Memorial Day Meditation

In an essay in The Weight of Glory[1], C.S. Lewis wrote: “the sun looks down on nothing half so good as a household laughing together over a meal, or two friends talking over a pint of beer, or a man alone reading a book that interests him.”  As we celebrate Memorial Day here in the United States, I pray you can enjoy what matters most to you and give thanks for others who sacrificed to made it possible.

In the same essay, Lewis says “all economies, politics, laws, armies, and institutions, save insofar as they prolong and multiply such scenes, are a mere ploughing the sand and sowing the ocean.”  These cannot deliver our salvation, yet they are absolutely necessary in this life.  These institutions have “no higher end than to facilitate and safeguard the family, and friendship, and solitude.”  Therefore, give thanks whenever peace and fellowship are possible, and pray for those living in places where they are not.

The essay also includes this quote: “do not let us mistake necessary evils for good.”  What did Lewis mean?  That when things that exist to provide “family, and friendship, and solitude” become an end in themselves “what was undertaken for the sake of health has become itself a new and deadly disease.”  While these things are absolutely needed, we should think of them “only in order to be able to think of something else.”  On the other hand, “a sick society must think much about politics.”  Therefore, give thanks for those who faithfully serve, and for preservation of the freedoms you enjoy.

Most importantly on Memorial Day, give thanks for those who gave up their lives so those they left behind could enjoy “family, and friendship, and solitude.”  Without their sacrifice, we could not celebrate Memorial Day, or any other day.  “Great sacrifices of this private happiness by those who have it may be necessary in order that it may be more widely distributed.”

Jesus said: “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13) As He gave His life for you, pray also for the ability, willingness, and freedom to sacrifice your own time and talents for others.

[1] Lewis, C.S.  The Weight of Glory (1941).  P. 161-162.

Earth Day: Nature is Not Our Mother

In his classic book Orthodoxy, G. K. Chesterton wrote: “Nature is not our mother; Nature is our sister.”[1]  Psalm 19 has an amazing contemplation of the relationships between, God, nature, and us.  Verses 1-6 show that the heavens, in their orderly patterns, “declare the glory of God,” in a language that anyone in any time and place can understand.  In verse 5, the sun “comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber, and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.”  In other words, nature obeys God’s will for it with eager expectation and joy, not reluctant obedience or dutiful drudgery, and God has endowed nature with all the strength needed for its tasks.

Then follows the Psalm’s middle section, verses 7-11, which declare that God has declared His will for human relationships as well, in His law:

The law of the LORD is perfect,
            reviving the soul;
the testimony of the LORD is sure,
            making wise the simple;
the precepts of the LORD are right,
            rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the LORD is pure,
            enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the LORD is clean,
            enduring forever;
the rules of the LORD are true,
            and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold,
            even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
            and drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
            in keeping them there is great reward.[2]

Just as the heavens declare the glory of God by obeying His will with absolute regularity, His law shows His people how to declare His glory as well.  Verse 7 says “The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul.”  As the sun metaphorically gets joy from its God-given task in verse 5, following God’s law is its own reward, to be desired even more than “much fine gold.”  As nature has all it needs for its tasks, God’s word has all we need for strength, wisdom, joy, enlightenment, and righteousness.  What an endowment of riches!

More on nature’s example for us comes later, in Matthew’s gospel, where Jesus uses the regularity of nature as an example of how people should love one another, and especially their enemies: “For [God] makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”  This verse suggests that Nature is better than man at self-sacrificing (agape) love and faithfulness to God’s will, but also provides an example of how to love, “so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.”[3]  As rain is for all; so love is for all.

Therefore, on this Earth Day, celebrate the earth God has endowed us with, but also remember: “Nature is not our mother; Nature is our sister.”  As God’s people are His sons, nature is also His beloved creation, perhaps His daughter.  Our constant, eternal, loving God cares about the needs of both.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
            be acceptable in your sight,
O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.[4]

[1] Chesterton, G.K. Orthodoxy (1908).  P. 169.
[2] Psalm 19:7-11
[3] Matthew 5:45
[4] Psalm 19:14

Earth Day: If the Sun, Moon and Stars Could Speak

Day or night, we are here above you.  We speak a universal language understandable to all people, and we share our message with every part of the world.

