One of my Alabama preacher buddies sent me this story which I think provokes theological thinking about today’s World Day of Prayer.
In a small Texas town, a businessman began constructing a building to open up a new bar/tavern. A local church started a campaign of petitions and prayer meetings to block the bar from opening. Yet, work progressed on the building right up until a week before the opening when the bar was stuck by lightning and burned to the ground.
The church folks were rather self-satisfied after the lightning bolt struck the bar, until the bar owner sued the church on the grounds that the church was ultimately responsible for the demise of his building, either through direct or indirect actions or means. In their reply to the lawsuit the church vehemently denied all responsibility or connection with the destruction of the building.
When the case came up on the docket, the presiding judge looked at the pleadings and commented, “I don't know how I am going to rule on this, but it appears from the paperwork that what we have here is a bar owner who believes in the power of prayer, and an entire church congregation that doesn’t.”
The lesson in this amusing legal case is that prayer does not always make your troubles go away. Rather, prayer can sometimes make your life more difficult. Many Christians routinely pray: “Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.” Yet, a positive answer to that supplication would radically rearrange the life of the supplicant and the supplicant’s world. Are we ready for that?
Prayer can be dangerous! Be careful what you say when you pray. God may think you are serious in what you ask.
Sincerely, your friend,
I shared a golf story last week in this blog (with a point). Now it is equal time for baseball—also with a point! In theory, (but with Covid-19 all is usually up in the air as well as the Texas weather which we all experienced last week), Spring Training begins tomorrow.
Baseball fever is among us these days, thanks to the Texas Rangers and Houston Astros—even as Texans continually ache for football season. In my friend Dan Flanagan’s sermon of August 18, 1996, he told the following story:
“Germany” Schaefer was one of the characters of baseball. One of his teammates, Davey Jones,
claimed he was the funniest man he’d ever seen, and that included Charlie Chaplin. On 4
September 1908, Schaefer did something no other major league baseball player has ever done—he
stole first base. The Tigers were playing the Cleveland Indians that day. Schaefer stood on first base
with his Detroit teammate, Davey Jones, on third. The sign was for a double steal. Schaefer took off
with the pitch, but Cleveland catcher, Nig Clarke, held on to the ball, and Jones stood on third.
Schaefer yelled to Jones, “Let’s try it again.” So, the very next pitch, Schaefer scampered back to
first base. The catcher, so stunned he didn’t even throw the ball. It confused the umpires, too, who,
after a lengthy discussion, allowed Schaefer to remain at first base. But on the next pitch, Schaefer
gave out a yell and took off to second base again. This time, the catcher threw the ball, but
Schaefer was safe sliding into second, and Jones scored from third. Because of Schaefer’s stunt,
the rules changed. Anyone else trying to return to a base would oblige the umpires to eject them
from the game.
In this case, baseball reflects life. In life, we do want to steal first base. We are always grasping for what is past, but we can’t go back. Part of the life of faith is to look forward to what God wants us to do. Sometimes we can only look back to the way things were. Yet, backward looking is only good in seeing that God has taken care of us in the past. Perhaps now God wants us to venture into the future with faith. Take God’s track record with us as a sign of blessed things to come.
Sincerely, your friend, David Mosser
Several years before my Dad died in California, he sent me the following news article that amused him. It was from his local newspaper, the Bakersfield Californian:
Golfers deserve the stories told about them. Two days ago, a Rio Bravo Country Club golfer set fire to the dry grass in the rough from the exhaust on his gas golf cart (an electric cart won't pull that steep course). The flames roared and the smoke was great; the golfers called the fire department and then went right back to playing golf. The evening news television pictures showed them golfing with flames and smoke in the background.
Now you have to admit, that kind of focus and concentration on the task at hand is, no doubt, both admirable and laughable. Yet, for people who profess the love of something, that kind of focus is praiseworthy. Ask yourself, “Have I ever done anything silly for my family?” We all know the answer to that one!
For people who love Jesus Christ, their actions may look silly or downright comical to many in our world. Yet, as those who believe that in Jesus God gave us the power to conquer sin and death, nothing is out of the realm of possibility for us. For it is the love of God pulsing through us that guides our lives and actions.
Go! Be fools for Christ (1 Corinthians 4:10)—and God will bless us.
