Reading the Signs

Life Notes—November 26, 2009 

“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves.  People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken…Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” Luke 21:25-26,28 

Prophesies of the end-times confuse me.  They remind me of reading a horoscope in the newspaper—often they are so general it matters little whether you read your own or someone else’s, chances are it will look pretty accurate, at least in retrospect…even if it takes a little creative nudging.  I do not know how to read the signs of the sun, moon and stars. I’ve met intelligent people who seem to know something about how the heavenly movements and relationships reflect events on earth, but the ‘science’ seems a little squishy to me.  I have yet to meet anyone with a very successful or consistent track record in predicting future events.  

But I digress.  Prophesies of the end-times are not particularly helpful to those of us who cannot read the signs, are they?  Luke’s prophesy speaks of ‘distress among nations,’ confusion and people fainting ‘from fear and foreboding.’  I remember a time when I believed I would not live to see thirty.  The Cold War with the Soviet Union was in full swing and my reading of the signs of the times was that the world would end in nuclear holocaust sooner rather than later.  I was wrong.  Although I have not seen it, there is a movie out titled, “2012,” the premise of which is that since the Mayan calendar ends in 2012 the world will end with it.  Is is true?  Ask me again in 2013, but I’m guessing 2012 will pass in pretty much the same way every other year has for me.  Odds are I’m right. 

However, the end-times prophesies often share a common and relevant theme.  It goes like this: Strange things will happen, then everything will be okay.  So, even if we don’t know when strange things are going to happen, or just how strange things will get, we do know at some point they will end and everything will be fine.  Maybe I don’t need to read the signs, I just need to be faithful.  Imagine that. 

This Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent.  The theme is Hope.  Kara will be preaching from the scripture Luke:21:25-36.  Her sermon title is “Hope While We Wait.”  Life Worship in Brady Hall begins at 10:45.  Traditional worship in the sanctuary is at 8:30 and 11:00.  Contemporary worship at the west campus begins at 9:30.  Here’s a prophesy for you: When the sun rises on Sunday morning it will be time to go to church!   

Come home to worship this Sunday!  Stranger things have happened…

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator

Don’t Worry, Be Thankful

Life Notes—November 19, 2009 

“Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ …indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.” Matthew 6:31-32 

“In every life we have some trouble, but when you worry you make it double, Don’t worry, be happy!”  Bobby McFerrin                                   

Remember the Bobby McFerrin song from a number of years ago, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy?”  My son, Reid, has been singing it a lot, lately.  He’s singing it for a talent show in a few weeks, so he’s been trying it on for size.  While I was reading this week’s scripture in preparation for writing this Life Note, Reid was singing the song.  Ironically, the scripture and song are related in that both admonish us to stop worrying! 

‘Cause when you worry your face will frown, and that will bring everybody down, Don’t worry, be happy! 

However, after the common advice to stop worrying the two writers take slightly different paths.  Where Bobby McFerrin encourages us to stop worrying and be happy, the writer of Matthew tells us to stop worrying and be faithful.  Certainly, much of what happens in life, with or without worry, is not going to bring happiness—illness, broken relationships, financial troubles.  But trusting in the care and timing of our loving God, regardless of the situation, is the natural outcome of faithfulness.  We may not know how or when the reality facing us will improve, but our faith assures us it will.  Worry is naturally short-sighted, faith takes the longer view.  And whether we listen to the writer of Matthew or to Bobby McFerrin, we know worrying will only make the situation worse, for us and for those around us.  Perhaps the common theme is, “Don’t worry, be thankful.” 

This Sunday will be a rare treat as all four worship services will be combined into one service at 10:00 in the Free State High School auditorium.  Tom’s sermon title is, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.”  The scripture reading is Matthew 6:25-33.  Immediately following the service will be our annual Thanksgiving dinner in the Commons area. After all, we are One Church.  It will be a treat to worship together as One Family, then to share a meal together as one hungry family! 

Come home to worship this Sunday!  Don’t worry, be thankful!

