December 2005

God's great mercy...

A Hymn to God the Father

Wilt thou forgive that sin where I begun,
Which was my sin, though it were done before?
Wilt thou forgive that sin, through which I run,
And do run still: though still I do deplore?
When thou hast done, thou hast not done,
For I have more.

Wilt thou forgive that sin which I have won
Others to sin? and, made my sin their door?
Wilt thou forgive that sin which I did shun
A year, or two: but wallowed in, a score?
When thou hast done, thou hast not done,
For I have more.

I have a sin of fear, that when I have spun
My last thread, I shall perish on the shore;
But swear by thyself, that at my death thy son
Shall shine as he shines now, and heretofore;
And, having done that, Thou hast done,
I fear no more.

-John Donne

O come to my heart, Lord Jesus, there is room in my heart for Thee...

David and I wish each of you a very merry Christmas!

A Psalm of Christmas

Lord we blame
the innkeeper
for only giving you
the stable
when his inn was full
but what about
all the others
who lived in Bethlehem
that night
when you were born.
Why were
all their houses
that weren't full
of guests
fast closed
against the one
who contained you?
God bless
our little homes
this Christmastime
make them
big enough
to welcome you
contained in those
for whom the world
has no room
a cold and lonely
Christmas day.

-Joe Bayly

On Christmas Eve...

But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. (Galatians 4:4-6)
A Psalm for Christmas Eve

Praise God for Christmas
Praise Him for the Incarnation
for Word made flesh.
I will not sing
of shepherds watching flocks
on frosty night
or angel choristers.
I will not sing
of stable bare in Bethlehem
or lowing oxen
wise men
trailing distant star
with gold and frankincense and myrrh.
Tonight I will sing
praise to the Father
who stood on heaven's threshold
and said farewell to His Son
as He stepped across the stars
to Bethlehem
and Jerusalem.
And I will sing
praise to the infinite eternal Son
who became most finite
a Baby
who would one day be executed
for my crimes.
Praise Him in the heavens.
Praise Him in the stable.
Praise Him in my heart.

-Joe Bayly

O tidings of comfort and joy...

Again, this from my reading fifteen years ago. Speaking of which, where will you take tidings of comfort and joy this Christmastime?

Christmas, 1988, N Train

A young woman we know writes: It was the gilt-edged pages that gave him away. Most people who read the Bible on the subway have a small pocket edition and keep it to themselves. This young man looked as if he had come away with the family King James. Otherwise, he was ordinary-looking; gray jacket, plaid scarf, blue jeans, white sneakers, bristly brown hair; a gold wedding band. He waited until the N train had pulled out of the Queensboro Plaza station and was under the East River, and then he read aloud, "In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus..." A groan went out from my fellow-passengers.

Talk about a captive audience. The train was too crowded for people to switch cars. And New Yorkers will put up with all sorts of things rather than give up their seats on the subway. I couldn't help thinking that the young man was lucky there were no maniacs aboard and no piles of stones at hand. But no matter how you feel about being force-fed the gospel under the East River it holds up better than the Times or the Post or the subway ads for Dr. Zizmor, dermatologist. Anyway, no one moved. No one said, "Oh, shut up." No one wanted to be identified as an irreligious loner at Christmastime.

I found myself criticizing the young man's intonation. He had a good strong voice, but the words rocked up and back unvaryingly: " be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child." When he was done, and the shepherds had rejoiced, he changed--thank goodness--his rhythm. He started singing "Joy to the World." He sang two full verses of it, again in a good, strong voice. But no one joined in. I was tempted, partly because I felt sorry for him--singing in the face of so much hostility--and also because I'm a sucker for actual human voices raised in song, as opposed to canned carols such as one hears in Doubleday (pa-rum-pa-pum-pum) and in Barnes & Noble (gloh-o-o-o-o-oh-o-o-o-o-oh-o-o-o-o-oh-ria). But I was sitting next to a man rigid with pain and fury at having his subway meditations interrupted, and I felt sorry for him, too. Especially when the young man finished singing and began to preach, reminding us that we were all God's creatures on the N train and that for each of us He had a plan. God's creature next to me was probably thinking that he didn't take the subway to fall in with God's plan--he took the subway to get to Fifty-ninth and Lexington.

("The Talk of the Town" in The New Yorker, Dec. 26, 1988.)


Church of the Good Shepherd breaks ground...

