Lighthouse May 17, 2022
HIGH SCHOOL SENIORS: We are excited with you and for you. I know you thought the day would never get here. Now, get ready. College or training school, probably a couple different jobs, children and even your health will be gone faster than what it felt like high school took. Yes, we are excited for you as you begin to explore more deeply what gifts, talents you have and how you are to use them. You will begin to wonder why God gave you this or that talent or opportunity. As you wonder and pray about that, and I pray you do, you will eventually discover; hopefully sooner than later that it is not about how much you can make or acquire. It's not about what power or privilege might come with it. It's not about what letters are behind your name. Life, the fullness of joy in life, is going to be about how do I use these gifts, talents, and education to best serve others. In Jn. 13 Jesus simply tells that his commandment is that we love another. No, not just be nice to one another, but to love one another as He has loved us. That is the only criteria: as He has loved us. That word, 'as', should in some way or other haunt you the rest of your life, in all your actions and interactions. When and if you date you will ask yourself 'am I really serving this other person; am I looking for their eternal welfare; or, am I just trying to find ways to use them. Like the young man who said: 'I have a lot of friends I haven't used yet.' If that becomes your criteria of life, to look at what I can get out of others you are going to miss out on the greatest and the only real joy Jesus wants you to have. Apply that same question to your future professions as well. If you do, you will have joy in whatever you do. Does that mean it's going to be easy, without any real struggle? Hardly. God has always allowed His people to struggle. As a matter of fact He often puts his people in situations where they will have to struggle. After all, that is the only way any talent grows. All muscles need resistance in order to develop. That includes relationships. If He leads you to marriage, know that there will be struggles but with Him you will come through them stronger. Don't allow yourself to give into the temptation of trying to go back home. 'this is why a man leaves his father and mother, that the two become one.' and, of course, if this applies to marriage it also applies to our relationship with the Lord. Your spiritual muscles have to be stretched as well. We know it is a real temptation for you to say: 'I'm on my own now. I don't have to do this or that. I don't have to go to church.' Fight through that temptation so that you may know the Lord is always at your side no matter how bad other things seem to turn out in life. Yes, we are excited for you but we will be praying for you and we will be available if you ever need help in figuring it out. Don't be afraid to ask.
Lighthouse May 10, 2022
How Much Should I Give?
This past week we heard Jesus ask Peter 'do you love me with an agape love'? In other words, do you love me with your whole heart and soul? And the best Peter could do was to basically acknowledge that he loved Jesus as a friend. When Jesus asks you how do you love me what do you say? How do you show or prove it? Words require actions. One of the most basic ways, spelled out by God that we don't tend to want to pay much attention to, is the tithe. I know it is not one of the things I preach on very often. But in truth tithing is not just giving whatever amount I want. It is to give 10% of all our net income. Some churches encourage their people to bring the whole tithe to the church itself, reflecting 2 Chronicles 31:5-12. The Catholic church generally suggests giving 5% to the local church and then for their members to decide how to divide the other 5% among the many suggested second collections or other charities. However one looks at it there is no getting around God's command in Leviticus 27:30,34 “All tithes of the land, whether in grain from the field or in fruit from the trees, belong to the Lord, as sacred to Him.” 'These are the commandments which the Lord gave to Moses on Mount Sinai for the Israelites.” Over and over God reprimands the Israelites for not bringing the tithe. When you think about it, tithing is one of the ways God actually tries to save us. Think of Mt. 6:19-24 “Do not lay up for yourselves an earthly treasure. Moths and rust corrode; thieves break in and steal. Make it your practice instead to store up heavenly treasure, which neither moths nor rust will corrode nor thieves break in and steal. Remember, where your treasure is, there your heart is also. No man can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other or be attentive to one and despise the other. You cannot give yourself to God and money.” How easily you can see this in terms of the prosperity of different countries. As the wealth increases we find less and less practice of any faith. In our human weakness we reach a point where we don't think we need God. While many people tend to look at the church budget and decide how much the church needs as an indicator of giving, Our Lord stressed, when talking about tithing, that we should do that without neglecting the weightier things. What are those? In Mt 25:41-46 we hear Jesus say 'out of my sight you condemned...I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was ...naked and you gave me no clothing etc.' In other words, meeting the needs of others is above and beyond our tithe. So, when you hear Jesus ask: 'Do you love me?' To what extent are you willing to take him up on His word and 'trust me in this.'?