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator


Bargaining With God

Life Notes—November 12, 2009 

“She made this vow: ‘O Lord of hosts, if only you will look on the misery of your servant, and remember me, and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a male child, then I will set him before you as a nazirite until the day of his death…’” 1 Samuel 1:11                                   

This is the story of Hannah, one of the wives of Elkanah.  Hannah had suffered much humiliation from Peninnah, another of Elkanah’s wives, for her apparent inability to have a child.  Deeply distressed, Hannah goes to the temple and weeps and prays the vow quoted above, and some time later gives birth to Samuel. 

Have you ever tried to cut a bargain with God?  If God will do this for you, then you promise to do something for God?  I know I have dabbled with this tactic, with little or no success.  I was 14 when my father collapsed on the bathroom floor early one Saturday morning.  As the ambulance transported him, unconscious, to the hospital I remember praying passionately that if only God would let my father live, I would live an upright life of service to God, perhaps as a minister—I don’t remember the details, but I do remember being willing to barter whatever I had for the life of my dad.  My mother arrived home from the hospital a short time later to announce he was dead on arrival. 

As a young adult I prayed fervently to God to arrange a hermit-like life for me, in return for which I would dedicate myself to study and worship.  God was eventually faithful with the divine side of this bargain, I was much less so with my follow through.  Actually, when I think of bargaining with God I remember Jesus as he was being crucified asking for ‘this cup’ to be taken from him.  But then, Jesus uttered the words that come so hard for us, “…not my will, but thine be done.”  The fact is we do not have the wisdom or the perspective to know what path is best for us.  Only God has that knowledge.  The way of the hermit was not for me.  Through my stubborn persistence that opportunity was granted, perhaps only to teach me how little I really knew about what path was best for me.  Through Hannah’s desperate pleading, a great King was born and lived a life of service consecrated to the Lord.  Me, I don’t try to bargain so much with God, anymore.  If I have gained any wisdom in my years, hopefully it is wisdom of the vastness of my ignorance. Sometimes, the best we can do is to make our wishes known, then trust in God’s wisdom for us. 

This Sunday Tom’s sermon is “Listen to the Lord.”  The scripture passage from 1 Samuel 1: 14-20.  Life Worship begins at 10:45 in Brady Hall.  Traditional worship is at 8:30 and 11:00 in the sanctuary.  Contemporary worship begins at 9:30 at the west campus. 

Come home to worship this Sunday!  No negotiating, just come and be…

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator

Talented Use of Talents

Life Notes—November 5, 2009 

“For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.”  Matthew 25: 29                                   

The above passage is the conclusion of the parable of the talents.  I remember wondering, as a younger person, what this parable said about justice.  The story is about a man going on a journey, entrusting his property to others in his absence.  To one he gives five talents, to another two, and to another he gives one.  Upon his return the person entrusted with the five talents had used them to earn an additional five talents.  The person given two talents had also doubled his original allotment.  But the person given only one talent had done nothing with it and only had the original talent to show for his stewardship.  The master praises the first two for using their talents wisely and increasing them, but criticizes the last for wasting his, calling him a ‘wicked and lazy slave’ and takes his one talent away and gives it to the one with the greatest abundance. 

Can anyone else relate to the person with only one talent?  I have watched people throughout my life with so much more than I have—more money, more athletic ability, better looks, greater intelligence—and I wonder what I could accomplish had I only been blessed like these others.  Had I been given five talents at birth, just imagine how I could’ve multiplied those by now! 

Which, of course, misses the point entirely.  Even if the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, it is not our grass—not the grass we were given, not our grass to tend to, not the grass we will be held to account for.  While we cannot know why some people are blessed with much and others little, we are responsible for identifying the gifts and talents we have and putting them to the best use we can in as many areas of need we can.  A careful reading of the verse above shows that to all those who have, more will be given.  We all have been given something.  How we use that which we have will determine our abundance.  Our gifts are not meant to be trophies for display, but tools to be used for good.  The parable of the talents, ultimately, is about stewardship and accountability.

This Sunday Tom’s sermon is “Hidden Talents,” based on the scripture passage from Matthew 25: 14-30.  Life Worship begins at 10:45 in Brady Hall.  Traditional worship is at 8:30 and 11:00 in the sanctuary.  Contemporary worship begins at 9:30 at the west campus. 

Come home to worship this Sunday!  And bring your talents with you…

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator