Blog
May 4, 2017, 1:19 PM

Mother's and Fathers Day Considerations: Idols and Cats

By Rev. Ed Allen
Acts 17: 16-21
  
The Apostle Paul felt called to be a missionary to the Gentile world. In his mind the Faith Jesus brought was a faith for all people, not just for the Jews. So as soon as he could, he set out to take Jesus’ message of Hope and Faith to the Greek and Roman world.  He finally made his way to Athens, that ancient city of culture and learning, and as Paul wandered around the city streets, he was utterly amazed that the city was so full of idols.


Everywhere idols were erected to every known god … and just in case they had missed one – for some unknown reason – the Greeks had erected an idol, and on the alter had written “TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.”


Paul at least had an advantage over us. Many of the idols the Greeks worshiped in that day could be seen and had names. Our idols are often more subtle, but we must remember, what we have heard throughout life, and that is –that whatever we bow down before, has a tendency to become our God.


Whatever it is that takes priority in our lives has a tendency to become our idol. That alter on which I lay my time, my energy, my money, my love, becomes for me an idol and I don’t even realize it – until I am being chauffeured by it as it drives my life.


 And there, heading the list of the great commandments, stands that which constantly calls us into accountability:


        “AND GOD SPOKE THESE WORDS, SAYING,
                I AM THE LORD YOUR GOD,
                   WHO BROUGHT YOU OUT OF THE LAND OF EGYPT,
                      OUT OF THE HOUSE OF BONDAGE,
                         YOU SHALL HAVE NO OTHER GODS BEFORE ME”


But somehow our lives are far more complicated than life for Paul and that of the ancient Roman world – or so we think.  
        Yes, there are demands on us … but there were then, too…
              Yes, our world is competitive; it probably was then, too…
                    Yes, it takes hard work to get ahead; it probably did then, too

Look at your life, the stuff you’ve acquired, the places you’ve been and your work accomplishments --- important and often quite rewarding. When you put these down on paper they are impressive. But when talking to others about what is important in your life – do these accomplishments match what you say is important to you, and do they give you the greatest satisfaction?


Striking a balance between your everyday life – work and or study life,
Family life and Christian commitments is simply diversifying your life portfolio. To achieve the greatest satisfaction in life and the legacy you leave, you must balance your priorities across commitments to family, work, leisure activities, friendships, and Christian witness.


 When Leonard, a friend and City Manager, looks back on his life, he clearly sees the disastrous consequences his personal mismanagement had for his life outside of work. Leonard found himself so embroiled in late night council meetings and battles over city budgets that he lost his family. The trauma of it all brought him face to face with his workaholism. Today, Leonard realizes that although he owes a lot to his profession, he does not owe it his soul.


Unfortunately, there is so much pressure to achieve THE GOOD LIFE that in chasing it, we miss out on the important personal relationships, on the beauty of our faith, and the strength we will gain through active involvement in the ongoing life and future of the Christian Community that we know as Canfield Christian Church.


Sometimes we become so consumed chasing dollars to provide STUFF for what we mistakenly consider the GOOD LIFE that work becomes our idol – our God – and there are dangerous costs incurred. As a result, we ignore our families, our faith disciplines, our church, and find ourselves with little other interests. As he lay in his hospital bed, Norman began to see his life in a new perspective. Even though he had achieved work related successes, provided a home for his family, helped finance his children’s education (but in doing so missed out on much of their lives) he realized it was useless without his health, and solid relationships with his wife, his children, and his God – His Lord and Savior.


Don’t wait until you are suddenly at death’s door to discover you are outwardly solvent but inwardly and spiritually bankrupt. Take the risk – at any age – to discover and act on your real values as you either commit, or recommit, your time and energy in reaffirming your friendships, your family, your worship & service partnerships through Canfield Christian Church, your Christian commitments, and yourself.


Take time, this Mother's or Father’s Day, and each day, to reflect on some basic decisions about why you had children in the first place and what values you modeled for them and now encourage for your grandchildren. What kind of relationships are you willing to settle for and what legacy do you hope to pass on?


Did you have children to buy them the best life has to offer, and encourage the same drive in your children’s goals for their children … your grandchildren?


