Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God — what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2
If I had to make a list of my ten favorite words obedience and dependence would not make the cut. They’re important words, but for me they have a little negative edge to them. To be dependent is to rely heavily upon something or someone else. We don’t want to be dependent on foreign oil; and our economy is heavily dependent upon the labor of undocumented workers. Facing chronic illness or just growing old we fear we will become dependent on the care of others.
A couple of weeks ago our Wednesday morning Bible Study read the story of the Apostle Paul’s return to the city of Philippi, found Book of Acts 16:9-15. One night Paul received a vision: a man from Macedonia (modern day Greece) stood over him saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” Convinced God was calling him, he left with Timothy for Philippi the next morning. One Sabbath they went to a place of prayer to find folks who might be open to the good news.
Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:8-5
Right now it’s early spring and a beautiful afternoon here on the Green in Woodbridge. It’s gorgeous outside. The light is higher in the sky and it won’t get dark until after 7pm. While walking up from the back parking lot I met two couples with children: one family returning from a walk in the woods and the other having fun on our playground. As lovely as it is, it’s still pretty chilly, 46 degrees, and the wind is hard, feeling more like winter. One of the dads was struggling to keep a coat on their daughter.
You know, we talk a lot about death. If you get the right answer you’re “dead on,” if not, you’re “dead wrong.” If you’re late you’ve missed the “deadline.” The battery is “dead,” the line is “dead,” and then we come to a “dead end.” And I imagine many of us have experienced the moment when, in exasperation, we have said (or thought) “this/he/she will be the “death of me!”
The Scientific Method is one way of getting at the truth. Someone wants to prove a hypothesis describes a part of reality and constructs an experiment in an attempt to discover its validity. The experiment must be constructed in such a way that others can replicate it. If they come to the same conclusion it can be said the experiment is successful and the hypothesis was right. However, many experiments don’t prove the original hypothesis to be correct, but this can lead to new ideas and greater learning.
The practice of making New Year’s resolutions, at the very least, dates back to the Babylonian Empire. At the start of each New Year – and for them the new year started with the first planting in March – they would make promises to return borrowed items and pay their debts. The Romans began the New Year by making promises to the god Janus, for whom the month of January is named.
The setting is strange: a shelter for livestock.
The characters are common: an unwed pregnant woman and her fiancé
The story is simple: a baby is born
The theme is unimaginable: God is with us!
May the strange but common, simple yet unimaginable coming of Christ be experienced by you this Advent and Christmas season, and throughout the year.
Most folks believe our nation’s founders established the separation of church and state in order to keep religion out of politics. Religion, the rationale goes, is messy, irrational and the source of much instability and warfare. Our government would be better off without it. There are those, however, who believe the debate was not so much about keeping religion out of government, but how to best foster religion so it might be a source of wisdom and guidance for the new nation. Some believed a state sponsored religion, like the Church of England, was the best way to accomplish this; others believed religion free from government influence would be most effective. The latter won out.