Friday, November 28, 2014

Advent 2014

Mary did you Know- Cee Lo Green penned a great Christmas Adoration masterpiece with the song, Mary, did you know. I want to use that title as the beginning of four Advent thoughts. My services on Sunday will be centered on the positive results of decisions that were made hundreds of years ago and how our decisions will influence the future as well.

In the gospel of Luke the angel Gabriel comes to Mary telling her of the coming Christ in her life. She confesses, "I am the Lord's servant. May it be to me as you have said." Mary's gentle and agreeing spirit was one of the reasons she was chosen to carry the Christ child. Her decision marks the pivot point in history.

I don't think young Mary understood everything that was involved in her decision and what was to come after. In so many ways we are just like Mary. God speaks to us and we desire to have his will lived out in us. We make decisions based on God's prompting. Never really able to see the end results of those decisions.

A case in point was our desire to be faithful to God's inner promptings which kept us compelled to pursue missionary service. Our faithful decision led us to Zambia near the end of September. Within two weeks of settling in our new home and life our decision was to result in the most unexpected and yet ordained event I could ever be a part of. A few hours away a newborn infant entered into the world and within 48 hours would invade the souls of an American family.

Mary had no idea that the child she was carrying was in fact the very Voice of Creation. Scripture is plain in ascribing the creative process and power to Christ himself. His voice created and tossed matter into space in perfect order and harmony. I don't think little diminutive Mary had any idea of the power of the growing voice within her.

Mary had no idea that the child she carrying was in fact the Incarnation of God himself. She was to bring forth into the world the exact representation of Eternal God in human form. Everything mankind would need to know and understand about God would be found in Christ.

Mary had no idea that the child she was to bring forth was to be the source of Eternal Salvation for all of human kind. As a Jew she understood the teaching of a coming messiah for the Jewish people. Her child would be God's provision for the salvation of all mankind.

Mary had no idea that the child she was to bring forth was to be the power of God's Transforming Presence. The brokenness of mankind would find healing and transformation through her son. Through the child she would bring forth men and women would become all that God had intended.

Decisions have consequences and long term effects. May our decisions impact the world in positive and lovely ways.

Next week the entire message on The voice of creation.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Thanksgiving Continued3

By the spring and summer of the first year about half of the Pilgrims had died. Many parents had buried their children and death had claimed a life from almost every family. The food supplies had barely lasted through the winter. As I think about the Pilgrims, what was it that enabled those people to endure such harsh conditions? There are a lot of things to think about when I consider the entire time of preparation and the voyage.

Consider the sister ship, the Speedwell. Twice she was delayed due to taking on water. This put the schedule weeks behind. Next, the cargo and some of the passengers from the Speedwell were put aboard the Mayflower, back in England. Some of the passengers did not continue on. What would inspire some to continue on when others quit? What factor did faith play in the individual decisions.

If the Mayflower had sailed on her original schedule she would have reached the colonial coast long before the Atlantic storms and bitter cold. Reaching the coast a storm forced the Mayflower to abandon the Hudson River landing and return to the safety of Cape Cod. The crew and leaders of the Pilgrims spent almost a month exploring the area for a place to begin building.

After a devastating winter, spring brought hope and their first real contact with the native peoples. What are the chances that the first real contact would be with an English speaking native? There are so many things that happened it would be hard to believe that all the circumstances were coincidental.

The personal and group theology of the Pilgrims was in fact a very pragmatic and strict Calvinist view. They were convinced that God in His sovereign design had all things planned and ordained. This faith gave them great resolve and a determination that would enable them to endure great hardship and heartache.

The time of Thanksgiving had more to do with spiritual certainties than with temporal blessings such as food and shelter. Moms and dads knew they would be reunited with children, children knew they would be reunited with a mom or dad. That inner knowledge was the real reason for the season.