        OR WAS IT TO GROW AND SHARE WITH THEM,
                TO GUIDE THEM IN DEVELOPING MEANINGFUL LIVES
                        LIVES MODELED AROUND FAMILY AND CHRISTIAN VALUES


Do you remember Harry Chapin? Do you remember his song “The Cats In The Cradle” the one that was mentioned last week? It’s a haunting melody; with even more haunting words about a Father and his son ... it is a powerful message for each of us as parents, grandparents, and people considering the possibility of parenting at some future point in time. A message I consider each time I hear it. Let’s face it; parents have important roles in molding their family’s values, faith practices, and relationships.


 As you listen to the words, notice the idols the father bowed down before – and how those idols, his priorities, affected his son’s ultimate character. Here are the words:


        My child arrived just the other day;
        He came to the world in the usual way.
        But there were planes to catch and bills to pay;
        He learned to walk while I was away.
        And he was talkin’ ‘fore I knew it, and as he grew he’d say:
        “I’m gonna be like you, Dad, you know I’m gonna be like you.”


        And the cats in the cradle and the silver spoon,
        Little boy blue and the man in the moon.
        “When you commin’ home DAD ?”
                “I don’t know when,
                But we’ll get together then; you know we’ll have a good time then.”


        My son turned ten just the other day;
        He said, “Thanks for the ball, DAD, come on let’s play.
        Can you teach me to throw?”
        I said … “Not today, I got a lot to do.”
                He said, “That’s ok.”
        And he walked away, but his smile never dimmer; it said,
        I’m gonna be like him, yes, you know I’m gonna be like him.


        And the cats in the cradle and the silver spoon,
        Little boy blue and the man in the moon.
        “When you commin’ home DAD?”
                “I don’t know when,
                But we’ll get together then; you know we’ll have a good time then.”


        Well he came home from college just the other day;
        So much like a man I just had to say,
        “Son I’m proud of you; can you sit for a while?”
        He shook his head and said with a smile,
        “What I’d really like, DAD, is to borrow the car keys;
        See you later, can I have them please?”
        And the cats in the cradle and the silver spoon,
        Little boy blue and the man in the moon.
        “When you commin’ home DAD?”
                “I don’t know when,
                But we’ll get together then; you know we’ll have a good time then.”
        
        I’ve long since retired, my son’s moved away;
        I called him up just the other day.
        I said, “I’d like to see you if you don’t mind.”
        He said, “I’d love to, DAD, if I could find the time.
        You see my new jobs a hassle and the kids have the flu,
        But it’s sure nice talkin to you … DAD;
        It’s been sure nice talkin to you.”


        And as I hung up the phone it occurred to me,
        He’d grown up just like me; my boy was just like me.


        And the cats in the cradle and the silver spoon,
        Little boy blue and the man in the moon.
        “When you commin’ home SON?”
                “I don’t know when,
                But we’ll get together then - DAD -we’re gonna have a good time
                 then.”


 In Athens, Paul was “Exasperated beyond endurance at the sight of a city so completely idolatrous.” He knew there was only one power that could shatter all those false gods, and that was the power of God seen in the death and Resurrection of Jesus.


So it is today, in our cities, in our work life, with our idols --- but up against it all comes the call of Jesus: “I am the way, the truth, and the life …. Come follow me.”




April 16, 2017, 11:00 AM

Making All Things New

Easter Sunday

Making All Things New

Canfield Christian Church

Luke 24:1-12

Revelations 21:5

 

Includes The Ragman

By Walter Wangerin, Jr.

 

 

Did any of you see Mel Gibson’s 2004 movie, The Passion of Christ?

In the movie, Gibson restates the 5th verse from the 21st Chapter of Revelations, the words: “Behold I make all things new.” These words are inserted when Gibson depicts Jesus’ comments to His mother, Mary. Mary sees Jesus trip and fall as he trudges along carrying His cross. Crowds line the route, but Mary manages to reach Jesus and offers the comfort we seek when we too struggle. Her words: “I am here.” Three powerful words of comfort any of us long to here, or offer when all is not well.

 

In presenting the conversation between Jesus and His mother, Gibson modifies the Revelations verse as he shows Jesus offering comforting assurances related to what is about to unfold – Jesus’ words of assurance: “See, Mother, I make all things new.”

 

Have you considered that “making all things new” is consistent with Jesus’ life and mission, just as it is imbedded in His conversations with us; just as it was in His first meeting with Nicodemus?

 

Do you remember Jesus and Nicodemus discussing what He (Nicodemus) must do to develop the type of relationship with God that will lead him to seeing the Kingdom of God.

 

Jesus essentially tells Nicodemus that no one can see the Kingdom of God without being born again: without dying to self on Good Friday and being made “new again” through Jesus’ resurrection to new life on Easter morning.