Lighthouse April 26, 2022
Hallelujah! He is Risen! Whether it was enough for you to know there was an empty tomb or whether you, like Thomas, needed a little more assurance like those burial clothes we spoke of last week; he is risen whether you believe it or not. In overcoming death and sin Jesus offers us a whole new life. We are called to live for Him and in Him. A Christian quickly comes to realize that it is not enough just to say 'I believe'. We also have to show it in everything we do. Jesus told the apostles to go out into the whole world and proclaim the good news; to give witness as Paul says for this faith that is in us. To go out to the whole world means to 'be in the world yet not of the world.' In all of our actions and interactions Christians give witness not just by words but also deeds. Christians are reminded that we all have different gifts and talents for making a difference. This will become visible not just in the church but in the workplace and playground. This past week I had the privilege of participating in the annual march for Life in Jefferson City. By the way, even though the weathermen were saying 96% chance of rain, I learned a long time ago not to let their forecast change our plans but go with plan B in mind. Anyway, we got there and everything had been moved inside the capitol. We had a number of excellent speakers and the sound quality was the best I have ever heard in the rotunda. We had such greats as Jay Ashcroft, Secretary of State, and Abby Johnson who was one of the top leaders for Planned Parenthood, becoming very pro-life after being forced to see an abortion. We also had Pastor Michael Salemink, a Lutheran pastor, who gave us a different take on what we were about that day. Abortion and baby killing were not too uncommon in the early days of Christianity and we were able to change that culture and can do so again. He said we were here not just as a protest but as a memorial to all those who have died in abortion. He quoted that there have been more than 63 million babies killed in the United States and more than 1 billion worldwide since 1973. We have simply done too little and not given witness to the author of Life, Jesus. Christians are making a difference and will continue to make a difference because truth will win out; in this and other areas of our life. Jesus is truth and as such Christians are called to always give witness to truth. In this regard science is on our side as it continues to reveal, in every means possible, the humanity of the unborn. Pastors were certainly being chastised for giving too little witness too late to this most fundamental truth. If Christians are going to be a witness for the faith that is theirs there is no question that there is no greater human need than human life itself. May all you do give witness to The Way, The Truth, and The Life.
Lighthouse April 19, 2022
The Burial Cloths
“(John) bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in. When Simon peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place.” I don't know about you but as we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus I know the greatest witness is the empty tomb. For a long time I've been intrigued by the scripture speaking of burial cloths, plural. Last year I wrote about the Shroud of Turin which has been shown beyond reasonable doubt as being the main cloth. I know there was some concern about carbon dating showing it was from the middle ages but scientists have already shown that a substantial part of the pollen on it could have come only from the Holy Land; the traceable history goes back earlier than that; the blood has been blind tested and shows an AB positive with no male DNA. And most recently its been shown that the section used for the carbon dating came from a section repairing a damaged area using a French weave and a cotton cloth rather than the same linen. That's one cloth. Then there is what is called the sudarium which was wrapped around the main cloth to basically keep the mouth shut. It has been tested as having the same blood type and history. Then, and most recently just coming to light is what is known as the face cloth, at Manopello in Italy. Did you ever wonder why scripture described it as rolled up or folded neatly? I did. If Jesus rose, why didn't he just go; why did it have to be folded up. Anyway, the face of Manopello is something you might want to investigate.
This cloth is made of mussel silk; yes mussel, those clam like creatures that cling to the bottom of the sea with long fibers. Those fibers are taken and then woven. It was a way of weaving for an expensive cloth made in Our Lord's day and presently there is only one person in the world doing it who on examining this cloth said it is a much finer quality than she can make. It is a translucent material which will not take paint and yet there is the picture of a face on it. This cloth had been high up on a column in the previous St. Peter's Church in Rome for centuries. That column by the way was called Veronica's which simply means true image. When Martin Luther saw it from a distance he simply dismissed it as a fake because he couldn't see anything there; and you can't, unless someone puts their hand behind it. So it is an image somehow transferred to this cloth not by human hands. When the new St. Peter's was being built it somehow disappeared and was only discovered recently in the church of Manopello, Italy. Supposedly it provides an exact overlay of the face on the shroud. Are all these the real image of Christ? I don't know. Check it out on YouTube.
Lighthouse April 12, 2022
Jn.19:30“It is finished” or, “it is consummated” as some translations have. Those words tie together all what this week is about. We call it Holy Week because Jesus concludes all that the Father sent him to do during this week. Because the Evangelist John is all about meaning and not just historicity we are called to understand his special take on Jesus' death. First of all Jesus is not a victim. He is the triumphant one who will offer himself on the cross to overcome the sins of all mankind. (by the way, you might want to watch the Passion at Trinity Methodist at 6:00pm Thursday; in it Mel Gibson portrays this point very well). Along with that you will see John interweave the theme of the entire Bible where God says He will betroth the Jews to Himself and so John begins with a wedding story. If you see those words in context of a wedding you can understand Jesus, as God, betrothing Himself to the human race with Mary representing our race and immediately bearing fruit in 'woman behold your son.' but, over and above all that we certainly have to come to grips with the Passover. Jesus went up to the temple every year for the Passover and this particular week he tells the apostles to set up for the Passover even though it is only Thursday and the Passover is Friday that year. As you know, ever since the night before God led his people out of Egypt he required them to sacrifice a one year old lamb and put it's blood on their doorposts (using hyssop branch as you notice they did with Jesus giving Him wine to drink on the cross) or else their oldest son would die that night. This happened in all other households. But along with that they were to eat the lamb. Eating what is sacrificed to a god, or God would indicate you were in communion with him. This is why Jews had a problem with pagan Christians eating meat offered to the gods. Anyway as the Passover ritual became finalized you find that there are 4 glasses of wine to celebrate with. The third one was called the todah or 'cup of thanksgiving'. When Jesus had offered that one he said he would no longer drink the fruit of the vine until in the kingdom. And so, as a great Presbyterian minister points out, Jesus drinks wine, not on the way to Calvary as it was offered, but only on the cross just before saying 'it is finished.' The final, perfect Passover is finished. It is no longer celebrated for leading the Jews out of slavery in Egypt but it is celebrated in leading all people out of the slavery to sin. You will also notice there was no mention of a lamb at this Passover. John the Baptist, at the beginning of Jesus' ministry had already designated him as 'the lamb of God' Jesus becomes the lamb of sacrifice at the same time as the ordinary lambs are being sacrificed; and he too, with them, is being bled out when the soldier pierces His side. So, have no doubt this week, Jesus is the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. He is the one who said 'when I am lifted up I will draw all people to myself.' let Him draw you closer to Him and be cleansed in the blood of the lamb.
