12.08.2023 – Wise Men Need to Do More than Seek HIm

I will be preaching to wise people this coming Sunday.  For sure those in the congregation at Ossian First Presbyterian Church, but also those plaster figures behind me.  Each Advent the church displays a classic nativity scene in the chancel right in front of the communion table.

No Second Commandment comments are planned, but I will tell those wise men – Magi the NIV pew Bibles will say – that they don’t belong.  Yeah, a quick rehearsal of what the text in Matthew does and does not say.  Gifts of three kinds but not three wise men.  No Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar. Not a stable and a manger bed, but a house with a baby perhaps as many as two years after the night an angel of the Lord appeared to the shepherds who were sore afraid. No angel choir and no friendly beasts.

But after the great debunking, I won’t ask the Magi to leave the chancel.  They’re welcome to stay.  I’ll be talking to them. Continue reading

12.01.2023 – MAGA atheists?

They say polite conversation avoids politics and religion. I will try to keep this post polite, but it’s going to come dangerously close to politics and religion.

Two headlines caught my attention last week. The first, from New York Magazine’s ‘The Intelligencer’ asked, “Do Young Voters Actually Prefer Trump to Biden?” The second from the New York Times told us, “Americans Under 30 Don’t Trust Religion – or Anything Else.”

There’s something wrong with the kids. In terms of polled preference for president a year out from the election, younger voters, those 18-34, the Gen Zers and younger Millennials, are roughly evenly split in their preference between Joe Biden and Donald Trump. Multiple polls say so. And our columnist is dumbfounded. “There’s no world in which Donald Trump should be the preferred presidential candidate of young voters,” he fumes.  But apparently that world is our world.

There’s something wrong with the kids. The decline of the church in the west and the rise of the “nones,” especially among the young, has been well-documented. For those of us who mourn the loss of religious attachments among our kids, our misery has company. In the final installment of a six-part series exploring the issue, the writer tells us, “What distinguishes the under-30 set is a marked level of distrust in a variety of major institutions and leaders — not just religious ones.” Continue reading

11.24.2023 – Giving on Tuesday

Call it Baby Boomer nostalgia, but I kind of liked it when there was only one special day at the end of November (and early December). You know, Thanksgiving – family, food, football, and even a healthy dose of civil religion (see yesterday’s Special Edition).

Black Friday became a big deal sometime in the 80s. Small Business Saturday began in 2010. Cyber Monday showed up in 2005, and the first Giving Tuesday was in 2012. Plus, there’s Don’t Travel Unless You Have To Sunday. It looks like the Wednesday after Thanksgiving is still open if any of you want to claim it.

Remember when it was just Thanksgiving and then “shopping days ‘til Christmas” (Sundays excluded)? Those were the days.

I tend to avoid shopping at all costs all year, so I don’t have much use for Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday. But Giving Tuesday, something of an antidote for too much shopping, appeals to me. Continue reading

11.23.2023 – Thanksgiving – Bonus Edition

There have been debates on some pastor forums and a lot of nastiness on Christian Twitter regarding Thanksgiving and civil religion. The theological left doesn’t like civil religion, and hence Thanksgiving, because it is prone to patriotic jingoism at best and has often been a tool of oppression.  The theological right doesn’t like civil religion, and hence Thanksgiving, because it is theistic at best and often lacks credal integrity. Possibly fair criticisms on all accounts. But if getting rid of civil religion means we don’t listen to wise words from the past, we have lost much.

Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Thanksgiving Proclamation:

Washington, D.C.
October 3, 1863
By the President of the United States of America.
A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.

In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.

Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged,

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

11.17.2023 – I think I know what time it is

I read a political column earlier this week, and it got me thinking.  But not about politics.  So, please, lay aside your political biases for a few minutes and I’ll tell you what I am thinking.

The column had to do with Senator Tim Scott withdrawing from the race to be the Republican nominee for president in next year’s election. The columnist acknowledged what many have said about Senator Scott, that he has a sunny disposition, a positive attitude, and is faithful, kind, and good.  You may not like his policies and positions, but it is generally agreed that Tim Scott is a nice guy.  And that, according to the columnist – his personality, not his policies or positions – was his problem.

“The senator, to borrow the post-liberal lingo of the hour, doesn’t ‘know what time it is,’” the columnist wrote. Continue reading