Monday, April 27, 2020

Faith Triggers


Raising children is an amazing experience. You will never be so happy and frustrated. Disappointed and fulfilled. Anxious and calm. As you are as a parent. How is it possible to love someone so much that drives me so crazy at times! Nonetheless, I would not have traded it for the world. Now that my sons are all young men in their thirties, I have so many wonderful memories to look back upon. I love looking at the pages of our family scrapbooks and being reminded of the trip to Santa’s Village in New Hampshire, Plimoth Plantation in Massachusetts, Cedar Point Amusement Park in Ohio, or the Gettysburg Battlefields of Pennsylvania. I remember all the bunny rabbits the boys loved watching run around the campground in Medway, Maine. The windy day atop a hill in New Hampshire, that lifted our kites high in the air. Climbing the rocks at Fort McClary in Kittery, Maine, looking for shells and starfish. I hold all these memories and the stories that go along with them in my heart.

One story I remember concerns one of my boys (who remain nameless) and the call of nature. As a parent, you know that before you go for a long drive in the car anywhere, it is important to make sure everyone has gone to the bathroom first. Am I right? Well, this little boy insisted he did not have to go. You, as a parent, are unwilling to accept that answer (because you know better), and insist they try. So, into the bathroom they trudge grumbling. Low and behold, my little boy comes out a short time later and says, “I don’t know what it is. I didn’t have to go, but as soon as I am inside a bathroom, I do. I think it’s the smell that does it.” “Okay, son.” I replied, “I’m just glad you went.”

As I recalled that story the other day, it made me think. There are smells, places, experiences, that trigger some things inside us. In 2001, when I visited the Vatican in Rome, as soon as I walked in, I began to whisper. This is a special place. I immediately felt that I was in the presence of God. We tend to act differently. Speak differently when we are in the presence of God. I know back when I wore a clerical collar people would apologize to me if they used colorful language within my earshot. I even felt self-conscious about my behavior when wearing the collar. That’s not a bad thing.

We need to remember, however, that we are in God’s presence all the time. Not just on Sunday’s. Psalm 139:2-4 says, “O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away. You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do. You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord.”

Yes, God is not just in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. He is not just at 277 Main Street in Hartford. Psalm 139 should be a trigger for us all. To help us remember, God is omnipresent – in all places, at all times. We should always act differently. Speak differently, because we are different. We are Christ followers – in all places, at all times.
 
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Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Homarus Americanus


My mind often wanders to places I cannot explain. For instance, have you ever wondered about homarus americanus? That is the scientific classification for the Maine lobster. What I mean is, the first time you ever saw a lobster, I bet the word that came to your mind was not…yummy. Who was that very first Abenaki or Penobscot native walking along the beach one day when coming across homarus americanus said to themselves, “I think we should eat that?” Really? It kind of looks like a bug. A giant cockroach or something. It has a hard shell. Claws that will do some serious damage given the opportunity. It just does not seem worth all the work. Not like a fish that at its worst can slap you with their tail. Get you a little wet, maybe. Lobsters are much more dangerous, and yet, someone, at one point decided to catch it, boiled it in seawater, cracked it open and perhaps to their shock and surprise, it was delicious! Sadly, back then, Native peoples in New England had highly nutritious oils, but not butter. Nonetheless, I am so glad someone took the risk. Saw the possibilities.

There is a great story in the book of Numbers where Moses sends twelve scouts into the Promised Land that God has given them to check out what they might discover when they get there. Ten of the twelve come back and report that it is indeed a promised land. They cut down a branch with a single cluster of grapes so large that it took two of them to carry it on a pole between them! They brought back samples of pomegranates and figs. They told Moses: “We entered the land you sent us to explore, and it is indeed a bountiful country – a land flowing with milk and honey. Here is the kind of fruit it produces. But the people living there are powerful, and their towns are large and fortified. We even saw giants there, the descendants of Anak!” Only two of them saw potential – Joshua and Caleb. Caleb says to Moses, “Let’s go at once to take the land…We can certainly conquer it!” Why only two? Only Caleb and Joshua had faith. Trusted God at His Word that He had already given them victory over those who were living there. That if they went into battle, He would be by their side and they would win! Two out of ten. That is only twenty percent. Eighty percent of people doubt. Fear. Distrust.

As hard as it seems right now, my prayer is that we have faith, trust God at His Word. He said in Isaiah 41:10, “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” Jesus said in Matthew 28:20, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

During this challenging time, be a part of the twenty percent. Someone who, as difficult as it might be at the moment, sees the promise, the light at the end of the tunnel, the endless possibilities – boiled lobster, baked lobster, lobster thermidor, lobster pie, lobster chowder, a lobster roll! 

Be a Caleb. Be a Joshua. Don't be afraid. Don't get discouraged. God is with us, even to the end of the age.  

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We are taking prayer requests now. Email your requests to southchurchprayer@gmail.com. We will lift them up every weekday at 4:00 pm on Facebook Live.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Charles Haddon Spurgeon was England’s best-known preacher for most of the second half of the nineteenth century, and one of my heroes. 