Lighthouse April 5, 2022
Palm Sunday: what do you look forward to? Do you think of it as just being a week to Easter and Easter goodies, which you're probably already indulging in anyway. Do you think of the pageantry, the waving of palms proclaiming Christ the King here on earth and forever in eternity? For many, that's about as far as their thinking goes. But there is something much more in this special feast. It is really called Palm Sunday/ Passion Sunday. We don't, can't have the one without the other. If you and I think we would simply be among the hundreds waving palm branches but not part of the crowd when they are shouting 'crucify him', we fool ourselves. When we look at all of salvation history it is replete with betrayals of God's friendship. Consider Adam and Eve, Cain, Joseph's brothers, the whole body of Jews who were delivered from slavery and saw God's mighty works yet turn to a god of gold going against the only commandment they had at that time. Their whole history is full of betrayal, mercy, and starting over. I think Jordan Peterson, a famed psychologist, is right on, when he says that we must recognize the dark side within us; the ability to be a Hitler or Stalin. We don't like to hear that but as the old saying goes, 'there but for the grace of God go I.' We are all sinners. None of us have room to look down on anyone else; at least not morally. Once we come to grips with the reality that we probably would have been shouting with the crowd: 'crucify him, crucify him', then we know we too are 'standing in the need' and recognize that Jesus truly is my savior. While He died on the cross for all mankind, for every sin which has ever been committed; he also died for me as if I were the only one who had ever betrayed Him. Throughout this week we call 'Holy Week' we will reflect on His suffering and death and know that it is only through his suffering and death that we come to the resurrection. As a matter of fact, we can't help but hear the words of Jesus 'unless you take up your cross and follow me you are not worthy of me.' That's what St. Paul meant when he said: 'Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. (Col 1:24) ' Either we are actively offering our sufferings, self-denials with the suffering of Christ for the redemption of the world or we put ourselves outside of the need for his mercy. Let us look forward to Palm/ Passion Sunday as we acknowledge our frail humanness and pray we are never found among those who deny Jesus by their actions.
Lighthouse March 29, 2022
When Peter asks Our Lord 'How many times must I forgive my brother?' Our Lord said 'seventy times seven times'. Okay, some translations say '77 times'. Can't you just see someone saying: 'Okay, I've already forgiven you 489 times, that's it.' Or, 'I've already forgiven you 76 times.' Any of those is too much. There's an old saying, 'fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.' Is our Lord serious? You bet He is. Whichever translation you look at, the very fact it mentions 7 is a referral back to God. Perfect forgiveness. We pray, forgive me as I forgive others. That's one prayer you can bet He is going to answer. Why is He so insistent in such forgiveness? How can we be expected to follow Jesus' example on the cross when He said: 'Father, forgive them, they don't know what they do.'? Or Jesus' parable of the prodigal father whose son totally turned against his father and all he stood for; his homeland, his Jewish faith, everything. Yet, what happened? At the slightest sign of repentance the father runs out and embraces his son, fully restoring him in the family. We can be expected to do the same simply because Jesus wants us to have perfect peace. We will never have peace if we are carrying resentment against someone else. We can never know the joy He wants us to have. The one who suffers most from unforgiveness is the injured. The other day I was listening to a program where the founder was saying that there are over 120,000 gang members in LA. He claims he has a high success rate of recovering them from gangs because he takes them in and lets them know they are all family. They are forgiven of their past and welcomed into a group which accepts them with their faults. He went on to affirm what many of us already know. Many of those who enter into gangs are looking for that sense of belonging. Many were raised in a household without a father whom they would have loved to have belonged to and emulate. So, the story of the Prodigal Father is an epic story of The Father's love and ability to forgive. There is nothing He is not willing to forgive except as scripture says: 'blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.” And what is that, except one's unwillingness to allow the Spirit to enter their lives and convict them of their sinfulness. As we look to Easter, don't be afraid to turn to the Father for forgiveness. 'He who says he is without sin is a liar.' We are all sinners. Enjoy the sin-free life the Father is calling you to.
