Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Middle C

Safe in the Shepherd’s Arms by Max Lucado (Nashville: J. Countryman, © 2002), pg 13-14.
The Trivialization of God by David McCullough (Colorado Springs: NavPress, © 1995), pg 66.

grace, good news, immutable, permanence, steady, reliable

When Lloyd Douglas, author of The Robe and other novels, attended college, he lived in a boardinghouse. A retired, wheelchair-bound music professor resided on the first floor. Each morning Douglas would stick his head in the door of the teacher’s apartment and ask the same question. “Well, what’s the good news?” The old man would pick up his tuning fork, tap it on the side of the wheelchair, and say, “That’s middle C! It was middle C yesterday; it will be middle C tomorrow; it will be middle C a thousand years from now. The tenor upstairs sings flat. The piano across the hall is out of tune, but, my friend, that is middle C.”

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Cargo Cults and John Frum



Keywords: eschatology, Savior,

John Frum Movement

The John Frum movement appeared for the first time in the 1940s in the New Hebrideans. At that time some 300,000 American troops established themselves in the New Hebrides. The islanders were impressed both by the egalitarianism of the Americans and their obvious wealth and power. This led them to conflate perceived benefactors such as Uncle Sam, Santa Claus and John the Baptist into a mythic figure called John Frum, who would empower the island peoples by giving them cargo wealth.

What became of the 'cargo cults' of Melanesia?
Did any cargo ever arrive?

* CARGO cults survive in a variety of forms throughout Melanesia. My own experience is limited to the John Frum cult. It is generally accepted that the cult developed around the possibly mythical prophet, John Frum, who came to the island of Tanna in Vanuatu in the 1930s. The islanders believed that he was the incarnation of one of their gods. During the second world war the John Frum cult seems to have adopted 'cargo' characteristics, probably from the arrival of the American forces and their vast wealth of goods. It was worked into the cult that John Frum originated from America and that one day he would return bringing great quantities of gifts of cargo.

To keep alive their beliefs the islanders gather on Friday nights in front of wooden red crosses and dance to guitar music. Prior to 1987 I had heard about the John Frum cult and had visited their village of Ipeukel. In February 1987, Tanna was devastated by Cyclone Uma. As part of the relief programme organised by the government of Vanuatu, I was sent to deliver food, tents and other supplies to the stricken areas. These supplies came in two types of packages. One type bore a large red cross explaining its origins. Other packages were labelled 'A Gift from the People of America.'

We delivered these by helicopter and did our best to explain that they were the result of the Vanuatu government working with other nations and that the British Government was in part responsible for this 'miracle'. The villagers said they knew of another cult in Vanuatu where people believed in the benefits that would result from friendship with the Duke of Edinburgh, but their own beliefs were rather better considered. The John Frum people accepted their cargo as a natural course of events and proof of their faith. As they told the French pilot of our helicopter, he had been waiting 2,000 years for his religion to fulfil its promise of 'gifts from heaven' but John Frum had produced the goods in less than 50 years.

David Corscadden, Llanelli, Dyfed.

1 Corinthians 13, Christmas Version

floating around the internet

Keyword: love, Christmas, busy, overwhelmed,

If I decorate my house perfectly with red and green bows, strands of twinkling lights and shiny balls,
but do not show love to my family, I'm just another decorator.

If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozens of Christmas cookies, preparing gourmet meals and arranging a beautifully adorned table at mealtime,
but do not show love to my family, I'm just another cook.

If I work at the soup kitchen, carol in the nursing home, and give all that I have to charity,
but do not show love to my family, it profits me nothing.

If I trim the spruce with shimmering angels and crocheted snowflakes, attend a myriad of holiday parties and sing in the choir's cantata,
but do not focus on Christ, I have missed the point.

· Love stops the cooking to hug the child.

· Love sets aside the decorating to kiss the husband.

· Love is kind, though hurried and tired.

· Love doesn't envy another's home that has coordinated Christmas china and table linens.

· Love doesn't yell at the kids to get out of the way, but is thankful they are there to be in the way.

