Come Monday

It’s Monday, the SECOND day of the week, but for most the first day of the work week. It’s Monday, not a day we typically look forward to with anticipation or excitement.

But it’s Monday, and Monday provides new opportunity. It’s Monday, the day we go out to bring the grace and truth of Jesus to bear on the places God has called us, places where we seek to do justice and mercy.

Monday is a blessing and yet Monday can be tiresome. As the weariness of the day and the workweek sets in, remember our work is rooted in Christ’s work and him we have rest. And in him we find our strength.

Reflect further here on the rhythm of work and rest: https://depree.us13.list-manage.com/track/click?u=26727d66b832057a931976970&id=a6835589f8&e=24c20b4ddc

 

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There Was No Faulkner: A Summer Reading List

Summer’s almost over so below is my summer reading list if you need some inspiration for the fall. Recommended titles marked by  ***. What are your recommendations from the summer?

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Willam Faulkner’s House. Oxford, MS.

 

 History/Current Events:

A Short History of Europe: From Pericles to Putin (still in progress to finish by Labor Day) – Simon Jenkins. Sometimes you want more. Sometimes you’re glad he moves so fast, but a great refresher on everything you’ve forgotten from your Western Civ courses.

***The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam (in progress to finish soon) – Douglas Murray. Contemporary Europe (and soon to be US)—the consequence of a guilty western conscience or an unparalleled optimism? He has his take, but you can decide. Glad my mother-in-law didn’t read this before we went to Europe.

The First World War (in progress and will be through the fall) – John Keegan. A detailed account of the Great War, which, of course, was nothing but a great tragedy.

Fiction:

***Same Place, Same Things – Tim Gautreaux. If you like the ordinary, you’ll love these short stories about working Louisiana folk. By the end you can hear the accent.

Homesick for Another World – Ottessa Moshfegh (read portions). These short stories will definitely make you homesick for another world and maybe another book. It’s like Gautreaux but reflects a world more crude.

Humor:

Lessons from Lucy: The Simple Joys of an Old, Happy Dog – Dave Barry. The humorist waxes reflective and wistful, mostly in a humorous way, of course.

Faith:

***Rhythms of Grace: How the Church’s Worship Tells the Story of the Gospel – Mike Cosper.  The first half is good, much of it a summary of our time in the OT. I highly recommend the second half of this book (Ch 5ff) for a better understanding of worship.

The Good News We Almost Forgot: Rediscovering the Gospel in a Sixteenth-Century Catechism– Kevin DeYoung. Enjoyed portions of these reflections on the Heidelberg Catechism in late spring while preparing to visit the city of its origins. If you’re headed that way, pick up a copy and enjoy the history and theology.

Chasing Francis: A Pilgrim’s Tale– Ian Morgan Cron. Okay, this was a late spring read. A fictional/semi-autobiographical journey shaped by the great saint.

***The Old Testament– God (via the aid of some friends). Read it.

Leadership:

Designed to Lead: The Church and Leadership Development – Eric Geiger and Kevin Peck. Because, you know, Leadership Cohort and the whole pastor thing.

Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts. – Brene Brown. Second book I’ve read by the popular professor, author, and motivational speaker. I think I like most of what she says. I don’t love the format or style.

 

Now that Solomon is Dead

Wandering around the campus of Ole Miss, you can’t escape the past. There are old buildings and old trees. And there’s an old memorial to the Lost Cause, the house divided, as well as a new one to James Meredith, the first African-American to attend the University. Yes, memories of valor abound and they remind us we should humble ourselves presently because we just might not be as smart as we think.

If you’re reading the Old Testament with us at St. John’s, Solomon is no longer with us. And now that Solomon is dead and the kingdom is divided, we will encounter more powerfully the voice of the prophets as we continue reading. Yes, prophets, and those who have functioned in the prophetic role, have been around, including the likes of Moses, Samuel, and Nathan. But now these characters will take center stage. We’ll encounter first Elijah and Elisha and then others like Amos and Isaiah and Jeremiah and Hosea, who have left a written record of their of their divine pronouncements.

But what is it these emissaries from God will speak to the people of Israel and the people of Judah? In a word, faithfulness. Now that Solomon is dead, the needed word that reverberates with such power from Yahweh through his prophets to his people is one of faithfulness—cultic faithfulness and faithfulness to the divine image in one another. The former is about loving God, the latter about loving one another. Jesus, of course, had something to say about this too.

Now that Solomon is dead and the kingdom is in disarray, the prophets will offer a simple and yet powerful message of faithfulness, by which they simply mean this: Worship Yahweh only. And do justice and love mercy.

If you want a taste of how important the marriage of justice and mercy are, wander around Ole Miss. The memories of the past are there to haunt us and to give us hope for the future.

