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For Your Reflection....

A BRIDGE FOR COMMUNITY

Let’s be honest...explaining to others who we are as a church is not always an easy task.  With a name like “Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)”, you’ve said a mouthful, but you might find people looking at you like you haven’t clarified anything; or worse they may get the wrong impression.  I remember speaking with a woman about my church – upon hearing that we were part of the Christian Church (D.O.C.) she exclaimed, “that sounds like one of those ‘bible-thumping’ churches!  Are you one of those ‘bible-thumping’ churches?”  I explained that yes, we do believe in the Bible, but no, we probably are not the stereotypical ‘bible-thumping’ church that she is thinking of...read more

 

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Wednesday
May132015

Rev. Dr. David Chisham - May 12, 2015

FORGOTTEN ANNIVERSARY

 

With that title to my article, you’re probably wondering about how angry my wife is with me right now…but no worries, I remembered our wedding anniversary.  No, the anniversary that is so often forgotten, at least in our religious tradition, is Ascension Day, which is tomorrow, Thursday, May 14th.

When we look at what people consider the biggest moments in the life of the church—those Sundays when we usually see a bump in church attendance—we go all out for Christmas and Easter, and some of the more observant folks will celebrate Pentecost, the “birthday” of the church.  Beyond that it’s usually Mother’s Day and Thanksgiving and other civic holidays that bring a few extra folks in. But Ascension Day hardly registers, and many aren’t even sure what the day is about; yet if we’re listening closely to the story, Ascension Day is an incredibly significant moment in the Christian narrative.

If you’re not familiar with the story, Ascension Day is the ‘crowning’ moment for Jesus the Messiah.  We all know that Jesus was born of Mary, and we celebrate his birthday on Christmas, December 25 (though we’re not really sure what date he was born).  Jesus grew to be a man, and began a great ministry which lasted from a year to three years, depending on which Gospel you read.  And at the end of his life, Jesus went to Jerusalem for Passover, which always happens in early Spring, and while in Jerusalem he was taken prisoner by the authorities, crucified on a Friday, and on Easter Sunday was resurrected and then appeared to the women at the tomb, his disciples and other followers on different occasions. 

It’s my feeling that many people think Jesus continued to “pop up” here and there from time to time, in an open ended way, and once the church got rolling he just kind of left us alone.  And now Jesus is with God, but we’re not really sure what that means.  But the story is more concrete and significant than that.

According to Acts 1:3, Jesus continued to appear to his disciples and others for forty days after Easter.  And on that fortieth day, according to the Gospel of Luke and Book of Acts, Jesus ascended into the heavens where, according to the Apostle Paul, he now sits on the right hand of the Father.  This isn’t just an account of Jesus going away, but rather this is the culmination of the Christian story to the very moment we live in today.

We often sing that Christ is “king” and that he “reigns” over all creation.  The Ascension is the establishment of Christ’s reign.  It isn’t the account of Jesus going away and leaving us alone, but that in his heavenly reign, Jesus is now able to be present with all the faithful, everywhere. 

As much as you have experienced the abiding presence and divine guidance in your life through Jesus, the crowning moment of his Ascension is the recognition that indeed, God has given Jesus “a name above all names, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9-11)

Be sure to give thanks to God for the reign of Jesus in your life tomorrow, and I hope to see you on Sunday morning in worship as we continue to unfold what the reign means for us!

Peace,  David

 

 

Tuesday
Apr212015

Rev. Dr. David Chisham - April 20, 2015

MISSING CONNECTIONS

I think by now that everyone knows that I’ve been on a health kick for about a year now.  I’ve been getting exercise almost daily, and I’ve also been watching my calorie intake.  According to published standards, a grown adult of average activity level should eat about 1,500 kilocalories (kcal) each day to maintain weight, and if we eat more than that number of calories we will likely gain weight.

With this in mind, I recently read some startling facts: 

  • There is enough food in the world for every person to eat 2,800 kcal each day.
  • Daily, 3.56 million tons of food are wasted. That’s 1.3 billion tons of food every year.
  • Every day 17,917 of the world's children under the age of five die from malnutrition and hunger-related diseases.

 Since there are about 3,500 kcal in a pound of fat, my guestimation is that if I ate 2,800 kcal a day, I would put on at least a pound a week.  That’s an incredible surplus of food available to the whole world, and yet, sadly, so many still go hungry.

There are many reasons that people can point to as sources of this awful situation.  War disrupts the harvest and transport of food.  Famine and natural disasters certainly play their part.  But part of the problem, as indicated by the statistics, is that we waste a lot of food and the wantonness of that waste is multiplied when figured into its great web of interrelationships.