Sincerely, your friend, David Mosser
*This post was written prior to the winter storm and events of this past week.
Each year in the first week of February, the Boy Scouts of America celebrates its birthday. It’s a date officially known as Scouting Anniversary Day. When I was a kid, scouting meant a lot to me.
But this anniversary is more than an excuse to eat an extra s’more and commemorate another year of Scouting adventures. It’s also when packs, troops, crews and ships honor a Scout’s “duty to God.”
Through a trio of faith-based celebrations known as Scout Sunday, Scout Sabbath, and Scout Jumuah, young people give back to the chartered organizations that give them so much.
The exact dates vary, for example the United Methodist Church observes 14 February 2021 as Scout Sunday this year, but whenever we observe the day, it is an opportunity for Scouts to publicly demonstrate the 12th point of the Scout Law: “A Scout is Reverent.”
That might mean an act as simple as wearing the full field uniform to worship services (if we were able to meet face to face). It might mean participating in services by doing a reading, singing a song, or presenting religious emblems and awards to Scouts and Scouters. It might mean the scouts help with “drive by” communion. Or it might be something as grand as a service project to benefit our church or the community.
However, we choose to celebrate, it’s essential this year to do so safely. And so, in addition to sharing dates and information about Scout Sunday, Scout Sabbath and Scout Jumuah, I ask that we continue to pray for the many ways our church can reach young people for Christ. We are already in earnest prayer for our nation and world!!
[USA Today: 24 August 1996]
My dog and I love our veterinarian, Dr. Jon Kendall. So, when I ran across this item in my files, I thought this story was really great—in a bizarre sort of way! I hope Dr. Kendall never faces a patient like the one written about below. Also, a year ago, my son and I were in Australia and the story gave me pause—Sydney is one of the great cities of the world.
My brother in addition constantly reminds me that we are a nation of victims. Consequently, I was quite pleased to read that persons of other nations also see themselves as victims.
SYDNEY, Australia: A bird lover has filed a lawsuit against a veterinarian for ruining the sex life of his favorite parrot. Roger Schlup told the New South Wales District Court that he took his blue and gold South American macaw named Nelson to veterinarian Ross Perry with a broken right leg in 1994. He alleges that Perry somehow broke the bird's other leg during treatment and then failed to fix either properly. Schlup claims strong legs are essential for the macaws’ intricate mating ritual. Schlup said he now has no chance to breed the willing but unable Nelson and sell his offspring, and asked for $192,000 in damages.
In many people’s lives the easiest thing to do when something bad happens is to look around and find a scapegoat (see Leviticus 16:20, 22). We can easily blame our parents, the schools, the government, your unrighteous next-door neighbor, your fifth-grade teacher, the stock market, Mrs. Baird’s bread, the gene pool, etc. . . . (you get the idea!). In blaming so, we thereby escape personal responsibility for the life God has given you. This life is one God gives us to steward as part of the Divine’s tender mercies (Luke 1:78).
This “blame game” is not a Christian way of living. As we near the season of Lent, it is a perfect liturgical time to take stock of our lives. This means that we confess our sins and transgressions. We take responsibility for our actions and the actions of our community. This is why the prayers of confession, both individual and corporate, are at the heart of our worship. In order to receive God’s grace, we must first confess the need, then we receive grace as a gift from God—not something we either earn or deserve. This recognition is the beginning of a mature faith.
Doris Mortman once wrote, “Until you make peace with who you are, you’ll never be content with what you have.” I can’t say as I have ever heard of Doris, but I think I would enjoy visiting with her. When Paul wrote out of deep gratitude to the church at Philippi, here is one of the things he wrote:
“I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In
any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. In any case, it was kind of you to share my distress”
It takes a great deal of integrity to finally be able to acknowledge who we are. Of course, that does not mean we stop trying to grow or do what Wesley urged when he wrote and spoke of “going on to perfection”—that is “being made perfect in love in this life.” The integrity comes by finally and simply making a stake in life that says “I stand for these things.”
In this vein, as we have dipped our toes into a new year and strive to be what God created us to be, Socrates’ words have a ring of helpful truth about them: “The way to gain a good reputation is to endeavor to be what you desire to appear.”
