Greater Than Galaxies

29 11 2015

15-066

 

The night,

It feels as cold as the near-desert day was hot.

Yet the sky blazes with light

The darkness of blackness cannot blot:

Dots of white silver bright,

Each still and silent to my short sight.

With the prophet poets of old I myself again ask,

“How long, O Lord? How long?”

And then, at long last,

With speed comes the shout,

As stars suddenly startle with lightning:

“To God, Glory in the highest!

Upon earth, peace!

Among men, good will!”

There!

As small as the star seen farthest in the firmament,

Into the village of David the prophet poet king,

Comes the Creator King of all

Large and small

In heaven and on earth:

Greater than galaxies,

The very Sun of Righteousness

Rising with healing in His wings!

“Let us go… and see….”

D.Raymond-Wryhte

 

References

Luke 2: 8-18

John 1:1-5

Colossians 1:15-20

Psalm 6:3

Psalm 13:1-2

Psalm 74:9

Psalm 79:5

Psalm 80:4

Psalm 89:46

Psalm 90:13

Psalm 94:3

Jeremiah 12:4

Habbakuk 1:2

Malachi 4:2

Psalm 19:1-14

(Photograph courtesy of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration of the United States of America.)

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The Proclamation of Thanksgiving and Praise

24 11 2015

Washington, D.C.
October 3, 1863

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

William H. Seward,
Secretary of State





Life Together

25 08 2015

The pastor of the church I attended while a student at university often mentioned the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. This charismatic Swedish Covenant pastor spoke of the ecumenical German Lutheran pastor with so much respect that I decided to buy some of Bonhoeffer’s books.  These included The Cost of Discipleship, Ethics, Letters & Papers from Prison, and Life Together.

Decades have passed. Recently, I was inspired to pull that last one listed from the shelf and take a new look at it. Even though the book was first published in English by Harper & Row in 1954, reading it anew in 2015 has been a renewing experience.

As the blurb on the back of the Harper Jubilee edition says, “This story of a unique fellowship in an underground seminary during the Nazi years reads like one of Paul’s letters. It gives practical advice on how life together in Christ can be sustained in families and groups. The role of personal prayer, worship in common, everyday work, and Christian service is treated in simple, almost Biblical, words. Life Together is bread for all who are hungry for the real life of Christian fellowship.”

Many fine Christian scholars over the years have taught that, in this Age of the Church (which is also called the Age of Grace), the office of prophet is performed by those who preach and teach the Bible. In Pastor Bonhoeffer’s case, that title is indeed befitting. He really does sound like a New Testament apostle speaking with the authority and accuracy of an Old Testament prophet. In this epistle on how to be a church, and how to do church, Bonhoeffer’s words become, in those of an earlier minister of the Gospel, “quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”

This is due in great part to Bonhoeffer’s reverence for the Word: Christ Jesus the Word of the Triune God, and the words spoken and written by the prophets and apostles on behalf of the Triune God. As Bonhoeffer insists, not a person and not an assembly can be any good in the Church of our Savior and Lord Christ Jesus without centering in thought, speech, and action on the Word.

“The Christian lives wholly by the truth of God’s Word in Jesus Christ. If somebody asks him, Where is your salvation, your righteousness? he can never point to himself.  He points to the Word of God in Jesus Christ, which assures him salvation and righteousness. He is as alert as possible to the Word. Because he daily hungers and thirsts for righteousness, he daily desires the redeeming Word. And it can come only from the outside. In himself he is destitute and dead. Help must come from the outside, and it has come and comes daily and anew in the Word of Jesus Christ, bringing redemption, righteousness, innocence, and blessedness.

“But God has put this Word into the mouth of men in order that it may be communicated to other men. When one person is struck by the Word, he speaks it to others. God has willed that we should seek and find His living Word in the witness of a brother, in the mouth of man. Therefore, the Christian needs another Christian who speaks God’s Word to him. He needs him again and again when he becomes uncertain and discouraged, for by himself he cannot help himself without belying the truth. He needs his brother man as a bearer and proclaimer of the divine word of salvation.”

Bonhoeffer presupposes this occurs in church … that is, within what we typically designate as church: services and ceremonies both formal and informal conducted inside ecclesiastical buildings.  But Bonhoeffer has other assemblies in mind, too, such as monasteries and convents, communes, families and households.  As Jesus Himself said, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

And Bonhoeffer has much to say to individuals. “We recognize, then, that only as we are within the fellowship can we be alone, and only he that is alone can live in fellowship. Only in fellowship do we learn to be rightly alone and only in aloneness do we learn to live rightly in fellowship. Each by itself has profound pitfalls and perils. One who wants fellowship without solitude plunges into the void of words and feelings, and one who seeks solitude without fellowship perishes in the abyss of vanity, self-infatuation, and despair.”

Life Together is not one of those books to be skimmed and then cast amid the jetsam navigated by garage sailors. Read it and read it again. The book is worthy of the kind of meditation encouraged by Bonhoeffer.

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Holy Water

16 08 2015
Holy Water

Holy Water

 

“Truly, truly I say to you, unless someone is born of water and spirit, he is not able to enter into the kingdom of God.”

