Memorial Day and Family Duties

Our nation observes Memorial Day today, although traditionally it was observed on May 30 until 1971. Thankfully our family did not lose anybody to war, although my grandfathers and dad fought in World War I and II respectively. So in addition to remembering those brave men and women who fought and died to preserve our country’s freedom, I have made this weekend a time for both remembering those in my family who have died and honoring them.

Since they are no longer living, I have decided that on my watch their graves will be well kept and in good repair. So my wife and I go out and trim around the tombstones, rake the graves, clean them up, and put flowers on them for the summer. Doing so is a way for me to continue to honor them, both for being such a good family and for their service to our country.

At Woodland cemetery.

At Woodland cemetery.

It also reminds me of how fleeting and transient this mortal life is. When I was a kid, we’d spend Memorial Day at the lake at my grandparents Shaffer’s cottage with my extended family. It was a grand time and I have great memories of those halcyon days. Now I only have their graves to visit and I confess I liked it a whole lot better when I was able to be with them at the lake.

So Memorial Day is a bittersweet time for me but thankfully God’s promised new creation is coming and when it does, I won’t have to be separated from my parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles ever again because they were all believers. I look forward to that day. But in the meantime, as long as I am able, I will continue to honor them, in part, by caring for their grave sites. It is the least I can do considering all they did and sacrificed for me.

May you too find ways to honor and love your loved ones, especially if you are blessed enough to have them still be living.


Memorial Day PictureI am remembering today the men and women who serve and have served our country, and who have given their lives for this nation.

I am thankful for my own grandfathers, John S. Maney and F. Earl Shaffer, who fought in WWI.

I am thankful for my father, John F. Maney, and my uncle, W. Everett Jones, who fought in Europe during WWII.

I am thankful for my father-in-law, Donald E. Traylor, who served in Germany during the Korean War.

I am thankful for my good friend and brother in Christ, John Falor, who fought in Vietnam, as well as my friends, Tod Tapola and Jim Lytle who also fought there.

I am thankful for Colonel David Mullins who fought recently in Iraq.

Thank you all, and thank God for continuing to raise up men and women who are willing to serve and sacrifice for our country to keep us free.

Our Resurrection Hope: Raising Our Desire to Proclaim the Good News

Sermon delivered on Sunday, Easter 6A, May 25, 2014, at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Columbus, OH.

If you would prefer to hear the audio podcast of this sermon, usually somewhat different from the text below, click here.

Lectionary texts: Acts 17.22-31; Psalm 66.8-20; 1 Peter 3.13-22; John 14.15-21.

In the name of God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

As Christians, at our very core we are resurrection people. As we have emphasized throughout this Easter season, when God raised Jesus from the dead, he not only destroyed the last enemy, death itself, so that those of us who are in Christ know that our destiny is resurrection and life, God also ushered in his promised new creation in which he will ultimately put all that is wrong and hurtful to rights and banish evil forever in his righteous judgment. In other words, God’s good creation matters to God. We matter to God as his image-bearing creatures and this is both Good News and our hope. This should be a game-changer for us! As we have also seen, if God didn’t really raise Jesus from the dead, we have nothing and are without a hope and a future (cf. Jeremiah 29.11), and all our work in Jesus’ name is in vain.

But there must be more to our resurrection hope than making it all about us and our needs and anxieties. The Good News that is in the death and resurrection of Jesus is available to all people, even those who are our enemies, and as God’s people in Jesus we are called to speak the truth of God’s righteous salvation and judgment to a world that is fundamentally hostile to God’s truth but which paradoxically wants desperately to hear it. How else are we to explain the plethora of false, manmade gods? This is what I want us to look at briefly this morning. Specifically, I want us to look at how and why our resurrection hope must lead us to be bearers of God’s Good News in Jesus, with its twin messages of salvation and judgment.

