Out of the Darkness

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Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
From the
Book of Common Prayer, 1979

The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.
Isaiah 9:2 (King James Version)

Believe me folks, it’s dark in here-darker than the darkest darkroom. If you were to look at all that’s happening today, you would agree it’s dark. We have corruption at every level of government-here in the US of A and abroad. People’s livelihoods are being destroyed by corporate greed. Our Evangelical leaders have forsaken the Gospel for personal and political gain. There’s a collective malaise creeping over the land despite the Madison Avenue exhortation to indulge this Holiday Season.

Tonight’s first text was the Collect for the First Sunday in Advent (yesterday); the prayer offered up in worship service. It’s a prayer that applies today in our current situation. It’s time to cast away the “works of darkness” and take on the “armor of light”. It’s a prayer of preparation for us as we await the coming Christ. Although, the prayer refers to the Second Coming, I believe it has more relevance in Advent-the First Coming…

… And ties into the second text. This verse is a promise of future enlightenment, enlightenment that comes with the Christ; the Gospel He brings with him.

As we look forward to the coming of the Christ, we need to cast off the works of darkness: greed; prejudice; predatory behavior; and others. We must ready ourselves to be enlightened by the Gospel of God’s Christ. This enlightenment will allow us to reign with Christ-right here, right now; not in some future time. And when we reign with the Christ, we will cast the works of darkness away and usher in the Queen/Kingdom of God into our world.

Let’s take this Advent time to pray and mediate upon these words so we can come out of the darkness.

Peace and light to all.

(Image by Me).

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Still Got Your Praise?

I will bless the Lord at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth.  Psalm 34:1 (King James Version)

Yesterday was the start of Advent 2017. It’s the time we celebrate the coming of God’s Christ into the world.  This should be a time of praise and thanksgiving as we remember…

However, with the mass commercialization of this Season, it’s easy for us to lose our praise.  We can get so dulled by Madison Avenue and Hollywood’s hijacking the Advent Season that we lose sight of the Christ in our lives.  Plus with what’s going on in our collective and individual lives, this can make praising God a challenge.  In fact, we can get so jaded that we wonder if we still have our praise in our hearts.

Tonight’s Scripture is a declaration of the Psalmist’s constant and continuous praise of the Divine.  According the Matthew Henry’s Commentary, this was David at a time when he was escaping King Saul’s angry pursuit of him.  As you know (or don’t), David was chosen by God to be the future king of Israel after God rejected Saul.  Saul was gunning for David and wanted him bumped off before he could assume the throne.  During his sojourn, David eventually wound up in the land of the Philistines-going from the frying pan into the fire.  However, we still see David with praise in his heart; whereas we would expect him to act the opposite.  Despite being in a situation that would jade the heartiest of souls, David still declared his love and praise for the Divine.

As we await the coming of Christ, we cannot let all that’s going on keep us from praising God for His/Her gift to humanity.  We cannot afford to lose our praise.  We still can praise God and celebrate His/Her goodness to us.  We can celebrate with joyful anticipation during this Advent Season.

Still got your praise?  I hope so.  Welcome to Advent 2017 Dear Readers.

Peace.

(Image: Lone water bottle at Edison (NJ) Skatepark. October 8, 2017).

 

 

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They All Have Names!

For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land.
Deuteronomy 15:11 (King James Version)

I hope everyone has had a blessed Thanksgiving and are taking the time to relax.

Yesterday my wife, son and I were helping to feed the neighborhood people- especially those who have nowhere to go to or no-one to share with. We were at my sister and her husband’s church in Jersey City where he is the pastor.

Before we started to eat, my brother in law had everyone-volunteer and guest- say their name. As I was listening to the names mentioned, I felt the Holy Spirit touch my mind…

They all have names!

I realized that those who came in weren’t just faces passed by on the street. These were people who had names… and as I shared this with my brother-in-law, he told me that there are stories behind those names.  As I went through my day interacting with those who came through the church doors, the above thought went though my mind over and over.

