A new poem
This is a letter I wrote for my new "grandchild" in May of 2006
This was originally a pastor's column for my church in Preble NY July 2002
There is an old Native American tale told many times around the Sacred Fire. I want to share it here. The author is unknown
An old Grandfather, whose grandson came to him with anger at a schoolmate who had done him an injustice, said, "Let me tell you a story. I too, at times, have felt a great hate for those that have taken so much, with no sorrow for what they do. But hate wears you down, and does not hurt your enemy. It is like taking poison and wishing your enemy would die. I have struggled with these feelings many times."
He continued, "It is as if there are two wolves inside me; one is good and does no harm. He lives in harmony with all around him and does not take offense when no offense was intended. He will only fight when it is right to do so, and in the right way."
"But the other wolf, ah! He is full of anger. The littlest thing will set him into a fit of temper. He fights everyone, all the time, for no reason. He cannot think because his anger and hate are so great. It is hard to live with these two wolves inside me, for both of them try to dominate my spirit."
The boy looked intently into his Grandfather's eyes and asked, "Which one wins, Grandfather?" The Grandfather solemnly said, "The one I feed."
As registrar for Hudson Mohawk Association, I get to sit on two committees. At a meeting one evening not too long ago, we had the great pleasure of learning that one of our in-care students had received the Billings Prize for preaching a wonderful sermon at Harvard Divinity School. And, pleasantly, he had also sent the sermon.
The story above and this sermon do have a connection. The sermon dealt with the Genesis' passages about Abraham and Sarah and what they had to give up to be God's people and what they had to endure to be God's people. Are we faithful enough to put God before everything else in our lives? That is a message we may have heard many times in our lives from pulpits and preachers, from TV evangelists and well-meaning friends. It is something we wrestle with when we hear of children being killed in nearby towns, suicide bombers in the Middle East, and planes being used as weapons of mass destruction. Are we faithful enough to put God before everything, and everybody else in our lives?
Don't you thing Abraham had a hard time, struggled within his very being, questioned that God that gave him a son, one they called "Laughter"(Isaac) in his very old age? What would happen to the covenant promise given by God to Abram that his descendants would number as the stars in the heaven if he had to sacrifice that living breathing promise?
The sermon concludes with the idea that we are a "post binding of Isaac people" we're done with that now"(author emphasis). That Jesus shows us that, through his life and especially through his death, that the old ways are gone and the new way, the better way- God's way- is here.
God's way, the way of peace, of love, and of laughter is alive at Preble. It feeds the wolf of hope and future. My hope is that we choose not to feed the wolf of anger, resentment, and past history that sits just as predominantly within us. Don't sacrifice the future for the sake of the past. "Because God will no longer ask of us things that we cannot do. And when it seems like God or our community is asking us something beyond our limits, it's OK to be skeptical, it's OK to ask questions, it's OK to pray and be patient with yourself. God expects nothing less. But trust in God, even when it is so hard, because God will provide a way out of no way. God will provide a new option. God breaks the cycles of tradition and habits so that we may live.
so that we may live."
Abraham almost had to sacrifice his son. God sacrificed God's son, Jesus, to teach us, yet again, that the old is over, and the new is here, if we are open to it.
And remember, with God ALL things are possible.
About 6 weeks or so ago we celebrated Christmas and since then, the church has been in the season of Epiphany. This Wednesday, Feb 13 we begin the season of Lent, a period of spiritual preparation for Easter which typically involves fasting, penance and prayer. It was originally established by various Christian groups as an interval ranging from a few days to several weeks. It was eventually fixed in the 8th century CE at 40 days. (The number 40 is one of many numbers with religious significance in the Bible. 40 days recalls the interval that Jesus, Moses and Elijah spent in the desert. Other numbers were 3, 7, 12, and 70). Among Roman Catholics, Lent lasts for six and a half weeks before Easter, excluding Sundays. Among the Eastern Orthodox churches, it is a full eight weeks, because Saturdays and Sundays are not included.
