Monday Morning Musings for 04.10.17

  1. Wedged between the agony of Friday's cross and the glorious hope of Sunday's resurrection is the seldom mentioned in between day: Saturday. It's not something we want to talk about much because it's not a pleasant day. Matthew 27 tells us that soldiers went to guard the tomb and seal it, but that's it. It's a day filled with darkness and fear and unknowns. It's a day of mystery and doubt and deep sadness. No one knows what will happen, so it's long and it's hard, and in the end, I find it's where we tend to live most our lives. We live in between the atoning sacrifice of Christ which reconciles us to the Father and the glorious fulfillment of what the resurrection means. In between lies Saturday where we encounter real life: mysteries and questions and hatred and violence and evil and events we simply do not understand – everything seems dim, shrouded, veiled. Yet it is in the darkness of Saturday that we learn to form words we have never spoken because, on Saturday, nothing else can help us – not our jobs or our money or our address or our appearance or our wine or our friends or even our spouse. The darkness of Saturday teaches us how desperately we need God, and in that darkness, we form the words to express it. God actually created the darkness because we need it. We need it to know we need Him. Thankfully, Psalm 139 reminds us that "the darkness is as light to you." We can't see in the darkness, but He can, and it is His voice that will guide us out. Thus, no matter what we may be enduring today, we need to be drawing close to the Good Shepherd, so that when we find ourselves in the darkness, we will know the Voice that will lead us home (John 10). Don't rush to Sunday. Linger in the reality of Saturday. Those who know the darkness rejoice all the more at the dawning of the light.
  2. Social Scientist Arthur Brooks has done significant research on what makes people happy, and it's not nearly as complex as we tend to think. If you set aside genetics, famine, and war – things that obviously make life inherently unhappy, there are only four things that matter: faith, family, friends and meaningful work. Faith: do you have a framework for understanding both suffering and death, a foundation for hope in what lies beyond? Family: do you have people who love you and care about what happens to you simply because you are you? Friends: this is not people on Facebook. Do you have 2 or 3 people who when you are happy, they are happy? Do you have 2 or 3 people who find joy in your presence because they love you for who you are? Work: do you spend the hours in your job doing something that makes a contribution to society that you feel good about? When you wake up in the morning, do you feel good about where you are going to spend your day? The bad news for our current society: 3 of the 4 are in the midst of almost complete disruption. Our jobs used to anchor us to a place and the relationships around it. In the 1970's, the average time a person spent at one job was 30 years. Today, it's 4 years. We have 50% fewer friends in the past 25 years. We are disconnected and ungrounded because our families have not provided us the foundational elements we need. 40% of children today are raised with no connection to their Father. 59% of children born to women under 30 have no connection to their Father. Family, friends, and work are all in states of upheaval – which means faith become all the more important. 
  3.  SIGNS OF THE DARKNESS: The innocent men, women, and children of Syria suffocated by sarin gas. I am mystified how other governments could actually speak words trying to justify what took place. WOMEN'S PROTEST: The darkness of a photo which surfaced following International Women's Day - a woman dressed as the Virgin Mary has her child, Christ, aborted by people in pink masks - blood and fake body parts are seen as "Mary" raises her fist in triumph. Bystanders smile and take pictures. HBO DOCUMENTARY: I paused last week to watch the documentary film by HBO titled ABORTION: STORIES WOMEN TELL. I wanted to hear and understand and learn, but what I found had to be one of the most selfish expressions of humanity I've ever seen. Women ebullient, happy, downright joyous after finally ridding themselves of the unwanted child. Each had not the slightest awareness of anything beyond self and it was chilling. Thank God for the light that WILL dawn.
  4. Last Saturday after I finished my sermon on Holy Saturday and it's darkness, I wanted to get out and reflect a bit. It was a glorious day, and as I jogged through my neighborhood, I was lifted. I passed a school where the "spring festival" would be held that night, parents and children playing and preparing. I passed a park where a lacrosse team practiced, a Dad playfully laughing with several of his players. I passed two baseball fields and heard the "ping" of baseball meeting metal bat followed by the wild cheers of those in the stands. I passed a couple sitting on a bench holding hands. I enjoyed the smells of fresh cut grass and blooming flowers. Yes, God reminded me, it's not just darkness, but every day is darkness AND light. It's how He created the universe – 24 hours with dark AND light – and such is life. We just have to be more intentional at times in seeing the light.
  5. THE POWER OF MUSIC: Last Sunday, we opened worship with the hymn Holy God, We Praise Thy Name. Honestly, I don't ever remember singing it at First Pres, but in an instant, I was transported back to my childhood, sitting between my mother and my grandmother during mass at Christ The King parish in Dallas, Texas. As a child, it seemed we sang that song every other week; thus, to hear it as an adult brought me to tears. I was so thankful for the influence of my mother and grandmother, for the feeling of safety and security I felt between them as they would sing and kneel to pray. Music has that unique power to draw out memories and feelings and blessings long forgotten. And PARENTS, never underestimate the power and influence of what your children see and experience when you take them to church. 
  6.  EASTER IN THE CITY: FPCO is thrilled to once again host a community celebration of Easter at the Dr. Phillips Center. We will hold two services at 9 and 11 am with all the information you will need regarding parking, childcare, security, seating, photography and much more at www.easterinthecity.com. Come join us in person or take in the live stream at www.fpco.org.
  7. SHIFTING POPULATIONS: According to the Pew Research Center, in 20 years, more babies will be born to Muslim women than Christian women, making Islam the largest world religion by the end of the century. Christianity is still the largest today at 2.3 billion compared to 1.8 billion Muslims. Christians accounted for 33% of worldwide births, but also 37% of deaths. Lead researcher Conrad Hackett said, "Christianity is literally dying in Europe. The heart of Christianity is moving from Europe to Africa." 2060 appears to be the year when each will have the same number of adherents.
  8. Several weeks ago, I posted a photo of a painting a portrait of a pastor we found tucked away in storage at church. No one knew who it was, and in spite of the efforts of many, we still don't know. I find that a humbling reality. As my friend Matt Miller said, "At one point, they wanted to paint your portrait and hang it somewhere – and yet now no one can even remember who you are." Life and our achievements are indeed fleeting.
  9. Sunday of Masters Week is sublime. Nothing better than a full morning of worship, coming home, slumping on the sofa, and watching a full round of great golf. I was pulling for Jordan Spieth, but Rose and Garcia delivered a memorable duel down the stretch. Congrats to Sergio for finally getting a major!