Pastor Phil

September 4, 1752 never existed!

It’s not only September 4, it’s the 3-13th of September 1752!  Those dates do not exist.  The British Empire was slow to synchronize their calendar with large parts of the western culture into one unified Gregorian Calendar.  Certain countries resisted this needed change into the 20th Century.  Why did this correction need to happen?  Our first estimates of the orbit of the earth around the sun was accurate but not precise.  A year is not actually 365 days per year, it’s 365 ¼ days, that is why every 4 years we have a leap year, in order to add that extra day.  Actually 365 ¼ is not correct either!  Did you know leap year does not occur every 4 years?  In order to correct for the precise measurement of the earth’s orbit around the sun, all century dates do not include a leap year, except those century dates that are divisible by 400.  1600CE was a leap year.  1700 no leap year, it’s not divisible by 400.  1800, no leap year.  2000 yes, I remember that leap year, it is divisible by 400.

Adopting a new calendar is not easy.  The world resisted.  On February 24, 1582, Pope Gregory XIII instituted the change from Julian to Gregorian, sometimes known as the Christian calendar.  This was after the Reformation.  Britain due to its infancy in its own new Christian Tradition, the Anglican Tradition, was not excited to listen to the Pope, and did not relent until 1707.  Russia finally gave way in the 1920’s.

As we start celebrating Epiphany and the star over Bethlehem, I think of the magi, wise men, or the kings.  Best guess, they were probably Babylonian Astrologers, educated in reading the stars, moon, and sun.  I am amazed by ancient people and their ability to read the stars and sun, and then figuring out that the Earth’s orbit is approximately 365 ¼ days.  The Julian calendar, named after Julius Caesar, added leap year around 40BCE.  The Egyptian Astronomer, Sosigenes who influenced Caesar, miscalculate the orbit of the earth by 11 minutes and 14 seconds.  Still EXCELLENT for BCE!

Over the Centuries, our calendars multiplied this 11 minutes and 14 seconds, each year, year after year, and soon the solar calendar did not match the Julian calendar and things needed to change.  Not everyone accepted this.  Change was slow.

I can only imagine those innovators who discover something…the length of the orbit of the earth, that the earth is not the center of the universe, the spiral helix of DNA, the colors of the spectrum, incandescent light bulbs to LED’s, from transistors to computer chips …so many discoveries.  How excited these innovators must have been with their discovery.  Discoveries can be concepts too, not provable by science but a step in the evolutionary cycle of life.  Moving from a Kingdom to a Democracy, ingenious, from eye for an eye to turning the other cheek, from a God of fire and brimstone to a God of love, from smoking aiding one’s health to smoking being a cancer risk.  Changes are always occurring in science and faith.  Some people jump at new ideas, new theology, others resist.  It’s true with nations, communities and individuals.

In this New Year do you need to embrace a healthy new theology that supports life, encourages questions and struggle?  Do you need to embrace Jesus’ teachings rather than what the church teaches through creeds and dogmas….It may not come quickly!  I find the Bible’s written documents, poems, letters, confessions, songs….all types of literature, reflecting someone’s EPIPHANY.  Someone understood a new mystery that illuminated their walk of faith, and wanted to share that with others, so they wrote it down.  I am so grateful for the Christian Bible.  It is a witness of people who took the tradition they received, and build upon it.  Our traditional interpretations of scripture are not GOD!  Let us not idolize “our interpretation”, or our “tradition of interpretation”, but instead use them as a spring board to move forward in our journey.  The living word of God revealed to us through a variety of means, for me, especially scripture, but also reason, experience, revelation, and tradition, challenges me to continue to evolve into the likeness of Jesus.

Change can come slowly for some; others see the light and jump!  Jumping didn’t happen on September 4, 1752 in England for sure.

How does God Provide?

It flows from the lips of a variety of religious people, “Don’t worry, God will provide.”  Really…Just how does that happen?

I’m perplexed by people who understand God actively making thing happen in our world.  Is God reaching down and moving a Pawn or a Knight, as if life were a chess game?  I am aware that the Bible often speaks of a very interventionist God.  My personal favorite story has God lengthening a day so that the Israelites would have more sunshine to kill their enemies in battle.

Joshua 10:12-14 (NRSV) 12 On the day when the LORD gave the Amorites over to the Israelites, Joshua spoke to the LORD; and he said in the sight of Israel, “Sun, stand still at Gibeon, and Moon, in the valley of Aijalon.” 13 And the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, until the nation took vengeance on their enemies. Is this not written in the Book of Jashar? The sun stopped in midheaven, and did not hurry to set for about a whole day. 14 There has been no day like it before or since, when the LORD heeded a human voice; for the LORD fought for Israel.

