A Faithful Minister grapples with the meaning of tragedy. In 1756,  a

Rev.Samuel Davies (1723-1761)

Presbyterian minister was sharing with his congregation in Virginia his conclusions from Scripture after agonizing over the tragic losses in the great earthquake which had struck Lisbon, Portugal in December of 1755.  In 1759 this same Minister, Samuel Davies, would become the 4th President of Princeton University, then known as the College of  New Jersey. His Biblical text:

“Those who flee in terror will fall into a trap, and those who escape the trap will step into a snare. Destruction falls on you from the heavens. The earth is shaken beneath you. The earth has broken down and has utterly collapsed. Everything is lost, abandoned, and confused. The earth staggers like a drunkard. It trembles like a tent in a storm. It falls and will not rise again, for its sins are very great!”

Isaiah 24:18-20

There are several blogs as well as an op-ed in the Washington Post that are speaking of this tragedy in 1755 and its effects on philosophers and clergymen alike and suggesting contrasts with the way such news is received today. Basically,  Samuel Davies is representative of Pastors all along the east coast following the time of the Great Awakening (ref. Jonathan Edwards sermon, “Sinners in the hands of an angry God”). They openly and clearly spoke of such tragedies as ‘judgments’ of the Providence of God and they got their ideas from their interpretation of the Holy Bible.

Without posting any of the sermon here, I will make the entire sermon available to E4Unity readers and urge you to read it in light of recent tragedies that have come to pass in our world. It also makes a serious read for the true spirit of the Lenten season.

Sermon Lisbon Earthquake

Farewell Sermon, July 1, 1759, to Hanover, Virginia congregation.

Note: Young Samuel Davies is one of a number of outstanding Ministers in Church history who died an ‘early’ death. He was only 37 years old.

 

The Old  Zion Red Church- Orwigsburg, Pennsylvania

On our drive to New York city last week for Navy Fleet week, we finally took a short side trip that we’ve wanted to do for a long time. We went by to see where my first generation maternal ancestor lived and began his family after arriving on board the ship at Philadelphia. The record of his wedding as well as the births of his first three children were recorded in the ministerial records of this church in Orwigsburg, Pennsylvania, before the Revolutionary War.

The Red Church is in the Blue Mountains and has had four buildings. The first one in the early 1700’s, the present one which was built in 1887. Over the door is a marker identifying it as Evangelical Lutheran and Reformed. Lorentz Jung only lived here seven or eight years after his marriage before heading south into Virginia where he changed his name to Lawrence Young.

I couldn’t help but get a little emotional as I poured out a grateful heart for such a rich spiritual heritage from the first generation in America. But I realize that such a spirtual pedigree does not guarantee us an inheritance apart from a living faith in the Christ of the Scriptures. Like Esau of old, we can squander our inheritance, exchange it for a bowl of fleshly pottage.

Grandparents Henry and Jesse Young (1906)

I was reminded again in New York city in reference to the Marble Collegiate Church of the Dutch Reformed tradition and Trinity Episcopal Church, both which predate the American Revolution, that the witness of the Gospel of Christ has been present in every generation of Americans. It has been the “open secret” that was either ignored or embraced as God’s testimony of redeeming love.

We came home from New York city impressed with the extent that the city embraced the men and women of the armed services during Fleet week. And we came home with a renewed testimony that the churches of the new century continuing to faithfully live out the faith of our Fathers. Our only question is to what degree are multitudes in America squandering their spiritual inheritance?

See my post last year on “A Night to Remember” .

SMITHSONIAN CHANNEL this weekend

“At that moment . . .there was a feeling. . .HOPE: it was the feeling that something better was going on, and what you’re doing has some special meaning! I was lucky to live at that moment.”

Studs Terkel WPA writer

Studs Terkel WPA writer

I caught part of Bob Edward’s program on PRI this morning and it was fascinating. Turns out it was about a program that the Smithsonian channel is showing this Labor Day weekend:

FDR’s Works Progress Administration (WPA) funded four arts program.  One of those, the Federal Writer’s Project, employed thousands of writers and started the careers of some of America’s most famous authors like Studs Terkel, Ralph Ellison, Richard Writer, Saul Bellow, and Zora Neale Hurston.  Bob talks with writer David Bradley about a new documentary that tells the story of the Federal Writer’s Project.  “Soul of a People: Writing America’s Story” premiers on the Smithsonian Channel this weekend.

 I had never heard of this WPA project before. Evidently at the time it uncovered more than a few of America’s “dirty linen” such as the extent to which “slavery” was still alive and well in the 20th century. But there is a lot more I’m sure about the strength of America’s grass roots communities immediately following the ravishes of the Great Depression.

I hope you get to listen to Bob’s program sometime soon and for sure take time to see the special on SmithsonianChannel.

PREVIEW Sneak Peak (video)

That All Depends on WHO we pray to, doesn’t it?