God revealed to me that the poor, the marginalized, those who have nothing or no one all have names and stories.  And if we take the time to open up our churches, homes and hearts to our brothers and sisters we will learn about them in ways we never knew possible.

Tonight’s Scripture has God giving the Children of Israel “Final Instructions” for their new lives in the promised land of Canaan through Moses.  One of these instructions is to “open their hand”-to give and care for the poor and needy among them.  Those instructions apply to us today as they did back in the day.  And you note, God says, “thy brother” as if He/She humanized the poor-gave them names and stories that belong in the greater narrative of us.

Not just for Thanksgiving, not just for Christmas, but for every day. We need to remember the poor, the needy, and the marginalized need us to open up to them.  They have names and stories we need to acknowledge since they are our brothers and sisters.  They are us in a different form and place.

They all haves names.  Let’s remember that.  Peace!

(Image: Halsey Street Festival in Newark, NJ: September 7, 2017)

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A Couple of Good Reads

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth
2 Timothy 2:15 (King James Version)

Good Evening Family.

Hope all is well since my last post.

Now that we’re getting close to the Holidays (and shopping season…ugh), I can recommend two good books for those on your list who are of the Boardinghouse of Faith.  Both books are a mirror for the Church.

The first is What If Christians Grew Up? by Yaholo.  This book calls us to grow up into the Christians God called us to be to serve those who need us.  It makes us look at the crap we called “Christianity” that’s kept us immature; and calls for growth.  This book is a mirror we have to look into for an honest look.  I just finished reading this book, and plan to return to it.

The second book is a warning which may be the mirror you put under one’s nose to see if they’re still breathing; I’m currently reading it.  Autopsy of a Deceased Church by Thom S. Rainer is a warning to many a congregation about imminent death if nothing is done.  I’ve just started to read this book, however I feel this book will challenge me as a Christian and one in church leadership.

There are many books on religious bookshelves-virtual and online-you can read.  However, I strongly recommend these two. God calls us to study, and not just the Bible either.  God has ordained many a good writer-laity, clergy and in between-to educate and challenge the Boardinghouse of Faith, the Body of Christ.

 

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In Times Like These

13 I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
14 Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.
Psalm 27:13-14 (King James Version)

As we witness the change of seasons, it has been quite a upsetting ride.  We’ve witnessed three devastating hurricanes here in North America: Harvey in Texas; Irma and Maria throughout the Caribbean (with Irma impacting Florida as well).  We witnessed a powerful earthquake striking Mexico. We see Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un playing nuclear brinksmanship with the world wondering what will happen next.  We have a President who has the class and care of a vulture, embarrassing America in the process. And this week, we saw the killing of 59 and 500-plus innocent people during a concert in Las Vegas.  Here in Newark, we saw one student viciously attacked because she was transgender-thankfully she survived; while in another school a bullied teen lost it and stabbed two other students-killing one.

It’s almost as if we’ve been inundated with bad news these last several weeks.  Add on the ongoing climate crisis, economic woes, and our own individual problems it can be worse.  This makes you want to throw your hands up in the air and just give up.  You ask the age-old questions, “What’s next?” and “How much more can I/we take?”

In tonight’s Scripture, we see the psalmist (probably David) facing a dilemma.  From what I’ve researched, this was during the time when King Saul was gunning for David.  David knew that Saul (and others) were against him, and he was in a very precarious position.  However David remembered God’s goodness and care-even if his own parents were to forsake him.  David knew that it was God’s goodness that kept him.  It was this Divine providence that kept David from “fainting” or giving up; it kept his confidence during the midst of trial.

