Friday, February 2, 2018

Good Friday

(Valentine's Day and Ash Wednesday arrive on the same day this year. This poem is an early preview for both.  It deals with the "heart" in the most important way.  It is a nice Lenten reflection, of course.)

Am I a stone, and not a sheep*,
That I can stand, O Christ, beneath Thy cross,
To number drop by drop Thy blood’s slow loss,
And yet not weep?

Not so those women loved
Who with exceeding grief lamented Thee;
Not so fallen Peter, weeping bitterly;
Not so the thief was moved**;

Not so the Sun and Moon
Which hid their faces in a starless sky,
A horror of great darkness at broad noon –
I, only I.**

Yet give not o’er,
But seek Thy sheep, true Shepherd of the flock;
Greater than Moses***, turn and look once more
And smite a rock*.   --Christina Rossetti, 1866

*She's saying her heart is like a stone because she's not moved to tears over Christ's crucifixion like a "sheep", a "true follower" (John 10) would be.  She picks up the idea again at the end, asking Christ to break her heart of stone.

**The women at the cross, the repentant Peter, even one of the thieves crucified with Jesus were moved to sorrow.  Even the Sun was somehow darkened from about noon to 3 pm, at a time when it could NOT have been a solar eclipse (full Moon).  Nature itself expresses sadness, but the poetess indicates she feels strangely unmoved.

***Deuteronomy 18:  Christ was prophesied as the New Prophet, greater than Moses.  He is also the Shepherd (John 10; Psalm 23).   Moses broke open a rock to get water out of it (Numbers 20), but Christ does a greater thing by breaking open hearts of stone.



Monday, January 1, 2018

Winter Wakenth All My Care*



Winter wakeneth all my care,
Now
these leaves waxeth** bare;
Oft I sigh and mournfully stare
When it cometh in my thought
Of this world's joy, how it goeth all to naught.
Now it is, now not seen***,
As though it hath never been;
That many sayeth, and so is still:
All goeth by God's will:
All we shall die, though we like it ill****.
All that green which groweth green,
Now
it fadeth which has been***:
Jesu, help that it be seen
And
shield us from Hell!
For I know not how long I go, nor how long here I dwell.
----Anonymous
*Paraphrased in slightly more modern English.  It is one of the earliest surviving winter poems in English literature, original written in Middle English spelling.
**"Wax", an old word for "to grow", from the German "wachsen."  Now used only to speak of the "waxing moon", when the lit part of the moon appears to be growing, all the way to full moon.
**See Psalm 90, which speaks of the grass quickly fading and compares this to the short lives of people.  Also, Jesus' Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6 and Luke 12, how God clothes the grass of the field, which quickly dies, with beautiful flowers.
***Though we don't like it at all


Saturday, December 2, 2017

On Christmas Night All Christians Sing*


On Christmas night all Christians sing
To hear the news the angels bring:
News of great joy, news of great mirth,
News of our merciful King’s birth.


Angels with joy sing in the air,
No music may with theirs compare;
While prisoners in their chains rejoice
To hear the echoes of that voice.


So how on earth can men be sad,
When Jesus comes to make us glad;
From sin and hell to set us free,
And buy for us our liberty?


When sin departs before His grace,
Then life and health come in its place;
Angels and men with
joy may sing,
All to see our newborn King.


Then out of darkness we see light,
Which makes the angels sing this night

“Glory to God and peace to men
Now and forevermore. Amen.”


---A folk carol of rural England & Ireland, 
         *known in some versons as "The Sussex Carol"

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Fall Gardener


These are evidence of my Labor Day (early September) planting.  Here, the growing seasons are different than what most people in the northern hemisphere expect. 

This is a "scatter garden", where there are not organized beds.  In fact, vegetable & flowers grow among "volunteer grasses", which serve as "nursery plants" while the others get going.

This is a bee haven, something our world needs. The bees even like the grass heads.  (We have to let it grow longer because of our other plants.  Then we have to literally whack it off with clippers. We can't mow because there's always some other interesting plant coming up in the midst.)

(For your other November & Thanksgiving Day enjoyment, please select the "autumn" or "seasons" tag in the sidebar.)

Green bean flowers

Carrot plants

Pumpkin & flower



Black-eye Susans or purple coneflowers sprouting








Monday, October 2, 2017

Creations


(October 31, 2017 is the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran/Protestant Reformation.  It is said that on this date, Dr. Martin Luther posted 95 Theses, statements of discussion, on a church door. At any rate, we do know that these 95 Theses, first written in Latin, were quickly distributed among the populace in German.  Luther wrote a lot of hymns. This one, while not as well-known as "A Might Fortress", makes suitable poetry on a nature-lover's, creation-oriented page.) 




We all believe in one true God,
Who created earth and heaven,
The Father, who to us in love
Hath the right of children given.
He both soul and body feedeth,
All we need He doth provide us;
He through snares and perils leadeth,
Watching that no harm betide us.
He careth for us day and night,
All things are governed by His might.


We all believe in Jesus Christ,
His own Son, our Lord, possessing
An equal Godhead, throne, and might,
Source of every grace and blessing.
Born of Mary, virgin mother,
By the power of the Spirit,
Made true man, our elder Brother,
That the lost might life inherit;

Was crucified for sinful men
And raised by God to life again.


We all confess the Holy Ghost,
Who sweet grace and comfort giveth
And with the Father and the Son
In
eternal glory liveth;
Who the Church, His own creation,
Keeps in unity of spirit.
Here forgiveness and salvation
Daily come through Jesus' merit.

All flesh shall rise, and we shall be
In bliss with God eternally.
Amen.