 

Nicodemus was told that he, as we often must do. Must shed those things, those habits and desires, that kept him from following Jesus and His teachings so that he (Nicodemus) could turn his life around and be made new again – be born again - and follow a new direction with Jesus.

 

Another story of God’s turning situations around and making all thigs new again is what perplexed the women when they discovered the empty tomb on Easter morning.

 

Luke and the other Gospel writers present the story: “On the first day of the week …” is the way Luke puts it. Sunday! Three days after Good Friday! Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and other women went to the tomb to anoint the body of a dead man - Jesus of Nazareth.

 

But God had moved in and the women were met by two angels, dressed in shining clean garments. The angels asked them the basic question: “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but He has risen.” Essentially saying: “God has made Him new again.”

 

Wangerin is a Lutheran Pastor wrote a little story titled: The Ragman! The Ragman! The Christ! In his story, Wangerin expresses the work of Christ.

 

Now, for a little background about the imagery Wangerin uses: At one time, Ragmen, were homeless street people. They pushed carts much as our street people push shopping carts around to collect stuff. Ragmen picked through the city’s trash and gathered stuff that could be recycled or sold: discarded glass, copper, newspapers, or a child’s toy.


Wangerman writes:

“I stumbled upon a story most strange, like nothing in my life, my street senses, or my sly tongue had ever prepared me for.”

“Before the dawn one Friday morning, I noticed a young man, handsome and strong, walking the alleys of our city.”

“He was pulling an old cart, filled with clothes both bright and new, and he was calling in a clear, tenor voice: ‘Rags!’ Ah, the air was foul and the first light filthy to be crossed by such sweet music.”

"Rags! New rags for old, I'll take your tired, rags! Rags!"

“’Now this is a wonder,’” I thought to myself, for the man stood six feet-four, and his arms were like tree limbs. They were hard and muscular, and his eyes flashed intelligence.”

“Could he find no better job than being a ragman in the inner city?”

“I followed him. My curiosity drove me. And I wasn’t disappointed.”

“Soon the Ragman saw a woman sitting on her back porch. She was sobbing into a handkerchief, sighing and shedding a thousand tears. Her knees and elbows made a sad X. Her shoulders shook. Her heart was breaking.”

“The Ragman stopped his cart. Quietly he walked to the woman, stepping around tin cans, dead toys, and soiled Pampers. ‘Give me your rag’ he said so gently, ‘and I’ll give you another.’”

 

“He slipped the handkerchief from her eyes. She looked up, and he laid across her palm a linen cloth so clean and new that it shined. She blinked from the gift to the giver.”

“Then as he began to pull his cart again, the Ragman did a strange thing: he put her stained handkerchief to his own face; and then HE began to weep, to sob as grievously as she had done, his shoulders shaking. Yet she was left without a tear.”

“He pulled his cart and shouted: ‘Rags! Rags! New rags for old!’"

“’This IS a wonder, I breathed to myself, and I followed the sobbing ragman like a child who cannot turn away from a mystery. And his chant continued: "Rags! Rags! New rags for old!"

“In a little while when the sky showed gray behind the roof tops and I could see shredded curtains hanging out of black windows, the Ragman came upon a little girl whose head was wrapped in a bandage. Her eyes were empty. A single line of blood ran down her cheek and soaked her bandage.”

“Now that tall Ragman looked upon this child with pity, and he drew a lovely yellow bonnet from his cart. ‘Give me your rag, and I'll give you mine.’ The child could only gaze at him while he loosened the bandage, removed it and tied it to his own head.”

“The bonnet he set on her head. And I gasped at what I saw; for with the bandage went the wound! Against his brow ran a darker, more substantial flow of blood – his own blood!”

"Rags, rags! I take old rags!" cried the sobbing, bleeding, strong, intelligent Ragman.”

 

“The sun hurt both the sky, now, and my eyes; the Ragman seemed more and more in a hurry.”

“‘Are you going to work?’ He asked a man who leaned against a telephone pole. The man shook his head. The ragman pressed him. ‘Do you have a job?’”

"‘Are you crazy?’ sneered the other. He pulled away from the pole, revealing that the right sleeve of his jacket - flat, the cuff stuffed into the pocket. He had no arm.”

"‘So,’ said the Ragman. ‘ Give me your jacket, and I'll give you mine.’ Such quiet authority in his voice!”

