Thursday, March 20, 2014

A Vital, Essential Truth

This morning, in preparation for a day of writing, I reread the journal I kept during a trip to Iraq in 2003.  It was quite the adventure--in every conceivable sense of that word.

I was struck by my last entry in the journal, written as our team was safely headed home:

"According to Hebrews, faith is assurance and conviction. But faithfulness is endurance and enlightenment with an empathy for all those who are exposed.  Thus, the Christian life affords tremendous personal and individual benefits, but cannot be lived out on a merely personal or individual level.  I pray I never forget this vital, essential truth."

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Authentic Record

"There is no subject on which people are readier to form rash opinions than religion.  The Bible is the best corrective to these.  A man should sit down to it with the determination of taking his lesson just as he finds it--of founding his creed upon the sole principle of 'Thus Saieth the Lord,' and deriving his every idea and his every impression of truth from the authentic record of God's will." Thomas Chalmers

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Divorcing God: Secularism and the Republic

In 1965, Billy Graham was working on his book "World Aflame." He had just finished a chapter vividly describing the sinful conditions in America, and gave it to his wife to read. Ruth was sobered by the writing and returned the document to the study where he was writing and laid it on his desk, saying, "Billy, if God doesn't come soon and bring judgment upon the United States, He's going to have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah!" 

The story of that encounter was later recalled as an illustration in a sermon by Dr. James Kennedy, pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.  The message entitled "Prayer and the World Crisis," was delivered in 1976 at the National Prayer Congress in Dallas, Texas.

Lots of water has passed under the bridge since then--and yet the statement is truer than ever as this video clip so powerfully reminds us.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Parish Lententide Series

During the Christmas holidays in 1841, Thomas Chalmers, then perhaps the most prominent man in all of Scotland, paid a visit to the tiny Borders town of Skirling in Peebleshire. During his stay, he consented to stop by the local village school and give a lecture on Mathematics.

The great man was always inclined to leave a moral philosophy lesson for his students, even when he was teaching natural philosophy. And so it was that at the conclusion of his talk, he drew a large circle on the slate board and declaimed:

"The wider a man's knowledge becomes, the deeper should be his humility; for the more he knows the more he sees of what remains unknown. The wider the diameter of light, the larger the circumference of darkness. And so, with every footstep of growing knowledge there ought to be a growing humility--that is the best guarantee both for a sound philosophy and a sound faith."

The importance of this vital lesson was not soon lost on his awestruck students. Nor has it been lost on me. The phrase, "A Wider Diameter of Light," and all it seems to say about Chalmers, about his vision of the Christian life, and about his ongoing legacy has become emblematic to me of the vibrant Christian life. Not surprisingly then, it is the working title of the big biography of Chalmers that I am working on (well, working off and on). And, it is the title I have given to a series of stories I will be telling all through this upcoming Lententide season on Wednesday evenings at Parish Pres.

Won't you join us as we explore "A Wider Diameter of Light"? Dinner starts at 6 PM. A vespers of story and song begins at 6:30. Then, choir and prayer begin at 7 PM. RSVP with the church office.

Oh, and just a side note about the image: It was painted by John Henry Lorimer (1856-1936) was a renowned Scots portrait painter. Born in Edinburgh and trained at the Royal Scottish Academy. He was a student of George Paul Chalmers, grand-nephew of the great Thomas Chalmers. Perhaps his best known work (and my own personal favorite) is “The Ordination of Elders in a Scottish Kirk,” which hangs in the National Gallery of Scotland.  I think it really captures the very heart of "parish life" and the Chalmers ideal.