Lighthouse March 22, 2022
In Jn 20:1-9 Mary of Magdala went to the tomb and discovered the body of Jesus was gone. She thought someone had removed the body. Then Peter and John came and affirmed that the body was indeed gone but the burial clothes were there indicating that someone probably did not take the body but He had risen. Are you looking forward to Easter. I know I am; but looking at the full moon tonight tells me it will be at least a month off. Why so late? It's almost crowding Mother's Day. I think we have talked about this before but some wonder how the date for Easter is determined. It is the one movable date that is set before all others of the year. It is the primary Sunday of the year. Every other Sunday is seen as a little Easter reminding us of the scripture: do not forsake the gathering of the assembly as on the day of the Resurrection. As we mentioned before, the Jews go by the lunar calendar. For them this year the 14th of Nissan is March 25. By the time Christians tried to establish a definite date for Easter they really didn't know the exact year Jesus died. By that time the Christians in the west were using the Roman calendar. What they knew for sure is that Easter had to be on Sunday and from the description of who was in power and trusting that Jesus died on a Passover falling on a Friday they came up with the formula of being the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox (March 21). The Eastern rites, using the Julian calendar, are usually a couple weeks later. Then, with that, it always has to be after Passover so that the chain of events are not thrown out of sequence. How important is it? Not very in a way. For a couple hundred years different churches chose different dates. Only with the council of Nicea in 325 was there an attempt to codify it and come up with the current formula. Is it possible that all Christians will ever celebrate Easter on the same date? I hope so, if only for the witness it gives to the rest of the world. I think both sides are somewhat open to the possibility. If Rome simply chose to go along with the Orthodox will the rest of Christians follow suit? How about you? Will it really matter? What if the different groups just agreed to set it on the third Sunday of March? Would you care? So, yes, I was thrown off seeing the full moon which reminds me that Easter will be about as late as it ever gets this year. May you use this month to spiritually prepare.
Lighthouse March 15, 2022
In Mk. 12:17 we hear these famous words of Jesus when he said: 'render to Caesar that which is Caesar's and to God that which is God's.' And we've had problems ever since. Right now the Orthodox Patriarch in Russia, Patriarch Kirill, is supporting President Putin's war on the Ukraine as a holy war. It is necessary that the west understand that. On one level they believe Russia is a divinely instituted entity with a right to possess all that was ever part of it. On another level they, as do other faith systems, see the west a evil and corrupt with our materialistic capitalism. Compounding that is the fact that, being a hierarchical church Patriarch Kirill is over a number of the bishops in the Ukraine and expecting them to unite the country with Russia. As I said, we've had problems from the beginning. The Jews were under a monarchy but often had prophets who would help direct the king. Most prophets were killed. For the first three hundred years of Christianity, when they weren't fleeing persecution, Christians served the government like anyone else in the kingdom and prayed for the leader. When Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the empire he supported and encouraged what the church needed. When Rome was abandoned by the political power which moved to Constantinople the religious leaders left in Rome began filling the political void; too often becoming the political leaders. In the east the emperor took on a great deal of power over the church in terms of what orthodoxy meant. At times they supported the largest schism the church ever experienced by supporting Arianism. In the east the Orthodox would continue to be aligned much with the political power and thus the Orthodox church often bore the name of the country they were in. That is the history Russian Orthodox operate out of. In the west different political powers tended to work out a wide variety of understandings in terms of church/state relationship. You have the Avignon Captivity where the king of France kidnapped the pope for 100 years. You have England where the king just declares himself as head of the church and then you have Germany where with the Diet of Worms you simply declare everyone would belong to whatever church the local prince belonged to. And then, thank God, we have America; which works hard to find the balance for everyone to practice according to their own conscience while holding such basics as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (conscience) as being non-negotiable. Through this experiment all are encouraged to take their rightful part in the workings of government and truly rend to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's. So, don't be surprised when you hear so called Christian leaders of the past support slavery or in our own day, the taking of millions of innocent lives through abortion. The bottom line is: if there's enough money involved, or enough power, you can find some religious preachers ready to support anything. On the other hand, when we do hear religious leaders elsewhere condemning the west for being too secular or materialistic, let us not be afraid to at least examine ourselves. And, let us never cease examining ourselves on how to give to Caesar and God their due.
Lighthouse March 1, 2022
Lighthouse February 22, 2022
Right now I am in Mexico City to see this miracle God performed to really show how blessed God considers this mother of His son, to be 'most blessed among all women.' Reflect on Luke a little if you will. Lk 1:26 'and the angel came to Mary and said 'Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you.' ('gracia plena' full of grace, full of the Lord's presence). No where else in scripture does an angel so address a human being. ..and Elizabeth says 'blessed are you among women .'...'how is it that the mother of my Lord should come to me?'.. and finally in vs. 48 'all generations will call me blessed.' Fifty years ago, this past month I was privileged to go with a group of seminarians from Louisville Presbyterian Seminary to see this phenomena of Guadalupe in Mexico City. Through the many different schools of science what we knew in 1972 and what we know today has greatly increased in trying to understand this miracle. If you're not aware of the miracle: just briefly; in 1531 Mary appeared to Juan Diego, an indigenous Indian and asked him to present a bouquet of roses to the bishop. When he did so this image instantly appeared on his cloak, the first selfie in history, unless you count the Shroud of Turin. There is absolutely no paint, no underlying drawing, nothing to explain how such a beautiful clear image could be on the surface of a cactus fiber cloth which deteriorates in less than 30 years It was like a petroglyph in that every element, every color, spoke volumes to the ingenious. It is basically responsible for the end of human sacrifice which was prevalent throughout the land and led to the Christianization of some 9 million in just 7 years. Anyway, as time goes on, as science becomes more advanced it is seen as more miraculous. It endured 500 years of candles burning in front of it without creating soot on it as happens throughout the world as with the Sistine Chapel. The Communists tried to destroy it with a bomb hidden in flowers in early 1900s. It blew out the windows of the church, bent a steel cross but didn't touch the picture. Acid was accidentally spilled on it to no effect. In early 1950s Jody Smith, a Methodist and professor at Pensacola Junior College, was given permission to take pictures up close and Life Mag. Proclaimed there was a reflection of a face in Mary's eyes. And there was, and more than that. With digital technology it is now shown that there are images of a number of people who would have been in the room and ophthalmologists declare that her eyes reflect those people just as real human eyes would. If you get a chance you might study this pictograph. Ask Google, and discover the many things it spoke to the indigenous to lead them to Christ.