Happenstance or the Divine Hand of God. I know who and what I believe.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Thanksgiving- Continued

After sixty six days at sea the battered ship and the weary and cold travelers were looking at their new world. Due to the weather the Mayflower was off her course and instead of dropping anchor near the mouth of the Hudson River, she was north near the entrance to the bay of Cape Cod. The crew and passengers decided to sail south to the mouth of the Hudson.

Sailing south the ship encountered such a violent storm that both crew and passengers feared shipwreck and almost certain death in the cold Atlantic. In desperation the Mayflower came about and headed back north the the relative safety of the harbor of Cape Cod. Still damaged the ship made to the bay and dropped anchor. The bay, almost an enclosed refuge, would become home to the Mayflower and the staging point of the Pilgrims exploration of the area.

For the next weeks the crew and a small number of the Pilgrims made numerous landings along the shore. The search for water was rewarded with the, "sweetest pools of water ever imagined." Juniper wood was gathered and taken aboard the Mayflower. The aroma from the burning conifer was a sweet relief from the stench of five months under sail. The crew also was able to re-supply the wood for cooking and cleaning.

After a time of exploring a site was chosen for the beginning of the settlement. It was defensible against any attack and within an easy distance of good water. On December 23, the majority of the Pilgrims left the ship and began building their new lives. As Sunday was the 24th the Pilgrims didn't work but spent their first Sunday in worship and praise. Work began in earnest the following day. As Separatist, Pilgrims they did not celebrate Christmas day as they thought it to be a "pagan tradition."

During the construction of the meeting house and various homes many of the Pilgrims continued to sleep aboard the Mayflower. The frigid wind off of the Atlantic forced the settlers to build as fast as possible. This meant that the days were long and the blowing winds and snow would begin to take a very deadly toll.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Thanksgiving- Re-visit

The ship's manifest listed one hundred and three passengers, one hundred and two by family name. The one hundred and third passenger was listed as, Dorothy, maidservant. In July of 1620 the Mayflower was being fitted and loaded with provisions for its journey to the New World. She was to wait in South Hampton for the ship Speedwell. The Speedwell had sailed to the Netherlands to pick up the passengers, who had been living in Leiden. Once the Speedwell met the Mayflower they would begin the long and dangerous voyage across the Atlantic. It was still nice sailing weather and the monstrous Atlantic should still be sleeping.

By the time the Speedwell did reach her rendezvous with the Mayflower they were already a week behind schedule. The Speedwell was taking on water and in need of repairs that lasted a week. On August the 5th both ships left the safety of the harbor and headed across the Atlantic. Both crews were hoping that even leaving in early August they would not face the horror of North Atlantic storms.

As both ships headed West the Speedwell began taking on water again. The Mayflower and the Speedwell were now three hundred miles out in the ocean. Both ships headed back for England and the port at Plymouth. Upon arriving in Plymouth it was determined that the repairs on the Speedwell would take to long and her cargo was added to the Mayflower. As disappointment and anger grew, many of the passengers on board the Speedwell abandoned their plans for a new life.
With the remaining passengers joining those on the Mayflower, she set sail on September 6th. By this the weather and the seas were not to be trusted, but the decision was made to sail on. For the first half of the voyage the wind and weather blessed the Mayflower and her crew and passengers. That was to end as the Lady passed the half way mark on the Captain's chart.

As the weather changed one Godless crewman told the Pilgrims that he couldn't wait for some of them to die, so he could throw them overboard and steal their provisions. For the next thirty days the Mayflower was at the mercy of the Monster of the deep. On more than one occasion the ship had to bring down her sail and ride out the storms. During an especially fearsome attack by the watery monster a mast cracked and the crew feared the ship to be lost. The ship's carpenter secured the mast till proper repairs could be done.

Some days before the sighting of land the "Godless crewman" became suddenly ill and died. The ship's log recorded his death as "The Hand of God." During the voyage a child was born and three days short of landfall a young lad died.

On November 9th in the Year of Our Lord, Sixteen Hundred and Twenty, land was sighted. The sixty six day journey across the Atlantic was done.