In the midst of today’s turmoil, David’s psalm rings through.  He would remind us of God’s steadfast love and care.  He would tell us to “wait” on God-to develop Divine hearing so we can hear His/Her voice in the midst of the strife about us.  It is God whose goodness and care that will keep us in this present hour from losing it and giving up.  Even if we can’t see it, we can take heart and be confident that God is there.  Before I end for the night, I want to leave you with these words from an old hymn I grew up with:

“In times like these you need a Savior
In times like these you need an anchor
Be very sure, be very sure
Your anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock”
(From “The Solid Rock” by Ruth C. Jones)

Pray for the victims of the hurricanes, the Mexican earthquake, the Newark school attacks, the Las Vegas victims, and others impacted by trauma.

Peace.

(Image: South Mountain Reservation, New Jersey. October 3, 2017.  I think we’re tired of seeing news photos)

 

 

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It’s Gettin’ Crucial

2017-08-06_01-11-13.jpg15 See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, 16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil.

17 Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

Ephesians 5:15-17 (New King James Version)

Time to wake up. Time for us to know what time it is and act accordingly. As this post is being written, we’re witnessing the rewriting of human (future) history.

It was not even a fortnight we saw Americans of every stripe stand up to the plague of racism in Charlottesville, Virginia. How God’s children confronted the KKK, Neo-Nazis, and other racist Right Wing ilk that’s hindered our nation from progressing forward.  We saw people stand up to a apathetic president (who was voted in by these clowns) and Fundagelical pastors who stood by him; and call these people out.

We recently saw North Korea fire a missile over Japan (supposedly); while flexing its newly-grown nuclear muscle in front of the US, China and South Korea.  As this is happening, both Trump and Kim Jong-un going back and forth boasting who would be the victor in potential war.

Now was have Hurricane Harvey which is turning Houston, Texas into a lake with all the rain that’s pummeling the city.  Harvey is creating a mess of the rest of the region along the Gulf of Mexico-including parts of Louisiana.  Harvey’s winds are destroying communities in Texas.  Refineries in the Galveston, Texas area and oil rigs were evacuated; and concerns about raising gas prices are raised. (By the way, monsoons are pummeling Mumbai in the meantime).

We need to understand what is happening-those of us in the Boardinghouse of Faith.  We’re seeing ourselves bared before Heaven and Earth and need to recognize this.  In Charlottesville we saw human ugliness come to a head and metastasize to other communities in the US of A.  In North Korea we see human hubris measured in nuclear firepower with blatant disregard of the consequences or human cost.  With Harvey we see the effect of human impact on the climate, and the continued denial of climate change by Washington, as a Category-4 hurricane unleashing its damage on America’s fourth largest city.

Tonight’s Scripture warns of this.  The writer-traditionally viewed as the Apostle Paul-warns that we should be careful in how we live and use our time wisely in these evil days so that we can understand God’s will.  Those of us in-tuned with the Divine need to understand that we’re in some evil times.  Our fellow human beings are acting evil towards each other and towards the planet.  Our evil is creeping out onto social media, onto the news, and into the climate.  We need to be careful so we ourselves don’t become consumed by this evil and lose hope.

Now, what is God’s will?  That we speak up and out against this evil.  We need the Boardinghouse of Faith to stand up against racism (and its fellows: sexism, homophobia, xenophobia) with the Truth of God that we’re all brothers and sisters.  To hold a holy mirror to these racist goons and show them their true selves. The KKK and others are not doing God’s will by their racist activities; and in fact they mock Christ with their “Christian” moniker.

God’s will is that we pressure our representatives to push Washington to engage in dialogue with Pyongyang-even if Beijing has to mediate.  We cannot afford a nuclear war-not matter how limited; it would destroy us for generations.  War should never be embraced by the Church, and we cannot fall into the trap of nuclear nationalism or quasi-Christian patriotism.  Instead the Church must speak out against this game of chicken that could fricassee the human race; we must bring up the Prince of Peace to the tables while we have time.