Lighthouse February 15, 2022
WILL YOU BE MY VALENTINE?
Just in case you didn't get a card. You did now. It is certainly a wonderful sentiment and has over the years gone beyond 'my one and only.' It does seem very fitting that this is a Christian feast and a time to feel free to say 'I love you' without someone taking it wrong. Sometimes people just need permission to use those words. Some say it is one more event which has its roots in something pagan. If that is so, is that so bad? I think I mentioned before that Christians have always found a way to baptize things of the world and help lead to Christ. While we attribute this day to St. Valentine for having defied Emperor Claudius II's ban on marriage in the third century and subsequently writing a letter from prison signed 'your Valentine'. Our martyrology says that St. Valentine converted his jailer by healing his daughter from blindness. Like Christmas though it has certainly gotten a big push through commercialization. At least it heightens our thoughts of love; to 'love one another as I have loved you.' we spend some $27 billion on expressions of love. I'm not sure about that $750 million as expressions to pets though. If 6 million couples get engaged on this day it would seem to be a sign that we recognize it as tribute to the greatest love among humans. And then everyone else gets to share from this expression of love. If you are a teacher, you got the most cards and children probably pass out the most. Even young boys find themselves saying something towards that girl he might otherwise tease. And who doesn't like a box of chocolates? I'm sure I'll get one. No, not in person but the after holiday sales. Enjoy the candy, the flowers, the jewelry, the letters. You might find your heart opening up to want to express love to those who mean the most, and even those who don't, a little more often. You might find it picks up your spirits until winter is over; until covid is over; until we share a little more readily with those God has given us to love. Maybe you can find another worldly tradition and baptize it for something good. Will you be my Valentine? An interesting tidbit. Necco, the one who makes those little hearts with different sayings on them; they have to start this month making 100,000 pounds a day to get ready for next year. And the note says not to worry if you can't eat them all; they have a shelf life of five years.
Lighthouse February 1, 2022
The last couple weeks we have been listening to the scriptures telling us of how God the Father confirmed the beginning of Jesus's ministry at his baptism when He said 'this is my beloved son.' Then the following week we heard his mother, Mary say, by encouraging him to do the miracle of the wine, against his objections, that it was time for him to begin. This past weekend we heard Jesus himself acknowledge that the kingdom has come when he quotes from Isaiah and says; 'this day this reading is fulfilled in your hearing.' What does the kingdom of God involve? 'To proclaim glad tidings to the poor. To proclaim liberty to captives, recovery of sight to the blind, the let the oppressed go free, and proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.” With these words from Isaiah Jesus proclaims that he is about bringing real justice into the world. Consequently, we hear St. Paul remind us that we are all members of the body of Christ. As such, his mission is our mission. Paul reminds us that we have all received of the Holy Spirit with different gifts and abilities. Therefore it is as the total body of Christ we will be able to do what Jesus does. This week I went to DC to give witness to the court that we have to overcome the injustice of taking the lives of the innocent unborn. Is everyone called to do that? Can everyone? No. We are all called to observe and act. We witnessed Mary observing the wine situation. We heard of the apostles noticing Peter's mother in law being sick. These needs were brought to Jesus. In the same way we are called to recognize injustices and do something about them. Sometimes it might be something small like seeing the need for another monitor for a school crossing. It might be recognizing the need to overcome racial injustice or the injustice of sex-trafficking. Sometimes we can do something about it ourselves. Sometimes we need to go to another part of the body of Christ and get the help of those who have the ability to address that injustice. This is how Christians throughout the centuries have made a difference in our whole culture, bringing about the kingdom of God. As Christians we discover that life is not about how can I get more for myself but rather; how can I, how am I, called to use the gifts God has given me to serve others. When Jesus tells us that He desires our joy to be complete that is the way in which He indicates it will happen. Jesus gave His life totally to the service of others and our redemption even to the last drop of blood on the cross. He shows us that the more completely we can give of ourselves; the more totally we can surrender our own life for the good of others; the greater joy and fulfillment we will discover. Jesus says that there is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends. For some their whole life is defined by a decision to serve by being a cop, a firefighter, a doctor, nurse, minister, teacher, a member of the military. Their job itself is a decision to lay down their lives for others. But, it is no less so to be a good father or mother. I encourage you to be imbued with God's Word and day by day you will find yourself automatically asking 'what would Jesus do?' and, therefore 'what should I do?' when I observe a real need, an injustice.