A Psalm of Church Building

Let me build a church
That's big enough for You.
Not big enough for them
or him or her
or me
but You.
Red door
open wide
high walls
enough to hem us in
to You
Your mind
windows without glass
through which
dove may fly
rising rising
through low clouds
to sky
and star beyond
tolling death
pealing life.

-Joe Bayly


This past Sunday, immediately following our Lord's Day worship, our congregation had the joy of breaking ground for our new church building.


Still no room in the inn?

Listen Christian

I was hungry
and you formed a humanities club and discussed my hunger.
Thank you.

I was imprisoned
and you crept off quietly
to your chapel in the cellar and prayed for my release.

I was naked
and in your mind
you debated the morality of my appearance.

I was sick
and you knelt
and thanked God for your health.

I was homeless
and you preached to me
of the spiritual shelter
of the love of God.

I was lonely
and you left me alone
to pray for me.

You seem so holy;
So close to God.
But I'm still very hungry,
and lonely, and cold....

-Bob Rowland

Chaplains' prayers censored by military brass...

More than eight years ago a friend of mine told me he had lost his Navy chaplaincy largely because of his unwillingness to stop praying explicitly in the Name of Jesus. Recent reports indicate things have only gotten worse.

Jesus has always been despised. And likely the senior chaplains and military brass who are some of the most aggressive in opposing prayers in Jesus' Name are also evangelicals serving as the secularists' willing helpers.

(Thanks, Jeff.)

Sodomite non-marriage: Scottish presbyterians will have none of it...

Yesterday, across the United Kingdom the decadent celebrated the new civil approval for sodomite non-marriage known as the Civil Partnerships Act. Already, around seven-hundred non-marriage ceremonies for sodomite couples have been held with pride of position belonging to Sir Elton John and his longtime companion, David Furnish.

Not forty years ago, sodomy was a crime across the UK. Now it's a party and Sir Elton's was the largest with Liz Hurley, Hugh Grant, Donatella Versace, Claudia Schiffer, Victoria Beckham (David's wife), Sixties icon Lulu, Ringo Starr, Elvis Costello, Tim Burton and his wife Helena Bonham-Carter, Gordon Ramsey, Michael Caine, Sharon Stone, Michael Parkinson, Matt Lucas, Boris Becker, Nick Faldo, Greg Rusedski and English cricket captain Michael Vaughan among the throng in attendance.

But Scotland's Western Isles are not joining in the festivities. The Isles' councillors are supporting their registrars who have refused to have any part in the non-marriage ceremonies. So far none of the Isles' twenty-four thousand or so inhabitants have officially requested the ceremony but the test case seems inevitable. Meanwhile, stout Presbyterians in the north and orthodox Roman Catholics in the south are agreed in their opposition, so the matter may come to a head with the European Union having the final say. (Ever notice how the EU functions across Europte in much the same decadent homogenizing way our own Supreme Court does across these United States?)

Rev Tim McGlynn, a pastor in the Free Church of Scotland (Continuing) in Scalpay, put it this way: "To try and force (the registrars) to do something they think is immoral would be unjust. But that is what is being advanced by people who are what I call bigoted secularists. The position on the isles is that the people in positions in power are far more likely to personally have a faith which is guiding the things that they do."

For the other side, an anonymous sodomite is quoted saying, "I can't give my name because the islands are the kind of place where you just can't and it would cause a huge fuss. You would be regarded as bringing shame on your village and your island. I am very unhappy about what they have decided, but in a way I'm not surprised, we are years behind the rest of the country. This is discrimination. How come these ceremonies will be OK in Glasgow and not in Barra? It is absolutely wrong. I can imagine someone just having a ceremony on one of the beaches and defying anyone to stop us."

Sodomy advocate Calum Irving, director of sodomite charity Stonewall Scotland, threatened the Western Isles council with an appeal under European human rights law.

As such progress continues to unfold across the Western world, let's all remember that the origin of sodomy laws in the Western world has always been Christian love both for those tempted by immorality and their victims. How sad, then, that today we have women and children abandoned by no-fault divorce, STDs by the boatload, unborn children murdered by the tens of millions per year, millions dying by AIDS; and now, just in the nick of time to save us all, sodomite non-marriage.

How pathetic that evangelical Christian pastors and seminary professors (see here and here) have lent their support to this state of affairs, calling for the repeal of sodomy laws across these United States. Who needs the Supreme Court's judicial rulings when such ecclesiastical leaders are at work boring through the sill of the foundation?