“The one-armed man took off his jacket; so did the Ragman - and I trembled at what I saw: the Ragman's arm stayed in his jacket sleeve, and when the other put it on, he had two good arms, thick as tree limbs; but the Ragman had only one. ‘Go to work’ the Ragman said.”

“After that he found a drunk, lying unconscious beneath an old army blanket; an old man, hunched, wizening, and sick. The Ragman took that blanket and wrapped it around himself, but for the drunk, he left new clothes.”

 

“And now I had to run to keep up with the Ragman. Though he was weeping uncontrollably, and bleeding freely at the forehead, pulling his cart with one arm, stumbling for drunkenness, falling again and again, exhausted, old, old, and sick, yet he went with terrible speed.”

“On spider’s legs he skirted through the alleys of the city, this mile and the next, until he came to the city’s edge and then he rushed beyond.”

“I wept to see the change in this man. I hurt to see his sorrow. And yet I needed to see where he was going with such haste, perhaps to know what drove him so.”

“The little old Ragman – he came to a landfill. He came to the garbage pits. And then I wanted to help him in what he did, but I hung back, hiding.”

“He climbed a hill. With tormented labor he cleared a little space on that hill. Then he sighed. He lay down. He pillowed his head on a handkerchief and jacket. He covered his bones with an old army blanket … And he died.”

(Pause and think)

“Oh, how I cried to witness his death! I slumped in a junked car and wailed and mourned as one who has no hope - because I had come to love the Ragman.”

“Every other face had faded in the wonder of this man, and I cherished him; but he died. I sobbed myself to sleep.”

 

“But then, on Sunday morning, I was awakened by a violence. Light pure, hard, demanding light - slammed against my sour face, and I blinked, and I looked and I saw the last and the first wonder of all.”

“There was the Ragman, folding the blanket most carefully, a scar on his forehead, but alive! And besides that, healthy!”

“There was no sign of sorrow, nor of age, and all the rags that he had gathered shined for cleanliness.”

“Well, I was in awe of the transformation before me, and I was humbled. Then I lowered my head, and trembling for all that I had seen, I myself walked up to the Ragman.”

“I told him my shame, and that I was a sorry figure next to him. Then I took off all my clothes in that place, and I said to him with dear yearning in my voice, ‘Dress me’"

“He dressed me. My Lord, He put new rags on me, and now I am a wonder beside Him. The Ragman, The Ragman, The Risen Christ!”

The Ragman, by Walter Wangerin, Jr.


Do you remember the prophet Isaiah writing about the coming of the Messiah and describing Him by saying: “Surely He has born our griefs and suffered for our transgressions, and by His wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:4-5)

 

Did you notice how the Ragman bore each person’s griefs; how he took their wounds, their weaknesses and their imperfections upon himself - and by doing so he restored that person to wholeness – he made them new again.

 

For us the thrust of the Easter message is that resurrection, eternal life, new beginnings, can start right here – right now - in the present when you open your life and seriously, joyfully, welcome Jesus in.

 

When you shed the soiled clothes of your past shortcomings and say with sincere yearning in your voice: "Dress me. Jesus, dress me with your rags."

 

And our resurrected Lord will dress you. Jesus will dress you as He prepares you to be born again by following Him. He will wash your feet, and all of you. He will put new rags on you. And you will be a wonder following and serving beside him: The Ragman, The Ragman, The Risen Christ!”




November 29, 2016, 12:00 AM

A Christmas Invitation

A Christmas Invitation
(Psalm 25:1-10)

 

By Rev. Ed Allen

 

Do you remember growing up with a “Day’s Until Christmas Calendar” on the refrigerator? Perhaps it was a secular form of the Advent Wreath & Candles. Actually, the calendar posted on our refrigerator and the advent wreath in worship each have something in common: they are both invitations to get ready.

Our text from the 25th Psalm reminds us that God really is in charge of this whole universe; and He choose to reach into the center of our lives and make a statement of unconditional love and intense caring for the whole bunch of us busy or not.

They become our invitation to live the next month and the rest of our lives with the understanding that God’s love will sustain as we travel, with Him, to meet the Baby Jesus – and welcome this gift of life into our lives.

Christmas is an invitation to show consistent love to every part of your family. And why? Because God has shown us what love is --- and not to love them because they deserve it but because God loves each and every one of us enough to look past our imperfections and see the stunning crown of God’s creation; a crown that shines with the message that every one of us is a child of God. Now, when you love each other as a child of God, you actually love them with the love of Christmas. That’s the Christmas invitation.

