Why?

New Yorker Magazine

I was waiting patiently in a doctor’s office when I spied one of those New Yorker magazines that has all the cartoons. Pictured at the bottom of one page was a drawing of a mother and son talking on the couch  in their living room. The boy asked, ”Why…”, ”Why…”, ”Why…” The mother thoughtfully gave an answer only to have her son again say, ”Why?” What made the cartoon memorable was the title, ”The Tunnel of ’Why’s” For most, such a line of questioning usually ends with an abrupt conclusion, ”Because, just because! That’s why. Now go play outside.”

Eventually we become adults, but growing up doesn’t change the tunnel of ”Why”s. They just become more complicated. Why does so and so act like that? Why can’t people just get along? Why has this happened (or not) to me? As advanced as we are in science and technology, we still can’t explain why one gets cancer and another doesn’t. Why does ISIS believe in a murderous manner in the name of a god that abhors their violence. Why? Why? Why?

”Why” questions often become religious questions: Why doesn’t God help? Why doesn’t He do something? Why did God allow this to happen? On my annual pilgrimage to the dermatologist, the doctor asked, “Now we can freeze it off, but it might come back. On the other hand, we could ‘scrape and burn.’” (Actually, I was wondering if we could ask my mother to come, kiss it and make it all better.) We went for “S & B” and while he had me under the knife, he asks, “”What do you tell people who wonder why Christianity teaches that Jesus is the oinly way to God?” About that time I was ‘burning’ and I said something feeble about not having a simple answer and that helping people follow Jesus was our main task, regardless of religious tradition. Ministers often get invited into the tunnel of “Why”s.

Wouldn’t life be wonderful if there were simple answers to life’s questions? In a Calvin &Hobbes cartoon, the little boy is sitting on the back step with his father looking at an old photo. Calvin asks why it’s black and white. Dad simply explained answered that the whole world was black and white right up until 1952. That’s when the world turned to color. (How’s that for a simple answer?)

Simple answers can help us move forward, but always seem to lack something.

I’ve often thought that very nature of a ”why” question takes you into the realm of the divine. ”Why” questions focus our attention on the mystery of God, explanations that He has kept only for Himself. In our frustration over the lack of simple answers, we may make them up. ”It happened because of their sin.” ”It hasn’t happened because there wasn’t enough faith.” ”It must have happened for a reason.” I’m afraid those become simple ”Calvin” explanations. Sometimes there is no reason. Many people asked Jesus ”Why” questions and he rarely gave simple answers. He often responded by giving them something to do. But once, in the presence of a blind man, they asked, ”…who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind.” (John 9). In other words, ”Why” is he blind? And Jesus said, ”Neither…but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.” When you enter the tunnel of ”why”s, remember to look for His work in you, what you can do.

~Pastor Paul

Spring has arrived at Eastwood Baptist!

“After Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the Kidron valley to a place where there was a garden…” John 18:1

 

We’re standing on the Mount of Olives, looking at the City of Jerusalem. The area between us is part of the Kidron Valley, an area Jesus passed through many times on the way to Jerusalem. Below us is a cemetery where once olive trees grew. At the base of the valley you would find a garden. It was a meeting place. Telling someone to “Meet at the Garden” made a lot of sense in Jesus’ day. Israel2

Below and to the left is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the church that is built on the location of Jesus’ burial and resurrection. A garden area is located on one side of the church. Since the 4th century, Christians have agreed. That is the location. It was a beautiful church, but it didn’t really do anything for me.

On the last day of the trip, we had an unscheduled afternoon. Some of us wanted to see the “other” location, the Garden Tomb. In the 1860’s, a team under the insight of Dr. Edward Robinson searched for a garden tomb outside the old Jerusalem walls and unearthed an area that had a tomb, a well, a cistern, and the side of a hill that looked a lot like a skull, Golgotha. It is a beautiful garden space, just the way we might have imagined it to be. There is a tomb that you can take your turn to enter. It is the location of innumerable Easter Services each year. And it is universally agreed that this is not the actual location as much as it looks like the Easter Bulletin covers I’ve seen over the years.Israel3

So where do you find the real location? For me, it was a wonderful reminder that it’s not about the place. You find him when you open your heart, not to a place, but to the person. We serve a Risen Savior. He’s in your world today.

