Monday, December 23, 2013

HOW CAN IT BE

This was written in 2006 by Rev. Richard Sipley for the
Christmas  issue of his church newspaper, in Victoria, B. C.
He was my  pastor when I was in HIgh School in Tuscaloosa.


HOW CAN IT BE ?
Luke 1:26-38
Richard Sipley
    This week I saw a perfect illustration of the sad failure of the world to understand or celebrate Christmas.  I was walking through the Mall, and there was Santa Claus ringing a bell and leaning on the cash register in front of his photographic equipment.  He looked tired and bored, hoping to make some more money by taking some child’s picture.
    What a twisted, phony scene! How sad!  This is Christmas - the season of Joy!  But, I wonder how many of you, along with me are facing at least one problem in your life for which you see no human solution?  If I should say to you that the Christmas story has the answer you might say with the Virgin Mary, “How can it be?” 
    Mary was part of a nation living in desperate circumstances for which there was no human solution, when a shining being from another world stood before her and told her that there was a solution, she answered in amazement,  “How can it be?”
   How can what be?  How can something be done contrary to the laws of the material world, such as a virgin birth?  Something contrary to the laws of her social world, such as an unwed mother, who should be stoned to death?  Something contrary to the laws of the Political World, like a peasant rising to the throne against the power of Rome?  Something contrary to the laws of the Spiritual World, combining a physical being and a spiritual being into one person to create a God-man?  How can it be?
    Only through the Holy Spirit; “The Holy Spirit shall come upon you.”  Only through the supernatural power of God; “The power of the Most High will overshadow you.”  Only through the presence of the Son of God; “That holy thing which shall be born of you shall be called the Son of God.”
    Christmas was not just a starlit night in Bethlehem: it had been behind the stars forever.  There was Christmas in the heart of God when He made the earth, and then gave it away to us.  When He sent us His prophets, that was Christmas too.  And it was the most magnificent Christmas of all, that night in Bethlehem when He gave us His own son.  
    As Jesus grew up, Christmas was everywhere He went, giving food, giving sight, giving life.  For Christmas is giving.  But Christmas is also receiving.  In the Bible it says: "As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God." As many as received Him!  When we understand that, we understand that receiving can be even more important than giving at Christmas!  When we receive Christ, we experience completely the gift that is Christmas.  Then, for us, Christmas is truly always, for Jesus said, "Lo, 1 am with you always". 
    And Christmas is Jesus!  
“How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given,  
So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of his heaven.  
No ear may hear his coming,  But in this world of sin,  
Where meek souls will receive him still, 
The dear Christ enters in!”

    How can it be? Only through the Word of God, “For no word from God shall be impossible of fulfillment.”
    How can it be?  I can not do those things! Only God can do those things!  What can I do? I can Give myself to Christ!  I can Accept His Word by Trusting it and Obeying it!  I can do as Mary did.  With a humble believing heart she said, “Be it unto me according to your word!”
    We have seen the studies, sepia strokes across yellowed parchment, the fine detail of hand and breast and the fall of cloth - Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Titian, El Greco, Renault - each complex Madonna positioned, sketched, enlarged, each likeness plotted at last on canvas, layered with pigment, like the final draft of a poem after thirty-nine roughs.
    But Mary, virgin, had no sittings, no chance to pose for piety, no novitiate for body or for heart. The moment was on her unaware: The Angel in the room, the impossible demand, the response without reflection.  Only one word of curiosity, echoing Zechariah’s “How?”  Yet innocently voiced, without request for proof.

     The teen head tilted in light, the hand trembling a little at the throat, the candid eyes, wide with acquiescence to shame and glory, “Be it unto me as you have said.” 

    It seemed too much to ask of one small virgin, that she should stake shame against the will of God... and it seems much, too much to ask you, and me, to be part of the different thing - God’s shocking, unorthodox, unheard of Thing, to further heaven’s hopes and summon God’s glory.

Sunday, July 21, 2013


Presidential Remarks on The Zimmerman Verdict

          I am not a fan of Barrack Obama but it has nothing to do with his race.  
          It has to do with his policies which I think are doing damage to us and 
          our country.  It has to do with his public statements which some times 
          are contradictory and other times apparently untrue.

          However, I think that in his recent speech in response to the George 
          Zimmerman trial verdict, he raised a valid point.  That point being: 
          Young black men are looked upon with fear and suspicion.  

          As I have stated, I feel that is a correct observation.  

          I hope that he really recognizes that is a problem and was not just 
          something ginned-up by his speech writers to make political points.  
          If this is a truly held conviction of his, I pray that he is seeking ways to 
          alleviate those fears and suspicions, but he can not do it alone.  

          To resolve this fear and suspicion engendered by young black men and 
          maybe even by blacks in general will need the help of all of us.  To that 
          end, I would like to make some suggestion to get us started.

                    To: President Barrack Obama

          Stop the blame game, don’t automatically assume that all actions 
          taken by individuals, businesses, and organizations are racially 
          motivated but may very well be based on observed behavior of the 
          offended party.