(Thanks, Bill.)

Tapping Into Jesus...

What purpose do the idols (video, drama, film, Powerpoint picture shows, etc.) of modern worship serve? They cover a tragic lack of connection with the risen Christ....

CedarCreek Church in Perrysburg Township, the largest church in northwest Ohio, is among those that will not be open on Christmas Day. Instead, the nondenominational "seeker-sensitive" church will squeeze six services into its Christmas Eve schedule -- at noon, 1:30, 3, 4:30, 6, and 7:30 p.m., with total attendance of 10,000 expected.

The decision not to hold Christmas Day services was made late last year, according to the Rev. Lee Powell, CedarCreek's senior pastor, and was unaffected by national news that other "megachurches," including Willow Creek Community Church in suburban Chicago, would be closed.

"Our reasoning is that, No. 1, we certainly are celebrating Christmas," Mr. Powell said. "That's obvious by having six services on Christmas Eve."

The pastoral staff also felt it would be a burden to ask the 300 to 500 volunteers needed every weekend at CedarCreek to serve on Christmas Day.

"Jesus said he was Lord of the sabbath and criticized the hypocrisy of religious zealots who were very legalistic about it," Mr. Powell said. "I feel fully confident that if we could tap into Jesus today, He would support our decision."

12/17/05 Toledo Blade

Idols are never found among those who know the glory of Christ's promise, "Wherever two or three are gathered in my name, there am I also." But where He is not, icons create the similitude of His presence.

Peace on earth, goodwill to men...

The good Rev. Sandi Blackwood ought, also, to be suspended from her pulpit for five years for pulling the light bulb out of the lamp in the first place. What do you want to bet the Revs. Blackwood are co-pastors of the same church? Reminds me of the scuttlebutt across the mainline PC(USA) in which I formerly served, that husband/wife co-pastors were notorious for fighting with each other. Duh!

Minister Banned from Pulpit after Headbutting His Wife

Alan Blackwood has been banned from the pulpit for five years by the Church of Scotland after headbutting his wife Sandi, also a minister, causing her to need stitches to her nose after the attack.

The violence occurred when Sandi took the bulb out of a bedside lamp because she wanted to go to sleep.

Blackwood had been suspended since his arrest in April 2004. The civil court sentenced him to probation for 18 months.

-Church of Scotland news item.

Seriously, though, they both should be out of the pulpit until they have repented of their hatred for one another. And the best place to start would be to mandate that they submit to the soul care of a pastor--need I say, a male pastor?--who will counsel and pray with them for the peace of Christ to rule their marriage and home.


Judge rules against intelligent design...

It's interesting that in his opinion Judge Jones rebukes intelligent design proponents for being sneaky as to their true motives and convictions. I have a certain sympathy for this point.

But his protest against those who would explain his decision as another case of "judicial activism" is lame. As I recall from reading about the case, elite media sources said Judge Jones was quite pleased to take the case on. When I first read that, I immediately came to the counclusion that he had an axe to grind in this case--whether pro or anti-intelligent design. Methinks the lady doth protest too much.

Excerpts from Judge Jones' decision:

To be sure, Darwin's theory of evolution is imperfect. However, the fact that a scientific theory cannot yet render an explanation on every point should not be used as a pretext to thrust an untestable alternative hypothesis grounded in religion into the science classroom or to misrepresent well-established scientific propositions.

The Second Commandment: idols vs. false gods....

In the view of most Christians the classic sin of idolatry no longer exists--obliterated by reason, the collapse of superstition, modernism. And where idolatry is still acknowledged to exist in Western culture, it no longer has any connection to graven images, the original ground of idolatry. It is greed. It is lust. It is a vast multitude of other sins. But it has no connection to images.

How has the classic sin of idolatry been banished from modern life? By the Church's vigorous opposition to graven imagery? By overwhelming Christian zeal for the One True God? As a benign side effect of the Enlightenment?

I fear, less gloriously, that the root of our victory lies in a serious case of historical chauvinism. We have come to regard classic idolatry as a sin of bygone ages by diminishing the abilities and minds of our predecessors, creating mock people with mock weaknesses against whom we have achieved a modern superiority.

In essence, the classic sin of idolatry has been written out of modern existence by historical prejudice, the assumption that we are superior to people of the ancient past who knew so little that they attached supernatural powers to inanimate objects....