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• We do well to remember, before we consign the concept of spiritual leadership to the arena of the superstar, that we serve a God who invaded this planet as a small, fragile baby.
-- Stanley Rinehart
COMMUNION IN YOUR ‘CIVVIES’
Janet Daley writes in the UK Telegraph about a “movement among Church of England clergy in favour of going into civvies.” One of the things that the Church of England Synod is debating is the agitation some are having for dress-down Sundays, which would allow the vicar to take Communion in his shirt sleeves.
Doing away with ‘intimidating’ vestments the church hopes will be part of an accessibility outreach campaign in which priests could look more like ordinary people. Like schoolteachers who wear jeans instead of suits in the classroom, they want to demystify their own authority - to, as they say, ‘break down barriers’.
Almost 2000 years ago, another campaign to identify with common man—“to break down barriers”-- began.
“…Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.”
SOURCE: SermonCentral Staff. Citation: Janet Daley, “In tragedy and in joy, an unchanged church is best.” 10/07/2002. http://www.opinion.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml?xml=/ opinion/2002/07/10/do1002.xml
A man by the name of Max DePree related the following heart-touching story:
Esther, my wife, and I have a granddaughter named Zoe, the Greek word for life. She was born prematurely and weighed one pound, seven ounces, so small that my wedding ring could slide up her arm to her shoulder. The neonatologist who first examined her told us that she had a 5 to 10 percent chance of living three days. When Esther and I scrubbed up for our first visit and saw Zoe in her isolette in the neonatal intensive care unit, she had two IVs in her navel, one in her foot, a monitor on each side of her chest, and a respirator tube and a feeding tube in her mouth.
To complicate matters, Zoe’s biological father had jumped ship the month before Zoe was born. Realizing this, a wise and caring nurse named Ruth gave me my instructions.
"For the next several months, at least, you’re the surrogate father. I want you to come to the hospital every day to visit Zoe, and when you come, I want you to rub her body and her legs and arms with the tip of your finger. While you’re caressing her, you should tell her over and over how much you love her, because she has to be able to connect your voice to your touch."
God knew that we also needed both his voice and his touch. So he gave us not only the Word but also his Son. And he gave us not only Jesus Christ but also his body, the church. God’s voice and touch say, "I love you."
THE CHRISTMAS STORM: A Modern Parable by Paul Harvey
"This is about a modern man, one of us, he was not a scrooge, he was a kind, decent, mostly good man, generous to his family, upright in his dealings with others. But he did not believe in all that incarnation stuff that the Churches proclaim at Christmas time. It just didn’t make sense to him and he was too honest to pretend otherwise. He just could not swallow the Jesus story about God coming to earth as man. I’m truly sorry to distress you, he told his wife, but I’m not going with you to church this Christmas Eve. He said he’d feel like a hypocrite. That he would much rather stay home, but that he would wait up for them. He stayed, they went. Shortly after the family drove away in the car, snow began to fall. He went to the window to watch the flurries getting heavier and heavier, then went back to his fireside chair and began to read his newspaper. Minutes later he was startled by a thudding sound. Then another and another. At first he thought someone must be throwing snowballs against his living room window. Well, when he went to the front door, he found a flock of birds huddled miserably in the snow. They had been caught in the storm and in a desperate search for shelter they had tried to fly through his large landscape window. Well, he couldn’t let the poor creatures lie there and freeze. He remembered the barn where his children stabled their pony. That would provide a warm shelter -- if he could direct the birds to it. He quickly put on his coat and galoshes, trampled through the deepening snow to the barn, opened the door wide, and turned on a light. But the birds did not come in. He figured food would entice them in and he hurried back to the house, fetched bread crumbs, sprinkled them on the snow making a trail to the yellow lighted wide open doorway of the stable, but to his dismay the birds ignored the bread crumbs, and continued to flap around helplessly in the snow. He tried catching them, he tried shooing them into the barn by walking around them waving his arms -- instead they scattered in every direction except into the warm lighted barn. Then he realized they were afraid of him. To them, he reasoned, I am a strange and terrifying creature, if only I could think of some way to let them know they can trust me. That I’m not trying to hurt them, bu...
"When Chances Come" BY Willo Lou Clark
If you had been a lowly shepherd who heard the angels sing,
Would you have left your sheep alone to find the baby King?
If you had been the innkeeper - pressed & hurried since the dawn,
Would you have done the best you could, or told them to move on?
If you had been a wise man - due respect & courtly graces,
Would you have left it all behind to search in unknown places?
We cannot know what we’d have done if we had been there then.
We only know what we do now - when chances come again.
Philip Yancey in his book Disappointment with God wrote this: "Imagine for a moment becoming a baby again: giving up language and muscle coordination, and the ability to eat solid food and control your bladder. God as a fetus! Or imagine yourself becoming a sea slug – that analogy is probably closer. On that day in Bethlehem, the Maker of All that is took form as helpless, dependent newborn.”