The Christmas invitation is an invitation to remember that our purpose is to build a future where Peace On Earth And Goodwill To All is far more enduring than a Hallmark Christmas card greeting.

Here’s the simplified message: “God loves you and me so much that in the fullness of time, God choose to take on physical form and be born as a baby. That’s the story as we tell it every year. God decided that the only way to reach into the human heart was to put on skin and take on the burden that so often confuses and complicates our earthly journey.

November 27, 2016

Canfield Christian Church




June 13, 2016, 12:00 AM

The People Who Lived in The Middle Of June


By Rev. Ed Allen

 

Living in the middle of June - half way between Memorial Day and the Fourth of July – affords opportunities to reflect on sacrifices made on our behalf as we prepare for the grand celebration of your freedoms and my freedoms as Americans.

Memorial Day, at Canfield Christian Church, honored our veterans and active service members. These important individuals are giving the personal dedication that protects who we are as Americans and why we can light the night sky in celebrating on the Fourth.

As you journey from Memorial Day to the Fourth of July, please think about the sacrifices so many made –and are making - for the sake of our freedom. Throughout June, reflect on opportunities you enjoy because others sacrificed on your behalf, and consider your individual commitments in protecting the freedoms we enjoy.

A most important freedom is serving and worshiping God. We must never take this lightly, or minimize our opportunities to experience God’s blessing as a community of faith. When we push our faith practices toward the “back burner” in our life priorities we diminish all that comes with Freedom of Religion.

We are compelled to actively engage in regular faith disciplines of study, worship, and service so that we cause others to join us in our faith journey. By doing so we are not only responding to Jesus' call that we make disciples -- we are strengthening our lives and perpetuating our religious freedoms.

Accept the challenge for this month of June to lead you to experience the beauty of God’s presence in your life. And as you do so reflect on the sacrifices involved in protecting and preserving your opportunities to worship and serve our Lord and Savior.

This month, look into your memories of people who served, or are serving on our behalf. As you recall their commitments, try to look with the eyes of the one who spoke about finding our lives by giving our lives to others for the sake of love. Let's take a better look, a longer look, a Jesus look.

We look forward to your participation with us at 10:30, each Sunday, as we thank God for the many blessings He provides.




April 17, 2016, 12:00 AM

An Easter to Pentecost Meditation: The Power of the Spirit

by Rev. Ed Allen

And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 He said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?” 27 So he answered and said, “‘you
shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your
mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’” 28 And He said to him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will
live.

             Luke 10:25-28
 

MEDITATION:
The power of the Spirit is likely experienced through our call to love in good times and when current
challenges may lead to the cynicism, emptiness, and lack of direction or purpose.
Cynicism invokes the kind of spiritual questioning Jesus encountered from the “Certain Lawyer” challenging
Him on inheriting Eternal Life. Perhaps the question suggests a failure to understand Jesus’ modeling the
fullness of life by being “all in” when loving God, ourselves, and our neighbor.
Jesus suggests that we begin by linking ourselves to something so great, so compelling and so full of joy,
that our lives become infected by love and serving. Such was the situation as Jesus consistently conveyed the
message that there was but one law by which God wanted us live: Love one another!
The message is clear! Jesus’ example compels us to realize that through my act of loving, and your act of
loving, we overcome obstacles on this life journey and experience the Spirit of love descending on us.
The “Certain Lawyer” presents a progression to a promise for living. It commences when I seek to love you
a little more and you strive to love others a little more; and we love one another a little more; and the circle of
life includes the not particularly enjoyable neighbor who always needs something; or the older adult who
faces uncertainty about future living options, or the person limited by disabilities, or …
And that’s it! That’s what is written about inheriting Eternal Life … and that’s how we need to live and how
we are called to love! Give it a try. God is love and when our lives model love, the Spirit is upon us.


PRAYER:
Our Loving and eternal God, your messages of hope arrive in numerous forms that include people you place
in our lives. We realize that at times you call us to provide the love and compassion that presents your Hope …
and at other times you place people in our lives so that your we receive hope through their acts of love. We
give you thanks for opportunities to give and receive the love that invokes hope while your Spirit moves among
us … and we seek your wisdom in understanding where and how we are called to respond as givers and
receivers.
As seek to be filled with your renewing spirit, may we be open to opportunities for acting in such a way that
our examples reveal your love. In Christ’s name we give thanks.

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