19 July 2018

Today’s Chapel - 7.19.18

Prayer and Preaching, p. 260ff.

Reading: from 1 Corinthians 16

Keep alert. Stand firm in the faith. Demonstrate manly courage. Be strong. Let everything you do be done in love. [EHV]


In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Back when I was a young man and a new Christian, a supplement had come out to the hymnal. The Worship Supplement (either red or blue; ours were blue).— There was one service in there that got used a bit, and I fell in love with the way it ended.

Having heard God's Word read and the Gospel of Jesus proclaimed, having lifted up the needs of the world in prayer, having received into our mouths the very body and blood of Christ and given Him our thanks, we stood and the pastor said to us: "Go out into the world in peace; have courage; hold to what is good; return no man evil for evil; strengthen the faint-hearted; support the weak; help the suffering; honor all men; love and serve the Lord, rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit. And may almighty God, the Father, the + Son, and the Holy Spirit, bless you." To which we all answered "Amen!"

It might sound kind of silly, but I appreciated so much hearing those marching orders. Not that I did them, but that they reminded me of where God was inviting me and the shape of the life of Christ wanted to live in me in this world. I think that's really what Paul is doing at the end of 1 Corinthians. He'd already served them up a whole heaping helping of doctrine and exhortation, rebuke and correction, along with a fair bit of sheer poetic beauty. And now he's wrapping things up and he just wants to remind them one more time where they're headed and how to get there.

So first, warrior language: be on your guard, stand your ground in the faith, live like men, be strong! You can almost hear the men banging their spears on the ground in rhythm, woo-woo (grunting). Bring it on! And then he blows them away with: Let everything you do be done in love. Kinda sounds discordant with the war drums, doesn't it? Let's get back to the battle, right?

Well, that is the battle: to let everything you do be done in love. If it's not in love, not to do it. This is, First Corinthians, after all, and they can't have so soon forgotten the words they'd heard from him only moments before in that hymn to love: love is patient, love is kind, love does not envy. It does not brag. It is not arrogant. It does not behave indecently. It is not selfish. It is not irritable. It does not keep a record of wrongs. It does not rejoice over unrighteousness but it does rejoice in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love doesn't come to an end.

And it's not very long into that song before you realize: He's not talking about us and our love; He's talking about Jesus and His love. The Love Paul is singing about isn't a quality of mine, but a Person, and that Person has always and only treated me in love. Not keeping a record of my wrongs; rejoicing over the truth of how much in Him God has loved me. "Let everything you do be done in love"—that's really not saying anything much different than let everything you do be done in Christ, to Christ, for Christ. Or even stronger, let Christ love through you.

Use all your army lingo to drive it into your head that THIS is what Satan assaults. This is what he wants to drive you away from. From the love that is Christ. From living in Him and Him living in you in love. Why, St. Paul would even point out that you could speak angelic tongues and have all the knowledge in the world and bravely give up your body to be burned, and if it all happened without love, it would be worth less than nothing.

So Christian soldiers, watch! Stand firm! Be men! Be bold! Guard your life that you might do everything in love. For that is to live in Christ whose love for you brought Him to the Cross where all the lovelessness of the human race, heaped in a pile and poured onto Him, simply could not quench the burning fire of His divine love for each one of us, for you.

To love will always mean to suffer in this fallen world. He shows the way, but even more, He invites you to live in union with Him who IS the way and to guard that way with vigilance and all the woo, woo, woo you can muster, until He finishes His new creation and you are changed from glory into glory by love Divine and your life becomes love. His work in you complete.

But until that Day, go out into the world in peace… You know where you're headed and what the battle is. Keep alert. Stand firm in the faith. Demonstrate manly courage. Be strong. Let everything you do be done in love. Everything. In. Love.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Hymn: 700 Love, Divine, All Loves Excelling

Prayers: Amy, Hannah, Paula, Roger, Ruth, Allan and Jan, Pr. Edward and Monica Naumann (in chapel) serving in sri lanka

12 July 2018

From Johann Walter’s great hymn

There God shall from all evil
Forever make us free,
From sin and from the devil,
From all adversity,
From sickness, pain, and sadness,
From troubles, cares and fears,
And grant us heavenly gladness
And wipe away our tears.

In that fair home shall never
Be silent music's voice.
With heart and lips forever
We shall in God rejoice,
While angel hosts are raising
With saints from great to least
A mighty hymn for praising
The Giver of the feast. 
LSB 514:3,4

05 July 2018

More Maupin Memories

In no special order... Stopping at Cattlet's Texaco on our way back to Maryland to get our Grape Nehis (or Cokes), into which Maupin inserted salted peanuts... The year the snow was so deep Penny couldn't get out, and Maup made a snow tunnel for her in the backyard... Chewing wads of Clark's cinnamon gum together... Winston cigarettes... The little Sunoco transistor radio he gave me... Him trying to be “Jim” when he worked at Esso... The jacket he brought me from Danang... His incredible eye for photos... Nancy picking a random hair off his pants to which he went OUCH (it was attached and had made its way through)... Munching our Wise Barbeque potato chips together... The secret of sprinkling garlic salt on bacon... The horrible night that Butch got shot and so glad Maup was with him... Him stepping between Daddy and Uncle Edgar in some tense moments after Granddaddy Chance passed... Me inviting Nancy to see our patio, to which she replied to Maup "I didn't know you had a patio" and Maup made a sign to show that I was a little cracked in the head (hey, imaginary patios can be very real)... Him chaffing at the powder blue tux he got to wear at my wedding... So many more.