Wow, did you miss this story in Sunday School?  The story of God giving more sunshine so there would be more time to kill people!  Do you believe in such an interventionist God?  Some Christians assume prayer works this way.  Ask God for what you want and “poof”…it happens.  Many faithful loving people, pray and pray, for healing and it never happens, while others who don’t believe in God get cured of cancer…Just how does God provide?  How does God intervene?  Does God intervene?

This past Sunday the first Sunday of Advent I embraced Jesus’ works from Luke that “Heaven and Earth will pass away, but not his words” (Luke 21:33)  Jesus’ words are eternal!  Can God provide for humanity through the words of Jesus?

Absolutely.

With one caveat.  The words are useless if not lived.  We are the living words of Jesus.  God provides for all of humanity.  Those who follow Jesus seek to live Jesus’ teachings, Jesus’ words.  Being the Living Words of Jesus involves constant daily attention.  It is not a simple task.  It takes effort, persistence and a determination to seek a deeper level of living.

God has provided.  This earth produces enough abundance for all people.  Our egos and fears get in the way of distributing this abundance for all God’s people.  I don’t believe in an interventionist God that will fix the world when we have the ability and capacity to do it.  I don’t need big daddy in the sky to fix thing that people have created.  God has created us in God’s image to manage and bless the whole creation.

Although Heaven and Earth pass away I believe the word of God is eternal.  This eternal word is centered in love, God’s love, AGAPE.  The New Testament authors had an understanding that we have that ability to love as God loves.  To a group of conflicted and fighting Christians in the town of Corinth, St. Paul writes in his letter to the Corinthians, “I will show you a more excellent way”, (1 Cor. 12:13).  That way, is the way of love.  I doubt Paul would commend this “way” to the early arguing Christians if he did not think they could live it.  Paul ends his description of “the way”, with a familiar phrase often read at weddings.  It is great advice to newlyweds, and to all people, but especially to arguing people, “Faith, Hope, and Love abide, these three, but the greatest of these is love.”  And that love is not a feeling, but an action to be empathetic, caring, considerate, gracious, and cooperative in the midst of arguments.  In a divided nation we need that mutual respect of one another.

In Advent we remember Emmanuel, “God is with us”.  God is with us to PROVIDE!  God provides through people living the teachings of Jesus.  Not easy!  But very necessary in our world.

As we seek to follow the words of Jesus we become “the living words of Jesus”.  Join that Journey and seek to learn to love like Jesus!

Expect Nothing in Return!

This past Sunday I welcomed, Eva Ritvo, MD, to speak about her book, “Bekindr”.

Such a simple concept.  First be kind to yourself, then be intentional about being kind to others, strangers, too.  Simple things, like looking people in the eye and recognizing them as they pass.

She backed everything up with research, which I in turn researched, the skeptic that I am, to find that she is right!  And then some!

Mirror Neurons.  I never heard of them before!  Wow, I always said we were wired by God to be in relationship with one another as well as being creatures of LOVE!  Agape love.  The type of love that is unconditional and action oriented, not a feeling.  Bkindr is a book about Agape love, toward complete strangers and what that can do for both the one who offers Agape love, and the one receiving.  Mirror neurons fire off in our brains as we look at people in the eye.  Eyes trigger mirror neurons.  If you smile at someone and they see it, mirror neurons fire in their brain as a smile!  Likewise, mirror neurons detect anger, fear, and worry.  Become a smiler, it’s contagious.

Like all spiritual gifts some excel at one but not another.  Kindness is a spiritual gift.  It may not come naturally to some.  This concept was discussed at our adult class.  “What happens if my kindness is not reciprocated?”  Keep on being kind.  Keep on smiling.  Keep on saying, “Hello”. Be true to what you know is right regardless of how it might be received.  Agape, is an action taken, regardless of how it is received.  No reward necessary.

We live in a “Quid pro quo” world.  You do this, I’ll do that.  Everything is an exchange of some sort.  We even deal with God in this way.  “God I’ll do this, if you only provide me with…”  How freeing it is not to keep score, to have a memory lapse about insensitive comments, or to forget a past infraction.  I’m reminded of the teaching of Jesus in Luke’s account of the Sermon on the Mount, which in Luke doesn’t occur on the Mountain, but on the Plain;

Luke 6:32-35 (NRSV)
32  “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33  If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34  If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. 35  But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return.

Being Kind has everything to do with “expecting nothing in return”, that is Agape Love.  Take that phrase with you each day as you seek to love like Jesus!  Expect nothing in return!

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