Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Restoring the Passover…Restore Holy Week Services

Long ago there lived and good and just king named Josiah. He was the king of Judah during the last years of its time as an independent kingdom. Josiah was a good king but his father before him had been a bad king. During the reign of his father, Amon, the Jewish people were worshiping the idols of foreign gods and did all the evil things that his father did. His father King Manasseh was even more evil. He worshiped idols, shed innocent blood, consulted mediums and wizards, burned his children as sacrifices and set up idols on the very altar of the temple.

Josiah became king at the age of 8 and the Book of II Kings compares him to King David. It says “Before him there was no king like him, who turned to the Lord with all his heart, with all his soul and with all his might, according to all the Law of Moses, nor did any like him arise after him.” (II Kings 23:25) When he was 18 he sent workers into the temple to renovate and to purge the house of God of all the foreign gods and evil practices. While they were fixing up the temple they uncovered the Law of Moses. It had not been read in years. When the law was read to the king he realized that God’s people were in serious trouble with God because of their years of idol worship. He tore his clothes and called for a national time of repentance and restoration.

He directed that all the people should come to the temple and hear the reading of the book of the covenant, he destroyed all the idols, he deposed the idolatrous priests, he broke down the houses of the male temple prostitutes. He even burned the bones of the people who had been idol-worshipers as a way of defiling the pagan altars.

He reinstituted the Passover celebration as well. Apparently the Jews had not been celebrating the Passover for a very long time. This was a feast that commemorated the exodus of the Jews from slavery in Egypt. It was the Passover that Jesus celebrated with his disciples the night before he was crucified.

Sometimes I think our churches are acting like the Jews before Josiah came along. For the most part we don’t take Holy Week services very seriously. We’ve forgotten who we are. Attendance at our Holy Thursday services are usually small and some churches don’t even have Good Friday services at all. This is a holy remembrance of the most important acts of Christ’s life and most of our church members stay home! This should not be. We go to Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday but skip the journey to the cross. Our churches should be just as full on Holy Thursday and Good Friday as they are on Easter.

I encourage you to be like Josiah. Put God first in your life. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and strength. Make the holy services a priority in your life. Put away the idols, the competing activities, and live for God only.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

George Clooney Doesn’t Have to Die from Malaria

I learned today that the actor George Clooney contracted malaria while he was on a humanitarian trip to Africa recently. This apparently is not the first bout with malaria and he has been treated and is doing fine. This disease, which kills a child every 45 seconds on this earth is still a killer. However in the United States, where we have more money and superior health care resources people can take life-saving medications so they don’t have to die from malaria.

It is true of many diseases. Years ago people died from illnesses that today would be easily treated with antibiotics. In a new book entitled, How they Croaked, by Georgia Bragg, we read about the death of many famous people. Most of them could have been saved from it they had our modern medicines. King Henry VIII died from infection in his leg caused by gout. When I studied my family history I learned of a woman in the family who lived in the 1800’s who died in childbirth. A simple C-section would have saved her life and the life of the baby.

Here is the point: we know how to save people from dying from malaria. It is not just about nets. United Methodists have raised $16 million dollars for campaign known as “Nothing but Nets.” The nets prevent people from getting bit by the deadly night time mosquitoes that cause malaria. The new campaign: “Imagine No Malaria” takes things even further.Life-saving medicines and lab tests are part of the program. It also teaches people how to properly use the bed nets and how to avoid contact with mosquitoes. In addition it pays for research on mosquitoes and how to stop them from infecting people with this deadly disease.

No one has to die from malaria. Please raise funds for this continuing effort at your church.It is one of the Four Foci of the United Methodist Church. Then bring your church’s offering to Annual Conference or send it to your conference office.

We believe in making disciples of Jesus Christ and then going out and transforming the world. There are many people who die needlessly and we can make a difference by our generosity.