But we aren’t really interested in talking about ourselves.

It is our pleasure and joy to serve our Maker for your benefit and His glory.  He has perfectly equipped us for our tasks.

One of your poets once said it this way:

The heavens declare the glory of God,
            and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
            and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words,
            whose voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out through all the earth,
            and their words to the end of the world.
In them he has set a tent for the sun,
which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
            and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.
Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
            and its circuit to the end of them,
            and there is nothing hidden from its heat.[1]

We were here before you were, but our Maker was here before us and will be here when we’re gone.  For you, He has us mark the days and seasons.  We give light for you to see, warmth for your comfort, and energy for your food to grow.

He asked us to tell you of His power and His love for you.  We are not here by accident, and neither are you.  Whoever you are, the sun rises for you and the rain falls in its time.  He ensures it.

The Apostle Paul says that God’s “invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.[2]

Today, rejoice in the regularity of the heavens, which declare to all people in all times and places that the eternal God cares about them.

[1] Psalm 19:1-6
[2] Romans 1:20

The Only Difference That Matters – Sunday Share from Pastor David Garrison

This Sunday Share is from David Garrison, pastor of Northminster Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Madison Heights, Virginia.  David also happens to be an old friend of mine, and I’m delighted to share this Easter-appropriate post – “The Only Difference That Matters” – from his Pastor’s Corner blog.  From 1 Corinthians 15:12-19, he explains why the resurrection is essential to Christianity.

You’ll find it at the link below – it’s worth the short read!

#CrucifyHim (a Good Friday parable)

How often have prominent public figures had to walk back, clarify, or disown public comments in response to a social media protest?  A recent Pew Research poll showed that only about 25% of American adults use Twitter, and about 25% of those people write 97% of all Tweets.  Yet, journalists, politicians, executives, individuals, and others often feel they need to bow to Twitter and other social media or be “cancelled.”  I’m not sure which is more worrisome, that so few largely anonymous Twitter users have so much power, or that even U.S. presidents sometimes yield to them.

Paradoxically, while the pandemic has shaken many people’s confidence in authority, at the same time some worldly authorities are claiming more power, having failed so miserably to manage the pandemic and its ripple effects.  To me, a lesson of the pandemic was: “See all these things people trust in?  They can all be torn down overnight.”  It has left a lot of people shaken.  Those we used to trust aren’t trustworthy, but where else can we turn?

The authorities respond: “Just give us more power and we will try again, but harder.  Ignore the evidence and trust us.”

The authorities of Jesus’ time were pretty lousy themselves.  In the greatest abuse of authority in history, they killed Him on a cross on Good Friday, humiliating Him publicly for all of history to see.  The rebel Barabbas was released by Roman political authorities instead of Jesus because of the cries of an angry mob stirred up by a few Jewish religious authorities jealous of Jesus’ appeal and resentful of His claims of authority.  Astonishingly, it’s not entirely unlike Twitter.  In modern times, the mob wouldn’t even need to show up to have Jesus killed, the “influencers” would just have to start #CrucifyHim trending and people would follow along just to be seen holding the popular view.  If Jesus’ message of love and hope for mankind died with Him, where can we turn?

Fortunately, we have Easter, where Jesus responds: “You hit me with all the power you have, and it wasn’t enough.  Even the grave cannot hold Me.  I rose from the dead and now sit at the right hand of the Father, in the place of ultimate authority.  The tomb is empty.  Observe the evidence and trust Me!

Jesus is risen indeed!

The stone that the builders rejected
            has become the cornerstone.
This is the LORD’s doing;
            it is marvelous in our eyes.
This is the day that the LORD has made;
            let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Save us, we pray, O LORD!           
            O LORD, we pray, give us success!” – Psalm 118:22-25

[Originally published after Good Friday in 2022]