Before we look at this more closely, let us acknowledge that proclaiming the Good News of Jesus’ death and resurrection is going to be an increasingly difficult thing for us to do because our society is increasingly rejecting the gospel and God’s authority over our lives. Like Paul in Athens, we are confronted with voices who oppose the Good News of Jesus in favor of their own gods or version of religion. We are told, for example, that there are many paths to God, that all religions are essentially equal. We live in an age where folks increasingly reject the idea that there is one standard of truth. Instead, we are told that truth is in the eye of the beholder and it is up to us to establish our own truths. Furthermore, we are told that if there really is a God, he is more like a distant landlord who only occasionally peeks in on his tenants, and then only to harass them for their behavior. Do you hear the echoes of this in Paul’s speech to the Athenians? Increasingly, we as Christians can expect to have our worldview marginalized in favor of something else that is fundamentally hostile to God and his truth contained in Scripture (see examples here, here, and here). And if current trends remain unchecked, we can expect to be actively persecuted for our beliefs because many are increasingly unwilling to tolerate hearing God’s truth. They only want to hear their own and we need to engage in this work with eyes wide open to the very real dangers that exist.

Despite all this, however, we are called to proclaim God’s great love for his stubborn and rebellious human creatures and as both Peter and Paul remind us in their own ways (I’m not sure what Mary’s views are), we should always be prepared to give a defense for the basis of our hope. But we are to do it gently and graciously, and we have a magnificent example of this kind of defense in Paul’s sermon to the Athenians, which we will look at shortly.

Our hope, of course, is in the cross. There God dealt decisively with our sin and the dark powers of evil. As Peter puts it, Jesus suffered for sins once and for all so that he might bring us to God, i.e., so that we might be reconciled to God and finally begin to enjoy real life in ways God originally intended for us. Peter also reminds us that because Jesus is now raised from the dead and ascended into heaven (God’s space) as Lord and ruler of the cosmos, the powers and current rulers have been made subject to him (cf. Col. 2.15). In this dense little passage, Peter reminds us that if the resurrection did not happen, nothing has changed. Jesus is just another failed Messiah and we are lost, alienated, and separated from God forever, cut off from our very Source of life because only in God can there be life. But because the resurrection did happen, we are assured that God’s goodness and life-changing love for us have won the war. The bad guys, while winning some battles, have won only a temporary victory and are ultimately defeated. And our archenemy, death, has finally been conquered forever, thanks be to God!

But there is more. Because Jesus has ascended into heaven and is no longer available to us in his bodily presence, he has promised that even this will not separate his followers from him because he has promised to be with us in the power and person of the Holy Spirit who dwells in us individually and collectively as Jesus’ body, the Church. And because we have been given the gift of the Spirit, we never have to fear being left alone or abandoned by Jesus. Ever.  This latter point is massively important to help us speak the truth in love to a hostile world because we need to be convinced that the Spirit will give us wisdom and insight when speaking to the enemies of the cross and to help bolster our faith when we (and it) come under attack.

In sum, we believe that God the Father has come to us as God the Son to suffer and die for us so that we could be healed and reconciled to God and to finally defeat the powers of evil that plague us, especially death. We further believe Jesus is always available to us in the per-son of God the Spirit and that God does this because of his great love for his creation and his desire to rescue us from evil, sin, and death. It’s all about God’s faithfulness to his creation and this emphasis on the game-changing impact of Jesus’ resurrection is woven throughout the NT. Take away the resurrection and we lose the entire NT. It’s that important!!

And we must be very clear on this point. If we do not believe our own story, the story of God’s rescue plan for his fallen and disordered creation through Abraham and his family Israel (Genesis 12.1-3) and ultimately through Jesus the Messiah, there is no way we can be faithful witnesses to Jesus. If we have bought the enemy’s line that Jesus is really no different from other religious leaders or that he is somehow just a great teacher and nothing else, we might as well stay at home on Sundays because that is the surest indication that we really are not resurrection people, i.e., we really don’t believe the hope and promise of resurrection as it is manifested in Jesus. This kind of thinking is also decidedly unbiblical. Notice, for example, how Peter assumes we have a resurrection hope in us for which we must always be ready to give an account!

But if we really are resurrection people and we really do take God’s command to us seriously that we are to love God with our whole being and others as ourselves, why would we want to keep quiet about the Good News that is ours in Jesus? If Jesus really is the only way to the Father and the way, the truth, and the life, how could we possibly keep quiet and claim to love others? Does not compute. But we have generally let our enemies cow-tow us into silence. Why is that?