For more information, go to: www.imaginenomalaria.org.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Saint Patrick

Born in AD 387, Patrick was the son of a deacon who lived in Roman Britain. At the age of sixteen he was kidnapped by pirates who sold him into slavery to a rich man in Ireland. There he worked as a shepherd for six years until miraculously God provided a way of escape. In a vision he saw a ship that was to take him home and he escaped by the very ship he saw in his vision and returned to his family. He studied for the priesthood and was asked to return to Ireland to work as a missionary in this land that was entirely pagan. His six years of slavery there afforded him the knowledge of the language. His master was a high ranking druid and from him he learned the culture of the druid religion. God used the six years of slavery to train Patrick for his future service. Under his many years of missionary work in Ireland he converted Ireland to Christianity and brought about many social reforms.

I thank God for Patrick’s adversity that God used for good. As we face setbacks and troubles in life we need to remember this godly man’s experience and remember that “all things work together for good as we love God and are called according to God’s purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

Here are some words of Saint Patrick that we should pray every day:
I bind myself today, God’s power to guide me, God’s might to uphold me, God’s wisdom to reach me, God’s eye to watch over me, God’s ear to hear me, God’s Word to give me speech, God’s hand to guide me, God’s way to lie before me, God’s shield to shelter me, God’s host to secure me against the snares of demons, against the seduction of vices.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Double Portion of Elijah’s Spirit

Long ago there was a mighty prophet named Elijah. You can read about him in the Book of First Kings. He lived during the time of the kings of Israel and Judah. He was full of the Spirit of God. He told King Ahab that there would be a great drought in the land. During this drought he cared for a widow and promised her, by a miracle of God, that her oil and flour would not run out until the drought was over. Later he challenged the prophets of Baal (the pagan god) to a contest. The god that could light a fire on the altar on Mt. Carmel would be the one true god. The God of Israel won of course, and Elijah had the prophets of Baal put to a sword. Still later Elijah spoke against King Ahab for killing a man in order to steal his garden. Finally he was taken up to heaven in a chariot of fire. Just before he went to heaven he asked his assistant, Elisha, if he had any last requests. Elisha asked for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit. Elijah told him that was a difficult request but if he saw him ascend into heaven then God would grant his wish. Elisha did see Elijah go up into heaven and a double portion of Elijah’s spirit began to manifest itself in the ministry of Elisha. His story can be found in the Book of Second Kings.

Elisha’s ministry was characterized by acts of social justice. He raised money for the pension fund for the widow of a dead prophet by multiplying oil, he changed polluted water into fresh water, he prayed for a childless woman to bear a son, later when that miracle-child, who was born to this woman, died, it was Elisha who raised him back to life, he removed poison from a pot of soup, he miraculously raised up an ax head from the water, he multiplied twelve loaves of bread into enough food for a hundred people, and he healed an army commander of leprosy.

One of Elisha’s most amazing deeds was to conquer an entire army. He did this with the disarming power of kindness. The king of the Aramean army sought to kill Elisha because he was able to predict his military maneuvers and tell them to the King of Israel. The Aramean army arrived at Elisha’s home with orders to kill him. He prayed to the Lord to strike the soldiers with temporary blindness. While they were blind he led them to the capital city of Israel (Samaria) where he restored their sight. The king of Israel saw the enemy army and exclaimed to Elisha, “Shall I kill them?” Elisha told him not to kill them but to give them food and water. This they did and after they feasted the army went home and there was peace between Israel and Aram from then on.

Having a double portion of Elijah’s spirit appears to me to manifest itself in acts of kindness, concern for the marginalized, helping the environment, feeding the hungry, showing compassion for one’s enemies and healing the sick. These are some of the basic ministries of a Christian and you don’t need to be a miracle-working prophet to do these things. God’s Spirit can lead you to places in your world where you can make peace. God’s Spirit can empower you to feed hungry people in your community. God’s Spirit can give you a heart for people who are left out of the things that make life meaningful. You can contribute to the Central Conference Pension Fund.

When you do these things it is evident that you too have a double portion of Elijah’s Spirit, which is the amazing Spirit of God.