As I was preparing my mind and heart to spend time in intercession for my country, I found myself asking this question: Is the Bible sufficient to give me the guidance I need to pray intelligently at this time for my country?

I had read a blog of my friend MoSop on the Bible’s influence as one of the sacred books that guides her own Mormon faith. All of the Christian traditions, whether they realize it or not, have those other sacred texts or creeds in addition to the Bible. But is the Bible alone  sufficient   at a time like this? Let me give you a small sample, taken from the Lectionary readings for today, including Psalm 50, and see if you can figure out, based on the context in Israel’s future, if this gives us any guidance at all in thinking about the One I pray to:

But to the wicked God says:
“What right have you to recite my statutes
or take my covenant on your lips?
 For you hate discipline,
and you cast my words behind you.

Read the entire Psalm 50 

I have certainly read and greatly benefited from those other books, the commentaries, and the covenants from the diverse Christian traditions, the Orthodox, the Roman Catholic, the Lutheran, the Reformed, and a host of others including Seventh Day Adventists and now the Latter Day Saints. But when it comes right down to the bottom line, it’s always the Bible that has the final Word as God’s voice that this sheep recognizes and is dedicated to hearing in order to obey from a heart of passion for Him.

I did receive real orientation in Psalm 50 as to how I must pray today for my country. For one thing, I was reminded that I could not take for granted that I had any hope of being heard and my petitions answered if my own heart was not right in my relationship with Him to whom I had the audacity to present requests. I have to alter my own attitude first at His altar. There is a wonderful text in the New Testament, recognizing we are now on this side of the Christ event and His victory, awaiting Pentecost in the Biblical narrative, that assures us that if we ask anything according to His will, we know He has heard us and He has given us what we asked of Him.

May you participate in the National Day of Prayer with others from different faith traditions of your own in a meaningful way-just keep the Biblical narrative in your thoughts and hearts.

THIS YEAR, PLEASE BEGIN at THE BEGINNING

U.S. President Woodrow Wilson first proclaimed an Armistice Day for November 12, 1919. The United States Congress passed a concurrent resolution seven years later on June 4, 1926, requesting the President issue another proclamation to observe November 11 with appropriate ceremonies. An Act (52 Stat. 351; 5 U. S. Code, Sec. 87a) approved May 13, 1938, made the 11th of November in each year a legal holiday; “a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as ‘Armistice Day’.”

(From WIKIPEDIA)

This summer I had the incredible experience of going through the only official NATIONAL memorial in the United States dedicated to World War I, the Great War. I truly wish that every citizen of these United States could have that experience- especially NOW, at the point in history that we find ourselves. Most of us have been thrown into the MIDDLE of a great EPIC TALE. The subject of this tale just happens to be our National heritage. World War I just might be the event in this tale that we can still get an understanding of which in turn will help us immensely to understand just what it is we have of lately inherited and will help us to better understand what our part in the ongoing tale is and how to best prepare for the future.

Meet Joe, the Veteran. jo-the-veteran

Joseph Ambrose, an 86-year-old World War I veteran, attends the dedication day parade for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in 1982, holding the flag that covered the casket of his son, who had been killed in the Korean War.     

Did you happen to notice this phase in the original purpose of  the day? “A day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace.”   I believe that this original purpose has been kept in mind in every detail of the official Memorial to World War I in Kansas City, Missouri, and one of the main reasons why I believe every American should visit it. 

The Memorial has been “rebuilt” in recent years and an underground museum complex has been added. My congratulations to the citizens of Kansas City and to American Century Investments for under-taking this very ambitious project for the American people and their epic story.

Sample what you will see (slide show)

View the intro Video

  

Why Lovers of Middle-earth want to go there

It could be argued that all of us are dreamers at heart. But what dreams will we choose to return to in our imaginations over and over? Which are the dreams that have been so crafted as to merit the reputation of “epic” tales?

Personally I have a growing sense of both awe and respect for those master story tellers who have been gifted to provide the most intricate details to their story; they are the “Colonizers of dreams”.

I found this introduction to The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien in a paperback edition dated July, 1973 and written by Peter S. Beagle. It gives one man’s opinion about life in America as a possible reason why these great epic tales have become so popular once again in the beginning of the twenty-first century.

It’s been fifteen years at this writing since I first came across The Lord of The Rings  in the stacks at the Carnegie Library in Pittsburg. I’d been looking for the book for four years, ever since reading W.H. Auden’s review in the New York Times. I think of that time now- and the years after, when the trilogy continued to be hard to find and hard to explain to most friends- with an undeniable nostalgia. It was a barren era for fantasy, among other things, but a good time for cherishing slighted treaures and mysterious passwords. Long before Frodo Lives!  began to appear in the New York subways, J.R.R.Tolkien was the magus of my secret knowledge.