So how do we proclaim the Good News in the midst of a hostile society? Here we can take our cue from Paul in today’s NT lesson. Notice that Paul did not come to Athens and immediately start to denounce it. While he certainly would have been justified in doing so, he didn’t because he surely knew that people do not generally respond well to denunciation when that is the first thing out of our mouth. And besides, how can we as Christians proclaim God’s love for people if we immediately tell them they are evil, wicked, mean, and nasty, and going to hell if they don’t get with the program? Of course there will be a time for us to talk honestly with people about God’s righteous and holy judgment on his sinful and rebellious creatures. But that time is not when we are first trying to get people to hear us about God’s great love for them and his plan to rescue them in and through Jesus the Messiah. So when we begin to talk to others about God’s love for the world as manifested in Jesus, we must be prepared to meet folks where they are, just like Paul did with the Athenians.

So, for example, if we hear folks advancing the idea that all religions are equal, we should be prepared to challenge that notion by reminding them that no other religion makes the claims the Christian faith makes, that God is indeed the creator of the world and has revealed his plan to rescue it and us from evil, sin, and death by raising Jesus from the dead. We should be prepared to tell others why Jesus’ resurrection is the first-fruits of God’s promised new heavens and earth and why that is the basis for our hope as individuals. No other religion comes close to making such a claim and if the resurrection is an historical fact (here we can be prepared to offer reasons why we think it is), it is decisive proof that our claim to truth is complete and valid.

Or we might hear folks expressing a deist view of God, in which they talk about a distant or uncaring God. We can point out to them, gently of course, that this is not the God of the Bible and we do not worship that god either because that god is a false god of human making! We should be prepared to talk about God’s intimate involvement in the lives of his people, e.g., Ruth, David, Abraham, Noah, Esther, et al., including our own, and about how we know Jesus’ promise to send us the Holy Spirit is true because we see the fruit of the Spirit and signs and wonders in our lives. Think, for example, of the many times you have had prayers answered or how God’s people have helped you when your prayers seemingly went answered. Tell folks about how God has helped and been with you as you have walked through the darkest valley or how you have walked with others in theirs. Remind the person that God usually works in and through his people (and occasionally even through those who are his enemies). This is no deist god and it is certainly not the God of the Bible. This is exactly what Paul told the Athenians!

There are literally hundreds of examples I could cite, but I hope you get the idea. Notice that in these examples, we are meeting folks where they are and we are not beating them down (or up) over their beliefs. We are trying to share the truth, God’s truth, with them and we should always understand there is real power in sharing the gospel with others. We are Spirit-filled people, remember? So that when we share God’s word and truth with others we can expect God to produce some positive results. Our NT lesson ended before we heard the outcome of Paul’s preaching in Athens. Luke reports that when they heard Paul talk about the resurrection, some of the Athenians scoffed. It was too incredible for them to believe. But some wanted to hear more and some decided to become believers like Paul. At that point, Luke tells us, Paul moved on. His work was done. There were more people to reach. The point here is that Paul understood about witnessing for Jesus. It is not our job to get people to believe. That is God’s job. Our job is to invite them into a life-giving and saving relationship with Jesus and if it is going to be any kind of real relationship, people must enter into it freely and without coercion.

And what about those who scoff at us, who try to make us feel like we are out-of-touch, or lunatics, or hate-mongers, etc.? What do we do with those folks and their attempts to demonize us (and sadly we will encounter more of them than we might care to)? We leave them with a blessing. We might politely tell them that we are saddened at their attempts to demonize us and the hard-heartedness and closed-mindedness that is always reflected in such attempts. We might say that we were simply offering real life and real truth so that they too could benefit from a relationship with the living Lord as we have and that is our heart’s desire, not to impose our will or some arbitrary rules on them. This response may further infuriate some and if it does, we need to move on and ask God to bless them and open their mind to his great love for them as manifested in Jesus. This is probably best done silently, but the point is this. Christ came to offer everyone life and healing and forgiveness, not just those who treat us nicely. As Peter reminds us, Christ the righteous died for us the unrighteous. As his baptized image-bearers, we are called to take up our cross and proclaim our Lord, rejoicing in our suffering because we know that like him, God will also vindicate us in our suffering for the Name. Of course we cannot do any of this on our own power. We do it in the power of the Spirit and we do this work together so that we can support and encourage each other when we encounter opposition. When we are able to act thusly toward our enemies, we have further proof that the Lord’s promises are true.

