"There is an intellectual desire, an eros of the mind. Without it there would arise no questioning, no inquiry, no wonder." Bernard Lonergan

"It seems clear that humans cannot significantly reduce or mitigate the dangers inherent in their use of life by ccumulating more information or better theories or by achieving greater predictability or more caution in their scientific and industrial work. To treat life as less than a miracle is to give up on it." Wendell Berry

"Do not be afraid, my little flock, for it is the Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." Luke 12:32

Monday, November 16, 2015

Prayer for France

Image result for French flag images

On Saturday morning I contacted my dear friend Lewis Galloway, the pastor of Second Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis, and asked him for a favor. Lewis is fluent in French. I asked him if he would write a prayer for me in French that I could read in church on Sunday. Instead of making fun of my terrible French (And it is terrible, it was pretty good once. Once.), Lewis told me he would see what he could do. After a while he told me he had something. He told me he had .written and translated a prayer based upon a reflection by Laurent Schlumberger, Pasteur of the French Reformed Church. Laurent's reflection was in response to the November 13 attacks. So Lewis wrote it. I read it. And I post it here as several have asked for it. Please forgive any translation errors or French errors. Any errors are entirely my responsibility and for them I am sorry.

Notre Seigneur, les mots manquent, devant l’horreur et l’absurde de ce massacre en Ile-de-

France. L’horreur de ces dizaines et dizaines de morts et de blesses. L’horreur de ces vies

détruites et de ces familles décimées. L’absurde d’un massacre qui tue à l’aveugle. L’absurde

d’une idéologie terroriste qui évoque un dieu assoiffé de sang.

Nous portons devant Vous  les victimes, et toutes celles et ceux qui en prennent soin. Nous

portons devant Vous  les hommes et les femmes des services publics qui sont mobilisés, et les

responsables de France, de notre pays, et le monde entier. Mais aussi nous prions pour que la

violence recule chez ceux qui sont aveuglés par des fantasmes de pureté radicale.

Donnez-nous le courage et la discipline à cultiver la solidarité et la fraternité, si fragiles, si

précieuses. Nous remettons le temps présent et toute chose, à Dieu qui en Jésus-Christ  nous

rejoint et nous accompagne dans nos détresses et dans nos espoirs. Au nom de Jesus-Christ.



Lord, words fail before the horror and the absurdity of the massacre in Ile-de-France (Paris). The horror

of the dozens and dozens of dead and wounded savagely killed.  The horror of lives destroyed and

families decimated. The absurdity of a massacre that killed blindly. The absurdity of a terrorist ideology

that evokes a blood-thirsty god.

We lift before you the victims and all those in need of care. We lift before you the men and women in

public service who have been mobilized and the leaders of France, our country and the entire world.

Also, we pray that violence recedes from those who are blinded by fantasies of radical purity.

Give us the courage and the discipline to cultivate the solidarity and unity that is so precious and so

fragile. We give this present time and all things to you who in Jesus Christ joins and accompanies us in

our distress and in our hopes. In the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Sighs Too Deep for Words

Sighs Too Deep for Words

I got an email early Sunday morning from a good friend. It said simply, Paris… Kenya… sigh...."

Sigh indeed. There are times and moments when words cannot fully capture what the heart feels and the mind suspects. Some problems defy easy explanation and quick resolution. And so we sigh because we do not know what else to do. I have been sighing a great deal for the past few days because I do not easily know what to say between two polarities: hoping the peoples of the world will stand up to the demonic power of violence, and longing for a day of peace when God's children will war no more. Sigh.

It is good to remember in such moments that the Holy Spirit is with us, even when we are confused or confounded. Romans 8:26 gives me comfort when it says, "Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words." What is implied here? When from exhaustion or from lack of inspiration we cannot pray, the Holy Spirit prays for us, interceding for us, praying when we cannot. This scripture has always given me great comfort.

In our men's Bible study on Monday nights, we have been studying the entire book of Genesis this fall. Genesis is a big, brilliant and amazing book of the Bible. It is tempting to focus on the impact of Genesis and make it about just a few of its 50 chapters, narrowing our gaze upon the opening chapters and the creation story. But Genesis is so much bigger than creation alone. It is also about people and our covenants with God. 

Genesis ends with Joseph speaking to his 11 brothers. They are sure that he, Joseph, who is just about the most powerful man in the world, is going to arrest them and hurt them for their betrayals when he was a teenaged boy. They are sure Joseph will exact revenge. And yet what does Joseph say? "Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good" (Genesis 50:20).

One of my Old Testament teachers, Sib Towner, once wrote about Genesis 50, "How good it is to know that God can weave our deeds, even ones motivated by evil intentions, into an improvisation of salvation!"

Kenya. Beirut. Newtown. Charleston. Iraq. Afghanistan. Syria. Paris. Whenever you read the news and a sigh takes hold, remember that a sigh can be prayer enough, for the Holy Spirit prays with and for us. Remember also that God is not done with the world yet. Our deeds and our time can be woven by God for good and goodness we cannot yet see or imagine. After all, God is the Lord who took the cross and used it as a means to shatter the tomb.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Some Good Things

Some good things....

I write to you from Montreat, NC. Montreat is a 118-year-old Presbyterian retreat and conference center near Black Mountain, just 30 minutes or so east of Asheville.  The leaves have already fallen here, and hillsides which were lush and green in July now have the hue of hibernation. 
During November many different emotions and feelings converge. Days get shorter and instincts tell us winter is coming fast. The approach of Thanksgiving means that the year is quickly nearing its end.
My whole life I have heard the expression, ‘All good things must come to an end.” I see the practical, pragmatic wisdom in that phrase. And I think I assumed that it was always true. Now I am not so sure. I've been rethinking.
Take Montreat, for example. Since 1897 it has endured. Institutionally, it has not come to an end. How many other retreat centers founded in the 19th century by Christians or Christian churches have come to an end? Nearly all of them. The key to Montreat's survival has been its adaptability. Conferences come, and conferences go.  New staff, new guests, new program and mission activities are constantly pitched as an effort to keep the ministry fresh and related to the issues of moment. Across the decades and through the changes, Montreat, as a place and purposeful ministry dedicated to the gospel of grace, endures.
Maybe an improvement on the expression is this: “Some good things must come to an end.” Yes...I think that's better.
Perhaps the greatest temptation in church life is to take few risks, make minimal change and always “try not to upset anyone” by aiming to keep everything the same. This is, of course, impossible. In order for churches, communities, families or schools to remain vibrant for present and future generations, “some things must come to an end” and new things must begin. 
Our congregation will soon be 70 years old. Our history has been a good one, rich with ministries which have honored God as they have nurtured disciples. Part of our success is the ability to let some activities go and risk the time and investment to try new ones. Like Montreat, a key to our endurance has been our adaptability. Know this, though: making adaptations is always difficult. Yet in spite of the difficulty of the process, the creative abrasion produced when new forms of gospel ministry and community outreach are born in our midst becomes the fuel for our efforts in years to come.

As 2015 comes to an end and we look to 2016, we have our annual opportunity to assess where we have been, where we are now and where we might be going. Please pray for your church staff and your leaders on the diaconate and the session as we evaluate what we have done and then design plans and budgets to support our hopes. If you have not pledged or made a gift to the 2016 budget, please do so (current data is to the right). And most importantly, if you have an idea—a creative ministry idea for which you have passion or energy—please share it with us. You might be the conduit of the Holy Spirit which points us toward the faithful end which God intends.