--by Martin Luther, 1525

A Secular Take on Luther & Viral Trends




Friday, September 15, 2017

Hello, Russia???


[aka "The Pitfalls of Theocracy Building"]

Every so often, my blogs (especially this one) show some mysterious increased traffic from Russia.  It happened again a few weeks ago, only my other blog showed more traffic that time.  I'm never really sure why.  I don't have advertisements or high-profile things on this blog.

Since it does happen, and mostly to this blog, I would like to hope that maybe some sincere Christians over there are looking for other spiritual expressions to support them.  Maybe some people stumble on it, trying to find different voices from America than they expect.

But since it happens and this is a Christian blog, I'm going to address the problems with trying to create a state religion.  In doing so, I want to absolutely reaffirm that I am a Christian who greatly values my citizenship in heaven.  I take the Bible seriously and read it often... but I come out with some different societal expressions than some of the very vocal conservative Christians.

In Russian history, the last time Russian Orthodoxy was the required religion, it didn't go well for the Russian people.  The Church, when used by the government, often became an instrument of repression itself.  Plus it went along with cruelty to Russian Jews.  That's not an appropriate way for Christians to conduct themselves in the world, even if we don't agree with others' beliefs.  St. Paul said, "If possible, so far as it depends on you, live in peace with all people."  (Romans 12:18, ISV)  We once again have issues over here with people saying they're Christian, but being ugly to Jews and others who aren't (and won't become) Christian.

In Russia, the Communists came along next and made a "religion" out of the State itself.  It seems like atheism was the official religion.

Now Putin has come along and declared that he is Russian Orthodox. He gives all kinds of benefits and power to the Russian Orthodox Church.  He sets laws that are basically promoted by the Church.  And now Russia claims to be 71% Russian Orthodox.  Yet only ~6% of Russians attend church on any given week.  And a lot of the younger Russians have that same ironic, can't-take-it-quite-seriously attitude about Christianity that young Americans have.

Plus, there's Putin's own history.  Although we cannot definitely judge what's in Putin's heart, I would be very skeptical about making him my personal Christian leader.  Parallel to the self-proclaimed Christian leader we have here, Putin did not speak about being Christian until it was convenient for him. The Church over there embraced him when he said he would stand up for the Church, which sounds a lot like election cycles we get over here.  Putin, like another leader we know, seems more about himself than the central Christian doctrine of repenting for your sins and asking Christ to forgive them.  People who are all about themselves don't really want to say they're sorry for anything.  They seem to think they're so elevated that they're practically on the same footing with God.  They figure, from that elevated position, they don't have to be humble before God.

Then there's the unpleasant history of what has happened any time Christians have tried to grab for worldly power.  We were never commanded to set up kingdoms or nations.  In fact, Jesus told Peter: " 'Put  up your sword.  For all who take the sword will die by the sword. ' "  (Matthew 26:52)  The Christian Church was born under the hostile Roman Empire.  The first Christians were persecuted (not that I want to return to that!!!) for over 300 years. Emperor Constantine became Christian and made Christianity legal. But he didn't make it the state religion.  A few emperors later, Theodosius made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire.  People flocked into the Christian Church, some undoubtedly for power or prominence. Then the Christians started persecuting others.

Nearly 1000 years before Rome fell to the Germans, Daniel had a dream about this in the late 600s or early 500s B.C.  (Daniel chapter 2)  There was a statue of four materials, and, counting the kingdoms, the feet of clay mixed with iron was the Romans.  A big Rock (Christ/the Christian Church) rolled in and smashed the statue.  But the German tribes began invading Rome AFTER Rome was declared "officially Christian."  This was very demoralizing to Roman Christians.

The Middle Ages in Europe were marked with fighting between all sorts of supposedly Christian rulers.  They would both claim "God" for their side. When the Protestant Reformation came, different types of Christians would persecute each other.  The Roman Catholics were the harshest.  They also used this as an excuse to start up the Inquisition in Spain.  The official Catholic Church persecuted and killed non-Christians, Protestants, and anyone they were suspicious of.

Some people want to try to create a theocracy here in America.  It's not a good idea here, either.  Our country was not founded by all Christians, though most of them were.  (Thomas Jefferson & Benjamin Franklin were Deists; John Adams was a Unitarian who likely denied the Trinity and did write the Barbary pirates that the U.S. was not a Christian nation.)  Since the 1980s, the Christian Right in America has tried to say America was and always shall be "a Christian nation."  This is creating problems as young Americans turn their backs on Christianity. This type of "forced relgion" has been one of the biggest factors.

I'm not saying I want to return to the status of persecuted minority, as in early Rome.  I'm very proud of being an American, and even happier that I'm a Christian, my eternal citizenship.  But it's not good to mix the two. There are Christians all around the word that aren't Americans. There are Americans who aren't Christian.

I think we Christians in America would be better served to make a graceful exit from assuming we will be the dominant force.  We should negotiate ourselves a new place where we can still ensure that we are allowed to define "sin" as the Bible defines "sin."  We don't want to be forced to go along with popular whims on the definition of morality.  We don't want to end up being accused of "hate crimes" because we do define certain things as sin.   But, having defined morality, we need to go about our daily lives "living in peace, insofar as we are able."  The Christian Church is still more mainstream than Deism or Unitarianism.  It has outlasted the worship of the pagan Roman gods and the pagan Germanic gods of my ancestry.  But its longevity is not due to political power grabs; those things only harm Christianity in the long run.  It grows through the Holy Spirit working through God's Word. But sometimes the first glimpse non-Christians get of what's in the Bible comes from genuinely loving Christians.

Thank you for your interest in my postings.  😊❤