We have to admit that when we’re making a quick dash through the grocery store, one of the last things on our mind is our relationship to everything that has happened to that food item prior to taking it from the retail shelf.  When we pick up a box of pasta or package of meat, we’re in such a hurry we probably don’t think much about the field where it grew, the water and irrigation and chemicals that were used to help it grow, the workers who harvested it, the plant where it was processed, or the transportation network that it took to get to us.  And, when we pick up a 10 gallon vat of some food item from a food club that inevitably spoils before we can get through it, we toss the remainder away without considering that it is not only the food that is lost, but also great amount of energy and effort that created it. I think we can all agree this is simply not a sustainable way to live, especially with so many dying of starvation each day.

This Wednesday is Earth Day.  In the media you will hear about the many things we can do in our lives to conserve resources, such as driving cars with better fuel economy or finding renewable energy sources.  The food we eat is another resource we need to learn to conserve.  And, as a people of faith, this should be a call for us to reflect on our relationship to the world we share, especially how God has established and intended that relationship to be structured.

When God placed Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, he placed them there as stewards and caretakers, not owners and users.  Psalm 24 declares “the Earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.”  When the Israelites entered the Promised Land, they parceled and lived on the land and were welcome to its resources, but they always remembered that the ground they walked upon, and its resources, really belonged to the Lord.  As Christians, everything we touch is interconnected with a great web of interrelationships that ultimately lead back to God, the Provider of all. 

So the next time you pick up a box of pasta, or package of meat or 10-gallon vat of whatever from the food club, stop and think the great energy network and valuable resource that is contained in it.  That might help guide your purchase to be a better steward of the earth’s resources.  Hopefully we will become more mindful of the interrelationships we share with one another, with folks in the field and factories, and with the gracious gift of creation that God has entrusted to us.

Peace be with you,

David

Wednesday
Apr152015

Rev. Dr. David Chisham - April 14, 2015

IT TOOK A LITTLE WHILE

Easter Day seemingly comes to us as a completed thought.  Christ is risen!  Hallelujah!  We now fully understand what it meant for Jesus to be the Messiah who died and rose again from the dead.  Amen.  Let’s go have a big Easter lunch of roast and potatoes.

But that first Easter was far from a complete thought; there was still a lot of “working-out" to do on the part of the disciples.  According to the Gospel of Mark the first witnesses to the resurrection, the women who went to the tomb, ran from the tomb in fear and silence, and the Gospel ends right there.  According to Luke two disciples walked with Jesus all day long after hearing the news of the resurrection, but did not recognize Jesus until evening.  According to the Gospel of John, a week later the disciples were still holed up in a locked room, seemingly hiding in fear and doubt.  And according to Matthew, when Jesus appeared to the disciples to give the great commission on the hilltop, some of them worshiped Jesus, but some still had their doubts.  That first Easter was filled with plenty of excitement, but also with a healthy helping of “What in the world does this mean?”

We have to be clear here what resurrection means.  Resurrection in not the same thing as a resuscitation — there are plenty of accounts of individuals who died and came back to life, only to die again later.  In John 11 we read that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead after he had been in the tomb for four days, and, though it isn’t recorded in the Gospel, we are left to assume that Lazarus died at some later time.  Resurrection is more than just coming back from the dead, and more than coming back from the dead never to die again — Christ’s resurrection is a sign of God’s fulfillment of the hopes of Israel and all creation.

As N.T. Wright says in his book Simply Christian, “If Easter (and the resurrection of Jesus) makes any sense at all, it makes sense within the classic Jewish worldview…: heaven and earth are neither the same thing, nor a long way removed from one another, but they overlap and interlock mysteriously in a number of ways; and the God who made both heaven and earth is at work from within the world as well as from without, sharing the pain of the world—indeed, taking its full weight upon his own shoulders…when Jesus rose again God’s whole new creation emerged from the tomb, introducing a world full of new potential and possibility.

I hear people saying all the time, “The end is near!”  Yes the news is filled with bad things that seem to hail that some kind of end time cataclysmic event  is just around the corner.  My response, though, is that the end has already come, almost 2000 years ago!  With Christ’s resurrection, God opened a new chapter in creation history, the “end times”, which no longer reads as a mindless march toward destruction, but a spirit filled pilgrimage toward redemption.  And as we Christians participate in the death and resurrection of Christ, we are participants in that creation bent toward redemption.

It is easy to get discouraged about the world and its violent and intractable ways.  But everyday I look into my daughter’s face, and the faces of the children and youth and adults in the congregation, and I am reminded that creation is not about me and my limited perceptions of the moment — the story of Easter is about how God is working through us to make a better world in that mysterious overlap of heaven and earth, for many human generations to come.  It’s not going to happen on a single day, it’s going to take a while, and it’s going to take some more “working-out” on our part, but it’s been that way since the first Easter morning.

May the joy and inspiration of Easter fill you now and always!