Not long ago one of my colleagues telephoned with a question. She called because she knows that I know probably too many preachers. She wanted to know someone who could preach a first-rate set of sermons for a clergy gathering. After tossing out six or seven names of those whom I considered to be top-quality preachers, both men and women, she rapidly dismissed each one. She exasperated me. So, out of annoyance, I asked, “What is wrong with these names?”
Then she came clean. “I’m sorry,” she said, “none of these names is famous enough.” It struck me as odd. Can you imagine that Paul or John Chrysostom or Peter Cartwright or Charles Haddon Spurgeon or John Wesley, or Martin Niemöller would have not had enough of a reputation to elicit a preaching invitation? In our twenty-first century sometimes, what is most essential is the status of the presenter rather than the competency or faithfulness. Perhaps, it is really all about celebrity.
For this reason, we should appreciate the scores of preachers who labor under relative anonymity and produce faithful sermons to feed their congregations each week. To them I say a grateful word of thanks. I find it a comfort to know that some of the best preachers in our country today are those persons of whom we have never heard—and likely never will. Yet the preaching task remains central regardless of notoriety or its absence.
Each pastor and each congregation have an exacting and sacred association that no others can imitate. I know that in fact, many pastors do everything else that they do (administration, pastoral care, fund raising, counseling, and so on) in order to preach God’s word.
Consequently, we trust that no authentic preacher will be so lifeless or lacking in zest as to let enticement for shortcuts weaken preaching's effectiveness. At the same time, the preaching task is so difficult we can never do it by ourselves.
Sincerely, your friend,
* Excerpted in part from: The Abingdon Preaching Annual 2013, edited by David N. Mosser ©2012 Abingdon Press.
My old friend/mentor, Dr. Thomas Lane Butts, Jr., from Monroeville, Alabama had much contact with the 1960s Civil Rights movement. Tom’s stories and insights are both memorable and notable. He regularly helps others learn about racism and offers means by which Christians may conquer it. Below, Tom writes about children and prejudice. For MLK, Jr. Day, I hope this speaks to you.
Ah, there is where it begins, my friends. I do not believe that children are by nature racist. They have to be taught. Oscar Hammerstein wrote a song in
1949 for the musical South Pacific entitled: “You’ve Got to Be Carefully
You’ve got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
Of people whose skin is a different shade.
You’ve got to be carefully taught.
You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate.
You’ve got to be carefully taught.
And we were!! At our house we got up early each morning, did our chores,
ate breakfast, and sat on the front porch and waited for the little yellow
school bus to come and take us to our nice brick school house in Repton,
Alabama. Each morning as we waited for the bus, a little group of African-
American children would walk past our house on the way to a ram-shackled
wooden school house some 3 miles past our house at Nichburg. We knew
that when they passed our house, they had already been walking for an
hour, and we knew that when we arrived at our nice school house eight
miles away, those children were still walking. They had little time to study
before starting the long trek back home.
My little sister, Janice, who was in the first grade, would say: "Why can’t
they ride with us to our school?" I never did hear anybody give her an
answer, anymore than saying: "You will understand when you grow up."
Her question haunted me. Children are not by nature prejudiced. They have
to be carefully taught. I grew up in a tightly segregated society where
racism was the norm—tlb.
I’ve always appreciated Tom Butts and all he has done for me. I pass his wisdom along to you because he has a lot to share.
Sincerely, your friend, David Mosser
About ten years ago Indiana Bishop Coyner wrote about some billboards in Indianapolis which suggested that “You don't need God.” I thought this spending of money for billboards wasted effort, as our culture already, for the most part, neglects God anyway. Yet, I thought Bishop Coyner’s response was helpful for those who have experienced life, love, peace, and compassion through our God-experience. Frankly, I don't know how people can go through times of illness like we are going through now without the loving prayer-filled support of a faith household. Here is the Bishop’s (not ours) response:
Yes, You Do Need God
Some folks launched a new billboard campaign in central Indiana. Carrying out this project is a group who wants to promote a secular view of life. They placed several large billboards around Indianapolis proclaiming, “You don’t need God to hope, to care, to love, to live.” One of the persons responsible for this campaign is quoted as saying, “People can live without God. Millions of us do so already. We need to discard once and for all the myth that one needs God in one’s life to be a caring, loving person.”
Really? Is that true? Do you believe that people can be loving and caring without some kind of religious foundation? Read more ...