· Love doesn't give only to those who are able to give in return but rejoices in giving to those who can't.

· Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

· Love never fails.

· Video games will break, pearl necklaces will be lost, golf clubs will rust,

but giving the gift of love will endure forever

Social Action and Personal Salvation


"It isn't social action versus personal salvation. A half-truth is not a truth. Both sides are wrong to focus on one or the other. It's both. We have too many 'one-legged' Christians walking around." - Eugene Peterson, as quoted in the Waco Tribune-Herald

Thursday, January 04, 2007

World Communion

Fisher, Chuck. Newsletter First Presby Church. Colorado City, TX: October 2003.

Keywords: World Communion, forget, confession, pride

The first time I ever administered the Sacrament of Holy Communion was the first Sunday of October 1978 at the Main Street Presby Church of Honey Grove, Texas. I had listened to and watched many different preachers lead congregations in the celebration of this "outward and visible sign of the inward and spiritual grace of God at work." However, this time I would be responsible for sharing the elements with the people on the other side of the table.

To prepare for that awesome responsibility, I studied all week long the liturgy and the scripture readings that go with the observance of the Sacrament. I even practiced uncovering the tray of glasses and holding up the chalice and the patten, as I recited the Words of Institution.

As luck would have it-or as pride sometimes gets in the way of the best intentions-my memorization of the entire service of Holy Communion went out the window as soon as I stood up behind the table. Believing that I had the whole thing "down pat", I had not taken one note-much less the whole book with me to the table. Standing there in the silence of the sanctuary-with the whole congregation looking at me-waiting to hear what I would say-I could not find even the first word.

Folks from all over the whole world were celebrating the Sacrament together that day. Christians of every race and nation gathered around Christ's table to receive the elements symbolizing his body that was broken and his blood that was shed for the sins of the world. And I just stood there "brain-dead"-stunned by my own ignorance-unable to come up with a single word.

The silence was truly deafening. Not knowing what else to say or do, I finally said, "Let us pray. . ." and set about to ask God to forgive us of our sins (thinking to myself about pride), to make us deeply appreciative of the sacrifice made on our behalf, and to help us celebrate this Sacrament with great joy and integrity. Amazingly, when I got to the end of the prayer, the Words of Invitation came back to me and the celebration could begin

Sermon on the Mount (Sort of)


Keywords: teacher, pharisee, means, end, forest, trees, lesson

Then Jesus took his disciples up the mountain and gathered them around. He taught them saying:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are the meek.
Blessed are they that mourn.
Blessed are the merciful.
Blessed are they who thirst for justice.
Blessed are you when persecuted.
Blessed are you when you suffer.
Be glad and rejoice for your reward is great in heaven.

Then Simon Peter said, Are we supposed to write this down?
And Andrew asked, Are we supposed to know this?
And James asked, Will we have a test on this?
And Phillip said, I don't have any paper.
And Bartholomew asked, Do we have to turn this in?
And John said, The other disciples didn't have to learn this.
And Matthew asked, Can I go to the boys' room?
And Judas asked, What does this have to do with real life?

Then one of the Pharisees who was present asked to see Jesus' lesson plan and inquired of Jesus, Where is your anticipatory set and your objectives in the cognitive domain?
And Jesus wept.

-As referenced by Mark Terwilliger,
Edmeston, New York

Conspiracy of Silence

Ferguson, Andrew. “Sex Talk.” The Weekly Standard. August 6, 2001. p38.

Keywords: Sex, silence, conspiracy, relationship

David Satcher, the surgeon general of the United States [1998-2002], held a press conference at the end of [July 2001] to issue a new report...The report issued...was titled The Surgeon General’s Call to Action To Promote Sexual Health and Responsible Sexual Behavior. Such a large, grandiose title invites sweeping claims to be made on its behalf, and after Satcher had surveyed his report’s findings about the social problems associated with sex, from unwanted pregnancies to sexually transmitted diseases, he made perhaps his most sweeping claim of all:

“We have created an environment”--he meant we as in us, Americans in the United States--"where there’s almost a conspiracy of silence when it comes to sexuality.”