~Pastor Bailey

Cliffs

Cliffs

I’ve actually gone over a couple cliffs in my life, once in scouting and once at a training event for seminarian field education supervisors. I always had a harness, a rope, a helmut, and a safety line. And even with all that, it still felt like a life threatening moment as I would make my first steps into the unknown. I often tell people I don’t like going to places I’ve never been before. I learned that from going over a lot of cliffs. I still don’t.

This week, the whole nation is said to be going over a monetary cliff of sorts, certainly into the unknown. At times this week, I remembered those mountain repelling adventures.

And life is filled with cliffs, times when you head out into the unknown. Leaving home for the first time, making that big purchase, saying “I do” or losing a loved one and having to keep going without them. Those are cliffs. Some we choose and sometime we are pushed. A great verse for times like this is from Genesis 12. God calls Abram to go to a land he did not know. There were no directions or instructions. He was not going alone, and neither do we.

The story of Abram started us out on Sunday with a review of the life of Adoniram Judson through the voice of his dear friend and lifeline in mission support, Luther Rice. After traveling around the world on a missionary journey, someone had to return to America to build support. Rice managed to organize the Baptists into missionary societies that eventually became our denomination, the American Baptist Church, USA. You had to be there. Maybe you were.

“Go into all the world and make disciples of all nations…” – Jesus

Oh God!!!

Ann Lamont recounts a conversation she had with her son in her recent book, Thanks, Help, Wow . He had been thinking about the name “God”.  He explained:

I know why we call God, “God”. Whenever you see or do something really great, you say “God”.  

I remember an old Christian rocker from the 1970’s used to notice that when something bad happened, people usually said, “Jesus Christ”. They don’t say: “Oh, Buddha”.  People who have no connection with Christianity will swear with Jesus’ name. What’s up with that?

The word God has enormity attached to it. It invites awe. I hope you have some time to say: “God” this summer in the face of something awesome (and not when you hit your thumb with the hammer).

On Sunday, we went through Psalm 84 and the man who seems to be standing outside the temple in awe of what might happen if he were to go in. We had some beautiful music from the K family and after worship quite a crew headed to serve lunch at the Samaritan Center. The loads of cookies were great! You had to be there. Maybe you were.

 

Old Faithful

Last week, we stayed outside the Grand Teton National Park near Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Yellowstone was a few hours away, so we decided to take the bus tour to see Old Faithful. I was there when I was 13 years old and the memory I still carry is the smell of sulfur. Fortunately, I have better memories now. We arrived just minutes before she blew. Old Faithful is not the biggest or the most regular of the geysers. It is easy to get to and basically consistent. She sprays every 90 minutes. Well, actually, she does that most of time. When you arrive, they come clean with the details. It can vary from 51-120 minutes. When you call the park, they give you a time and tell you it will probably be 10 minutes before or after that time, sometimes early and other times late. The eruption of boiling water can last anywhere from 1 ½ to 5 minutes. Her spray varies, too (106 to 184 feet). It was early settlers who named her Old Faithful. On the bus ride back, I couldn’t help but think about faithfulness. The dictionary defines faithful as “worthy of trust” or “loyal”. The Bible is filled with disciples, kings, prophets, and ordinary people who were faithful. Not perfect. Consistent, most of the time. Performed well, on average. God calls us to be faithful, so “Old Faithful” might not be a bad name for a Christian.old-faithful-geyser-yellowstone

On Sunday, we celebrated World Communion Sunday with a missions theme. The little flags from many nations flew across the front of the communion table. The message started with the question Jesus asked: “When the Son of Man returns, will he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8) The Apostle Paul asks about people who have never heard the gospel in Romans 10:13-15. How will they hear without a proclaimer and who will send one so they can hear? Each generation is responsible for carrying on the message. Either we go to the world or we help send those who go. We must “hold the rope”, as missionary William Carey once said. The children sang for the first time this fall in worship, as well. Then Sunday night, three of our church choirs and friends gathered for a benefit concert for the food pantry at Blessed Sacrament. You had to be there.