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My Plans for Sunday

It is easy to mock Harold Camping and his crew for insisting the rapture will take place tomorrow. Mockery is without question a valid biblical response to false teaching, as Isaiah and many of the other prophets will attest. I’m pleased to see on Facebook and in my feed reader this morning some posts that go beyond mockery to address the issues surrounding the current hysteria with appropriate biblical and theological astuteness. If nothing else, Camping has provided an opportunity to teach people what the Bible actually says about these matters.

But I can’t help thinking about the pastoral needs of people whose worldview is going to come crashing down when, as the overwhelming majority of Christians believe, nothing particularly eschatological happens on May 21. It’s hard to idly mock after reading stories of real-live people who have been caught up in the hysteria. When their foundations crumble, I would prefer that they embrace historic Christianity rather than feel driven into even weirder or more dangerous cult-like groups.

In that spirit, let me share a half-baked idea I’ve had. James 4:13-17 warns us against being too arrogant in our plans because we honestly don’t know what tomorrow may bring. But barring any unforeseen circumstances I’ll be posting a sort of pastoral letter on May 22 for those few who may be prepared to read it.

If You’re the Praying Sort

I’d appreciate kind thoughts directed toward my dad, who is having a heart catheterization this morning. Thanks!

A Rant from a Loser in the Worship Wars

Robert Webber used to paraphrase the ancient dictum lex orandi lex credendi (“the rule of prayer/worship is the rule of faith) as, “You show me how you worship and I’ll tell you what you believe.” I think Chaplain Mike of Internet Monk has hit upon a corollary: “You show me how you implement a change in worship and I’ll tell you if you’re a church in the first place.”

If I Ever Got a Tattoo, It Would Be a Coptic Wrist Cross

Touching story about the Coptic community of Frankfort, Germany…and Egypt (H/T Pseudo-Polymath):

“Blue bone, we’re not playing with you!” – this is an insult that many Coptic children have to get used to at an early age. For “blue bone“ is a term of abuse used in Egypt against Coptic Christians and refers to the bruises so many bore on their bodies in the course of history. “Even the little children among us have to learn to live with the Cross.”

About those wrist tattoos see here, here, and here. And no, I doubt I’d ever get one. Being a Christian in America is far too easy. A non-Copt wearing one here would belittle the faith of those who do so despite the physical danger it could bring.

Related:

Christmas Prayers

Tonight is Christmas Eve on the Orthodox Calendar followed by the Copts of Egypt. The BBC is reporting concerns that it may be one marked by violence.

Armed Egyptian police have been ordered to protect churches where Copts are expected to gather in large numbers.

There have been calls for Muslims to hold vigils outside Coptic churches in a gesture of solidarity.

But some radical Islamist websites have urged more attacks, publishing church addresses in Egypt and Europe.

The bombing of the al-Qiddissin Church in Alexandria on New Year’s Day was the worst act of sectarian violence in Egypt in a decade.

It triggered days of protests and riots by Christians blaming the government for encouraging discrimination and not doing enough to protect them.

In response, the Egyptian authorities have stepped up security around many churches, with explosives experts on hand.

Do read it all, and if you’re so inclined please say a prayer for all who worship Christ in hostile environments, confessing that “it is better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be God’s will, than to suffer for doing evil” (1 Pet 3:17).

A Rare Breed Indeed

I share in my pastor’s gratitude:

Our church is one of an increasingly rare breed: a congregation that is multi-generational in makeup. More and more congregations are focused on a particular group: twenty-somethings, baby boomers, young professionals on the rise, and so on. It has long been recognized that in churches, as elsewhere, “birds of a feather fly together.”

Problem is, that’s not what the Kingdom of God is supposed to look like. According to Jesus, the Kingdom of God is like a tiny seed that grows into a tree with strong, welcoming branches where all the birds of the air make their nests (Luke 13:19).

So I celebrate the diversity of ages and stations in life represented in our church. I love the spontaneity of the children, the vitality of the youth, the social conscience of the young adults, the moral earnestness of the mid-lifers, and the wisdom of the mature. I like seeing races and nationalities different from my own in worship. I like being in a church where thoughtful Democrats and Republicans can move beyond the predicable ideological posturing to ask, “What does that have to do with the Gospel?” I like being in a church where people are defined not so much by how they are alike, but how they are different and yet bound together by the Christ who forms the heart of our fellowship.

Prayers

I’m thinking and praying today about two sets of loved ones who are dealing with issues of homes, moving, and providing for family. I’m meditatively looking to the example of Joseph of Nazareth to guide my prayers and intentions, asking God that, as he provided for Christ’s foster-father, he might provide for these whom I love as well. (I’ve added Joseph’s icon to the sidebar.)

If you would join me in prayer for these unspoken concerns, I would be grateful.

Worry

Therefore do not worry, saying “What will we eat?” or “What will we drink?” or “What will we wear?” For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. (Mt 6:32)

I became Becky’s pastor just a few months before it was discovered that she had cancer. I spent many months visiting her at home and always felt I got a greater blessing than she did from our time together. She was one of those people who almost literally glow with the joy of Christ.

Before I left, I would always offer to read Scripture and pray. Without fail, Becky would ask me to read the concluding portion of Matthew 6 with its challenge not to worry about anything, for God takes care even of the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. Sometimes, when she was having a good day, Becky would sit beside me smiling as I read. Other times—just after a round of chemotherapy or when she was otherwise in great pain—she would lie on the couch and moan a prayer as I read. She was determined to believe this Scripture passage in spite of the pain. She did, even to the end.

Because of Becky’s faith, Matthew 6:25ff will always be holy ground for me. On my better days, when I worry about my daughter’s dentist appointment or the mortgage payment that is coming due, I think of Becky and wonder what in the world I have the right to worry about. She knew that your priorities and your perspective on the uncertainties of life make all the difference. It is a lesson she learned from Jesus, and I learned from her.

New (to Me) Worship Blog

The Daily Scroll is not strictly “daily,” but it does offer some very thoughtful articles on Christian worship from several contributors. Some recent offerings have been multi-parters on a capella singing (part one, part two) and Trinitarian worship (part one, part two). The blog is part of the Worshipedia.org website, which offers an abundance of resources for worship renewal.

Please Pray for Cecil Sherman

From the Support Cecil Sherman Facebook page:

Dear Friends,

I received a call just a bit ago from Eugenia Sherman as she was preparing to board a plane to Richmond, Virginia. Cecil suffered a massive heart attack late today and is currently hospitalized. She asks for prayers. Let us all lift up Cecil Sherman and his family at this precarious time.

Lex Horton

For my non-Baptist readers: Cecil Sherman is a giant among moderate Baptists: a respected pastor for many years, long-time leader in the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and for many years writer of the commentary supplement to the curriculum I edit. After being diagnosed with leukemia in 2008, he has made miraculous progress and has even been traveling to speak at various local CBF events.

God of grace,
Look with compassion upon your servant Cecil.
In accordance with your will,
bring healing into his life,
of body, soul, and spirit.
May he be filled with the presence of your Son Jesus Christ,
who reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit:
one God, now and forever. Amen.

Update:

Precious Friends,

Yesterday while getting his car washed, Dad had what the physicians are calling a “massive heart attack.”  Some good soul, whom I have yet to identify, called the EMTs who resuscitated Dad and took him to the ER via ambulance.

The first hours at the hospital proved volatile: another heart attack (I think), numerous interventions, and finally an induced coma with a breathing tube.  He is now in the Cardiac ICU at VCU Medical Center.

Thanks to a good friend’s fervent negotiations with the airlines, I arrived in Washington, D.C., just after midnight.  Nathaniel picked me up and we drove directly to Dad’s side, arriving at 3:00 a.m.

This morning great fleets of doctors and residents have swooped in.  They name his condition “very grave,” but not hopeless. If he survives the next several days, they will be able to offer some prognosis.

At the moment, Nathaniel and I are ejected from Dad’s room while the nurses do some procedures.  We sit side-by-side, our laptops keeping us in touch as best are able.  My husband Doug is en route, as are Bill and Veta (Dad’s brother and sister-in-law).

You have wrapped us in the embrace of your prayers for many months.  Thank you for doing so again.  “In life and in death we belong to God.”

Eugenia Sherman Brown