Now, it is difficult to image how a statement could be more untrue. Americans started talking about sex pretty much constantly about 40 years ago and have yet to pause to take a breath. I wonder how many reporters at Dr. Satcher’s press conference wanted gently to take him by the arm and walk him to the nearest cineplex for a screening of any movie rated beyond PG-13, or sit him down for a night of watching reruns of Friends or Will & Grace, or hand him a “literary” novel by John Irving or a “trashy” novel by Jackie Collins or any women’s magazine at all, or let him flip through an issue of Maxim or Esquire, or, for that matter, make him squirm with a couple of long passages from the Starr Report. If this is a conspiracy of silence, it is absolutely deafening.

The Windows

"The Windows" by Mrs. Paul Singleton. First Presbyterian Church of Vernon. Late Summer or Fall, 1988

They unlocked the door to the store room, switched on the dim light bulb, brushed aside the cobwebs and cautiously approached the old stained glass windows that had once been a part of the old Presbyterian Church on Wilbarger Street.

"They surely are dull," said one.

"Not really great works of art," said another.

"I am disappointed," added a third, "because all the older church members said they were really beautiful."

One, who seemed to be the head of the group, said, "We promised to try to utilize them some way so maybe when we get them cleaned up they will look better."

Some weeks later the old windows, cracks, dust and missing solder, stood in the corner of the narthex, and this same group of people still shook their heads as they looked at the windows.

"You really can't tell what they look like without some light, can you?" asked one.

So they swung open one of the doors to the late afternoon sun and carefully slid one window over to catch the rays of light. The window depicted the frightened shepherds in the fields near Bethlehem gazing in awe at the angel.

The brilliance of the colors imprisoned in the glass glowed in rich reds, golds, greens and blues—the beauty was there after all! It only took some light to reveal the potential glory.

"I am the light of the world." (John 8:12)

"Ye are the light of the world." (Matthew 5:14)

"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." (Matthew 5:16)

Moral Foundations of Society

“The Moral Foundations of Society” by Margaret Thatcher, former prime minister of Great Britain, Imprimis Vol 24, No 3. March 1995

Keywords: human nature, morality, righteousness, moral code,

History has taught us that freedom cannot long survive unless it is based on moral foundations. The American founding bears ample witness to this fact. America has become the most powerful nation in history, yet she uses her power not for territorial expansion but to perpetuate freedom and justice throughout the world.

For over two centuries, Americans have held fast to the belief in freedom for all men--a belief that springs from their spiritual heritage. John Adams, second president of the United States, wrote in 1789, “Our constitution was designed only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other.” That was an astonishing thing to say, but it was true.

Sir Edward Gibbon (1737-1794), author of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, wrote tellingly of the collapse of Athens, which was the birthplace of democracy. He judged that, in the end, more than they wanted freedom, the Athenians wanted security. Yet they lost everything--security, comfort, and freedom. This was because they wanted not to give to society, but for society to give to them. The freedom they were seeking was freedom from responsibility. It is no wonder, then, that they ceased to be free. In the modern world, we should recall the Athenians’ dire fate whenever we confront the demands for increased state paternalism.

To cite a more recent lesson in the importance of moral foundations, we should listen to Czech President Vaclav Havel, who suffered grievously for speaking up for freedom when his nation was still under the thumb of communism. He has observed, “In everyone there is some longing for humanity’s rightful dignity, for moral integrity, and for a sense that transcends the world of existence.” His words suggest that in spite of all the dread terrors of communism, it could not crush the religious fervor of the peoples of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union.

And what is freedom without truth? I have been a scientist, a lawyer, and a politician, and from my own experience I can testify that it is nothing. The third century Roman jurist Julius Paulus said, “What is right is not derived from the rule, but the rule arises from our knowledge of what is right.” In other words, the law is founded on what we believe to be true and just. It has moral foundations. Once again, it is important to note that the free societies of America and Great Britain derive such foundations from a Biblical ethic.