Lighthouse January 25, 2022
“I can't believe that the Supreme Court just approved of abortion accross the land based on a 'penumbra' of reasons”. In other words they had to manufacture a way to make the constitution support it. It didn't help that Justice Blackmun had a daughter wanting an abortion. These were the words of a law professor teaching a legal course I happened to be enrolled in at Lexington Theological Seminary in Kentucky on January 22, 1973. He had a copy of the whole text for each one of us as he threw the papers down on his desk. This past Friday, on January 22 I was in Washington DC again for the umteenth time helping to draw this travesty to the attention of the Supreme Court. In many ways it has defined my life for the last 49 years as we have witnessed over 63 million murders of the most innocent of our brothers and sisters in the United States. Do I enjoy driving throughout the night and enduring temperatures in the teens. Hardly. It is just one of many ways of attempting to overcome this shadow over the greatness of our country. As we give tribute to the greatness of Martin Luther King this past week we recognize that we can change laws which allow one human being to literally own another as if they were property. This law can also change. And it must. All Christians know the scriptures which speak of God knowing each of us in our mother's womb. We just finished celebrating the birth of our savior and recall how John the Baptist jumped in his mother's womb at the very presence of Jesus still in Mary. Not even abortionists dare to call the biologically separate human being who has his own blood type and DNA as anything other than human. They have to seek other ways of justifying the taking of such life as if there were another greater good at stake. And there isn't. But, you know what hurts so much? So many seemingly good people make pro-lifers fight on two fronts. Pro-lifers are taunted with accusations that if they are prolife they ought to be doing something positive to help those who have difficult pregnancies, as if they aren't. Most of my own salary goes to help some of the many different organizations which have sprung up to help such women. Just in the past couple years has there been another Birthright office set up right here in Marble Hill. Our own Whole Health Outreach and Whole Kids Outreach here in Ellington do so much. Currently there is a multi-million dollar drive going on for a center in Cape Girardeau to help such women giving them good medical care, parenting training, and employment training so they can pridefully live life to the full on their own. Is there more that can be done on both fronts? You bet there is. But to say that pro-lifers are not reaching out to those in need is ludicrous. Jesus makes it abundantly clear that we have such an obligation. I ask you to pray with me that this time next year, the 50th anniversary, I can go back to DC to celebrate and begin to see the healing of this land before my own journey is over. I would like to share with you a brief summary of an article by Fritz Baumgartner, MD We can approach abortion from many perspectives: Biological, embryological, genetic, philosophical, social and economic, at the very least. As for the first three – my approach as a scientist, physician, surgeon, and simply someone who finished medical school, is factual.
There is no more pivotal moment in the subsequent growth and development of a human being than when 23 chromosomes of the father join with 23 chromosomes of the mother to form a unique, 46-chromosomed individual, with a gender, who had previously simply not existed. Period. No debate.
There is no more appropriate moment to begin calling a human "human" than the moment of fertilization. And don't let anyone tell you otherwise, because it would be a degradation of factual embryology to say it would be any other moment. For example, some pro-abortion zealots and even, shockingly, some disingenuous physicians claim it is the moment of primitive notochord formation (nonsense!) or, even more absurdly, the moment of implantation. (It defies sanity to claim that the implantation of a developing blastocyst onto a uterine wall defines humanity more than does the completion of an entirely new DNA map, which defines a new organism's existence)....one should consider the Geneva Declaration of Physicians, written as a direct result of the Nazi medical atrocities soundly condemned at the Nuremberg Medical Trials. This universal Declaration of Physicians states: "I will maintain the utmost respect for human life, from the time of its conception, even under threat. I will not use my medical knowledge contrary to the laws of humanity" (4). that was after 6 million Jews were exterminated. What new commitment ought be made by doctors now that we have witnessed 66 million of our most innocent by napalm and dismemberment? Surely no one can close their eyes to the evil of our own day knowing how we judged the Germans for their involvement in the Holocaust
Lighthouse January 18, 2022
Last week we stressed the importance of keeping our eyes on the star, the Word of God or there will be negative consequences. This week as the mainline churches listen to the Gospel of John telling the story of the wedding feast we are reminded of the need to keep our eyes open to the needs around us. We hear of how Jesus' mother observed that the wedding feast was running out of wine. Imagine that. Jesus just brought all his fishing buddies to the party. Notice too, that Mary brings the matter to Jesus and leaves it in his lap. Even though he says 'what's this to me.' he proceeds to solve the problem in a way far greater than any could ever imagine. Not only in terms of quantity, but quality. In that we will see how John takes this event and turns it into something much more. It's not just a miracle; it's a 'sign' for John. So yes, we should observe the needs around us. After all Jesus said what we do to the least of these we do to him personally. Beyond that though John does call it a 'sign' (something pointing beyond the event). Then, as he always does in his Gospel and the Book of Revelation, John gives us clue words pointing to the eschatology, the end times of the story of salvation. Notice that John has Jesus referring to Mary as 'woman'. Just as he began his gospel with the words: 'in the beginning was the Word', he's showing us that he is writing about the new Genesis. Genesis begins with God's greatest creation being Adam and Eve, marriage. They failed, but God says to the devil that the 'woman' would crush his head. Now this woman is telling her son, Jesus, that His time has come even though he said his hour had not yet come. At Jesus' baptism the Father had already commissioned him by saying 'this is my beloved son.' And, if you notice, all the apostles were at both occasions. Now, in response to his commissioning by his mother, what does he do? He goes beyond what any could imagine, six large full jugs of water turned to wine. Again, John uses hyperbole, as he often does, to accent the point. The point being, six is always short of the glory of God. God's rest is the seventh day in Genesis. In the rest of the Bible seven is a reminder of the eternal rest with God. All the covenants of old come up short of the permanent marital union God promised to have with his people. Again, Jesus is the seventh, the perfect wine offered in the 'cup of my blood.' Again, as I said, John calls this a sign. It's not just about any wedding but the 'wedding feast of the Lamb'. In having Jesus provide the wine John is pointing him out as the true bridegroom and in calling Mary 'woman' he has her representing all believers, the true bride. And so, eventually, at the end of the Gospel, we hear Jesus say 'woman' behold your son while pointing to John who obviously represents all believers. We all become children of God knowing that He has indeed provided 'the best wine' as we prepare for our share in the full glory of God's Sabbath.
