Saturday, December 25, 2010

This Amazing Gift

a parable

Imagine, if you will, receiving from your parents an unexpected gift. A gift that you, by no means, ever asked for, nor said that you wanted. Yet, your parents gave it to you anyway, and you accepted it with great joy.
You played, with great excitement, with this amazing gift, finding new and more delightful uses for it with each passing day. Perplexed by the magnificent qualities that this gift possessed. Such fragile form for so sturdy a substance, strangely simple and curiously complex. It was all such a wonder to you.
Everyday was a new adventure for you with this remarkable trinket. All the world lay open to you, the wild imaginings of one so enthralled by such a beautiful bauble. You awoke each day with a radiant smile, bright enough to eclipse the rising sun. When you slept, you dreamt of glorious escapades with your treasure, your prize. The key to all the wonders that the universe held was in your possession, even in your right hand.
As time went by, eventually, you began to lose interest in your present. The luster having faded, the glow it once held now a mere reflection of what light it was held in. Finding less surprise in it, only savoring the memories of when it was new. Seeing less shine to it than any of those memories could recall. Becoming discontent with it almost to the point of disgust. Looking at it now serving only to remind you that it was no longer the object of great joy that it once was. So you placed it on a shelf where it silently stayed, collecting dust. Seldom looking at it for the fear of the pain that may come to mind of strange innocence lost.
Then one day, as if by chance, you glance at it. A glimmer.
"What was that I just saw?".
So, turning to face it, for the first time in a great while, you discover something that might be of use. You realize that your gift has been broken. Strange that you never noticed it before. How long has it been this way? Could it be that this was why you lost that thrill of playing with your gift? Oh, let it be so.
So you take your present from the shelf and carefully dust it off, hoping to find some clue as to what happened to it. You set yourself to repair this once cherished and prized possession. But all of your clumsy fumbling and your impatience only frustrates you further. The pain returns.
Then, out of the clear blue sky, it occurs to you.
"Perhaps I can find someone who can repair it. Maybe the One who made it."
A spark of hopeful enthusiasm flashes across your heart. Hope springs... if only for a moment.
So you take your gift to the Shopkeeper where your parents found it and you walk into the shop, apprehensive at the thought that the Man behind the counter may not be able to fix it. Your fears are quieted by the display of wondrous gifts that the Shopkeeper has on His shelves.
“Maybe, just maybe, He will be able to fix it.”
You stand watching Him tinker with some item behind His counter, barely noticing you, yet completely aware of your every move.
You approach Him with caution, as if He were a beast of some renown, a legendary monster whose only lot in life was the destruction of those who came to annoy Him. You try to muster some semblance of strength by which to speak, your mouth so suddenly dry and sour. You shamble a half pace closer to His workbench, each step requiring every ounce of your concentration.
He stands abruptly. The sudden shock of this seemingly old Man and the quickness with which He moves, shakes you to your soul. You want to hide from Him, but you know that it's too late now.
"Dear, Child! I've been waiting for you!" His exclamation sends a shudder through you as if thunder itself had spoken your name.
"Waiting for me? He doesn't even know me." you think to yourself.
"Come, let me see what you've got there." He says with an outstretched hand.
You dread giving this once precious gift to this Stranger, but you really have no choice. Your hand trembles as you reach out to the Shopkeeper, His eyes gazing deeply into your soul. You begin to pull back, the pain of knowing just how broken your prize is. Then you notice a smile on the Shopkeepers face. A look of confidence that bolsters your weary heart. He knows that you will give it to Him. He is patient enough to wait another moment if needed. One more moment is nothing to Him.
You resign yourself to His expertise. He takes your gift and looks it over. There's no obvious determination to His expression. He turns it this way and that, holding it up to the light to see more than you could ever know of it. He notices your nervous pacing as you wait for His diagnosis.
"I don't remember giving it away like this." He says with a curious grin.
"It's broken. I don't know how it happened. Can you fix it?" Your voice a quivering whisper.
"Of course, I can fix it." He says. "When I've finished it will be like new... even better." there was no hint of boastful pride in His remark, just a simple statement of fact.
As He sets to working on your gift, He starts to ask you questions about it. The two of you converse, as if you were old friends getting reacquainted. In an odd way, you feel safe discussing it with Him, the glory days of your time with this amazing gift. He begins to show you the various dents and dings that you've managed to inflict on your prize, not to make accusations, only to inform you. Taking time to tell you how to avoid such problems in the future.
When He finally finishes with your gift, He polishes it up and hands it back to you. Startled by the restored shine and wonder, you ponder whether He didn't switch your beaten trinket with one of the others in the shop. It was beautiful once again.
"How much do I owe you?", you ask, afraid that it will cost you more than you have, or could afford.
He shakes His head and smiles at you. "Oh, There’s no charge for this. It‘s already been taken care of."
The weight of what He has just said stuns you.
"You can see my Son about the warranty." He says, pointing to an office on His right side. An office you hadn't noticed to this point.
You walk with a spring in your step that you haven't had in a long time. You approach the door only to be greeted by a younger version of the older Man behind the counter.
"All of the work is in order." He declares boldly. "I've taken care of everything."
"There are things about your gift that you've never discovered. We can show you how to use them all. So, come by, or call on Us occasionally for tips and pointers." He pauses for a brief moment before going on. "...And, about those things My Father showed you, try to avoid doing them again. They're still covered, and you can always bring it back if something happens, or even if something doesn't. But for all the love We put into these presents, it hurts Us when people don't take care of them, or use them properly."
You extend your hand to the younger Man, noticing a peculiar scar on His wrist as He shakes it.
"Curious.", you think to yourself. As you turn to leave, you look back over your shoulder.
"Be sure to tell all of your friends about Us. They may have some gift that needs repaired as well." They said together.
"That, I most certainly will do."

