There is no greater challenge
for me at this point in my life than time: how to use it, how to roll with it,
and how to keep up with it. Unfortunately, our culture wreaks havoc on time.
The nostalgic days of all TV programming going off the air at midnight and
vacations without any electronics are gone. Culture used to cooperate with
another pattern of time by stores closing all day on Sundays and Wednesday
evening left open for church programming. Phone calls were expensive and
letters were read slowly.
But that is not our current reality. So, even Moses’ prayer
(at least attributed to Moses) in Psalm 90:12 is very appropriate, timely, for
me: Teach us to number our days that we
may get a heart of wisdom.
There is an interesting, and maybe accidental convergence on
this coming Sunday: it is Reformation Sunday. The big deal about Reformation
Sunday is not a celebration that we are Protestants and not Catholics, but
rather that the church continues to need reformation, renewal and change. And
those things take great leadership, not unlike the leadership Moses provided to
the people of Israel. As you read all of Psalm 90 in preparation for worship,
read it as a leader’s prayer, and consider yourself a leader when you pray
I worked at an animal hospital during high school for a
wonderful Christian man who belonged to our church. In fact, I went to college
with the intention of becoming a veterinarian, but that’s another longer story!
My job title was “Kennel Boy”. It was my job to keep the basement area clean
where all the cages were. There was one room for dogs and one room for cats
with stainless steel cages lining both walls. My two tools were newspapers and
Pine Sol. Newspapers lined the cages and Pine Sol cleaned the cages and the
outside exercise pens. For the rest of my life, Pine Sol brings happy memories
of cleaning messes and making cages and rooms smell good!
are the messes you encounter daily? How do you define what is and isn’t a mess?
A mess for one person can be delightful variety for another. Some professions
specialize in cleaning up messes, like Servicemaster or RotoRooter. If you
consider the word “mess” and look at the world around you, you can apply it in
many ways. There are environmental messes, organizational messes, political
messes, and financial messes. There are simple messes and complicated messes.
Some of us avoid messes and others of us experience nothing but messes!
The text for Sunday is about a major spiritual mess between
Israel and God in Exodus 33:12-23. I invite you to read this passage carefully
and look for the cleaning solution for this mess. It still works!
Martha’s dad died this week, Monday morning to be exact. I
was relaxing, reading the newspaper and drinking my second cup of coffee when
the phone rang. It was her sister calling to tell us her dad died. John Ensign
was 91 years old and outlived his doctors’ expectations. He died at home, where
he wanted to be. John and I talked almost daily right up till last week. He
remained alert and actively conversational to his last days. He lived long and
well. He loved his family and his family loved him. From my perspective as a
pastor, his was a good death. Once his health began to fail, he did not suffer.
He believed in Jesus and carried a strong hope of heaven.
But with all that being said, I’m still sad. I loved my
father-in-law and he loved me. I’m sad because my children and grandchildren
did not get the chance to say their goodbye’s as they wanted to. I’m sad
because his death means Martha needs to stay in Richmond, VA with her brother
to clean the house and settle affairs. Death, no matter how good, is always
complicated, sad and messy.
So I was kind of resistant when I read the first words of
our text for Sunday from Philippians 4:4-9 “Rejoice
in the Lord always, again I say rejoice.” How do I rejoice when I don’t
feel like rejoicing? My situation of grieving pushed me deeper into this
familiar and favorite text like never before. What is the connection between
rejoicing and patience? How does prayer address those things that cause us
anxiety? I invite you into a very meaty text for Sunday. Read it several times,
each one more slowly.