Jesus the Nazarene





A Child’s Prayer

13 12 2014

Gentle Jesus, meek and mild,
Look upon a little child;
Pity my simplicity,
Suffer me to come to Thee.

Fain I would to Thee be brought,
Dearest God, forbid it not;
Give me, dearest God, a place
In the Kingdom of Thy grace.

Put Thy hands upon my head,
Let me in Thine arms be stayed,
Let me lean upon Thy breast,
Lull me, lull me, Lord to rest.

Hold me fast in Thine embrace,
Let me see Thy smiling face,
Give me, Lord, Thy blessings give,
Pray for me, and I shall live.

Lamb of God, I look to Thee,
Thou shalt my example be;
Thou art gentle, meek, and mild,
Thou wast once a little child.

Fain I would be as Thou art,
Give me Thy obedient heart;
Thou art pitiful and kind,
Let me have Thy loving mind.

Let me, above all, fulfil
God my heavenly Father’s will,
Never His good Spirit grieve;
Only to His glory live.

Thou didst live to God alone,
Thou didst never seek Thine own,
Thou Thyself didst never please:
God was all Thy happiness.

Loving Jesus, gentle Lamb,
In Thy gracious hands I am;
Make me, Saviour, what Thou art,
Live Thyself within my heart.

I shall then show forth Thy praise,
Serve Thee all my happy days;
Then the world shall always see
Christ, the Holy Child, in me.

 

Charles Wesley’s poem hearkens further back to a brief story contained in the New Testament. Here it is, as presented in one of the three Gospels that record it:

 

Mark 10:13-16  Lexham English Bible (LEB)

 And they were bringing young children to him so that he could touch them, but the disciples rebuked them.  But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant, and said to them, “Let the young children come to me. Do not forbid them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.  Truly I say to you, whoever does not welcome the kingdom of God like a young child will never enter into it.”  And after taking them into his arms, he blessed them, placing his hands on them.

Wesley’s poem also hearkens to a brief, but potent teaching contained in three of the four Gospels. Here is one rendering:

Matthew 18:1-4  Lexham English Bible (LEB)

At that time the disciples came up to Jesus, saying, “Who then is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”  And calling a child to himself, he had him stand in their midst and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you turn around and become like young children, you will never enter into the kingdom of heaven! Therefore whoever humbles himself like this child, this person is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

(2012 by Logos Bible Software. Lexham is a registered trademark of Logos Bible Software)

What Jesus is saying in His teaching is that a person must recognize his/her utter dependence on God the Heavenly Father. The human being is as dependent upon God as a little child is dependent upon his/her father and mother. A child may tell his parents, “I want my own way,” or “I can do it myself,” or more simply, “No!” But doing so is folly; it is foolish and as deadly as letting a child play with matches or a loaded gun or sharp knives.

Note: childlike does not mean

  • naïve,
  • simplistic,
  • ignorant,
  • uneducated,
  • unsophisticated,
  • juvenile,
  • gullible,
  • immature, and/or
  • puerile

 

Childlike does mean

  • trusting and
  • guileless

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Across the Abyss

31 10 2014

Dives could afford colored flaxen clothing, garments made with purple only people of the highest rank could possess. He could help himself to sumptuous, gourmet meals three and four times a day.

Eleazar, sickly and desperately poor, could help himself to nothing, and he was thus given the nickname Lazarus. Left at the back gate of the Dives mansion, he begged to share the rich man’s garbage with the pariah dogs.

As it does for all of us, the time came for each of those two to die.

Angels escorted Eleazar to Paradise, where the Patriarch Abraham welcomed him.

Dives found himself lost to the Pit. Allowed to perceive an appearance of Eleazar in the embrace of Abraham at an eternal distance, Dives screamed, “Father! Father Abraham! How can it be that I am here and not there? Am I not your son, too? And a better one?”

“Son,” said Abraham, “does this long-standing Word sound at all familiar? ‘For the poor shall never cease out of the land. Therefore I command thee: thou shalt in thy land open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy.’

“And this Word? ‘He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the Lord; that which he hath given will He pay him again.’

“And this Word? ‘Whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor, he also shall cry himself, but shall not be heard.’ ”

“Why this apparition?” Dives cried. “If you must torment me with old words, try tormenting me as well with fresh water. Send Eleazar to flick as little as a drop onto my parched tongue. This flame is hell!”

Abraham, who once upon a time had himself been rich, answered, “Son, remember that you felt right in believing you had a right to your blessings, and to covet the many good things you received. In your self-righteousness, you believed yourself worthy of them. My son Eleazar received no such things, not from you. As my son and our Master makes clear, ‘From the one to whom much has been given, much will be required.’

“Eleazar was gracious enough to allow the dogs to lick his sores. You, however, allowed time for Grace and graciousness to pass squandered. Eleazar is now in comfort, and you are now in agony.

“Furthermore, a great and fathomless abyss exists between you and us. Anyone among us wanting to cross to you cannot do so, and no one from there can do likewise and cross to us.”

