Me with my lovely wife, Kathy:

Monday, August 17, 2015

An Unfortunate Controversy Among Young-Earthers


I just read an excellent article by Kevin Bauder about an unfortunate trend among some who, like me, hold to a Young Earth Cosmology.  His article is based in part on a paper written by Mark A. Snoeberger.  Both are well worth reading, especially so if you are a part of the Young Earth Creation discussion.  I have been interested in this discussion since high school, when I was a proponent of the Gap Theory.  Or, as I confidently called it the "Gap Fact."  These articles confirmed some of my thoughts about the evolution of the creationist movement.

I was beginning to think that maybe I remembered how things had developed wrongly.   I was privileged to be in a gathering, in the late 60s where the late Henry Morris shared his views on Creation and the Flood.  I read the seminal volume that he and John Whitcomb wrote, The Genesis Flood.  More recently I went through  a time when I periodically read materials from Answers in Genesis.  I've heard Ken Hamm, and a couple of others from AIG speak and have read some of their materials.  As a pastor who spent his career ministering in the formerly segregated South I found their work on race to be very helpful.  I have referred people to articles like this one a number of times.

Over the years, though, two observations about the kind of Young Earth Cosmology presented by AIG and those who follow their lead, have caused me concern.

  1. As I listened to some of their presentations I heard them using a flat-footed literalism in their hermeneutics.  I believe there are good interpretive reasons to conclude that the earth was created in six 24-hour days, and to accept that the entire world was flooded in the days of Noah.  However, to simply bluster that anyone who says anything different is not holding a high-view of Scripture is simply wrong.  If the same hermeneutical principles were applied to other passages of Scripture that these Young-Earthers were applying to the creation and flood accounts, one would end up concluding that Solomon married a monstrosity, and would be forced to teach that when Christ returns His kingdom will come in the form of a rock rolling down a mountain.  A literal interpretation of any document is to understand that document as it is it written, and that must include the author's intent--in the case of the Bible "authors' intent."  It is a principle that we often have to apply to conversation.  If wife interprets her husbands joke as a literal statement he is liable to spend the night on the couch.  On the other hand if he takes his wife request to go shopping as anything less than a clear cut statement of what ought to be done.  He'll also end up on the sofa.  Maybe I'll write another article about staying off the living room furniture, but for now, I'll get back to the point.  I know there are scholarly presentations about the genre of the first 11 chapters of Genesis, but this willingness to wrestle with these issues needs to filter down to popular presentations, or as a friend of mine says, "Rhetoric matters."
    One of the keys to good preaching--I've been trying to get there all my life--is to make something as simple as it can be made.  But, as Einstein warned us, it should not be made one bit simpler.
     
  2. Related to my first concern is the second.  It is the one that Buader and Snoeberger deal with.  Many Young-Earthers have chosen an unfortunate hill to die on.  I'll call it Mount Ussher.  I'll let you read the articles, but it is unfortunate that those who speak the loudest about Young Earth Cosmology insist on an absolute adherence to the view that the Genealogies of the early chapters of Genesis exist to give the earth's age.
    I don't think they do.

Friday, June 26, 2015

After the SCOTUS Decision:

I haven't watched TV news today.  I'm sure it is full of interviews and punditry concerning today's decision by the US Supreme Court requiring all states to legalize same-sex marriage.  I've already seen some online comments.  Some are rejoicing, some are mourning, while still others are still shaking their heads at the lightning speed of this change.
I've spoken in the past about my conclusions on the matter of marriage.  You can find videos of the messages here and here.
Recently, my pastor, Doug Williams has been leading us in the formation of a statement about marriage and sexuality.  It hasn't been finalized, yet, but here it is:

We believe the Bible teaches that sexual intimacy is a wonderful gift from God to be expressed exclusively in a marital relationship between a man and a woman.  (Genesis 2:24-25; Proverbs 5:18-19; 1 Corinthians 7:1-5; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5; Hebrews 13:4)  We further believe that each of us were born with physical characteristics that make us male or female, and that this sexual identification in which a person is born is established by God and should be accepted by each person as a gracious gift from Him (Genesis 1:27; Psalm 139:13-16; Jeremiah 1:5; Mark 10:6-9; Luke 1:13)
 Therefore, any form of sexual intimacy outside the bond of marriage between a man and a woman, (such as premarital sex, adultery, or homosexual activity) or any attempt to change the sexual identification in which one was born, are both sin and outside God’s design and desire for our lives. (Leviticus 18:1-30; Proverbs 6:32; 1 Corinthians 6:9-18; Romans 1:26-27; 1Timothy 1:9-10; Ephesians 5:5-7)
 Though humbly seeking to remain true to the clear teaching of the Word of God on this and all other matters, we also seek to remain true to that same Word in reaching out in love and compassion toward everyone, including those whose sexual lifestyles we cannot endorse or accept (Matthew 9:36; 11:28-30; 1 Corinthians 6:11).  So we also commit ourselves “...to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.” Titus 3:2 (ESV)

I agree.

A Godly friend of mine will often comment when he is saying good bye.  "Keep it between the fence posts and keep the shiny side up."  Did I mention that my friend used to be a professional truck driver?  Let me suggest some ways for those of us who are seeking to follow Jesus to stay in the road in the aftermath of today's SCOTUS decision:


  1. Nothing has really changed.  I'm not disrespecting the judicial branch of the US government, and I realize that "nothing" is hyperbole, but the reality is, the Supreme Court nor any other human institution has the power to make something right or wrong.  They can declare what is legal and illegal, and/or they can identify rights that within their jurisdiction cannot be denied others, but they do not have the power to make something that is inherently wrong right, or vice-versa.  The rightness or wrongness of human slavery, the death penalty, the right of women to vote, the racial segregation or integration of schools, and the sanctity of life are not created by any body of people.  Obviously, since the Supreme Court has changed its decrees on various issues it is not infallible.  Beyond that we need to remember that the obligations of Christ's followers are not determined by the government, but by our Lord.
  2. One way or another all of us are living in the Book of Ecclesiastes.  We are trying to find meaning in this life.  One of the great lies of our world is that meaning and satisfaction come from getting what I want.  This chasing of the mirage of self-pleasing is not something that is limited one particular people group.  It is shared by people of whatever sexual orientation.  While I may not understand, the urge that another is trying to satisfy--I may even conclude that satisfying that desire is wrong--I can sympathize and empathize with the desire to find meaning, peace, and satisfaction in life.  This world is populated, not by "us and them," but by us.  We are all dream-chasers.  We all desperately need the reality of Solomon's conclusion to the whole matter--"Fear God and Keep His commandments."  (Ecc. 12:13)
  3. In the United States we Christians have gotten a free ride.  For some time, now, a number have been looking out the window wondering whether we ought to get off the train and walk.  I recently posted about the Benedict Option (here).  My thoughts are worth looking at chiefly because they point to other better informed and more nearly complete explanations.  The Christianity of the New Testament is clearly counter-cultural.  Clearly, there is a place for seeking to influence the nation in which we dwell, but expecting that nation to maintain and enforce our Christian standards for us in inappropriate and unhelpful.  Today's decision will force individual Christians, churches, and other Christian institutions to focus less on what our government can do for us and more on what we ought to do.  
  4. I see a dangerous backlash--probably not the one you think I mean.  It is a self-imposed backlash.  Some of my colleagues have rightly observed the hypocrisy, and unnecessarily harsh rhetoric of some conservative Christian leaders toward those in the gay community.  Meanness, and demeaning language are totally out of place.  We should repent of and abandon that kind of behavior.  However, some have gone too far.  They seem to say, because some have spoken harshly, and have condemned sin in others while hypocritically ignoring their own sin, we should just be quiet and say nothing.  That is an option we cannot choose.  Walking in the paths God has marked out is the way of blessing.  For some staying in that path is very hard.  We dare not deny anyone the opportunity to experience the fullness of God's blessing by our silence. 
  5. I'm out of time.   I need to go practice what I'm about to say.
    Love others, whoever they are, whatever label they have, love them.

