Are you ready for bed?

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“Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry” –Ephesians 4:26b

Great line of scripture. I wonder: What if the whole world did this?  We could all be mad at each other during the day, hurling rocks and insults and such, but as soon as the sun sets…we’re cool as cucumbers.

The human race would have somehow learned to let go of their anger each night, and instead, we’d all gather in the streets, reconciling with our enemies, dancing in the joy of release.

I wonder–come morning, would we pick up where we let off?  Hurtful remarks over Raisin Bran? Nations at war with nations?  Facebook posts pointing fingers every which way?  Can you say, “Outrage du jour?”

Or would a night of peace change our minds?  Would conflict seem less palatable in the light of the day?  Once you have seen your adversary in the gentle moonlight, would it be harder to hate them under sunny skies?

Maybe anger would just fizzle away.  We’d learn we just didn’t need it.  We wouldn’t need the road rage, the jealous fits, the political diatribes.  We might need to hold on to a little righteous anger, just for those times when gross injustice warrants it. But even the anger we might tend to direct at ourselves would lose its power.

Now, I’m sure there would be quite a lot of resistance if I were to suggest that anger can be eliminated from the human makeup.  These emotions come from the more primitive parts of our brains, and they’re hard wired into us.  We will likely have to face anger again and again. However, it really is possible for us to reduce the grip anger has on us.

Prayer.  Meditation.  A good therapist.  A long walk.  Medication, even.  These are just a few things humans do that reduces anger.  Want more examples?  Journaling.  Breathing. Creativity.  Forgiveness.  Listening.  Sharing.  Serving.  A long, hot shower (my personal favorite), and yes, counting to 10.

The anger some folks carry is a very heavy weight.  Maybe not something you can fully “deal with” between brushing your teeth and putting your slippers on. But as you get ready for bed tonight, remember that God offers a plethora of ways to help at least lighten your load of anger.  Try some of them.

And if your new bedtime ritual works, and the peace of Christ comes upon you, you may even feel the urge to run out into the street, to celebrate.

God willing,

the rest of us will be there too.

Have a great week,

Mitch

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Certain Death

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 “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. –Luke 21:25-26

Stanislov Petrov.  Does that name ring a bell? He was a good, good man.

We found out this week that he had passed away back in May, in a little town near Moscow.  By accounts he was a mild-mannered man, who lived a quiet life.

Oh, and he saved the world.

In 1983, according to rt.com, he was working in Russia at an early warning bunker, when the long range radar reported several missiles coming from the U.S.  The protocol would have been to announce an impending attack, leading to a nuclear response from the U.S.S.R.

Something didn’t feel right to Petrov.  He’d been trained that if the U.S. were to attack, it would have been a bombardment of missiles, not just a handful.  So he waited.

The missiles turned out to be the sun’s reflection on some clouds.  Stanislov Petrov’s clear headedness averted global nuclear war.

I don’t know how to feel about this true story.  Should I be glad there are intelligent people like Petrov in the world, or should I be terrified to think that just one person stood between a cold war and certain death?

Back in the 80’s I was terrified of nuclear annihilation. The fear has faded over time, but I don’t know why.  We’ve still got enough missiles pointed at each other to destroy the planet many times over.  Though we don’t like to think about it, the end of the world is only a few desperate choices away.

There are actually some folks who seem preoccupied by thinking about the end of the world.  A guy named David Meade, who studies numerology, predicts that the scripture above predicts the ending of the world, on Saturday, September 23rd.  He thinks some rogue planet is going to crash into the Earth.

Not even Stanislov Petrov would be able to put a stop to that.

To Meade, I say: Hogwash.  This is yet another poorly constructed prediction about the end of the world. But it does make me think. In many ways, like Petrov, we do have some say when it comes to “the end”.   We have it within our grasp to avoid certain death by caring for our environment, ending world hunger, fighting disease, and even blowing up an occasional asteroid, if you’re a fan of the movie Armageddon.

And as long as we have men and women with integrity and common sense, we may even be able to keep our fingers off the button.

But even as comforting as that notion is, the truth is that some day we’ll all die, and there’s nothing we can do about it.  Maybe all at once, I suppose, but more likely one at a time.  Remember, 120 years from now, none of us will be here.

How’s that for certain death?  Yikes.

Ready for some Good News?  Whenever it is we come to that moment between life and death, there will be a good man waiting there for us.  Better, even, than Stanislov Petrov.  This man will do even more for us than averting certain death.

He will take us by the hand,

and lead us into Certain Life.

Have a great week,
(especially Saturday)

Mitch

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Moses and Errin’

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Moses said to the Lord, “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.”  –Exodus 4:10

When I’m trying to quiet down a group at church, I know exactly what to say:

“Would anybody like to close us with a prayer?”

–Instant Silence–

That scenario plays out time and again, in my current church and every other church I’ve ever served.  It doesn’t really stress me out too much. Many folks don’t feel comfortable sharing their faith out loud, in prayer or testimony. I’m used to it.

I will step in and do my priestly duty, offering up a prayer to close out a meeting, but I wonder:  Who’s fault is it that Christians today struggle so much with this?

Maybe it’s God’s fault.

Remember the call of Moses?  When Moses claims he’s “slow of speech and tongue”,  God lets him off the hook, and allows Aaron to do the public speaking instead.

By this time, I think Moses had just worn God down with all his “No’s” for why he was the wrong man for the job.  God even offered to train Moses in how to share his faith publically, but Moses was resistant.  So God relented.

It probably wasn’t what God intended, but generation after generation has been using this same “slow of speech and tongue” excuse to avoid communicating in faith and prayer. If Moses didn’t have to speak up, then neither should we, right?

Hmm.  That’s our mistake.  That’s less like Moses, and more like Errin’.  Maybe it’s our fault for taking the easy way out.  Or the church’s for seeing this as “the pastor’s job”.

The truth is, many folks really do want to share their faith — it’s just a matter of know-how, comfort, and practice.  Of making it a priority.

This Fall, I’m launching Faithsharing 101 classes at my church.  In 4 short weeks the goal is to help people feel more comfortable praying out loud, articulating why they’re a Christian, and even sharing some about their faith story with others.  This is not a class in evangelism or door-to-door witnessing.  It’s a class in finding the right words, and feeling good about sharing them.

Can this be done in 4 weeks?  I don’t know.  Maybe God was short on time with Moses and didn’t have a month to set him on the right path.  It will at least be a good start.

I think God wants all believers to be able to express themselves.  To offer a prayer in the midst of those who are gathered.  To spread Good News through words and stories.

It took some time, but God helped Moses eventually find his voice.  And Aaron found his role in this new community of Hebrews, too.  God assures us that there’s a place for all of us, and sends the Spirit to help us find our voices.

We just have to practice saying ‘Yes” when God calls us.

Now…

Would anybody be willing to close us in prayer?

Have a great week,

Mitch

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Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. –Exodus 20:8

It was one year ago today that the World Council of Churches met and made an audacious proposal to the rest of the world:

They suggested that we add an eighth day to the week.

Since it was their idea,  they decided to call the day “Sabbath-Day-OK-This-Time-We-Really-Mean-It”.

The scientists said “Sure, time is a human construction, and we can make it whatever we want.” So they eliminated January and February from the calendar, and did a few more tweaks here and there, and got us back to 365 days a year.

Non-churchgoers loved the idea of an extra long weekend every week. Business owners found that their productivity stayed strong as worker morale improved.  And as for  Christians, celebrating their “Sabbath-Day-OK-This-Time-We-Really-Mean-It”?

Attendance went down.

That’s right. Attendance figures just came out for the past year, and worship in American churches has dropped another tenth of a percent.

It would appear that with more time on the weekend people just did more stuff. More visiting with the grandkids. More time for yardwork. More camping trips or sleeping in.

A tired-looking president of the World Council of Churches issued a statement just moments ago:

“Well, fellow Christians, we tried. We cleared a whole extra day for you to keep the Sabbath, but you just keep doing other things! As of today I am resigning my position. I’m looking forward to a nice long break, and this weekend I plan to go visit my grandkids.”

Rumors of a proposed ninth day of the week movement has met with much criticism. As one Christian said, “Honestly? I think they could add five more Sabbaths every week and it still wouldn’t make a difference. Worship and rest is still a priority for people, but it’s just not the only priority, and not always on Sunday. I love to go to church, but I’ve got other things I want to do, too. So I do my best to balance it out.”

And so, the Eight Days A Week movement, as it has been called, was a success for everybody except the people who proposed it in the first place. Lately, there’s been talk about moving back to the old system. People miss Martin Luther King Jr Day and Valentine’s Day in particular.

As for my humble take on things, I think the church is going to be okay, and I think Christians are going to be okay, but not without some tough times along the way.  Our society has definitely steered away from notions of Holy rest and worship, things God says we clearly need.

I predict people will still gather for worship on the Sabbath, but maybe we need to focus our efforts towards teaching people how to be Holy…

on the other six days.

Or seven.

Whichever calendar you’re using.

Have a good week,

Mitch

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