The Gospel Sledgehammer

“For those who claim his name, Christmas heralds this luminous truth: The God of Jesus Christ is our absolute future. Such is the deeply hopeful character of this sacred season. By God’s free doing in Bethlehem, nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Light, life, and love are on our side.”~~Brennan Manning

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Good morning. It is Monday, December 1, 2014.

Most people know that Stephen King was hit by a van and almost died. What you may not know is that he bought the van that hit him, and destroyed it.

Today is Eat A Red Apple Day. My favorite apple is red, but not the typical “Red Delicious” or “Washington.” I prefer the “Gala” apple. It typically has a softer and less chewy skin than the Red Delicious.

We had a great day yesterday! We all went out around noon, bought Stephanie some new tennis shoes at Payless, got our Christmas ornament for the year at Pier One, and then had lunch at Fogata’s. After lunch, we dropped Stephanie off at home, and then went to Ace Hardware for a bit. We were actually looking for one of the old style “Father Christmas” Santa Claus figures, but they didn’t have any. We did find a wreath hanger for Christi to take to work, and a poinsettia plant for our yard. From there, we went to the movie theater to see Interstellar. It was my second time to see it, and I had talked Christi into seeing it with me. She liked it, didn’t love it, but didn’t hate it. She cried at all the same times that I did. I noticed a couple of things that I had missed in the first viewing. I also love the music in the movie.

We put the ornaments on our Christmas tree after we got home. Trixie the cat got under it and curled up immediately.
2014-11-30 20.40.19

2014-11-30 20.40.51

Today, it’s back to work, for most of the week. I have Friday off, just because I’ve got PTO left to burn.

(Source: This Day In History)

It was on this date in 1990 that the two ends of an underwater tunnel between England and the mainland were connected. The Channel Tunnel, or “chunnel,” was drilled. Workers exchanged French and British flags and drank champagne to celebrate. It would be almost four more years before the tunnel was open for service.

Today’s birthdays include Zoe Kravitz, Sarah Silverman, Woody Allen, Bette Midler, Richard Pryor, Lou Rawls, Mary Martin, John Densmore, Charlene Tilton, Lee Trevino, Treat Williams, Bart Millard, Keith Thibodeaux, Rex Stout, Cyril Richard, and Dianne Lennon.

Mary Martin played Peter Pan in the original 1954 Broadway production of Peter Pan. She was born on this date in 1913 (in Weatherford, Texas). Incidentally, Cyril Richard, who played Captain Hook in the same production, was born on this date in 1897. Here’s a clip of Captain Hook’s Tarantella.

Here is Mary Martin/Peter Pan singing “I Won’t Grow Up.”

One other birthday to mention . . . Bart Millard is the front man for the popular Christian music group, Mercy Me. Here is their newest single, “Greater.”

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

(From The Divine Hours)

First Week of Advent

My mouth is filled with your praise, and with your glory all the day.
Psalm 71:8
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
Psalm 119:105
O God, from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds.
Psalm 71:17
This is the LORD’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.
Psalm 118:23
Give ear to my words, O LORD; consider my groaning.
Give attention to the sound of my cry, my King and my God, for to you do I pray.
O LORD, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch.
For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you.
The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers.
You destroy those who speak lies; the LORD abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.
But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love, will enter your house. I will bow down toward your holy temple in the fear of you.

Psalm 5:1-7
The Prayer Appointed for the Week
Almighty God, give all of us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the
armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came
to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his
glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal;
through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Today’s Gospel Reading

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.
Matthew 16:13-20

There is a lot of stuff in this little passage. There is much debate over what Jesus meant when he said, “you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church.” It helps to know that the “you” in Jesus’s question, “But who do you say that I am?” is plural. He is speaking to all twelve. Peter simply answers on their behalf. The Reformation Study Bible notes say, “the foundation rock is Peter as a representative apostle whose confession of Christ has been revealed to him by the Father.” In one of his own letters, Peter refers to all believers as “living stones” (1 Peter 2:4-8). It is possible that the church is to be built on the foundation of the apostles.

But even more difficult is the statement that follows, regarding the “keys of the kingdom of heaven.” One possibility is that the apostles hold the keys in that they “open the kingdom to those who share Peter’s confession and exclude those who will not receive their testimony to Christ” (Reformation Study Bible).

In spite of these difficult passages, there is one thing that sticks out, bold and true. Jesus said, “I will build my church!” In Brennan Manning’s book The Prodigal, Jack Chisholm makes the mistake of saying, multiple times, “I built this church!” No. No man ever built a church. Only Jesus can build the church.

Today’s reading in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “This Sacred Season.”

“Once a year the Christmas season strikes both the sacred and secular spheres of life with sledgehammer force: suddenly Jesus Christ is everywhere.”

For approximately one month, it is impossible to ignore Jesus, no matter how hard you may try, and regardless of whether you affirm him or reject him. Yes, he is proclaimed and preached with great joy in all Christian churches. “But he rides every red-nosed reindeer, lurks behind every Cabbage Patch doll, resonates in the most desacralized ‘season’s greetings.'” He is “toasted in every cup of Christmas cheer,” and every piece of holly and mistletoe is a “hint of his holiness” and a symbol of his presence.

“For those who claim his name, Christmas heralds this luminous truth: The God of Jesus Christ is our absolute future. Such is the deeply hopeful character of this sacred season. By God’s free doing in Bethlehem, nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Light, life, and love are on our side.”

“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel”
(which means, God with us).

Matthew 1:23

Father, I pray for all the world during this Christmas season (and that world includes me). I pray that all will know the joy of the season, even those who would ignore it and “Bah, humbug!” the season. May the joy of the Christ fill every heart, and may all recognize the precious gift that was given in Christ on that night in Bethlehem. I pray that those of us who already name the name of Christ would be more cognizant of this “luminous truth” that, in Christ, God is our only hope, and that nothing can separate us! He is our light, our life, and our love.

I pray for this day. May our travel back to work on this Monday morning be safe and smooth. May our work day be good and pleasant. May we live with you as our King today, recognizing that you have “all authority” over us in all that we do. I pray for Stephanie today, that she might also recognize your authority over her, as well as your great love for her.

May we fulfill our role as “living stones” in your church that is still being built.

May all see and know the Christ of Christmas, this season. And I promise, I won’t use a sledgehammer. 🙂

Grace and peace, friends.

2 thoughts on “The Gospel Sledgehammer

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