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And [Jesus] said to him, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’  “This is the great and foremost commandment.  “The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’" (Matthew 22:36–39)

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Benedict Option, Minds That Have Been Closed, and Lions In Waiting:

The "Benedict Option" is a concept that has been fairly big lately in the online neighborhood where I hang out.
Breakpoint recently interviewed Rod Dreher, who has written about the concept.

Click here for a brief commentary, and/or here for  1/2 hour  interview with Dreher.  

I appreciate Dreher and Breakpoint encouraging this conversation.  I look forward to hearing from others about how Christians need to live according to a different standard than the "over-culture" that dominates our society.  In the past we Christians in the USA--others will need to calibrate their own communities--have lived in a culture that was still clearly marked by a system of Christian ethics.  Even the "evil" people in our culture acknowledged the morality of the mores they violated.  "I know I should, but don't."  What has changed in the past few years is that now the majority culture is looking at what could be called "traditional values," or what I would call, "values built on the left-overs of a Biblical worldview"--the standard by which the Cleaver family lived, or what what was more formally called "civic religion," and saying that is evil.  I read somewhere a while back that it used to be that our neighbors didn't like Christians who take the Bible seriously because we talked about sin too much.  Now the same culture looks at us and says "I don't like you because what you believe is sinful."
In The Closing of the American Mind, Allan Bloom spoke of students in the prestige colleges of the day as believing in only one virtue, openness.  The young leaders who were being trained in the era Bloom spoke of have spawned the college, high-school, and elementary teachers who have shaped our world.  As the mono-virtue of openness/acceptance has permeated our society, we have passed through the live-and-let-live phase to a new standard.  It is not sufficient to give someone the freedom to do that to which I object, now I must fully embrace and rejoice in others expression of their freedom to do as they please.  Not only must one obey Big Brother, one must love Big Brother. Since those of us who take the Bible seriously cannot be accept that which God's word rejects we are the evil ones.     
The situation in which we find ourselves is not new.  Christians in the Roman Empire were accused of being atheists.     
As Christians became more numerous, and their beliefs more well known, the charges of immorality became harder to sustain. But one accusation is repeated time and time again- "Atheism"; rejection of the tutelary deities of their communities. This was a very serious matter; deities were believed to bring good fortune to a town, and slighting them might bring down their wrath. According to Tertullian: "If the Tiber reaches the walls, if the Nile does not rise to the fields, if the sky doesn’t move or the earth does, if there is famine, if there is, plague, the cry is at once: "The Christians to the lion!"" Outbreaks of persecution often coincided with natural disasters. Earthquakes in Asia in 152, and an outbreak of plague in Alexandria at the time of Origen, were blamed on the Christians. Around 270, Porphry blamed the plague in Rome on the fact that the temple of Aesculapius had been abandoned for the Christian churches. This sort of accusation was persistent; as late 419, Augustine wrote "The City of God" to prove that Christians hadn’t caused the fall of Rome by slighting the old gods. The charges of atheism and immorality help explain the hatred of the mob for Christians, evidenced in the pogroms in places such as Smyrna and Lyons.  (http://www.theologian.org.uk/churchhistory/persecution.html)
 We are the new atheists.  We reject the god of absolute autonomy.  We can no longer live as if things haven't changed.  They have.

Or, maybe not.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Praying for the welfare of my city, even if I don't live there.

Though I have never really lived in the country, I think there is country in my bones.  My parents, and as far as I can tell all my ancestors were country-folk, farmers and such.  I have enjoyed time in
cities.  I've been privileged to visit Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, Prague, Rome & Florence in Italy, Alamaty Kazakhstan, Dresden Germany,  Jerusalem, Athens, and Corinth in Greece, Quito Ecuador, Austin Texas, and Washington DC.  In addition to those notable places, I've enjoyed time in some smaller, but impressive in their own right, cities like Roanoke VA, Ibarra Equador, and Neuva Ocatepeque Honduras, and College Station TX.  For all my adult life I've lived in a mill-town in the mountains of Virginia, that though technically a city, is quintessential, small-town America.
If you give me a box of crayons, though, and a piece of paper and ask me to draw the ideal place to live, it is none of the above.  Likely it would be a place on a lake, situated so the sun would rise over mountains behind the house, and set across the water spread out before my spacious front porch.  No antelope in my art-work, but deer would roam there.  If you pressed me for details, though, somewhere, just out of sight, far enough away that I couldn't hear or see it, there would be a city--a city where my wife could shop, where I could take her on a nice date, go to concerts and see lovely architecture.  I'd like for there to be a baseball team there--triple A would do.  There ought to be places to work and learn.  The college there ought to have a noble laureate on faculty.  The signs, as you come into town should boast "Home of . . ."