Michael +

May you all enjoy God's blessings on this Holiday. Merry Christmas.

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Friday, December 24, 2010


Well, it's Christmas Eve (and, yes, I'm maintaining my tradition of re-posting my Christmas posts from earlier years) and I've been taking time this year to reflect even more deeply on just what Christmas is all about. Have you?
Yes, Christmas is about traditions and family and being together to celebrate the things which we hold dear. And it is especially about our celebration of faith in Christ. But lest we forget just why Jesus was born into this fallen world; it was for our Redemption.
As I said, I've been reflecting on Christmas lately and I've noticed something this year that I missed before. The redemption story is what really strikes a chord in all of us at this time of year. As I've sat and watched numerous Christmas specials and movies, I've seen it much more clearly this year than ever before.
Every Christmas show or movie that we know and love is all about the redemption of one of the main characters. Of course, A Christmas Carol is probably the most significant one. Consider how many times it's been done and re-done with a new twist, or adapted to reflect popular culture. The tale is always the same. The self-involved "scrooge" sees just how wretched they are and their life is turned around by the spirit(s) of Christmas. And I believe people respond to this because we all want to have that kind of hope. We all want that redemption, even if we're not sure if, or why, we need it.
And I've been seeing the redemption story in every Christmas special I've watched so far. Think about it...
Rudolph: Rudoplph is redeemed when he realizes he can't run from his problems forever. When he finds the courage to face his "uniqueness" he becomes a hero. As a result, everybody else is redeemed when they see how wrong they were about him.
And let's not forget about all of the misfit toys who end up with children who love them because of Rudolph!
Santa Claus is Coming To Town: The Winter Warlock, whose icey heart is melted by the kindness of Kris Kringle.
Year Without a Santa Claus: Santa himself is redeemed when every child in the world agrees that he deserves a day off.
Little Drummer Boy: He's an angry kid who hates the world for the way it's treated him. But when Aaron meets Jesus, he is changed forever.
The Grinch: Need I say anything about this one?
I could go on, but I hope you get the point by now.
I guess what I'm saying is this; when we consider the reason why Jesus was born, it becomes clear that even in celebrating His birth, we recognize just what it is about Him that draws us to love this time of year. Because it's at this time of year that our redemption truly draws near to us.
Have a Merry Christmas!

