Christmas Bells

Bonnie recently mentioned how much she enjoyed still seeing Jack’s picture on the bulletin board. It’s there along with pictures of Nancy Montgomery, Joe Carter, and Jim and Mary Sexton. We lost the physical presence of all five within the last year or so, and their absence is keenly felt. Especially during the holidays.

I recently read that Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was likewise feeling the loss of a wife who died in childbirth, a second wife who died when her dress caught fire, and worrying about a son who was clinging to life after being wounded in the Civil War when, during the Christmas season, he wrote “Christmas Bells.”

I heard the bells on Christmas Day Their old, familial carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men.
And in despair I bowed my head; “There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

An empty chair at the table, gifts no longer shared, and an empty stocking are painful reminders of lost loved ones. But the gift we received on that first Christmas brings with it the promise that if the babe of Bethlehem is received as our mutual risen Lord, the separation is only temporary. The tears we shed will one day be wiped away, the wrongs we suffered will be made right, and peace will actually become a reality.

Longfellow believed that to be true, and reminding himself of it, went on to write one more verse.

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

Merry Christmas & God Bless, Rick

Sisters and Sermons

One of the most controversial things the Apostle Paul ever wrote can be found in I Timothy 2:11-12. “Let a woman quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet,”

He expands on that in I Corinthians 14 when teaching on how the church was to receive prophetic messages. “Let the women keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak… And if they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home;”

The way these verses have been interpreted have gone from one extreme to the other. Some say women are to teach no one, and to say nothing in church. Others dismiss this as simply being cultural, and that it has no bearing on us today. I’m not comfortable with either understanding.

I tend to settle somewhere in the middle, and see this as primarily an instruction for women not to seek positions of authority over men in the church, and to not challenge them when they are preaching. My understanding does not, however, keep me from soliciting questions about a sermon or the accuracy of something I’ve said from anyone. And thankfully I’ve recently been given the opportunity to restate a couple of things in my archived sermons.

In class, a sister graciously questioned the absolute nature of a statement I had made about God no longer giving direct marching orders to those He wishes to use to deliver his people from oppression. I adjusted that to note He may no longer do so. The following week another sister called to my attention something I had forgotten; that the disciples did anoint with oil as well as heal people when they were sent out two by two.

I am so thankful for brothers, and sisters, who keep me on my toes.

God Bless, Rick