And of course the effectiveness of our witness to Jesus will be ultimately influenced by our lifestyle. If others see us preaching one thing and practicing another, we are telling them in a very powerful way that we don’t really believe our story, that like the world, we are simply trying to fabricate a god of our own making to justify our chosen lifestyle and that we are still hostile to the Spirit who dwells in us to heal and transform us. We don’t try to obey God’s ethical commands to get our ticket punched because it already has been punched in the cross of Christ. We choose to live like Christ because we know that only in him can there be real life as well as a real hope and a future. We believe this because we believe that Jesus’ death and resurrection marked the turning point of history, and for our good. And that of course means we have Good News, now and for all eternity. To him be honor, praise, and glory forever and ever.

In the name of God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Thanksgiving for Methodists in My Life on John and Charles Wesley’s Feast Day

On this feast day of John and Charles Wesley, I am thankful for John Wesley and my Methodist heritage, even though I have returned to the mother Church and am now an Anglican priest. I am especially thankful that God blessed me with Dr. Paul Chiles, Dr. Phil Webb, Rev. Ron Payne, and Rev. Bill Patterson. Each of these men served as ministers in the Methodist churches I attended in Van Wert, Perrysburg, and Toledo, and each had a profound influence on my spiritual development.

And of course I am thankful for my parents who were faithful Methodists all their married lives and who hauled me off to church every Sunday. 🙂

John Wesley Talks About the Marks of a Methodist

Today I celebrate/commemorate Wesley’s Aldersgate experience.

A Methodist is one who has “the love of God shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Ghost given unto him;” one who “loves the Lord his God with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his mind, and with all his strength.” God is the joy of his heart and the desire of his soul. He is therefore happy in God. Having found “redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of his sins,” he cannot but rejoice, whenever he looks back on the horrible pit out of which he was delivered. He cannot but rejoice, whenever he looks on the state wherein he now is; “being justified freely, and having peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The Character of a Methodist, 8.341-46

Aldersgate Remembered

John WesleyToday marks the 276th anniversary of Fr. John Wesley’s Aldersgate Experience, in which his heart was “strangely warmed” and which changed the course of the Methodist movement forever. I was a Methodist for the first 50 years of my life and am proud of that heritage. It is a sad testimony to the human condition that Wesley’s followers eventually split from the Church of England. But that does not take away the fact that Wesley and his movement came from the great umbrella that is the Anglican Tradition and we are the better for it.

Wednesday, May 24, [1738]. I think it was about five this morning, that I opened my Testament on those words, “There are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises, even that ye should be partakers of the divine nature.” ( 2 Peter 1:4.) Just as I went out, I opened it again on those words, “Thou art not far from the kingdom of God.” In the afternoon I was asked to go to St. Paul’s. The anthem was, “Out of the deep have I called unto thee, O Lord: Lord, hear my voice. O let thine ears consider well the voice of my complaint. If thou, Lord, wilt be extreme to mark what is done amiss, O Lord, who may abide it? For there is mercy with thee; therefore shalt thou be feared. O Israel, trust in the Lord: For with the Lord there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption. And He shall redeem Israel from all his sins.” In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate-Street, where one was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation: And an assurance was given me, that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death. I began to pray with all my might for those who had in a more especial manner despitefully used me and persecuted me. I then testified openly to all there, what I now first felt in my heart. But it was not long before the enemy suggested, “This cannot be faith; for where is thy joy?” Then was I taught, that peace and victory over sin are essential to faith in the Captain of our salvation: But that, as to the transports of joy that usually attend the beginning of it, especially in those who have mourned deeply, God sometimes giveth, sometimes withholdeth them, according to the counsels of his own will. After my return home, I was much buffeted with temptations; but cried out, and they fled away. They returned again and again. I as often lifted up my eyes, and He “sent me help from his holy place.” And herein I found the difference between this and my former state chiefly consisted. I was striving, yea, fighting with all my might under the law, as well as under grace. But then I was sometimes, if not often, conquered; now, I was always conqueror.

—John Wesley, Journal

A Prayer for the Feast Day of John and Charles Wesley

A day to remember two of my favorite theologians. John especially is one of my personal heroes.

From here:

The Wesley brothers, born in 1703 and 1707, were leaders of the evangelical revival in the Church of England in the eighteenth century. They both attended Oxford University , and there they gathered a few friends with whom they undertook a strict adherence to the worship and discipline of the Book of Common Prayer, from which strict observance they received the nickname, “Methodists.” Having been ordained, they went to the American colony of Georgia in 1735, John as a missionary and Charles as secretary to Governor Oglethorpe. They found the experience disheartening, and returned home in a few years. There, three days apart, they underwent a conversion experience. John, present with a group of Moravians who were reading Martin Luther‘s Preface to the Epistle to the Romans, received a strong emotional awareness of the love of Christ displayed in freely forgiving his sins and granting him eternal life. Following this experience, John and Charles, with others, set about to stir up in others a like awareness of and response to the saving love of God. Of the two, John was the more powerful preacher, and averaged 8000 miles of travel a year, mostly on horseback. At the time of his death he was probably the best known and best loved man in England.

Read it all.

Lord God, who inspired your servants John and Charles Wesley with burning zeal for the sanctification of souls, and endowed them with eloquence in speech and song: Kindle in your Church, we entreat you, such fervor, that those whose faith has cooled may be warmed, and those who have not known Christ may turn to him and be saved; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Lyle Dorsett: Would You Share the Gospel with Hitler’s Worst Henchmen?

From Christianity Today online. The following excerpt is from Dorsett’s review of Tim Townsend’s book, Mission at Nuremberg: An American Army Chaplain and the Trial of the Nazis. This would have been an extraordinarily difficult task for any who faced the Nazis to do. Good for the two who did. Check it out and see what you think.

518rUIWbTjL._SX140Among the unsung heroes of World War II was U.S. Army Chaplain Henry Gerecke (pronounced Cherokee). Born in southeastern Missouri in 1893 to German-American parents, Henry grew up in a rural community populated by first- and second-generation Germans who farmed the land and worshipped God in the Missouri Synod Lutheran tradition. In his teens young Gerecke heard God’s call to preach. He left the farm and worked his way through St. John’s Academy and College in Kansas, and then moved to St. Louis, where he attended Concordia Lutheran Seminary. During his St. Louis years he met Alma, who became his wife and mothered their three boys. Between 1940 and 1942 the two oldest boys joined the Army. And then in 1943 Henry Gerecke followed his sons into the Army by volunteering for the Chaplain Corps.

The fascinating story of Chaplain Henry Gerecke is engagingly told by Tim Townsend, the senior writer and editor for the Pew Research Center’s Religion and Public Life Project in Washington, D.C. In Mission At Nuremberg: An American Army Chaplain and the Trial of the Nazis, Townsend illumines a hidden gem of World War II history and brings to light the life and career of a truly heroic Christian man.

Townsend is at his best when he uncovers the dilemma faced by both chaplains. They had seen countless American soldiers maimed and killed by the German military machine. They had witnessed the savage effects of German aggression all over England and Europe, and they had seen, touched, and even smelled the horrors of the Nazi concentration and death camps. Now they had to decide if they really believed what they taught and preached: that Jesus Christ came to seek and save the lost, and that he died for sinners.

These chaplains were confident God had called them to care for souls. Would they delay going home to minister to such unrepentant Nazis? Would they have the courage to close their ears to the opinions of officers and men of the United States Army who hated these Germans and everything they stood for? Many American servicemen argued that these criminals did not deserve ministry from American chaplains. Some even suggested that spiritual care for these Nazis bordered on treason. Many people on the home front also shared these deep anti-German sentiments, and letters filled with anger and threats inundated the pastors. In the same vein, a chorus of Jewish people argued that ministry to such loathsome men as Hermann Goering, Wilhelm Keitel, Alfred Jodl, Hans Frank, and Ernst Kaltenbrunner could only be construed as anti-Semitism.

Read the entire review and consider buying the book. It’s certainly an appropriate read for this coming Memorial Day weekend and worthy of our best Christian reflection.

CT: How Jimmy Fallon Made Comedy Fun Again

See what you think (if you’re not too stuffy or full of yourself).

"The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon" Debut EpisodeFallon’s fun-for-fun’s-sake attitude has died out in much of comedy, replaced with dark irony that takes itself too seriously or shock-value “adult” humor that seems more targeted at dirty-minded teenagers. Today’s popular comics twist jokes into stories of death and depression and hopelessness. At the box office, the funniest broad comedy blockbusters are guaranteed an R rating, with an X-rated DVD box set soon to follow.

Every laugh seems underscored by derision, pain, or shame.

Even we Christians seem to have sidelined joy in entertainment to explore the bleaker side of reality. We find ourselves praising sad standups for what they can teach us about our faith. We binge-watch shows like Breaking BadHouse of Cards, and Mad Men for the way their broken characters and their brutal worlds will reveal the dark side of human nature. Yes, we’ve seen how recent heavy dramas can show us the real weight of sin and the moral consequences of our decisions, but these kinds of programs can’t become our only tv obsessions.

Just as we proclaim a God of grace and justice, of love and law, Christians need balance in our pop culture engagement. So do our neighbors. We need the light of the funny, silly, and joyful to glow in the dark. Shiny-happy shows don’t tell the full truth, but neither do shows that punch us in the face. We’ve spent enough time embracing suffering and being skeptical of joy and happiness. All the more so if, as C.S. Lewis said, “Joy is the serious business of heaven.”

Read it all (subscription required).

Fr. Ron Feister: How Stoned Are You?

Sermon delivered on Easter Sunday 5A, May 18, 2014 at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Columbus, OH.

If you would like to listen to the audio podcast of this sermon, click here.

Lectionary texts: Acts 7.55-60; Psalm 31.1-5, 15-16; 1 Peter 2.2-10; John 14.1-14.

Starting with our First Lesson form Acts and then followed by the psalm refrain and further following up with 1 Peter, we see numerous references to stone, stones, or rocks. In fact a quick electronic reference of these terms turned up approximately 80 such in just the New Testament. Some references negative with many positive.

In our first reading from Acts, we see stones being used as weapons, as a means of destroying life, with the stoning death of Stephen, the one accounted to be the first martyr. But this is not the first or only time we see stones being used in this way. We have, of course, the story of the woman caught in adultery, who was about to be stoned, whose life was spared only because Jesus intervened. In Matthew in the 23rd verse we find Jesus expressing his sadness over the fact that the very City of God- Jerusalem was a place where many of God’s prophets had been killed by stoning. Even Jesus faced the threat of stoning on a number of occasions at least two of which we find the Gospel of John in Chapter 8 first in Verse 7 and later in Verse 59. Besides stones being used as weapons, most of us have had the experience of tripping over and stubbing our foot on a stone which if that experience did not cause us to fall probable caused some loss of balance and some pain and unfortunately for some of some the use of colorful language.

Stones have had and still have many positive uses. One of the earliest uses of stones or stone markers was their uses as guide posts giving directions on which way to travel and points of significance. Often in the days before GPS, the setting of land boundaries relied on descriptions, which took account of natural features and often made reference to a stone or rock formation and in some cases there was the placing of a rock on the proposed boundary line. In the time of Jesus it was a Jewish practice to use the distance that a stone could be thrown to determine the distance that a person could travel on the Sabbath. Given that distances that most of travel on any given Sunday, we would need a great throwing arm.

Stones are used today even as there were used in the time of Jesus as the base or bottom layer to provide stability for a road, sidewalk, or structure. Sometimes this was accomplished by placing stones under the structure and other times by digging down until hitting a rock base. In the Gospel of Luke, we have the story of the man who digs down deep and builds his house on the rock foundation and as a result when the floods came, the house could not be shaken or destroyed. It was safe because it had been built well, built on the foundation of stone.