          Seriously consider the cause of that fear and suspension.  Could it 
          be because of observed actions or past experience with that group.

         Direct your energy and speeches to encouraging changes to the actions 
          that cause fear and suspension in others.

                    To: Civil Rights Professionals  
         See above suggestions to the President.

                    To: News Media
         Do some real investigative reporting.  Find out what is really going on; 
          find out what really happened.  Then report it accurately without political 
          or social bias.  You might just turn up some facts about something that 
          could be used to help solve the problems.

                    To: Black Celebrities and Professionals: 
         Whether you are involved in Sports, Music, Movies, Television, 
          Science, Medicine, Politics, or Industry, use your influence to redirect 
          the minds of the young away from the Thug Mentality and toward 
          Responsibility and Civility

         When someone like Bill Cosby or Dr. Allen West steps forward and 
          offers some advice, do not criticize and belittle them, but get behind 
          them and lend your support to their efforts.

                    To: Black Young Men (and Women)   
         Lose the thug actions and attitudes and join the mainline society.

                    To: The White Community:   
         Evaluate your own attitudes and actions.  Are you sending some subtle 
          hints to the black community that you consider them less of a human 
          being than you? 

          Get involved is your communities, schools, and local relief organizations.  
          You might just make some friends from a differ culture.

I am sure there is much more to be said, but this should do to get some discussion started.
Your comments are welcomed.



Friday, March 29, 2013

ABANDONED

     Have you ever been lost in the woods or perhaps in an urban jungle?
      Familiar woods become scary as the sun sets or when you go down a hill to meet up with the main trail and for some reason it is not where you thought it would be.  

Or maybe you are on a detour off the interstate in a strange city,  after several turns  you no longer see the detour signs or any route markers.  You are surrounded by heavy traffic and the sidewalks are filled by people, but you feel totally alone.  

Or perhaps you lost or misplaced some thing important, like loosing sight of your small child while in a strange place.

Recall with me, if you will, that momentary feeling of shear panic when you admitted to yourself, “I don’t know where I am”  or “I don’t know where my child is.”  An increased heart rate, a little nausea, a racing mind that will not focus, a feeling that you should run.  Those awful feelings -- that was panic.  If this has brought to mind something from your past, your heart rate probably stepped up a notch, just recalling it.  Hopefully you quickly found your way or soon found your child.

When one of our sons was about 3, he developed the habit of tantrums.  If he didn’t get his way, he would lay down and kick and scream.  Once, he pulled his stunt in J C Penneys.  I had had enough, so I  announced loudly. “Let’s just leave him here,” and took my wife and our other children to hide behind a nearby clothes rack.  He soon ceased the tantrum, got up, looked up and down the aisle, took a few steps and look up and down the cross aisle.

When we could see his face, his look of panic broke our hearts, and I had to restrain my wife to keep her from rushing to his side.  His lip began trimble and we heard mommie, Mommie, MOMMIE.  His mother was instantly there and took him in her arms.  That incident was over and we never had to deal with his tantrums again.

Years later, my older son confidied in me that he was ready to cry that day  because he thought that I really intended to leave his little brother there.  As a parent I can think of nothing worst than intentionally abandoning  my child -- it is utterly unthinkable, even for a moment.

As a child, I could think of nothing worst than being abandoned by my parents.  What cry would such an abandonment have elicited from my lips?

In the Scriptures, there was a Father who turned his back on his Son and the world heard this cry...........
El-o-i, El-o-i, la-ma, sa-bach-tha-ni?
My God, my God, why have thou forsaken me? 
(Matthew 27:46)


As we celebrate Palm Sunday, Good Friday, and Easter this year, we will once again remember the suffering of our LORD.

Abandoned by his closest friends
          Falsely accused
                    Roughly handled, beaten, and spat upon by the soldiers
                             Jeered by the crowds
                                       A crown of thorns
                                                  Severe scourging
                                                                     Nailed to the cross
                                                                               Burning heat
                                                                                           Thirst
                                                                  Gasping for breath
                                                                    Mocked by the religious leaders.


These He endured for me, for you -- But the worst was yet to come -
When GOD the father looked on Him, He saw not his son but the sins of the world, so He turned his back and walked away.

By remembering our feelings of panic at times of being lost or abandoned, maybe we can understand just a little the agony that Christ-Jesus the Son endured at that moment of separation. 

By considering the loss of a child, just maybe, we can feel a little of the extreme sorry that God the Father endured to bring Salvation to the Lost Race of Man.  

So that we who have accepted salvation through the sacrifice of Christ Jesus, never need to suffer separation from him, but can look forward to being in God’s family forever.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Junior
(A Fictional Good Friday Story)

My name means “Son of His Father” but my friends and family just call me “Junior”.   I would like to tell you about the day I was released from prison.
On that day, early in the morning, two guards came to my cell, unlocked my chains, and ordered me to go with them.  They escorted me to the gates of the prison and shoved me out into the street, saying “We have been ordered to release you.  No doubt, we’ll be seeing you again before long.” 

I didn’t understand what was going on, surely there had been some mistake and some other prisoner should have been released.  However, I did not want to spoil my good luck so I kept my mouth shut and immediately tried to lose myself in the crowd.  I knew their mistake would soon be discovered and they would come looking for me.
  
I made my way to one of the inns where people in my profession hang out.  None of my associates were there, probably out in the big holiday crowds seeking to relieve pilgrims of some of their burdens.  Since I had no money to spend I really was not received with open arms.

The prison food had been terrible, there was very little of it, and I had been tossed out before the day’s rations were served.  At last my hunger compelled me to move on to seek sustenance elsewhere.
  
With all the celebration going on it should not be hard to pilfer something in the market place or maybe I could take part in some feast.  That really should be easy since many hosts invited people from the streets into their feast.  I would just have to avoid the soldiers.

Following back alleys, I made my way to the market place.  I soon spotted a vendor selling portions of roast goat.  He was embroiled in a heated argument with a customer and was not paying much attention to his wares.  This would be an easy mark.  I began making my way through the crowd.  Just as I was about to grab a nice succulent portion of roast goat, I felt a hand on my shoulder and turned to stare into the face of one of the guards who had released me.  

Wouldn’t you know it, they had  discovered their mistake.  But instead of placing me under arrest, he gave me a sly grin and said, “After being pardoned, you’re not going back to your old thieving ways are you?”  He then turned and walked away leaving me standing there with my mouth open and thinking, “PARDONED?”

In a daze, I made my way down one of the main streets of the city, my hunger forgotten for the moment.  Somewhere along the way a reveler at a feast thrust a bunch of dates into my hand.  I do not know how long I wandered the city street and alleys sampling, as I could, drinks  or food offered at various celebrations.  I saw several soldiers who knew me.   On any other day they would have harassed me, but today they just looked at me and passed on by.  

About mid-day I began to notice that among all those partying there were also many who seemed greatly troubled and saddened.  Wondering  what could be causing this strange behavior at feast time, I felt compelled to join a group of these sad people who were headed out of the city.  Shortly after I joined them the sky began to darken.  It was soon so dark that people were lighting torches and lamps.  A strange hush fell over the city and almost everyone ceased to move about.  

The group that I had joined sought shelter under the eaves of a nearby building, although there was no necessity for shelter.  As we sat there, almost cowering, I tried to engage the person next to me in conversation about what was happening, but he was not inclined to talk and I really had no heart to pursue the matter.  I heard some murmuring about what was going on but those who were not praying seemed to be lost in their own 
thoughts.  Suddenly there was a great shaking of the ground, walls of buildings fell and cracks appeared in the pavement.

At last the light began to return and we resumed our journey.  I was anxious to discover where this sorrowing group was going.  I had heard enough to know that it involved one they called “The Master”. 

We emerged from the city on the road that ascends a hill and passes by the large rock outcropping shaped like a skull.  It is the place which the Roman’s have chosen to carry out their frequent executions.  This place 
I know too well; several of my associates have ended up there and I was probably headed there before I was so abruptly ejected from prison.

As we approached the execution site I could see that three executions were being conducted.  My companions joined a group of people whose attention was centered on the middle cross.  I did not like being so close to this place of death, but to avoid attracting the attention  of the attending soldiers, I stayed with the group.  Off to one side several of the soldiers were  engaged in an animated conversation with some of our 
local  officials. 

While all the others gazed only at the man on the center cross, I surveyed each of the men.  The man on the left I recognized as a small time petty thief who had been unlucky enough to steal from a visiting Roman official.  He still showed some slight signs of life in the form of an occasional twitch and an almost inaudible gasp for air.  On the right was an associate of mine, a member of my gang that engages in theft, graft, and even acts of insurrection when there is a profit to be made.  Occasionally, he was still pushing himself up against the spike through his feet to attempt a full breath.

Try as I might, I could not identify the man on the center cross.  He had been so severely scourged that even if he had been my brother I might not have known him.   Perhaps the scourging had really been a mercy by hastening his death for he was no longer suffering the agonies of the cross.  He was not a local thief or I would have known him.  He was not a leader in any of the insurrections that I knew about, but his crime must have been great to deserve such severe punishment. 

The soldiers seemed to have reached a decision.  Three of them approached the crosses and after some inspection they broke the legs of the men on the left and right hand crosses.  This would hasten their deaths by preventing them from pushing up to breathe. 

After some observation and probing with the butt of his spear, the soldier at the center cross reversed his spear, placed its point under the rib cage of the man and pushed up into his heart.  From the man’s side there flowed coagulated blood and the fluid that had collected in his lungs.

I had seen enough.  As I turned to leave, I heard one of the soldiers remark to the others, “What a shame that we crucified this innocent man and the Commander pardoned that thief.”  I barely made it to the side of the road before my legs gave way and I fell face down in the dirt.  There I lay sobbing, “He died for me ... He died for me.”

Copyright 2007© Willie E. Weaver 
All rights reserved.