all he saw in his stick
Was a chance to spite the white.
The last man of this forlorn group,
Did naught except for
Giving only to those who gave,
Was how he played the game.
Their logs held tight in death’s
Was proof of human sin,
They didn’t die from the cold without,
They died from the cold
Unfortunately, each of these six men represent thoughts and feelings that are present in all people.
Don’t try to deny that you have ever shared in one of them. Even the most devout Christian has found themselves
with dark thoughts about some one, or some group, or some type of person. (Just because we consider that person to be
evil doesn’t clear us.) When we do, we can discover that we have an advantage over these six men. Instead
of giving in to our feelings and acting on them, we have the ability to ignore them, or overcome them, or get rid of them.
We have a savior, a teacher, a leader, an example that can strengthen us to overcome our feelings. Jesus can take the
wrong in the world and make it right.
A dad was trying to read a magazine, but he was being pestered by his little
daughter, Vanessa. Out of desperation he tore a sheet out of the magazine that had a map of the world printed on it.
Tearing it into small pieces, he gave it to Vanessa, and said, "Go into the other room and see if you can put this
back together like a puzzle." After a few minutes, Vanessa came back and handed him the map correctly taped together.
He was surprised and asked how she had finished so quickly. "Oh," she said, "on the other side is a picture
of Jesus. When I got Jesus in His place, then the world came out all right."
May Jesus make your world