In other words I want the benefits of city, I just don't want to live there.

Sound familiar?

I was brought up short, along these lines, this morning as I was studying 1 Timothy 2, getting ready for Sunday's message.  I Timothy 2 has a strong emphasis on praying for our community and our leaders.

First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. . . . Therefore I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension. (1 Timothy 2:1–8, NASB95)     
This led me to consider Jeremiah's instructions to a group of exiles,
‘Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare.’ (Jeremiah 29:7, NASB95)
I confess, I tend to think of cities in a somewhat negative light--"Nice places to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there."  Cities, however, when done right, are places that produce great works.  As people pool their resources, talents, dreams, and hard work, great things emerge.  That is, if those people are able to "lead tranquil and quiet lives."  On the other hand, some of the recent unrest in cities, reminiscent of the late sixties, reminds us that piling people together without the benefit of that which fosters tranquility and quiet, is like piling oily rags in the furnace room.  Sooner or later . . .

All of us, whether we live at the end of a dirt road or in a high-rise looking down on millions, ought to be praying for our nations, our leaders, out communities.  And for all of us that includes our cities--those engines of culture and influence that drive culture.

Trevin Wax suggests some ways to pray for our cities:
Below I have listed out prayers that we have recently been utilizing to pray for our city. My prayer even now, is that the Lord would use these to glorify Himself in the redemption and renewal of your city.
  • Sunday - That the Gospel would be boldly and unashamedly proclaimed in our local churches. That our churches would be places for the broken, unwanted and hurting. That Christ will be offered as the only remedy for the very thing we cannot do, make our selves better or save ourselves.
  • Monday - Pray that Romans 8:35-39 would become a reality. Pray for yourself, for your family, for your pastors, for your church. That our hope would be found in Christ and in Christ alone and that his hope would produce Gospel boldness in our lives.
  • Tuesday - Pray Matthew 6:10 over your city. Spend this day replacing the word “earth” with the name of your city… for me it is “In Charlottesville as it is in heaven”.
  • Wednesday - Pray that the Spirit would weed out the sin in your life that has kept you from living a life on mission. That He would open up opportunities for you to be present and intentional with the gospel in your neighborhood. Pray for your neighbors by name.
  • Thursday - Pray boldly Psalms 33:8 over your city.  The the people would stand in awe before Him.
  • Friday - Pray Habakkuk 3:2 over your city. That the Lord’s love, wrath, justice and mercy would be made known in the City.
  • Saturday: Pray that the Lord would increase our burden for our city. That our love and growth in the Gospel would produce a desire to see others saved, and grow in their love and understanding of who God is, what He has done and what He is doing.
You can read his entire blog post here.


Thursday, April 9, 2015

Religious Freedom and the right to discriminate:

Several pieces of input come together in my mind this morning.
Maybe it is just the cyber-neighborhood that I hang out in, but around here there has been a lot of talk about the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Is it a tool of raw bigotry?
Is it a guarantee of due process before one can be forced to do something that he finds religiously objectionable?
Probably the answer is "Yes." to both questions.  Or to be more specific, "It depends."
Unadulterated, evil, malicious bigotry does exist.  Far too often it wears the clothing of religion--to my horror, and perhaps shame, too often the robes of Christianity.  Those intent on getting their way, and keeping "those other people" from getting theirs will use whatever weapon they find handy to enforce their "standards."  I'm sure there are Hoosiers who fit that description.  They are everywhere.  It is equally clear that "Religious Freedom" is being redefined into oblivion.