In April 1854, after preaching three months on probation and just four years after his conversion, Spurgeon, then only 19, was called to the pastorate of London’s famed New Park Street Chapel, Southwark. Within a few months of Spurgeon’s arrival at Park Street, his ability as a preacher made him famous. The following year, the first of his sermons was published. Spurgeon’s sermons were published in printed form every week, and by the time of his death in 1892, he had preached nearly 3,600 sermons and published 49 volumes of commentaries, sayings, anecdotes, illustrations and devotions. Spurgeon remains highly influential among Christians of many different denominations, among whom he is known as the “Prince of Preachers.” It is estimated that in his lifetime, Spurgeon preached to around 10,000,000 people.

It always amazed me how Mr. Spurgeon could write a sermon several pages long based on a single Scripture verse or part of a verse. For instance, on June 15, 1856, his sermon “Omniscience” was based upon Genesis 16:13, or a part of it anyway. Using the King James Version, Spurgeon reads, “Thou God seest me.” Four words from Genesis, and he then goes on to deliver a 5,824 word or twelve-page sermon. Wow. So much to say about so few words. Spurgeon is also well known for being very quotable. “You might not always get what you want, but you always get what you expect.” “It is not how much we have, but how much we enjoy, that makes happiness.” “Nobody ever outgrows Scripture; the book widens and deepens with our years.” “Jesus wept. But He never complained.” Wow. So few words that say so much.

It made me wonder. Forrest Gump said, “My momma always said life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna’ get.” Well, long after I have gone to be with God, what quote of mine would I want people to remember? Pastor Adam said… How about you? Can you reveal your heart, your faith, your worldview, in a short sentence or two? If so, what would you say? What would you want people to repeat in a hundred years? Feel free to email me at pastoradam@scchartford.org. I would love to hear from you. Your words, remember. Not someone else’s. I am still working on it myself. 

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We are taking prayer requests now. Email your requests to southchurchprayer@gmail.com. We will lift them up everyday at 4:00 pm on Facebook Live.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Iron Eyes Cody


Espera Oscar de Corti was an Italian-American actor known for portraying Native Americans in films in the 1940’s and 50’s. I knew him as Iron Eyes Cody. Growing up in the 1970’s he was a fixture on TV in what we know as PSA’s or Public Service Announcements. You see, public interest in the environment began in 1970, with the establishment of the first Earth Day. It is hard to imagine today, but many industrial manufacturers and public sewer plants would simply dump thousands of gallons of untreated waste and chemicals directly into nearby rivers, lakes, streams, as well as the ocean. When I was younger, I lived in Ohio. I remember news stories of the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland, literally catching on fire, so thick were the chemicals floating on top of the river. Littering was a real problem too. Without a second thought, people would just toss their wrappers and empty food containers on the ground. The ditches on the side of highways were filled with empty fast food bags, cups, and other assorted trash. It took years of pressure to get fast food companies, like McDonald’s and Burger King, to switch from serving food in Styrofoam containers to wrapping everything in biodegradable paper, but it was the right thing to do.

Iron Eyes Cody did a PSA in 1971 where, dressed as a Native American, he stood on the side of a highway as people drove by and threw their trash out of their car windows. When some lands at his feet, the camera then shifts to his face and we see a tear roll down his cheek. It was powerful PSA, and America responded. This new focus on our caring for our planet inspired President Richard Nixon to create the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency). Slowly, over time, we began to see our lakes, streams, rivers, and oceans start to improve. We can always do better, but Praise God, I do not see pollution or litter today any way near the level it was fifty years ago. When I was a boy.

This is as it should be. God created the world in the first five days. On day six, He created animals, including humans. Genesis 1:27 says, “So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Then in verse 28, God gives humans a responsibility. He says to them, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it” (Genesis 1:28). This means we are to have babies, start families, and take care of His beautiful creation. We are reminded of this responsibility again in Genesis 2:15, “The Lord God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it” (Genesis 2:15).

I mention this, because my heart is broken as of late. I feel a bit like Iron Eyes Cody. I understand we are in the midst of a challenging time. One most of us have never experienced before, and God willing never will again. We need to wash our hands, use hand sanitizer, practice social distancing, and many people wear gloves. All in order to keep from being infected with the coronavirus. Those are all good ideas, and we have reason to be concerned.    

Nonetheless, the concern for our own safety and health, does not release us from our divine responsibility to “govern the earth,” to care for it. We will all be held accountable for how we care for the earth. So it breaks my heart when I walk from the grocery store to my car I look at dozens of used gloves lying on the pavement. As if, okay, they did their job protecting me from infection, so the heck with protecting the earth. I’ll just toss them on the ground. Every time we do that, I believe a tear rolls down God’s cheek. 

When God finished creating the earth, the Bible says, “Then God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good!” (Genesis 1:31) God took as much care creating the earth as He did creating you and me. The earth is precious. It sustains us, and we are its caretakers. Please. Dispose of your gloves and all other trash in a proper way. Honor the Lord, and the responsibility we have all been given to care for this amazing place we get to call home.
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We are taking prayer requests now. Email your requests to southchurchprayer@gmail.com. We will lift them up every weekday at 4:00 pm on Facebook Live.