Saturday, May 28, 2011

Brother's Keeper

I have been thinking a lot about last Saturday and the heralded "end of the world" scenario which was proclaimed by Harold Camping and his followers. It was the topic of conversation and the butt of jokes among many people, including Christians. I heard my brothers and sisters in Christ quoting familiar Scriptures to friends, family, and co-workers, "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." (Matthew 24:36) and "Now, brothers, about the times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, "Peace and safety," destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape." (1 Thessalonians 5:1-3)  However, I was literally moved to tears with a news story featuring a man waiting in New York's Times Square to be raptured at 6:00 p.m. The commentator reported that this man, like many of Camping's followers, had spent his life's savings, approximately $140,000. to buy posters and leaflets to hand out to people warning them about what was to come on May 21st. As he stood among the crowd this man was adamant that he would be gone at the stroke of 6:00 p.m.  When 6:00 p.m. came and went the crowd began to yell and scream at him, taunting and mocking his prediction. The man remained silent amid the jeers, head bowed, and reading his Bible. The way the crowd berated him was very upsetting but what moved me to tears occurred after I came home and began to pray for this man. The Lord impressed upon my heart that there were probably other Christians among the on lookers in Times Square. These Christians were probably thinking to themselves, "If that guy disappears, I know I'm going with him." However, when the time came and went there may have been a sigh of relief that they didn't let anyone know that they were a follower of Jesus Christ, lest they be branded a "nut case" like this man. And therein lies the problem. No Christians came forward to put an arm around this man and offer to pray for him leading him away from the verbal abuse. The Lord challenged me to ask the question if I were there in Times Square at that moment, what would be my response? I shared with our congregation that our responsibility as Christians is to be healers not hecklers! How or why this man ended up following the teaching of Harold Camping is not relevant but one thing can be said of him is that his zeal for the Lord is strong and I confess he puts me to shame. He believes in Jesus no matter how misguided he may be and Paul exhorts believers to care for their weaker brothers/sisters, "We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves." (Romans 15:1) and "Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." (Galatians 6:2) Harold Camping has set a new date for October 21, 2011. So what will be our response? If this man remains a follower of Camping's ministry, he will likely return to Times Square in October. Will someone be moved by the Holy Spirit to comfort him the next time? I pray that the Lord will touch all our hearts with His compassion and love so that we may minister to those who fall.
Peace in Christ,
Pastor Sheree

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Body And Soul

When I served as an Associate Pastor at my former church, one of my responsibilities was to bring communion to our homebound members as well as those in the nursing home. If we are honest with ourselves, we tend to see aging as a curse rather than a blessing. We secretly hope that we don't end up in a nursing home because we view those facilities as warehouses for the elderly who are waiting to die. We sometimes feel that the nursing home means not only the end of physical life but also the end of any kind of usefulness. This kind of thinking is reinforced by the images we see of older people on television or in the movies. The elderly are often portrayed as bumbling idiots who have lost their sanity. However, God does not see the elderly that way. He uses them even in a nursing home setting. I have been blessed and ministered to by all the folks I visited at home and in the nursing home. I even had the privilege of conducting some of their funerals. God has been speaking to me this month about the value of our bodies. Early pagan groups such as the Gnostics often painted a picture of the body as "evil" or "bad" and the soul or spirit as "good". But Scripture tells us that both are glorious gifts of God. Jesus took on flesh and described His body as a temple when the Jews confronted Him. (John 2:19) Likewise, Paul tells us that our bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit who dwells in us. (1 Corinthians 6:19) Think about it! The temple was precious to the Jews because it was the place they felt where God dwells. Now that dwelling place is our bodies! Even bodies that are old and frail still embody the Spirit of God. The elderly remain vessels through which God pours His wisdom and truth. This fact was made clear to me when I met a woman named Fran in the nursing home. Fran handed me a little booklet of poems and prayers she had written and published. In looking at it recently I was blessed by one prayer in particular where Fran bring the connection of body and soul together in Christ. His eyes, ears, lips, arms, hands, and feet minister to her. They are gifts to her soul and gifts to her body. I share Fran's gift with you that you may meditate upon it  and be blessed.
Pastor Sheree

MY PRAYER (by Fran D. 1979)
Eyes of Jesus--watch over me.
Ears of Jesus--hear me.
Lips of Jesus--guide me.
Arms of Jesus--hold me.
Hands of Jesus--touch me.
Feet of Jesus--Lead me home.