I’ve never thought it an accident that Tolkien’s words waited more than ten years to explode into popularity almost overnight. The sixties were no fouler a decade that the Fifties- they merely reaped the Fifties’ foul harvest- but they were the years when millions of people grew all too aware that the industrial society had become paradoxically unlivable, incalculaby immoral, and ultimately deadly. In terms of passwords, the Sixties were the time when the word progress lost its ancient holiness, and escape stopped being comically obscene. The impulse is being called reactionary now, but lovers of Middle-earth want to go there, I would myself, like a shot.

For in the end it is Middle-earth and its dwellers that we love, not Tolkien’s considerable gifts in showing it to us. I said once that the world he charts was there long before him, and I still believe it. He is a great enough magician to tap our most common nightmares, daydreams and twilight fancies, but he never invented them either; he found them a place to live, a green alternative to each day’s madness here in a poisoned world. We are raised to honor all the wrong explorers and discoverers- thieves planting flags, muderers carrying crosses. Let us all praise the colonizers of dreams.

Are these the true heirs of the Apostle Paul?

Most of you are not familiar with the term “faith missions”, but they make up a sizeable part of the total missionary force of the Church of Jesus Christ in the world today. They follow in the steps of Saint Paul.

Just this week I received the 2007 Yearbook of one of the organizations working in the United States, called the American Missionary Fellowship. Loraine and I have very good friends who left a good position with Ashland Oil in Lexington to answer a CALL to become full time missionaries. Their story of leaving a comfortable life and stepping out on faith, trusting the One who called them to supply their every need has been repeated countless times throughout the history of the Church. These are the original “faith based” organizations and they are more like The Salvation Army (which started as one of them) than the more widely known main-line denominations. Both serve the same Master and are part of the same global purpose.

The American Missionary Fellowship is actually a recent name for a much older mission, THE AMERICAN SUNDAY SCHOOL UNION which has had an amazing influence in the country through primarily establishing sunday schools and publishing christian literature. Officially founded in Philadelphia in 1817, looking over their 2007 Yearbook, I would say they are still in very good form continuing to do faithfully what the Lord of the Harvest brought them into exisitence to do: support and complement the work of the organized churches. I am firmly convinced that both are valid manifestations of Christ at work in the world through his followers. My hearty congratulations to John and Julie and the Union with thanksgiving to the Father of all good gifts for another year of progress.

ANOTHER STORY of GREAT FAITH– James Anderson Burns, Founder of Oneida Institute

 

“NO ONE HAS TAUGHT WHITE PEOPLE in AMERICA MORE ABOUT DEATH THAN BLACK AMERICANS”  (See BLOG for The Day)

There is a lot going on this week and it already got off to a bang over the week-end. Did you ever notice all the confusion over a little bitty thing like when do we really end the week and begin a new one? The first time I think I noticed this was way back in college years when I learned what TGIF meant.

This is just one important place the religious soul of America gets into the middle of the act. A great many Americans still observe the Sabbath that begins at sundown on Friday. The majority of Christians, not all, worship on Sunday, the day of the Resurrection of The Christ whom they follow. The country as a whole doesn’t know what to do with any of us religious folks because they are all about doing their shopping, their entertaining, and oh yes, their sports, on the week-end. But that’s another post for another day.

I’m trying to be short- and I’m trying to hit about three themes that’s on my mind as I started my week with just a single post. Here they are – THURSDAY, MAY 1, has been designated by our President as the National Day of Prayer. So I want to mark that occasion in our Nations busy calendar and talk about “Civil Religion” in America.

But we’re also face to face this week with another real and vital part of our country’s religious life – The Black Church in America. We’ve just got to speak out on this issue and I ask the patience of my friends who are not Americans (North Americans) while we do this. I ran across a post this morning on a black blog that boldly made this statement: “No one has taught white Americans more about Christian love than black Americans.” I didn’t have to think long at all to know that I agree with that statement. Because I had put up for my “blog of the day” (you really should check that any time you browse my blog because most of the time it’s a lot more interesting than my own latest post), an amazing essay on the theme of death itself in the black American culture and how it has affected all of us.

Sad to say, but I must in the name of unity say it, I don’t think a lot of us have really understood what the man Dr.Martin Luther King, epitomizes about the racial struggles that continue in this country of ours. Ironically, we are gearing up in Kentucky and the Nation for a gala celebration of the 200 anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth . If you still don’t get the significance of this “lining up of the stars” for the black American as one of their race is daily in the news in the office of the powerful Secretary of State while another is front runner to be our next President, well I would say you need to take time in your busy week to try to see things through the eyes of black Americans.

Remember which site your on here- with great respect and dignity that is due all our fellow human beings. Thank God for the age of the WWW and the miracle by which we can finally listen to others and know them as they would like to be known not as others for their own twisted agendas want to portray them.

NOTE: A site that does more justice to Dr.Jeremiah A.Wright,Jr.