Tuesday, September 12, 2017 9:10 AM

The best that is in humanity?

Tuesday, September 12, 2017 9:10 AM
Tuesday, September 12, 2017 9:10 AM

In the August 30 edition of The Christian Century, the following poem by Charles Hughes appeared:

The Widowed Professor’s New Purpose

His lectures that he likes best
Usually concern Camus.
Each year, he does La Peste,
Which wasn’t always true.

“A parable to be read
By a word itself absurd:
First rats, then people, dead…
The cause is never cured…

“Despair comes in, even seems
To push the envelope
Hard. But the book’s deep themes
Are human love and hope

And how these things endure
Amid death’s ravages –
Or may.”

He’s growing sure
It matters what he says.

Hughes is referencing Camu’s major work, The Plague. The Plague, you may recall is about a town that is ravaged with the bubonic plague. The plague enters the town mysteriously and leaves just as mysteriously. The book shows how human beings rise to the occasion with love and compassion. When things are really bad it seems that human beings are capable of expressing the kind of love and compassion that really needs to be practiced each and every day. Amazing is it not, that in Houston no one wanted to know if one was a certain color, ethnic origin, religious persuasion, gay or straight, rich or poor, right or wrong, left or right. No, none of that at all.

Interesting to me, the Nazarene who died on an ugly hill upon a cross never asked such questions either. I find myself, once again wondering, why does it, all too often, take tragedy to bring out the best that is in humanity?

– Doug Fairbanks

Wednesday, August 30, 2017 10:39 AM

Light That Rises in the Darkness

Wednesday, August 30, 2017 10:39 AM
Wednesday, August 30, 2017 10:39 AM

One of my favorite people ever is the late Jane Merchant. She spent most of her life in bed suffering from illness. Yet she wrote some of the most beautiful and meaningful poetry followed by a prayer in her devotional book, In Green Pastures, ever written. The following prayer from that great work is most appropriate for August 2017. This month has reminded us in so many ways that there is still much evil and darkness with which we must defeat through God’s presence and love. Her prayer following the poem FOR ALL THE GLORY reminds us that there is light born even out of darkness.

WE THANK THEE, HEAVENLY FATHER, for light that rises in the darkness, and for the darkness that makes us realize how lovely is the light. Thou knowest our hearts, O God: thou knowest we would not choose the darkness or the storm; we would not choose the valley of the shadow; we would avoid all sorrow if we could. We thank thee, Lord, that out of the experiences from which we shrink, we learn the glory of light, the comfort of thy presence, and the sufficiency of thy consolations. We thank thee in Christ’s name. AMEN

Heather Heyer, who was murdered by a white supremacist and neo nazi in Charlottesville, Virginia like so many innumerable others murdered by KKK and other people filled with hate, will forever be such a light shining above and beyond the wretched darkness embodied in those hate groups. Indeed, the light of the crucifixion and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ still shines above and beyond such absolute evil and idiocy.

Thank God for the light of Christ.

– Doug Fairbanks

Wednesday, August 23, 2017 9:20 AM

What we need to be "fully alive"

Wednesday, August 23, 2017 9:20 AM
Wednesday, August 23, 2017 9:20 AM

John 6:47-48 in The Living Bible reads as follows: “How earnestly I tell you this – anyone who believes in me already has eternal life! Yes, I am the Bread of Life!” And, the essence of another teaching of Jesus is humanity does not live only on bread. So, the people of Jesus’ day must have been struggling with something with which we struggle today. I believe that struggle is over just what it is we human beings need to be really and fully alive to ourselves and to the world in which we are privileged to live out our days.

Just as in Jesus’ day there were those who believed that if people have certain so-called necessities of life like a good job, economic well-being, security, etc. then all would be well. Jesus reminded the people then and it is a good reminder for the people of today that taking care of our physical needs only does not a really meaningful, purposeful and joyful life make. I remember once a statement by the late Johnny Carson during a Tonight Show monologue in which he said in a rather sober manner, “Money does not make you happy.” I remember the brokenness that was in his life at the time and I remember that he did not die a happy man. He had fame and fortune. Yet, his soul longed for something more.

Now, I believe in economic prosperity, I believe that we need good jobs, security and all the rest of those “things” as we journey upon the face of this earth. In other words, I am certainly not a proponent of “pie in the sky.” But, I believe with Jesus that we need and must have something much more than those things upon which so much of our political rhetoric is based in this day. What I take from Jesus’ words is a clear warning to the times in which we find ourselves. The warning is simply this, if we believe that economic prosperity is all it takes for our society and our world to bring forth the best that is in us, we are very sadly mistaken.

– Doug Fairbanks

Monday, August 14, 2017 3:17 PM

Charlottesville and the Human Condition

Monday, August 14, 2017 3:17 PM
Monday, August 14, 2017 3:17 PM

The events in Charlottesville, Virginia remind us in absolutely no uncertain terms that we are still a broken people; we are still in need of redemption and reformation.  The Bible uses the word sin to describe the brokenness and the fragile state of human affairs. 

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Friday, August 11, 2017 2:48 PM

Turn the Other Cheek

Friday, August 11, 2017 2:48 PM
Friday, August 11, 2017 2:48 PM

One of the toughest teachings of Jesus is the one about turning the other cheek. Remember, Jesus once said, “But I say to you, do not resist him who is evil; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also.” Matthew 5:39 (New American Standard).

We know that Jesus was very skilled in using oriental hyperbole (the use of exaggeration to make a point) as a teaching tool. This may or may not be one of those times in which he employed that tactic. However, it begs the question as to just what Jesus was attempting to teach his followers. I heard a very prominent preacher years ago from Memphis, Tennessee say that Jesus was telling his followers not to allow the actions of other people to control their reactions. I have always liked that interpretation. The Matthew Henry Commentary on Matthew 5:38-42 states that “The plain instruction is, suffer any injury that can be borne, for the sake of peace, committing your concerns to the Lord’s keeping. And the sum of it all is that Christians must avoid disputing and striving. If any say, Flesh and Blood cannot pass by such an affront, let them remember that flesh and blood shall not inherit the kingdom of God; and those who act upon right principles will have most peace and comfort.”

Another thought on Jesus’ words about turning the cheek comes from Echart Tolle in The Power of Now: A Guide To Spiritual Enrichment. He writes, “Maybe you are being taken advantage of, maybe the activity you are engaged in is dishonest, irritating, or unconscious, but all is irrelevant. Whether your thoughts and emotions about this situation are justified or not makes no difference. The fact is that you are resisting what is. You are making the present moment into an enemy.”

Part of what I take from Jesus’ words and the other words on this page is that we must always be careful to keep our egos out of the way in order that the power of God may work through us. Though a hard teaching, I believe it is one with which we and our world need to wrestle.

– Doug Fairbanks

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