04 July 2018

+ James Maupin Weedon (31 December 1951 to 3 July 2018)

Yesterday my brother died. Words fail me as I try to describe this man. The quintessential free spirit. He introduced me to all manner of naughtiness. He taught me to love Johnny Cash and the Eagles. He had a heart of gold, the kind of person that quite literally would give you the shirt off his back without even thinking about it. The kind of person who would play with a brother nine years younger and never even hint at the fact that he wasn't having the time of his life! I remember the time he thought to fill my pool up with Mr. Clean and we took a bubble bath outside; or him hammering into my head: "Never forget, Billy, anything you can do, I can do better. Repeat it." And I would and I believed it! His "Afternoon!" And "Howdeedo!" Were legendary with my kids. They all loved Uncle Maupin. In fact, all the kids did. He was like Uncle Jimmy Mastin in the next generation. I remember him deciding he'd had enough with stuffing ads into the papers he was delivering, so he decided to burn them. Right across from Glenmont Elementary one morning. And how he showed me that he was like a god by passing his hand through the flame. Yup, he was a god. I was in awe. And when he left for Vietnam, I remember being so sad. But the sadness faded into joy when he finally came home. He and Nancy and little Jimmy. And then Jeremy (leave the eletric cord alone, little one!) and finally Jessica. Maup and Crackers riding in his truck—he always seemed to have a vehicle on the edge of breaking down, but he kept them going. Maup and I working at Joe's warehouse. Two summers I got to work with both of these brothers, and only rarely did I get sent out with Maup to deliver paper, but that was always the best of days when I did. Because I could talk to him like I could talk to no one else. He never judged. He'd just laugh and give some off-color advice and I'd be laughing right along with him. I am so blessed that 10 days before he died I got to preside at his daughter's wedding and see him give away his daughter in marriage and dance with her. I'm going to miss him big time. We walked together over to the cemetery and visited our mom and dad's graves and also our brother Joe's. He showed me the memory garden, "so you can just sit and think...and remember." I'll use it to remember you, Maupin. To paraphrase my favorite children's book: "I'll love you forever; I'll like you for always; as long as I'm living my brother you'll be."

When I was born, I almost died with an intestinal blockage. Our neighbor across the way took Maupin to her church to light a candle and pray for me. Today I lit a candle and prayed for him: Rest eternal, grant your servant Maupin, O Lord, and let light perpetual shine upon him!

26 June 2018

A fun evening

Been a very long time since just the six of us went out to eat. Last time was years ago in Annapolis (and we got to take a water taxi). This time nothing quite so exotic. Greek food. Kala!

25 June 2018

Time with Family

Wedding Homily

A Reading from Ecclesiastes, chapter 4

9Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. 10For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! 11Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? 12And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Okay, you two. Confession time. For me, not you. I always got in trouble for telling my congregation that I much preferred preaching funerals to weddings. They'd get so agitated: “Pastor, that's just wrong!”

But think about this for a minute from a pastor's perspective, will you? At a funeral the problem is obvious. There's a box with a body in it, but the person who used to inhabit that body has gone awol and everyone feels it. It hurts. Hurts like hell. And people are ready and aching to hear a word that can address the pain. And I had that word.

Now, take the wedding. The problem itself is hidden beneath all the joy and celebration of the day. And the folks out there, and sometimes the folks right here, are all thinking: Come on, preacher man, make it short and sweet. We want to get to the main event of the day: the party! Truth? Truth.

But you ready to get your minds blown? God thinks we've got it all backwards, as usual. He wants us to celebrate every funeral as a wedding feast and every wedding feast? They actually celebrate two funerals. Say what?

Oh, yeah. God tells you that for your marriage to be what He wants it to be there's something right here in front of me that needs to die. Let's call it your ego. He does this in the weirdest way: by tying two lives together. You ever seen one or been in one of those three-legged races? They're a hoot. You get to use both your legs, but one of your legs is tied to another person's and you have to use em both together. And try running like that! At first, you stumble a lot. But the longer you keep at it, the more you begin to figure out how two people can actually run as one and then the fun really begins

There's Jesus' idea of how marriage can be a funeral. Because the impulse inside you Curtis and inside you, Jess, to run off and do your own thing is what gets to die. The impulse to always have it your way. I want to do what I want to do when I want to do it and you get in my way, I'll make you sorry. THAT's the sucker that has to be killed in both of you. You're tied together from now on. For better and for worse. For richer and for poorer. In sickness and in health. Now, it is entirely possibly for you to just not get used to this being tied together. What happens then is one of two things: one of the other of you pulls out a knife and slices through that rope and says: “There. We're done with that. Let's just go each do our thing.” That's sad. Race over. Or, and this is just as sad, two people stay tied together, never learning how to run together, and just grump and grouse at each other and about each other all the way to the end of the race. Yikes. In that case, what Jesus wanted to die, never gets to die at all.