Stones, precious stones, are frequently mentioned in the Scriptures. Such stones were used to decorate the Temple and the vestments of the Priests. No I am not going to suggest that we priests need new bling — but even today we adorn chalices with gold, silver, and jewels to symbolically offer to God our very best and He gives His very best to us. Precious stones can have many purposes.

In addition to both Old Testament and are present use of such stones to make worthy offerings to God. Such stones also play a part in our lives giving us a sense of beauty. They give beauty to an object and can add to the attractiveness of a person. Some precious stones have been used for years as a medium for trade. Long before the dollar, stones of gold and silver, or coins made of these stones were the primary form of currency.

Some precious stones like the diamond have taken on a symbolic nature as when they are found on the engagement or wedding ring emphasizing the value of the relationship and the desire for permanence. But the diamond and some other stones are also known for other characteristics – the diamond because of its hardness is often used to cut or shape other stones or objects that they may more attractive or useful.

I mentioned already how stones are used to provide a foundation but stones have been and still are used to actually build structures in many parts of the world. Most of us have seen such buildings if not in person at least on TV. Some are simple cottages and some of these stone built structures are great castles. All stone built structures have one thing in common and that is that they start with a cornerstone – usually a unique large stone that provides stability and support to all of the other stones. Without the cornerstone, all of the other stones would move out of position and the whole structure would fail.

Now you might ask, what has all this talking about stones have do with being a Christian or with today’s scripture reading? In our Epistle reading we are reminded that Jesus is our cornerstone.We are reminded that we need to see our relationship with Jesus as secured and made permanent only as we are tied to Him like the stones of a building are tied to the natural cornerstone used by the builder. Jesus was and Jesus needs to be the cornerstone of our lives, for though he was rejected by the many of his time and his message of a new personal and loving relationship with God, was truly a stumbling block for many. It is Jesus alone that can be the true cornerstone for it is Jesus who was chosen to be the cornerstone by the Father, the Creator who would declared Him precious. Jesus remains the cornerstone for as a building’s structure depends on the cornerstone for stability, so it is that the community we call church and our own lives depend on Him for stability in an unstable world. Jesus like any cornerstone is unique, because, it is only in Jesus that we find the Way to God, the Truth of God,and the Life of God.

Jesus is the only true foundation stone.

But if Jesus is the cornerstone what does that say of us? The Scripture is clear. We are to be living stones. We are to be precious living stones. Stones supported on the sure foundation of Christ so that we can be built into a spiritual house where we will also be a royal priesthood offering sacrifices made acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. As God’s precious stones, we must be careful not to allow our lives to be used in a destructive manner bring injury to others.

While the professing and living of our faith will be a stumbling block for many who do not or choose not to understand the special relationship we have with God through Jesus Christ, we must make every effort to not cause unnecessary pain. We are called to be precious stones that whose lives sparkle with the beauty of God’s love attracting them not to us but the one who made us.

Like the diamond sometimes we will glisten with brightness and that is all that will be required and other times also like the diamond we will be called to do hard work to shape this world into the one that the Father desires. We should also remember that most precious stones require a good deal of grinding and polishing before their true beauty and value and come forth and we should not be surprised if God does some grinding and polishing on us. Be comforted in knowing that God is the great jeweler who knows how to bring out the best in us. As precious living stones, we are called to signs and landmarks, through the way we live our lives and by our sharing of the Good News, that others may come to know Jesus Christ, the most precious cornerstone. Amen.

Karl C. Schaffenburg: Jesus Would not Coexist


Consider how the Abrahamic faiths understand Jesus Christ. At John 14:6, Jesus says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except by me.” Judaism considers Jesus a prophet but not the Messiah. In Islam, Isa (Jesus) is a messenger of God. Islam makes the specific claim that revelation did not end with “the people of the book” (the Jews) or with the prophet Isa, but with Muhammad.

Jesus cannot coexist with contradictory claims to truth made in other faiths. If Jesus had been content with coexistence he might have escaped crucifixion. We should live peaceably with all people (Rom. 12:18), but we ought not reduce this peace to a glib assertion that all paths lead to God. The assertion that all faiths are the same and there is no exclusive truth is itself a doctrine, and one that excludes all but the universalist. It represents an incoherent quest for tolerance.

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