Peace,

David

 

Wednesday
Apr012015

Rev. Dr. David Chisham - March 31, 2015

SIX DAYS IN THE SCOPE OF ETERNITY

It has always seemed like such a short time for everything to go wrong.  Six days from Palm Sunday to (not so) Good Friday—six days from Hosannas to “It is finished.”  As a child I was mystified at how quickly Jesus went from being Mr. Popular to a pariah.  However, the more that I listen to the story, the more I understand why it happened and what it all means.

Jesus of Nazareth came from the outer regions geographically and societally, and as far as the Powers that Be in Jerusalem were concerned, he was an outsider.  Whether it was the elites around a Temple that had become an industrial powerhouse lining the pockets of those few, or the Romans who cared only about their taxes and keeping the Jews peaceably held under their jackboots, Jesus, the one who came from the outside preaching a kingdom radically different than anything the Romans or the religious elites had ever conceived of never had a chance in that pressure cooker that was Jerusalem during Passover. 

When you add that the very public entrance that Jesus made into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, and the way he tore through the Temple the following day, upsetting tables and sending animals and coins skittering across the courtyards, it would seem that Jesus left them no choice.  They had to react.  Using all their corrupt power and authority bent on silencing anyone who defied them, they tried to destroy him.  But what they could not see was that in exercising their power and authority, the cross of Christ exposed the lies and pretense that their power and authority were based on.  Even more, through the resurrection, Christ defeated and disarmed those powers, declaring God to be the victor over all.  As Paul writes in Colossians 2, Christ “disarmed authorities and powers, He made a show of them openly, triumphing over them by the cross.”

The story of Passover is closely tied to the story of Christ.  Passover is the remembrance of God’s mighty acts to free the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, and forming them into a new people.  Scriptures seems to indicate this was an enslavement that, at some level, the Israelites were willing participants—when the Israelites go into the wilderness, many are more interested in returning to Egypt, than continuing forward with God and their new found freedom.  Similarly, we were all willing slaves to sin and death and its dominion.  But thanks be to God that “for freedom Christ has set us free.”

This story is bigger than my own personal sins being forgiven—this is the story of how God won over the powers that would try to control and destroy creation.  This is a story of new creation already happening here and now and extending into eternity.  Even in the face of so much that is wrong in the world, God’s final declaration is that you can find new life and break free from what would control and enslave you.  The corrupt powers that would say your choices are limited to selfish ambition have already been defeated—through the cross of Christ, there is peace and new life.

Praise be to God!

David

Monday
Mar232015

Rev. Dr. David Chisham - March 23, 2015

THROW ME SOMETHING MISTER!

We love a good parade in Louisiana.  And we have really good parades in Louisiana.  I remember going to a parade as a child and being excited when someone threw a handful of hard candy and bubble gum from a couple of passing floats.  As a child, never in my wildest dream did I ever imagine seeing the flocks of throws that fly off floats in Louisiana Mardi Gras and St. Patrick’s Day parades. 

I was recently talking with someone who grew up here.  She had gone on vacation somewhere outside of the area and was watching a parade.  She soon found herself thinking, “Really, I’m just expected to sit here and watch you walk by?  You’re not going to throw anything?  What a disappointment.”  It was a very different parade.

Parades have been popular for a very, very long time.  Palm Sunday, or the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem was, at its foundation, a parade.  The Jewish people lined the streets to acclaim Jesus, the apparent Messiah, riding into the city on the back of a lumbering donkey.  The folks were so excited that they threw down their garments and palms to roll out the red carpet for his arrival.  Hopefully we all know that story.

What we may not realize, through, is that there was a second parade into Jerusalem right about the same time.  It was Passover season, and like any intelligent occupying force, the Romans always beefed up security in Jerusalem, sending in extra troops to quell any opportunities for the Jewish people to start a revolt.  The Roman parade would have been lead by banners and colors, soldiers mounted on horseback, and foot soldiers with weapons at the ready.  And you can imagine that the Jewish crowds who lined the streets stood in shamed silence as their conquerors passed by.

What a contrast in parades.  But, more importantly, what a contrast in power.  At the very moment that the Romans are declaring what real power looks like, Jesus bumps in meekly on the back of a donkey, no weapon in hand, no banners waving, demonstrating that God’s power enters without threat of brute force, but mildly to those who would receive him and cry out with loud hosannas.

And I believe that is still the way Jesus comes into our lives—he doesn’t elbow his way in or dangle a sword over your head.  As we open the gates of our hearts to his way, we come to realize more and more that the greatest glory is truly found in human weakness.  Palm Sunday is this coming Sunday—may the blessings of Holy Week open your hearts and eyes and minds to the wonderful work that God is doing in our lives.

Christ’s peace,

David