  • Ross Douthat of the New York Times warned about this a couple of years ago.    
  • He weighs in on the current debate with some thought provoking questions here.
  • Al Mohler gives "evidence for [what he calls a] massive and dangerous shift" here.
  • Here is a lovely article that helps put the matter in perspective, and, perhaps, provides a model for civil behavior, as opposed to civil suits.
Religious freedom is being redefined in two ways.
  1. It is being seen as a purely private matter.  One is free to be religious as long as it does not effect others in any way, emphasize the any.
    At this point the redefinition is a matter of degree.  Some of the religions and philosophies of the world have held as one of their basic beliefs the superiority of their kind to any other people in the world.  In extreme cases such religious beliefs include the right to, or even the obligation to, kill all others "who aren't like us."  We rightly defeated Nazism over such a doctrine.  I'm glad to say that no one (except perhaps abortionists) can successfully defend themselves against murder by pleading, "My religion made me do it."
    In today's climate, though, no slight to a representative of an oppressed class is too small, to be seen as greater than any breach of conscience of one who objects, "I can't in good conscience do that."
    Let's not forget that we are not talking about lives being taken, or genocide, or whole communities being deprived of education or other basic services.  The recent cases are about cake, pizza, and pictures, all of which can be easily obtained elsewhere. 
  2. As the above would indicate, religious liberty is now seen as a right in small print, at the bottom of the list, below other far more important rights.  
    Society says, "It's not important.  Get over it!"
I recently watched a TV show in which there was a mock trial pitting the rights of religious people to discriminate against the rights of others to not be discriminated against.  It was interesting.  Good arguments exist on both sides. You may find it hard to believe but there is a right to discriminate.  My older son's former career was management in poultry processing plants.  Two of the plants he worked in provided food products for specialty markets.  One plant would periodically do a run of Halal chickens.  "Halal" is the word used by Muslims to describe the kind of food that they regard as clean.  Among the other requirements for a chicken to be Halal is that it must slaughtered by a Muslim.  Another plant where Chad worked provided poultry for the Kosher market in the New York City area.  The staff includes many rabbis, the birds are killed by shochets, a person who has been specially trained and licensed to slaughter animals and birds in accordance with the laws of shechita. The facility has a place for the shochets to take a ritual bath before their shift begins.  In both operations there were jobs that my son could not fill.  Because the companies were involved in providing products for people with high religious motivations they had to discriminate in their hiring practices.  
Historically, courts and governments had a mandate to balance the right to discriminate against the right to be treated equal.  
What is happening today is one side of the argument is being removed by force.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

