An old Jewish proverb states, “If charity cost nothing, the world would be full of philanthropists.” Then Bono, the leader of the band U2, comes along and says, “it’s not about charity, it’s about justice.” I get the pleasure of writing this article as I still reflect on an offering of $103,000 by this congregation to build community centers/places of worship in two Gypsy villages. It is almost to the penny the amount that is needed to complete these facilities. First, I want to thank everyone that gave toward this offering. It shows that when we as the body of Christ keep our focus on the things that He called us to do, we, working together, can accomplish much.
Most of you will never get the privilege of seeing the faces of the kids that will be tutored in these buildings, or the ladies that will come together to wash clothes. Seems like a small thing, washing clothes . . . but most Gypsy kids will not go past the 8th grade – a big reason is because of the inability their families have to provide them with clean clothes. There are already six young men that are going to high school from one village because of your generosity. I think of the impact that this will have on their families and their village. Now who knows how many more kids will have the confidence to go on to further their education just because of clean clothes.
That brings me to Bono. It is not just about charity, but about justice. So many things are withheld from the Gypsy people, I won’t go into all the details. But, for so long a place to worship has been withheld from these folks. I think of all the ways we might use that money for our purposes at First-Centenary, or what you might have used it for in your own family. Thanks for “doing justice.” That is what God says in Micah 6:8 “do justice.” This offering is far more than charity. It is a means of bringing justice to at least 2 villages filled with people that justice is often withheld from. Honestly, thanks just doesn’t seem to be enough to say.
Geaux Tigers, Barry
Published on Thursday, January 16, 2020 @ 3:55 PM EDT
It’s the time of year when we think about newness. New year, new resolutions, new plans, new experiences, etc.
In the Lauderback household our conversations of new experiences and the new year have a certain “baby” flair to them as we prepare to welcome a little one into our home in May. Every conversation seems to be about preparation, excitement, and change.
On the Sunday after Christmas Pastor Mark encouraged the congregation to not put away the baby Jesus too soon. And just as Christina and I are preparing to welcome baby Lauderback into our lives later this year, I want to encourage you to take some time over the next few weeks to think about what the next year, the next decade, will look like for you and your faith walk. Let us not put away the Christ Child at the end of the Christmas season but rather find ways to welcome the gift of Jesus into every facet of our lives. As we begin this new chapter of our lives and begin the decade of the 20’s, especially 2020, may we seek to keep Jesus in the center of our lives, our families, our careers, our friendships, and our activities. The center of everything that we do and all that we are.
The Lauderback household is going to change drastically over the next year and decade, but my prayer for our family and yours is that we approach our faith walk with a mindset of preparation, excitement, and change in order that we might live and love more completely.
Published on Friday, January 10, 2020 @ 9:49 AM EDT
Many things come to mind as I think about the joys of the Christmas season. One of those joys is receiving Christmas cards! I know in this age of technology that snail mail is not always the best way to communicate. However there is something special to me about receiving a Christmas card. Judy and I have received several cards this Christmas from friends, relatives, and neighbors. My sister even sent me a card from her cats. It was a “Meow-y Christmas“ greeting.
I cannot send a card to each of you but I do offer praise to God for such a generous faithful and loving congregation. You inspire me by your willingness to be light in a world often filled with darkness. God is doing amazing things among us and for that I give praise to God for each of you.
The first Christmas was filled with praise, especially from the prophet Zechariah, Mary’s cousin Elizabeth, the angels in the Bethlehem field, and the shepherds returning from being in the presence of the Christ Child. Who could overlook the “Magnificat,” Mary’s song of praise (Luke 1:46-55):
“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
While I cannot send each of you a card, I can offer you a Christmas blessing!
Published on Friday, December 20, 2019 @ 11:07 AM EDT
Several times in my life I have been warned by people to “stay away” from certain places. Those places are dangerous, they are places where you can “get into trouble”; they are places where Christians aren’t “supposed to go”; and a few other reasons. Honestly, I don’t listen very well to the advice of others. It’s a defect that I was born with. But seriously, I kept thinking about the things I read about Jesus and how He went to the places and hung out with the people that good little Jewish boys just weren’t supposed to. Here at Christmas time, when we celebrate the coming of Jesus into the world, I think: “What if Jesus would have stayed in safety and never entered into the brokenness of humankind?”.
Daniel Hill writes, “We have people trying to solve problems from a distance, and their solutions don’t work, because until you get close, you don’t understand the nuances and details of the problem. And I am persuaded that there is actually power in proximity.”
“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Yet, I have heard these words from Christians: “Don’t touch them, they are dirty” (speaking of the Gypsy). “Do you know what kind of girl she is?” “Christians aren’t supposed to go into those places.” “That area of town is dangerous.”
Wish I had the space to tell you what I have experienced when I didn’t listen very well to those voices, but instead obeyed the voice that said, “All authority in Heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go make disciples of ALL…” I don’t know about ya’ll, but I am glad Jesus didn’t choose safety. I am glad He chose to live amid a broken, suffering, and dangerous world.
Geaux Tigers, Barry
Published on Friday, December 13, 2019 @ 1:47 PM EDT
Its beginning to look a lot like Christmas ... literally everywhere looks like Christmas just exploded. Every store, street, and commercial has some sort of Christmas decoration or theme. But sometimes, despite all of the festivities, it is hard to feel the joy of Christmas.
Two of my colleagues, Wil Cantrel and Paul Seay, recently released a book entitled “From Heaven to Earth: Christmas for New Believers, Old Believers, and Nonbelievers” and if you are looking for a good book to read this Advent/Christmas season I would highly recommend it. In the first chapter of the book they spend some time talking about Incarnation (God becoming flesh and dwelling among us) and the importance of giving the gift of presence. They remind us that “one way of understanding the incarnation is to say that Jesus is everything we need from God wrapped in a person.” (p 17)
One of the opportunities that awaits us each Christmas is to offer the gift of Jesus Christ by seeking to be a part of God’s incarnation in this world. You and I can be a part of how others see and experience Jesus this season! There may be someone in your life who has lost a loved one, or lost a job, or is experiencing seasonal depression, or maybe had a negative experience at a past Christmas, and it is hard for them to experience the joy of Christmas. This holiday season lets try to embody the incarnational presence of Jesus by offering ourselves in relationship to others. Let’s remember the importance of giving the gift of presence by seeking to be fully present with ourselves and with those around us.
Published on Thursday, December 5, 2019 @ 3:59 PM EDT