Jesus was nailed to a cross with heavy, square wrought-iron nails through His wrists and through His feet. He hung there for several hours. When His body slumped, excruciating, fiery pain would shoot along the fingers and up the arms to explode in the brain - the nails in the wrists were putting pressure on the median nerves. As he pushed himself upward to avoid this stretching torment, he placed the full weight on the nail through his feet. Again he felt the searing agony of the nail tearing through the nerves between the bones of the feet. As the arms fatigue, cramps sweep through the muscles, knotting them in deep, relentless, throbbing pain. With these cramps comes the inability to push himself upward to breathe. Air can be drawn into the lungs but not exhaled. He fights to raise himself in order to get even one small breath. Finally carbon dioxide builds up in the lungs and in the blood stream, and the cramps partially subside. Spasmodically he is able to push himself upward to exhale and bring in life-giving oxygen. Hours of this limitless pain, cycles of twisting, joint rendering cramps, intermittent partial asphyxiation, searing pain as tissue is torn form his lacerated back as he moves up and down against the rough timber. Then another agony began: a deep, crushing pain deep in the chest as the pericardium slowly filled with serum and began to compress the heart. It is now almost over - the loss of tissue fluids has reached a critical level - the compressed heart is struggling to pump heavy, thick, sluggish blood into the tissues - the tortured lungs are making a frantic effort to gasp in small gulps of air.
He then felt the chill of death creeping through his tissues... Finally He was able to allow his body to die.
(Crucifixion, Adapted From C. Truman Davis, M.D., In The Expos. Bible Comm, Vol. 8)
SURVIVING THE RIVER OF DEATH
Max Lucado, in his book, “Six Hours One Friday,” tells the story of a missionary in Brazil who discovered a tribe of Indians in a remote part of the jungle. They lived near a large river. The tribe was in need of medical attention. A contagious disease was ravaging the population. People were dying daily.
A hospital was not too terribly far away — across the river, but the Indians would not cross it because they believed the river was inhabited by evil spirits. And to enter its water would mean certain death.
The missionary explained how he had crossed the river & was unharmed. But they were not impressed. He then took them to the bank & placed his hand in the water. They still wouldn’t go in. He walked into the water up to his waist & splashed water on his face. It didn’t matter. They were still afraid to enter the river.
Finally, he dove into the river, swam beneath the surface until he emerged on the other side. He raised a triumphant fist ...
There is an old story about a man in China who was walking on a rain slick road. He lost his footing & fell into a ditch filled with mud. He kept sinking deeper & deeper in the mud. The more he struggled to get out of the ditch, the deeper he sank.
As he was sinking in the mud Buddha came by. Buddha looked at him & said, "My what a predicament you are in. Here is a paper that tells you ten ways to get out of ditches." The man started reading & he tried all ten ways to get out of the ditch, only to discover that the harder he tried the deeper he sank.
Then Confucius came along & looked at him, & said, "You are in a terrible condition, but I have good news for you. If you’ll take 5 steps toward me, I’ll take 5 steps down to meet you, & then together we will walk out of the ditch."
But the man said, "I couldn’t even take the 5 steps. The more I struggled the deeper I sank in the mud."
Then Jesus came by. Jesus looked at him, took off His crown & His royal robes, & got down in the ditch with him & He pushed him until his feet were on solid ground once again.
"From sinking sand He lifted me. With tender hands He lifted me. From shades of night to plains of light. Oh praise His name, He lifted me." That is what love means. It means that Jesus Christ has lifted us out of the muck & the mire of our sin, & He has put our feet on solid ground.
Hace algun tiempo escuché la historia de un grupo misionero que había sido invitado a Rusia para enseñar Cristianismo. Era la época de Navidad y mientras enseñaban las historia del nacimiento de Jesús en un Orfanato; todos los niños escuchaban con mucha atención. Ninguno de los niños había escuchado esa historia nunca antes. Uno de los misioneros contaba: “Le dimos a los niños algunos materiales y les dijimos que deberían armar una escena del nacimiento de Jesús, según la historia que habían escuchado. Todo iba bien hasta que me acerqué a la mesa de un niño llamado Misha. Parecía tener unos seis años de edad y había terminado su trabajo. Mientras miraba el pesebre me quedé sorprendido cuando vi que allí habían no uno sino dos niños. Llamé a un traductor para preguntarle por qué. Mirando su trabajo el niño comenzó a repetir la historia con exactitud, hasta que llegó a la parte donde María puso al bebé en el pesebre. Entonces Misha comenzó a crear su propio fin de la historia.
El dijo: “Y cuando María puso al bebé en el pesebre, Jesús me miró y me preguntó si yo tenía un lugar dónde estar. Yo le dije que no tenía papá ni mamá, no tengo un hogar donde estar. Entonces Jesús me dijo que yo podía estar con él. Así que me metí en el pesebre, y luego Jesús me miró y me dijo que podía estar con El para siempre. Llevando sus manos al rostro, la cabeza de Misha se inclinó hacia la mesa y comenzó a llorar, llorar y suspirar. Por primera vez en su vida había encontrado alguien que nunca lo abandonaría, ni abusaría de él, alguien que estaría con él para siempre.”