Lighthouse January 11, 2022
Today, as I write this, on the feast of the Epiphany I can't help but wonder: what would have happened if the three wisemen hadn't gone to Herod? Have you ever been there? Have you ever gotten a present which says 'some assembly necessary' and, looking at it, decided it was too intuitively simple so you dove right in only to discover you needed the directions and consequently needed to undo a couple pieces you already installed? I did that with a new podium I bought which only has four basic pieces. I tried every way but the right way, and I consider myself good at puzzles. Maybe you've had that happen with some software or taking a trip. You might have even used a GPS till you got close to where you were going and decided you knew you knew the rest of the way, only to discover. Can you imagine, as too often happens, someone is tired at night and gets off a four lane highway to take a break and when they want to get back on they turn back onto the lane they exited with? Even if their spouse says; 'you're going the wrong way.' they may plow ahead only to meet a disastrous consequence. Let me tell you, as Paul Harvey used to say, 'the rest of the story' with the three wise men. Because they apparently told Herod they had been following this star for 2 years I'm betting it was an angel God sent to get them to Bethlehem at Jesus' birth. God often used angels, messengers, in the old and new Testament. He even did so for the shepherds, so there is no problem thinking He did so with the wise men, only in the guise of a star. Anyway, you can see that after traveling so long when they got close to Jerusalem they instinctively said: 'that's it! Look at the big city. The new king must be there.' And, taking their eyes off the star, they hurried to see the king of Jerusalem, thinking his son would be who they were looking for. Can you imagine their thoughts when they discovered Herod didn't have a new born son. 'oh, oh!' In the process of going to Herod they took their eyes off the angel, the guide God gave them. Lucky for them God still led them to Bethlehem with the star. They had to do a little back-tracking. Coming from the east there would have been a point where Bethlehem was just as close as Jerusalem but Jerusalem got their attention. It was unlucky though for those innocents who would be slaughtered in Bethlehem. These wise men stirred up the jealousy of one who was not afraid to kill his own sons and his wife. God got them and Jesus safely out of Bethlehem now, not by an angel, but by a dream. What a lesson for us. How does God guide us today? Sometimes He still uses angels, as at Fatima. Most generally though He calls us to know HIS WORD. As St. Jerome said, 'to be ignorant of scripture is to be ignorant of Christ.' and He calls us to listen to His pastors. He told Peter “he who hears you hears me.” So, we have all the guidance we need. Do we sometimes lose sight of it and think we are good going our own way? Yes. If we do so do we not realize there will be consequences affecting this world and the next. But, just as God still used the angel to guide the wise men to Bethlehem He calls us to repentance and to turn again to listening to His Word and His pastors. And young people, if you happen to be reading this, do you not know that your parents are your guiding star? I might suggest you catch Fr. Schmitz's podcast 'The Bible in a Year'. It seems to really be gaining worldwide favor. Again, may your new year truly be 'anno domini', a 'year of the Lord.' lived one day at a time.
Lighthouse January 4, 2022
Happy New Year 2022 Anno Domini. Sorry, maybe that's not
right. Is it CE, common era? Last week in sharing about the birth of Jesus we
talked about not knowing exactly when he was born but that it was important to celebrate
it. We begin to realize that the way we
mark time is a human construct. In other
words we have been marking time for millennia. The most common way seems to
have been the lunar, watching the cycles of the moon, as you only have to
remember back 28 days. Greater accuracy
came up when some, as the Romans and Aztecs marked a solar cycle, observing the
recycled events of the sun. Over the
centuries we have become more and more accurate in aligning the moon and sun to
realize there were 365 days in the year. But, the the Persians were able to determine it was 365 + ¼ + days and
so we eventually ended up adding an extra day every 4 years and really need to
add another day every 400 years. Now,
where do you start from? The beginning
of this or that dynasty? Of some battle? Of Alexander the Great? Of Caesar? Or
even of Napoleon? For many centuries
Christians have been able to dominate the agenda with a universally accepted
calendar recognizing Jesus as the center of history and referring to years before
Him being BC, before Christ, and years after Him as AD, Anno Domini, Year of
the Lord. Some years back there was a
move to remove any recognition of Jesus from anything having to do with our
public life and so it became politically correct to say BCE or CE as Before the
Common Era and Common Era. What is the
Common Era? What is the starting point? It just happens to correspond to the birth of Christ. So, why remove the designation of Christ who
was a real personage? Why change a universally accepted standard where everyone
knows what you're talking about? If we
need to remove Jesus' name, why not Thor for Thursday or Mars for March. Janus for January or a political personage of
Augustus Caesar for August? Why isn't
there any effort to change all those? Are pagan gods okay but not the Christian
God? Or, are they just cartoon characters and therefore make a joke of us
all? The Chinese will continue to mark
their calendar. Next year is the year of the 'pig', my year. They have been
doing a cycle of 12 animals for 4716 years. The Jews will celebrate 5780 in theirs. Neither Jews or Chinese will
give their calendar, up no matter what politically correct language one tries
to use so why are Christians so willing to change the designation of BC and AD
centering around Christ when Christ is the greatest figure in history,
religious or non-religious. I don't know
about you but I will continue to mark my calendar as such and remember that for
me each day, every day of the year is meant to be lived in the Spirit of
Christ. I pray you may truly seek to
live this year as a Year of the Lord, Happy New Year 2022 AD.