Is Lent outmoded? Do we still need it? In a society that is increasingly secular is there still a place for it? I believe so, for it is a time to practice what we preach, to pray, to help, to love as Jesus did, and to remember what that thirty something man did to change the world.
As a Christian, I hope to love as Jesus loved. Perhaps during this time of conflict in the world, that's all we really need. The churches doors are open to all who seek their care, all that is asked is that you come inside, no questions asked…. But maybe some will be answered.
I had heard about them, what minister hadn't. The " billboards from God" we jokingly called them, but they changed people, caught them off guard. Made them think. And that was a good thing.....right?
Who ever thought a selection of thoughtful reminders from "God" would become such a wonderful expression of spiritual fervor. Now after 10,000 billboards in over 200 cities, hundreds of various newspaper articles and special news reports from NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN, and MSNBC the phenomenon continues to spread like wildfire into the hearts of many in our country and now the world.
"HAVE YOU READ MY #1 BEST SELLER? THERE WILL BE A TEST." -- GOD
"WHAT PART OF ""THOU SHALT NOT"" DIDN'T YOU UNDERSTAND?" -- GOD
"WE NEED TO TALK." -- GOD
"KEEP USING MY NAME IN VAIN AND I'LL MAKE RUSH HOUR LONGER." -- GOD
"LOVED THE WEDDING, INVITE ME TO THE MARRIAGE." -- GOD
"THAT ""LOVE THY NEIGHBOR THING"" THING...I MEANT IT." -- GOD
"I LOVE YOU AND YOU AND YOU AND YOU AND YOU AND..." -- GOD
"WILL THE ROAD YOU'RE ON GET YOU TO MY PLACE?" -- GOD
"BIG BANG THEORY, YOU'VE GOT TO BE KIDDING." -- GOD
"NEED DIRECTIONS?" -- GOD
"YOU THINK IT'S HOT HERE? HA!" -- GOD
"DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHERE YOU'RE GOING?" -- GOD
"DON'T MAKE ME COME DOWN THERE!!!!!" -- GOD
It all started with one person's idea. What if people on the streets of America were reminded of God and the importance God plays or wants to play in our world and personal lives? What would God say to us if God had a voice (or in this case a billboard or two) to present God's message into the hearts and minds of millions of people? The Smith Agency was brought in and the "God Speaks" campaign was born, funded by one anonymous individual.
It was to be a simple campaign with simple thoughts that spoke to those that needed to be more engaged with God. It was to be light and humorous-capable of causing a smile or challenging a strayed emotion or thought. It was to be a consistent with the Bible and its claims. But most of all, it was for those that were open to hear the voice of God and be subtlety transformed by its transcendent principles.
The plan called for designing a series of billboards with "God sayings" to be rolled-out throughout the Miami/Ft. Lauderdale area. Little did anyone know how quickly the scope of the campaign would receive national exposure.
The timing was right. The idea was on target. It became clear just after a few weeks that people of all walks of life and faith were fully embracing it. The subtle reminders of a relevant and active God became the focus of conversations with the local media, on highways throughout Florida, and around company water coolers everywhere.
It didn't take long before all of the national media networks were competing against each other to get the best slice of the story. All the major TV networks and newspapers made the story a major focus of their reports. Overnight the messages had reached the homes and hearts of people around the world. The Outdoor Advertising Association of America was so moved by the essence of the initiative that they offered the representatives of the project the chance to present the sayings on billboards across the United States. Their gift was to present the billboards as their yearlong "goodwill" campaign. More than ten thousand billboards in more than two hundred cities and communities have risen-up around the country. God's words truly bring meaning and hope.
Cynics say one person can't change the world. This idea proves that wrong. It all started with a person (like you and me) listening and being faithful to the voice of God-and with God's hand, turned something very simple into a wonderful life-changing phenomenon. Because with God, all things are possible.
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Page Posted: 25 September 2001