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If you’re wondering how important the notion of divine image is, assume it doesn’t apply to a group or class of people and see how quickly we turn on them.

If you’re wondering how to cultivate a proper understanding of yourself and others, cultivate a life of worship, not of self, but of the God who gave us his image and then took on our likeness.

Sunday’s Earthy Benediction

Born out of the wisdom I shared Sunday – “if the grass is greener on the other side, it just means there is more manure there” (unknown) – came a rather earthy benediction. I share it again, or some variant of it, because I need it and I suspect some of you do too.

“May God turn the manure in your life to fertilizer. And may you find rest in the resulting green pastures. And when others inquire about your side of the fence, may you be quick to praise the God who has bestowed upon you mercy and grace.”

Traveling, you don’t have to miss any of these foundational sermons in our Old Testament series. Just follow the link to catch up on what you’ve missed: http://sjepc.com/sermon-archive/

 

 

Come to Me All You Who Are Weary and All You Who Snore

Walking into the beautifully aged St. Peter’s Episcopal Church , just off the square in Oxford, Mississippi, I was startled by a man lurking in the shadows just inside the sanctuary doors. His disheveled appearance and the grumbled greeting he gave me as I passed led me to assume he was mentally confused or homeless or maybe even a transient or possibly all of the above.

Seeking a prayerful refuge from the rain and recent pace of life, I began my meditations, and, just as I did, he, sure enough, began to snore. Loudly.

Snoring annoys most of us. It is a hindrance to our rest. I remember attending a conference with Brian, Steve, and Derek and being forced at an ungodly hour to the bathroom where I closed the door, laid down in the shower, even closed the curtain, and pulled a pillow over my head to escape the concert the trio was performing that night. It didn’t help. Not. One. Bit. This gentleman would’ve made a nice addition had they wanted to form a quartet.

Strangely enough, his snoring didn’t bother me. It just changed the tenor and tone of my prayers. In my quest for rest, I was not alone, nor was he in his. We couldn’t have been more different—different ages, different journeys, vastly different life situations, different needs. But in that moment, sharing a common space, we couldn’t have been more alike. Gathered in the sanctuary, as we all are when we come together in places of worship, we were on equal footing—two beggars looking for bread, two weary souls looking for rest.

I prayed my prayers. And I smiled as he honked and wheezed and snorted and gasped from the back pew where he’d made a pillow out of his backpack. He’d found at least a moment of peace, as did I.

I began to think he was on to something. I laid my head on the back of the pew in front of me and closed my eyes. A power nap would do me some good, I thought. But I didn’t sleep. I couldn’t. He was snoring too loud.

The Reward of Righteousness

Following up on our thoughts about the cost of pride from yesterday, it is only natural to wonder if there is any reward to righteousness. And, of course, there is:

  • If the price of pride is discord and unrest, the reward of righteousness is unity, harmony, and peace.
  • If the price of pride is defeat, the reward of righteousness is victory.
  • If the price of pride is a diminished witness, the reward of righteousness is a fruitful witness.
  • If the price of price of pride is sorrow and mourning, the reward of righteousness is rejoicing and laughter.
  • If the price of pride is death, the reward of righteousness is resurrection… and life everlasting.

So where does this righteousness come from? Well, not from within us, not naturally anyway.

The reward of righteousness comes through the power of humility, love, and grace of Jesus.

Philippians 2:5-11 offers the insight we need here:

5In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: 6Who, being in very nature God,  not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;7rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! 9Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

All of this is a way of saying what Paul told the Christians in Rome (Romans 6:23): For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

We might say it this way: The wages of pride is death… but the gift of God’s humility in Christ, offered on our behalf, is eternal life.

Indeed, in him is righteousness and life. And victory. And peace. And purpose. And joy everlasting. Amen.

 

Wrestling with Pride?

Let me answer that for you. Yes. Yes, you are.

Below are some questions to help you discern the level of your own pride based on our exploration of 1 Chronicles 10 yesterday. (Hint: it’s likely much deeper than you are willing to admit. For more, check out the sermon: https://sjepc.com/sermons/the-price-of-pride/).

Are you happy for others when they get the promotion you wanted? Are you happy for others when they succeed? Are you happy for others when they are blessed? Are you grateful for what God has done for you? Or do you tend to get angry/jealous, thinking you deserve what others have?

Are you willing to do things God’s way—heart, mind, soul, and strength—not only when it’s easy but also when it’s inconvenient?

Does your life bring glory to God or does your life bring glory to the idols of this world? Does your life speak to the glory of God or your love for the idols around you?

Does your life bring joy in the Lord to others or even yourself?

Do your choices lead to life or death? That is, do your choices lead to greater intimacy with God or a greater distance from God?

Again, you can dig deeper by listening at: https://sjepc.com/sermons/the-price-of-pride/