Lighthouse December 28, 2021
Christ, not yet, … not yet over. Some would say, 'what do you mean, we took our tree down, our lights are gone, the cards have been pitched and we've already finished, through use or breakage, with a number of the gifts. What do you mean, it's not over?” as Westerners we like to reach goals and then move on. Some are already preparing for the next big events of Superbowl or Valentine's Day. Have you heard of the 12 days of Christmas? Have you ever checkout out what the verses mean? Why are there 12 days, Jewish and Christian tradition often looks at an octave, 8 days, as a fullness of celebration. Do we really know what day Jesus was born? no. that is the problem. The Scriptures tell us during the reign of different leaders. They tell us of the shepherds being in the fields with the lambs. But when? Few, important leaders, had their dates acknowledged on certain days. As a matter of fact, often you did not know they were important until they died. Then you acknowledged that day and with it grew the belief that great people died on the anniversary of their birth. So, with Jesus, we knew he died within a day or two of the Passover, but, what year? By the time Christians got serious about wanting to celebrate an exact day they had already gone from a lunar calendar to the Julian solar calendar which was itself off by a couple months and not corrected until Pope Gregory the Great. Anyway, they knew they didn't want to celebrate Jesus birthday the same day as His death. There were two different schools of thought as to when His death was. The East figured it to be April 6 and the West figured March 25. If they made that the time of Jesus' conception instead of birth they could figure December 25 and January 6 respectively. With that we came to an agreement to celebrate 12 days of His Birth. To this day, the East and West still celebrate Easter, Jesus' Resurrection, on different days. Anyway, why not celebrate 12 days? Why get in a hurry to move on, unless it's about the money? Why not take time, as Mary did, and ponder these things in our hearts? What are the consequences of God becoming man, like us in all things but sin? What are the consequences that he did so at a particular time, in a particular family, culture? One little boy who came from a poor and abusive household and received nothing for Christmas made the comment: “dogs make other dogs; cats make other cats; why can't Jesus make other Jesuses?” and that is precisely what He tried to do. You and I are called to be other Jesuses and show God's love to the world. Why not celebrate 12 days of Christmas, why not make it 365 days a year. Merry Christmas, yet.
Lighthouse December 21, 2021
Jesus, transponded to earth. Did God just decide to see what it would be like to walk, think and feel like these puny humans He created and then just use this willing woman who would allow Him to appear on earth through her? A key word there is use. Does God just use people as if they were an object and he were being transponded from some star ship? No. Jesus came to earth emphatically as a human being. As a matter fact each of the Gospels describe his genealogy in a different way to make sure we know this. Have you read Matthew's account lately? Were you able to pronounce all those different names tying Jesus back to Abraham? Matthew makes sure to show Jesus was connected to all peoples. Not only that but he points out “the total number of generations from Abraham to David is fourteen generations; from David to the Babylonian exile, fourteen generations; from the Babylonian exile to Christ, fourteen generations.” Why spell out these numbers? Divide fourteen by 2 and what do you have? 7. That's God's rest. In other words it gives you 6-7s. The seventh day is to enjoy God's rest. The land was to rest every seventh year. And, after 7x7 years there was to be a jubilee for restoration of all things. Jesus says to forgive 70 x 7 times. So, again here, Matthew is showing that we've gone through six cycles of seven. Six is imperfect, so 666 is really imperfect. Matthew is saying that Jesus is the seventh set of generations. His is the time of renewal; the time of restoration, the time of jubilee. And guess what. That means, consequently, everyone who accepts Jesus as Lord is a part of that final and perfect generation. As a matter of fact, notice that, in the above quote Matthew doesn't use his name 'Jesus' but rather he points to him as the 'Christ', the 'anointed one'. To make sure we don't miss the point. And, if that isn't enough to blow your mind, how about this. Did you know that the blood on the Shroud of Turin, the blood from several different consecrated eucharistic hosts over the centuries, and the blood from a bleeding statue of Jesus have all been scientifically tested without the scientist knowing the source (blind tested) in different universities and labs, and all have come up with only female DNA, no male. So, no, God has no DNA. God used and totally became a human through the DNA of Mary. With that behind us, let us now truly celebrate Christmas and wonder at the miracle God performed in becoming one of us and accepting all our messy background as His own. He became like us in all things but sin to prove how much He truly loves us and wants us to know He understands our weaknesses and efforts. Rejoice in the Lord always and proclaim “Merry Christmas”.