God’s will is that we open the eyes of our “climate denying” lawmakers and realize that we are impacting the climate.  It is not God’s will (in Genesis) that we rape our planet and dog it to near disaster.  We need to understand that God will strike back through the climate as Harvey is demonstrating.  We need to push our leaders back to the Paris Climate Agreements and bring back the work under President Obama.  That any “Christian” who supports rolling back climate measures are not Christian.  We need to do this now while Earth is still habitable.

It’s gettin’ crucial family.  We need to redeem the time God gave us to be wise and stand up against the evils above (and others not mentioned).  We need to do this now so that we can have a world for us and future generations where we can live together as family…

…While we have time…Peace.

(Image: You see the old tracks going nowhere…Taken in Salem, NJ August 5, 2017)

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Down The Road

Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you sit down first and figure out how much it will cost? Then you will see whether you have enough money to finish it.
Luke 14:28 (New International Reader’s Version)

Years ago as I was growing up, I often would hear questions geared to a long-view of life.  One of which (and we all heard it) was, “What do you want to do with your life?”  That was the kind of question that made you put on your mental brakes and think.  God help you if you didn’t have any definite answer!  You see, these questions-usually asked by elders who’ve gone on before-were designed to spark long-term thinking in us; to help us look down the road.  We were being taught to think ahead and consider our future.  Even when it came to decision making, we were advised to think long-term with questions like, “Could I work here for 10-20 years?”, “Could I see myself marrying this person and having kids with them?”, “Will this investment pay off in the long-term?”, “What effects will this activity/habit have on my long-term health-especially as I get older?”, the list was endless.

What spawned this post was an article I read in Linkedin regarding Bell Labs.  One of the ‘Lab’s greatest assets in its work culture was taking the long view of things.  It was this “long view” thinking that led to your having a computer and being able to view this post on the Internet-as well as other tech innovations we take for granted today.  From what I read, this mentality-with others-made Bell Labs the tech powerhouse that it was.

However, I see a different attitude today.  We’ve become short-term in our thinking.  Instead of looking down the road, we look at the immediate “benefits” of our decisions.  We live lives based on immediate self-gratification instead of what will bless the greater whole in the long run (been there, done that).  Companies today are more concerned about fattening their bottom lines and appeasing shareholder rather than provide long-term value to employees and customers.  We have intimate relationships based on “benefits” for the moment, instead of considering what long-term consequences such a relationship could provide.  We take jobs based on salaries alone instead of considering longevity.  In our almost “instantaneous everything” society, we are making short-term decision without considering what will happen down the road.  Look at our last Presidential election: we vote more on personality and immediate political gratification instead of long-term effects of their policies and positions.  And worst of all, we want”cheap and easy” energy sources such as coal and gasoline to fuel our immediate lifestyle instead of considering its long-term effect on our climate.

Jesus used the above text in the cost of being a disciple: if you were to build a tower, wouldn’t you figure out its cost to see if you have the funds to build it?  How many times we read about building projects halted or cancelled due to lack of funds?  We need to “count the cost” when we make decisions-especially the long-term ones.  Sad to say, we’re not taking Jesus’ advice to heart.

Now we’re paying for this short-term thinking.  People are divorcing like crazy thanks to marrying the wrong person solely based on immediate gratification.  We hop from job to job when said jobs no longer meet our immediate needs, not showing professional longevity.  We are suffering under “45’s” administration, which is more of a nightmarish reality TV show we cannot turn off.  Companies are losing employees, upsetting investors, and are under investigation for stock fraud as their failures come to light.  And last-but not least-we’re now searching for 11th hour solutions as our planet’s climate changes before our very eyes-and not for the better.  We’ve become shallow, short-term, unreliable people who cannot see the long term effects of our actions.

Maybe it’s time for us to return to long-term thinking.  To think on our decisions before making hasty ones.  To “figure how much it will cost” per Jesus.  Maybe we do that, we can stave off the messes we put ourselves in that short-term thinking would cost.

We need to look down the road.  Peace.

(Image by me: Barbertown-Idell Road in Kingwood, NJ. July 22, 2017)

 

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