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The Gospel According to Jack Skellington

Originally posted on 12/24/08:

This is the sermon I gave at both services. I hope you all enjoy it.

Good morning. I want to start by thanking P.Dave, and all of you, for the confidence to trust me with today's message. I'll try not to disappoint you.

As P.Dave mentioned, the title of today's sermon is The Gospel According to Jack. So, allow me to introduce all of you to Jack.

I don't suppose I have to tell anyone that Jack Skellington isn't really an apostle. But I still think we can learn something from the story he tells.
As I'm sure you've all noticed, Jack lives in a rather dark and colorless world. it's a place of fright and gloom. But since this is normal for his world, nobody ever considers that something might be amiss. Yet, for some odd reason, Jack knows that there is.
It's kinda like our own world. We live in a world full of crime and injustice. We have poor and needy everywhere. And we have sickness and disease. So we're never really surprised to hear about these things happening in our world, whether it be to someone around the corner, or someone on the other side of the world. We've gotten used to hearing about these things. But still, we know that our world shouldn't be like this. And Jack knows that's true, too.
You see, Jack wonders about it since he sees something wrong in his own life. He tells us in his song that he knows that he's the very best at what it is that he does. And what he does is scare people. Well, in a dark and dismal world of perpetual Halloween, this is normal. But in spite of being the very best at what he does, Jack is not satisfied with his life. In spite of all of the fame and the praise of all his peers, Jack is unfulfilled. He is longing for something more. That's what he's searching for. And he's about to stumble upon something.

Jack has discovered Christmas!
In his wanderings Jack has stumbled upon Christmas. It's a world of bright lights and dazzling colors. And Jack suddenly feels something inside that he's been missing for more years than he can recall. It invigorates him, and excites him. So much so that he decides to take over. He kidnaps Santa Claus and tries to take his place for the year. But Jack isn't Santa, so the whole thing turns into a fiasco.
Sounds like a lot of us, doesn't it? We try our best to do everything we can, in our own power, only to watch things fall apart at the seams. And even when we let God have control of our situations, we can't resist trying to make things work out by ourselves.
We have this tendancy to forget that while God is always willing to use us, when we're willing to be used, He doesn't actually allow us to do anything. He will work in others who are near us, He will work in circumstances around us, and He will do things through us. But we have to remember that He is the one doing the work - we are simply the tool. And like most tools, we are meant for specific jobs, specific purposes. And when we don't pay attention to what God wants to use us for, and we try to go it alone, things go wrong. When we try to do the job on our own, it never works out.

You see, Jack was trying to be Santa Claus, trying to do Santa's job. But Jack is no Santa Claus, so he failed at it, and miserably so. He left Christmas in ruins for children everywhere. Then he finally comes to the realization that there's only one who can really fix the mess that he's made.

Jack has finally come to his senses that Christmas isn't his thing. Scaring people is what he does, and he's good at it. But Christmas belongs to Santa. And, since Santa - being a character based upon a real saint - is a representation of Christ, we see that only Santa can fix the mess that Jack has made. And that is us all over. Or, at least, that's me all over
I'm reminded of one of my favorite passages of scripture; Romans 7:21-25

"I have discovered this principle of life - that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God's law with all my heart. But there is another power within me at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is; In my mind I really want to obey God's law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin."

Sometimes we forget Who we serve, and we make mistakes. I know that there is a calling on my life. I know I serve some greater purpose in God's plan. But it certainly isn't to be a pastor. But I'm thankful that P.Dave recognizes my calling, and my ability to have something worth sharing every once in awhile. And as long as I'm walking in that purpose, and allowing God to work through me, God will watch out for me. It's when I try to take matters into my own hands that things get messy.
But it's OK to mess up once in awhile. We're all bound to do it. But thank God that when we do mess up, He's always there waiting to fix things for us.

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Sunday, December 05, 2010

Quote for 12/05/10

"My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others. Come to think of it, why do we have to wait for Christmas to do that?"
Bob Hope


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