But the picture I've given you so far isn't the whole deal. You see, marriage is not like Jesus reaching down and tying a rope around both of your ankles so that you “get hitched.” It's way more fun than that! Jesus reaches down and ties your ankle, Curtis, to HIS and then He reaches over and ties Jessica's to HIS. Do marriage his way and it's not a three legged race, it's a three PERSON race. I used to totally miss this: You heard Jesus say it earlier: “What God has joined together, let not man separate.” GOD is what joins together. He's between the two of you. He's the glue!

Jess, I'm gonna pick on you because you're my own flesh and blood. Curtis, let me ask you: You ever try winning an argument with this woman? Of course you have. You've tried. But you've found out it doesn't work. Wanna know why? Because even though you're gonna change her last name today, she's still a WEEDON and Weedons all have this weird genetic defect that they always believe they're right. If you don't believe me, just ask anyone married to a Weedon in the room and they'll set you straight. We're a messed up bunch. But here's where it gets interesting! 

She's ready to argue you down on anything, and you might be tempted sometimes to grab that knife and just cut the rope and get free, or to argue right back at her, whatever. You pull out the knife and Jesus looks at you: “Throw that thing away. You won't be needing it.” “But,” you begin. “No buts,” he says. “Time for a funeral. Because this isn't about what Curtis wants. Don't argue with her. Go tell her who she is in me. Tell her whom I am making her to be. Go say: Jess, I love you. You are an amazing woman. I am so glad that God brought us together. Come on, let's get moving!” And she'll be looking at you like you look at someone come back from the dead, because in a way, someone has!

Jessica, you're going to do the same for him. When you're tempted to say: “You know, Curtis, the problem with you is...” Jesus gives you that look. And the words and the thought die on your lips. “Tell him who he is in me,” says Jesus, “tell him who he is becoming as his life becomes love. Curtis, you're my rock. I love you so much. God has changed me so much through you. Thank you. Say that instead.”

And when either of you is saying in your head: I can't do that, Jesus is saing: “I think they’re getting this!” Of course you can't. Don't you see THAT'S why Jesus ties you together by tying you to HIM. Because where you don't have the strength of will, HE does. It's absolutely true that neither of you have the ability to forgive as much as the other has the ability to hurt. Welcome to the fallen human race! But HE'S the one who has already bleed to forgive the sins of every last one of us and that's the forgiveness He puts at your disposal to share with each other and to begin speaking into each other. 

So you do your marriage this way, you've got this mega-strange relationship going on, where marriage is your ongoing funeral to the ego's drive to have it your way, and where you speak the truth to each other of who they are becoming in Jesus. You know what happens? Jessica's grandma always used to say: “Little pictures have big ears” by which she meant that the kids are always listening in. Shaela and Anthony and Brooklyn and if God grants you even more. And they see and hear this weird way you're learning to live together. Know what? They say to Jesus: “Dear Jesus, please give me someone like that too. Someone you tie me to with you in the middle, so that I can run that race. Cause I want my life to be like theirs.” And how sweet is that?

Marriage is an ongoing funeral, but such a marriage means, when the funeral comes that it has all the joy of the marriage. Just like Jesus is there to pick you both up when either stumble and the three of you are on the ground, so when you fall to the ground that last time in this life, you'll close your eyes and open them again and Jesus will be right there. He'll be saying: “Get up!” And this time you'll never go down again. Now you can run together in true freedom. “I always told you that I had more forgiveness than you had sin and more life than you have death and now you see it. Come on into the great marriage feast that never ends! It's the ultimate homecoming and my whole goal in putting you guys together was so that you could all show up here.” And then, God willing, the two of you will run to the feast together arm in arm with your kids, laughing for joy all the way. You see, the path is funeral to wedding feast, and it's exactly the reverse of the way we tend to think.

One last thing: if it sounds like child's play, that's because it is. Jesus said if we ever hope to enter his kingdom we have to become like kids! And what do kids do? They play! People don't stop playing because they got old; they got old because they stopped playing. Jesus is inviting you into this great game, this three-personed race, where you get to die to ego, to self every single day, and where the ending of the whole shebang is wedding and more joy than you can imagine. Your married life can BE an adventure. Something a lot more fun than any serious grumps (grownups) can imagine. So you guys ready? On your mark, get set, go! In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.