SAGELY WORDS FROM THE OTHER SIDE

Yesterday was my first full day of, what I’ll call by default and surrender, “retirement.”  I live in a blue-collar, carry your lunchbox, and wear a hardhat community.  When I announced what I was going to do—step down from the lead role at the church I have pastored for forty+ years, assume a supporting role there, and engage in some other ministries on the side—almost every one, after my careful explanation said, “You are retiring.”  J  What I have in mind for this next phase of life just doesn’t fit very well in a lunchbox.  Most of the guys I know work hard until they are done, and then they quit.  An uncle of mine, former high-iron worker, gun smith, cabinet builder, and contractor, told me a few years ago he wasn't working any more.  He was “drawing,” as in drawing a pension.  Uncle Jim’s explanation is an apt way of putting how most folk in my community see it.  It's a binary thing.  So, even though I’m not “drawing,”  Since I quit doing what I used to do, I guess, in that sense, I am retired.
Part of my first post-what-I-used-to-do day was spent caring for some odds and ends.  That was a lot like a lot of Mondays have been for decades.  I went to the bank, Post Office, and the insurance office.  A car had broken down and I had to make arrangements to have it towed and get it fixed; again, nothing new there.  I've never owned an automobile that didn't break down now and again.  Some of my errands were personal, some related to work.  I found myself engaged in a dialogue in my head.  I was asking a conjured up lunchbox/hardhat guy, "Tell me this.  If I'm retired, why do I still have a job?"  He just got his bologna sandwich out and while chewing gave me that look reserved for fools who don't get it.  
As well as those mixed-bag kind of tasks, I visited an inmate at the local jail.  If I weren’t still a pastor I couldn’t have gotten in, and more importantly, I might not have gotten back out.  I payed a call on, read scripture to, and prayed with a dear lady who is dying with cancer.  I spent a couple of hours working on our church’s website and doing some other cyber-work—part of my new job description—my wife and I had supper and serious conversation with a missionary couple, and I got ready to leave on a short-term mission trip—again, part of my new job-description.  I figure that since my new church job calls for about twenty hours of work a week, I came close to getting half-a-week’s work done in one day, yesterday.  Not bad.  Today, or tomorrow--I’m crossing so many time zones I don’t what day it is—I’m on my way to do a short term stint as adjunct faculty at Pacific Islands University, a school with a definite missionary emphasis.  Again, I've done this kind of thing before.
So, so far everything is exactly the same except it’s different.
I received a really timely article the the other day.  It was in the week building up to March 15, the day when I officially stepped down from the role I have filled, or tried to fill, for the past four decades.  Ten things for Old Preachers.  I think you can see how the title grabbed me immediately.  Let me digress a moment.
Back when I was a student at Appalachian Bible Institute there used to be a wonderfully Godly, kind, and wise old preacher on staff.  To tell you the truth, I never did know what Mel Seguine’s job was.  As far I was concerned all he need to do was just be there.  I don’t think I was alone among the preacher-boys in thinking, “When I grow up I want to be like Mel Seguine.”  The other day I looked in a mirror and thought that in one insignificant way I have grown to be like Mr. Seguine.  My hair is now white, like his was.  I pray that I will become like him in ways that are far more important. 
That brings me back to the article.  When I read #4, I thought of Mr. Seguine, and I thought that, in large measure describes what I hope to do in this next phase of my life.

Embrace the transition from king to sage. Too many leaders have undone their good work by resisting this transition and clinging to power. As we age, “strategic ministry” shifts from a position and office to an attitude and role. We need sages freed from leadership responsibilities, who have a fresh passion for the gospel and enthusiasm for the next generation of leaders!  (http://www.sermoncentral.com/pastors-preaching-articles/peter-mead-10-pointers-for-olderpreachers-2131.asp)

I don’t want to run things, though, from time to time I expect to be in charge.  What I want to do is help others run things, and help prepare those who will run things.  I don’t think I have stepped down.  What I have done is step over into a new role.  In a lifetime of ministry I have learned some things, much of which is not contained in books, or found online.  Some of what I have learned was taught to me in the school of Hard Knocks, an institution that I’d like to help others avoid. 

When Pastor Doug, the newly installed Senior Pastor at CBC, and I discussed the transition that we completed this last Sunday, one topic of conversation was what our new titles would be.  I don’t think he’ll print it on his business cards, but I kind of like the “Right Reverend Boss Man,” as a title for Doug.  We never discussed this one, but how about this as new moniker for me, The Sage?

Sunday, March 8, 2015

This was the conclusion to this morning's message based on the book of Job, If God Is Good And God Is Great, Then Why Does Life Hurt So Bad?

Back when I was in college, Vicky Fought, my English teacher passed out a story that she had found in a magazine.  I lost my copy of that story, but I’ve never forgotten the gist of it.  One of the goals of my ministry has been to remember the lesson of this story. I want to put some present day flesh and skin on those fifty year old bones and share that story with you today:


Behold a preacher ascended to his pulpit and looked out on his congregation.  Two-hundred eyes looked up at him, and in the eyes of the100 could be seen the eyes of the world. 
The preacher sipped his honey and tea, and his voice was smooth as his words emerged from between his brilliant white smile.

Let us Pray.
Amen, said the 100, but there was no joy in their “Amen.”

The preacher, drawing inspiration from his tea, said,
Lord, we thank you for our health our ability to walk, and dance, and enjoy the wonders of creation, eyes that see and ears that hear. . .
The preacher was so enamored with his eloquence that he didn’t notice as a blind man felt his way down the aisle, and a woman, hard of hearing, went out into a world of silence.  Crutches clicked and wheel chairs quietly rolled.  Those who ate their food painfully, and others who nightly fought their beds to win a few moments of sleep, together with a man who just that day had read the bad news from an MRI, stepped out into the darkness--eight in all.