Dives wept, “Father Abraham, I beg you! Then send Eleazar to my father’s house and to my five brothers so he can frighten them away from this place of anguish.”

Abraham answered, “The Word of Moses and all the Prophets remains. How many times and in how many ways did they say you shall love your neighbor as yourself? How many times and in how many ways did they reveal the source, the spring, the Spirit of that Love? Your brothers can listen to them.”

“No, father Abraham,” Dives pleaded. “They will not listen. But if someone from the dead goes to haunt them…”

Abraham said, “Son, you know as well as I that people listen only to ghosts they believe do not exist. If people will not listen to Moses and the Prophets speaking as inspired by the Holy Ghost, they will not listen to Someone―my son and our Master—even when He does indeed rise from the dead.”

 

D. Raymond-Wryhte

(Luke 16:19-31)





Advice Old and Older

28 09 2014

And these few precepts in thy memory see thou character.

Give thy thoughts no tongue, nor any unproportioned thought his act.

A naughty person, a wicked man, walketh  with a froward mouth. (Proverbs 6:12)

The heart of the righteous studieth to answer, but the mouth of the wicked poureth out evil things. (Proverbs 15:28)

He that hath knowledge spareth his words, and a man of understanding is of an excellent spirit. Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise, and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding. (Proverbs 17:27-28)

The man that wandereth out of the way of understanding shall remain in the congregation of the dead…. He that followeth after righteousness and mercy findeth life, righteousness, and honor. (Proverbs 21:16, 21)

Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar.

It is as sport to a fool to do mischief, but a man of understanding hath wisdom. (Proverbs 10:23)

A wicked doer giveth heed to false lips, and a liar giveth ear to a naughty tongue. (Proverbs 17:4)

As a mad man who casteth firebrands, arrows, and death, so is the man that deceiveth his neighbor and saith, “Am I not in sport?”

(Proverbs 26:18-19)

The friends thou hast, and their adoption tried, grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel.

A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. (Proverbs 17:17)

A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly, and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother. (Provers 18:24)

Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful…. Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart; so doth the sweetness of a man’s friend by hearty counsel…. Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend. (Proverbs 27: 6, 9, 17)

But do not dull thy palm with entertainment of each new-hatched, unfledged comrade.

He that walketh with wise men shall be wise, but a companion of fools shall be destroyed. (Proverbs 13:20)

Make no friendship with an angry man, and with a furious man thou shalt not go, lest thou learn his ways and get a snare to thy soul.

(Proverbs 22:24-25)

Confidence in an unfaithful man in time of trouble is like a broken tooth and a foot out of joint. (Proverbs 25:19)

Beware of entrance to a quarrel…

Only by pride cometh contention, but with the well-advised is wisdom. (Proverbs 13:10)

He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city. (Proverbs 16:32)

It is an honour for a man to cease from strife, but every fool will be meddling. (Proverbs 20:3)

But, being in, bear it that the opposed beware of thee.

If thou faint in the day of adversity, thy strength is small. If thou forbear to deliver them that are drawn unto death and those that are ready to be slain, if thou sayest, “Behold, we knew it not,” doth not He that pondereth the heart consider it? And He that keepeth thy soul, doth He not know it? And shall not He render to every man according to his works? (Proverbs 24:10-12)

A righteous man falling down before the wicked is as a troubled fountain and a corrupt spring. (Proverbs 25:26)

The wicked flee when no man pursueth, but the righteous are bold as a lion. (Proverbs 28:1)

Give every man thine ear, but few thy voice;

In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin, but he that refraineth his lips is wise. (Proverbs 10:19)

Every prudent man dealeth with knowledge, but a fool layeth open his folly. (Proverbs 13:16)

He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame to him. (Proverbs 18:3)

Take each man’s censure, but reserve thy judgment.

Whoso loveth instruction loveth knowledge, but he that hateth reproof is brutish… The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise. (Proverbs 12:1, 15)

Poverty and shame shall be to him that refuseth instruction, but he that regardeth reproof shall be honoured. (Proverbs 13:18)

Correction is grievous unto him that forsaketh the way, and he that hateth reproof shall die. (Proverbs15:10)

Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy, but not expressed in fancy; rich, not gaudy: for the apparel oft proclaims the man…

Wisdom is the principal thing. Therefore get Wisdom, and with all thy getting, get understanding. Exalt her, and she shall promote thee; she shall bring thee honour when thou dost embrace her. She shall give to thine head an ornament of grace; a crown of glory shall she deliver to thee. (Proverbs 4:7-9)

Neither a borrower nor a lender be: for loan oft loses both itself and friend; and borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.

The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender. (Proverbs 22:7)

This above all – to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not be false to any man.

Better is the poor that walketh in his integrity than he that is perverse in his lips and is a fool. (Proverbs 19:1)

Most men will proclaim every one his own goodness, but a faithful man, who can find? (Proverbs 20:6)

Hear counsel and receive instruction, that thou mayest be wise in thy latter end. There are many devices in a man’s heart; nevertheless the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand. (Proverbs 19:20-21)

William Shakespeare (Hamlet:  Act 1, scene 3)