29 February 2012

What Are You Seeking?

Original painting by Gari Hatch used with permision of the painter.

Wandering in the fields; the man asked him, 
"What are you seeking?" 
-Gen 37:15

What are you seeking? Good question. For what you are seeking is what you will find. Joseph was seeking his brothers. He found them and they threw him in a pit.

Later in this story Joseph finds his brothers under very different circumstances. To paraphrase a Dylan lyric, "They were lonely and it was his world."

The key seeker in the Joseph story is the LORD who provides protection for Joseph and his backstabbing brothers. The LORD has the same desire and intention for OUR protection.The hound of heaven seeks us and finds us. That is the good news for today.

"The Hound of Heaven" is a 182-line poem written by English poet Francis Thompson. Here Richard Burton reads this poem.

Here's hoping the Hound of Heaven finds you today,
Jon B.

25 February 2012

Cure for common anxiety

Gari Hatch "A Blur of Tulips" 12-02-2007 
(Archival Collection)

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
          and why are you disquieted within me?
     Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
          my help and my God.

My reasons for being cast down are the usual suspects: wars and rumors of wars, personal worries and anxieties, and fear of the future.

The shift suggested by the psalmist is to hope in God and praise him. Are all, there was that one time I recall when God brought me out of my own captivity in Egypt and mothered me through the wilderness and fathered me in the promised land.

I am not alone in my struggle and neither are you. Our wilderness wanderings wear us out. We get bogged down. The cure is to look up. As we shift our attention from the brown mud below our feet to the blue sky above our head we notice the sun yet shines.

Psalm 43:5 presents a cure for our anxiety. God has not forsaken us. We are not alone.

Your fellow traveler who speaks encouragement in your innermost being,
Jon B.

16 February 2012

A Journey to the Temple of Apple (and more) in Houston

Yesterday I dropped by the Apple store at the Houston Galleria to pick up a holy relic for a colleague in ministry. It sounds like a simple task but as you will see it was quite an adventure.

My first challenge was to seek a place to park my vehicle. It was a dank and rainy day and I was glad to find a parking spot underground so as not to get wet walking into the Galleria. In order to remember where I parked I took this photo. This sign: "Blue Garage / LL1 / Zone B" was the first of many signs I would see on a mystical journey that had already begun.

When I stepped inside the Galleria, which is massive with many entrance points, I saw that I had entered via the Rainforest path. I felt like I was entering into a mountain from an underground cave. See above the woman with hands uplifted in worship. Notice the sign of the cross in the light in the photo above. This was a good sign that my journey would be blessed with success.

Upon emerging from underground, I was surprised to find I had entered the Galleria near the ice skating rink. I thought I had come in nearer the Apple store which was my destination. In any case, there it was, the big ole ice skating rink. Never in a million years would I put on skates and venture forth into such life threatening frivolity, especially not one week before Ash Wednesday. I am smarter than that, more disciplined and pious.

I walked a quarter of a mile or so through the Galleria headed toward the promised land, and finally, there in the distance, across the way, I saw the city set upon a hill, a very real Apple store just to the right of the Cadillac sign. See the little white Apple logo? Now we are approaching Mecca, my fellow traveler. We shall experience the true religion very soon.

As I made my way across the wilderness of unenlightenment, there, directly across the way was the light of the nations, the white Apple logo, illuminating star in a desert of unknowingness. But how would I cross the rubicon? How would I bridge the chasm of ignorance? Would that I could fly through the air to meet my beloved! But alas, I am a mere mortal and at this point in my spiritual development I am relegated to travel by foot. Fortunately, I found a path around all obstacles and so was able to approach the holy shrine.

Take heart, fellow pilgrim, we are very near unto the temple entrance. You may see standing at the threshold two priests of the cult of Apple. Their desire is to help you fulfill your destiny if you are humble and bold enough to enter in the sanctuary itself. Let us muster our courage and focus our minds as we cross the threshold and enter into the Temple of Apple.

We have crossed the threshold now and find our senses overwhelmed with the sights and sounds of holy Jobsness. This is the very essence of cool behavior. This is the goal of all humankind. Should we remove our shoes? For surely we are standing on holy ground. Up ahead of us is where the priests of the temple gather. They preside over the dispersing of ritual knowledge and receiving of alms for the religion. The congregation sits in awe before the holy shrine, some bow their head in prayer, others sit and stare in quiet meditation of the glory before them.

The priests of the temple are dressed in blue and inhabit a rarefied realm of wisdom and technology. Here are four priestesses standing behind pulpits looking over their notes, preparing themselves to evangelize pilgrims such as us with sermons, praise and music. Let the liturgy begin! After the service, during which no photos were permitted, one of the priestesses assisted me in locating the holy relic I had come to find. My mission here was now complete and I left the temple feeling fulfilled and renewed.

After the service, I stumbled back through the Galleria trying to retrace my path to find my out. Suddenly, I was startled to see a competing cult with a temple under the same roof! This was blasphemy of course and it jolted me out of my ecstasy and engaged my curiosity so that I had to set foot inside this temple to see what kind of false doctrine they may be teaching to the uneducated masses.

As I boldly entered the temple with no regard for the ushers in attendance, I walked straight up to the altar and stared blankly at the priests in attendance. I noticed they wore colorful costumes. Where is the congregation? I wanted to ask them but I dared not insult them. The temple seemed rather empty. The spirit had gone out of the place.

Before I left I took advantage of a brief interlude in order to consult the ancient oracle stone. There I learned secrets that will haunt me for the rest of my life. The priest in attendance was bold but not arrogant. He granted me permission to see into the future. The visions there I witnessed are too marvelous to put into words. Suffice it say that there are glories yet to be revealed to humanity. Some insights are too wonderful for this earthen vessel. Some visions are too glorious to describe. Such was my vision from the oracle stone in the Temple of Microsoft.

It was now time to make my way back home. My pilgrimage was complete. I had witnessed worship in the Temple of Apple but had not been converted. I had visited the Microsoft oracle stone and learned of my future and seen a vision for the future of all humanity. It was not an easy learning and I wasn't sure I could bear the weight of it. As I trudged on back to my car, I felt comforted by the familiar sight of the ice rink. I knew it would not be long until I would be free of the cavernous carnival of the senses called the Houston Galleria. I knew too that it would likely be a long time before I returned to these sacred grounds.

07 February 2012

SERMON: "Touch and Go with Jesus"

Sermon title: "Touch and Go with Jesus"
Sermon text: Mark 1:29-39

I preached this sermon on Super Bowl Sunday as the whole country gathered around their TVs seeking healing through a communal activity. We have community  here. How do we get the word out? According to the gospel story, it began for Jesus with prayer away from the maddening crowds. So it may begin with us. May God richly bless you now and may you become aware of how you are a blessing to many others. (By the way, I forgot to mention in the sermon the part about "Eli's coming.")