March 27, 2013

A Favorite Easter Story

George and Rosie loved each other deeply, so much so that during the forty years they were married, they did everything together  They were inseparable in every area of life . . . except one. When George drove Rosie to church every Sunday, she went into church, and George sat out in the car and read the Sunday papers.

In time, Rosie died, and for many Sundays after that, church members looked in the parking lot, but George’s car was no longer there.

Several months later, on Easter Sunday morning, George’s car appeared again, and this time, George went into the church. The preacher delivered a stirring message on the resurrection, and then, as was his custom, he invited the members to respond.

At that moment, George stood up, and with deep emotion, announced boldly and loudly, “ROSIE LIVES.”

Then George began to sing, “My wild Irish rose, the sweetest flower that grows . . .”  One person joined in, then another, and finally the entire congregation was joyfully singing what someone described as, “The most beautiful Easter Hymn ever sung in our church.”

So it was with Rosie. So let it be with you.

March 16, 2013

Feed My Sheep

There is an old story that tells how Satan summoned his aides to plan a strategy against those who worshipped Jesus. As the Satanical pep talk concluded, the Angel of Darkness made this emotional speech:
“Now get out there and lie, steal and cheat. Do anything to stop those Christians from winning the lost. But be careful. If those Christians ever start to act like they talk, all Heaven will break loose!”
Some people think that it’s only what we don’t do that identifies us as Christians . . . don’t gamble, don’t swear, don’t lie, don’t cheat, etc.

But Jesus was action oriented. He was a doer and a healer who spoke often about what is required of those who choose to follow him. In one of his appearances after his resurrection, Jesus’ instructions to Peter were simple and direct. Three times the Risen Savior asked his disciple if he loved him, and each time, when Peter reaffirmed his love, Jesus said “Feed my sheep.”

Pope Francis, the new leader of the Catholic Church, is a doer. As the former archbishop of Buenos Aires, he dedicated his ministry to the poor in Argentina and around the world.  Monsignor Robert Ritchie, rector of St.Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City, said, “I know God has chosen a holy father who will do exactly as he was told to do: “Feed his sheep.”

The next time you hear a sermon consider the words from the first chapter of James: “Be doers of the word, and not merely . . . hearers.” In the words of Jesus, “Feed my sheep.”

March 8, 2013

A Compassionate Nation

In his book The Candy Bombers, Andrei Cherny tells the story of the Berlin Airlift following Nazi Germany’s surrender in 1945 at the end of World War II.

In 1948, the Soviet Union blocked road, railroad and canal access to West Berlin, that part of the city under the control of France, England and the United States. Their aim was to force the people of West Berlin to look to the Russians to supply their needs which would bring them under Communists authority.

The Allied response to the blockade was to supply West Berlin with food and fuel by air, a strategy which, at the height of the Airlift, had one plane landing in West Berlin every thirty seconds. By February of 1949, the Airlift was delivering 16 million pounds of supplies or more each day. 

The most remarkable part of this story is that during World War II, Berlin was subjected to a total of 363 bombing raids by the United States and England. By the end of the war, 75 thousand tons of high explosive and incendiary bombs had rained down on the former Nazi capital.

Few people today realize the deep hatred and contempt Americans had for Germany during World War II, the result of Nazi war crimes in which an estimated 10 million Europeans were killed.  Then, just three short years after Germany surrendered, American pilots were delivering food to the same people they had tried their best to kill during the war.

In the prayer that Jesus taught us, we repeat the words, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” One of the most remarkable demonstrations of forgiveness I know is how the people of the United States and our Allies transformed their hostility and contempt for Berliners into compassion and love.