Thursday, December 15, 2011

Mother of God

Next Sunday the Gospel takes us to Nazareth where the angel Gabriel is giving Mary a message of utmost important. Whenever you see angels in scripture, something big is about to take place. God is on the move and he sends out heavenly messengers.

We Protestants have never known quite what to do with Mary. We are leery about giving attention to anybody but God or Jesus. We wonder about the adoration of Mary. Oh, we’ll worship a car, mind you, but we can’t allow ourselves to be drawn into the exaltation of Mary. We’ll worship political or athletic figures, but Mary?

Mary and I were sitting in a restaurant with friends recently. It was the night before the big Republican presidential nominee debate in Spartanburg. We were eating away when all of a sudden in comes a large entourage of people. They were moving someone along in a hurry. It was Rick Perry. They shuffled him over to a booth in the back where no one could get to him. Mary and I commented how strange it was that he didn’t speak to a person in the restaurant. It was interesting to note our interest in this public figure. He’s not even the front-runner and we were looking to see what we could see. We do that with celebrities all the time.

This led to a conversation about the times when we had seen famous people. Once, when Mary, my wife, worked in a newspaper office in Moncks Corner, SC, Fritz Hollings, the Senator was up for re-election. He walked in to their office and shook hands. Mary was surprised at how big and good looking he was. She still tells that with her mouth gaping open.

Back when I was in college, we went to Columbia Airport to see Richard Nixon ride by in a convertible. He was a small man with a great tan. This was before Watergate had broken loose.

You see my point. We Protestants are so scared we will worship the wrong thing when it comes to God, but we readily turn our worship to celebs and others, not thinking that we are elevating them to godlike status.

I wouldn’t say that we should worship Mary but we should honor her. She is, after all, the “mother of God”. It’s hard to imagine that she was a virgin. In our modern culture, we don’t know what that is anymore. It’s even more difficult to imagine that she was only about fourteen years of age. You had to grow up fast in those days.

Bright-eyed, fourteen, she is a woman of faith. The long history and heritage of Jewish hope and expectation are in her body, mind and spirit. Soon, in her body will be a miracle of miracles. She will bring forth for the world the one who is Savior. And, how does she respond to the angel’s message. She says: “Let it be…” Let it be to me as you have said. Let the will of God come to me and through me. Let my life be a sacrifice to God’s purposes and ways.

This Sunday, in the grand parade of Christmas characters, Mary passes. Look at how young she looks. See how beautiful she is. Notice that, in spite of what is going on in the world, in spite of the Romans, in spite of the fact that she has every reason not to hope, she hopes and is faithful. Can you hear? She is telling God: “Let it be…” Let the great move that you are doing come to me. Honor her as one of the most faithful people ever to live. I can understand a bit if you want to talk to her.

Blessings!
Dave Nichols

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The End is Near

I have often said to you that the Gospel often gets lost in our culture. Even among Christians, we often think of the Gospel as the minimum that we have to do to get to heaven- when the truth is that the Gospel is about getting you to heaven before you die.

Last Sunday, we started that slow and steady journey toward joy. The first candle on the Advent Wreath was lighted; the Chrismon tree already shines it light. A new Church/Christian year begins. Purple adorns the altar to remind us to get ready.

The First Sunday in Advent, the Gospel is always about what we call the “second coming”. This year, Mark (in the lectionary) gets to tell the story. Mark 13 is called by scholars the “little apocalypse”. That chapter is a mixture of stuff about the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple that everyone said would never happen. It also has images from Old Testament apocalyptic literature. When it’s all done here on earth, the sun will grow dark. The stars will fall from the sky. The whole universe will celebrate as Jesus Messiah comes on the clouds.

The Bible teaches us about beginnings and endings. Everything has a beginning and an ending. It all gets caught up in God’s great purposes for his world. There will be an end- to us- to the world.

When? Now, that’s the question, isn’t it? Some talk a lot about that. Announce that you’re doing a study on the Book of Revelation; a crowd will gather. But, as soon as they see that you aren’t getting caught up in a literal kind of interpretation and predicting the future, they fall away.

Remember poor Harold Camping who predicted the end in the spring of 2011? Then, when that didn’t happen, he set another date. Oh well, what are you going to do?

Mr. Camping read every verse of Holy Scripture but the one that says: “No one knows the day or the hour, not the son, not the angels, only God knows.”

No one knows. And yet, there’s something about the end that captivates us. The Psalmist says: “Lord, teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom…” As if, knowing that we end, that time runs out sooner or later, makes us wiser.

So, on the first Sunday in Advent, the church has us look at the great backdrop of God’s drama. One day, sooner or later, the end will come- mine or the world’s. So, be ready. Be on your guard. Watch!

If you need forgiveness, don’t wait; get it now. If you need to forgive someone, don’t wait; do it now. If you need to get your life straightened out, do it now. If you need to get back on track, do it now. You do not know the day or the hour; so, get ready. Get prepared. No one knows what tomorrow holds.

Advent begins with this pause on the journey. It is a time to reflect on the truth that all our times are in God’s hands. It’s a time to get our priorities right. So, we pray, and worship. We give extra to the church and to the needy. We open our hearts a little more because we know that one day it will be…over.

One day, God’s kingdom will finally come. God will overcome evil; love will overcome hatred. Someday. In God’s good time.

Blessings!
Dave Nichols

Welcome

Thanks for checking out my blog. I'm new to this, as you can probably see. But, I, like you, have convictions and ideas worth sharing. I hope this will be an opportunity to connect with others who are Christian and/or religious. I am happily United Methodist. I am committed to the basic teachings of our church, and to the compassionate outreach to the world.

I hope these pastoral ponderings will generate something in you that is hopeful.
Blessings!
Dave

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About Me

A graduate of Newberry College and Duke University Divinity School.  I have served as a pastor in the United Methodist Church since 1975.

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