Taking a sip of tea, the preacher went on with renewed sweetness in his voice,
Lord, thank You for family and friends, those who love us, bring joy to our lives, and on whom we count as the years pass . . .
Residents of foul-smelling nursing homes far from families long-forgotten, the abused, the battered, the put-down, the abandoned, the lonely man who eats in isolation at the corner restaurant, and the old woman who lives behind closed shades, one by one, never making eye contact with one another, each going his own way, a dozen in all left the little group.

But the preacher, impressed with the power of his prayer and warmed by his cup, gave no heed and plunged on . . .
Lord, we may not be as wealthy as Trump or Gates, but we thank you for the material blessing that you have poured out on us—houses and cars, clothing and food, things that make our lives enjoyable.
With holes in their shoes--or none at all--clutching their rags against the cold wind, stomachs bloated by hunger, and minds warped by need, 20 more stepped into a world where they had no home and no prospects.  Some in groups and others all alone, as they had for millions of nights, they shivered in the darkness, and both hoped for and dreaded the coming day.

But the preacher enraptured by the music of his voice continued . . .
We are grateful for virtuous lives, lives that point the way for others to follow, not like the masses out there . . .
Those that struggled with addictions of demonic proportions, a boy who sought out dark corners in his world so he could view that which was darker still and hated himself for it, a woman who secretly hated her father who came nightly to her room, those who struggled with thievery, prostitution, laziness, covetousness, lying and adultery, a quarter of a hundred in all, seemed to vanish through the cracks in the floor, and they were no more a part of that assembly.

Not because the people were leaving, for in his self-induced bliss, the preacher was unaware, but from sheer enjoyment of his own fluency, the preacher sped on . . .
How grateful we are, God, for the justice we receive—the fairness and equity of our world.  We live and work and enjoy the fruit of our labor . . .
But before the words were out, the downsized, and the outsourced, the disenfranchised, and the persecuted, the ghetto kid stuck with a public defender who advised pleading guilty to a crime he didn’t commit, the children whose parents drank up their welfare checks, the Christian from Iran, and the Jew from Iraq, quietly--they had learned to be silent--stepped out into the world awaiting the next blow fate will deal them.

Lord, You are the God of beauty, and we thank you for the loveliness you have bestowed on us, pleasant faces and forms agreeable to behold . . .
Hoping no one would notice, the cross-eyed, the bald, and gap-toothed, together with the fat girl who endures daily bullying, and the skinny guy who avoided the rest room at school, the misshapen both real and imagined, clinging to the shadows, hoping no one would see, melted into the darkness and its momentary relief.

The preacher looked out as he his prayer oozed toward its finish and saw that the room was empty—no eyes looked back, no heads were bowed.
He rushed to the door and flinging it open he surveyed the darkness.  He hurled his empty teacup into the night and cried in a voice no longer smoothed with honey,
Where have they gone Lord, Where are the 100?
And the voice of the Lord replied,
Because you have spoken of things that I did not promise, they have forsaken you.
When did I promise that in this world my children would be comfortable and well treated with kindness?  When did I say that the way I asked my children to walk would be an easy road?  Look at how they treated my Son.

And the preacher cried out,
Then, O Lord, what will you give us?

And the voice replied,
I will give you myself, and that is enough.

And the preacher called out into the darkness with a voice that was cracked and raw,
Oh, people, forgive me. I have promised you that which the Lord did not.  He has given us Himself, and if we have nothing more that is enough.

Slowly, eyes appeared from the darkness, as they passed the preacher they gave a light of their own—the flicker of hope.

Behold, the preacher ascended to his pulpit and looked out on his congregation.  Two-hundred eyes looked up at him, and in the eyes of the 100 could be seen the eyes of the world.
And in a voice plain and simple he said,
Let us pray.
And with joy the 100 said,

Amen!