Fourth Down and Goal Line

Billy Graham

 

This weekend I will be interring the ashes of two friends from some years ago.  They were a lovely couple from a previous parish who died within months of one another; we are having a joint memorial for them tomorrow at the cathedral.  In the obituary of the husband I saw that he wished memorials be made to the Billy Graham Ministry Foundation.  I found this touching because I recall watching the crusades as a child, channel surfing between the wide world of Disney and the Osmonds and Fat Albert and all of the 70’s shows of three channel television in a small town.

Later in life I read the biography of Billy Graham, and with the advent of You Tube I have watched all of the messages that I can find.  I find that Billy Graham is a gifted communicator – earnest, funny, at ease, and deeply passionate about the Gospel.  Something, or someone, made thousands and thousands of people run across all of those football fields; watching Graham I wonder if I would have been one of them.

Sometimes I feel like the person who has to run the full 100 yards to the goal line; sometimes I feel there are only inches to the goal line, but the defense is raining chaos down upon me.  Most days are simply filled with checking the sidelines for directions, listening in the huddle, and then struggling to hear the quarter-back.  The goal is simply to fall forward – every day to fall forward toward the goal line.

I also discovered that Graham held a long friendship with John Stott, the Anglican minister from All Soul’s Langham in London, who some called the Protestant pope for a season.  Both Stott’s and Graham’s ministries shaped the souls that I serve, and I am profoundly grateful to them.  Do yourself a favor and look up Stott and Graham during your cyber-devotionals and hear the words of grace.

One of the great moments in 20th Century pop culture:

 

 

 

 

Finding Our Answer

hewish photo

 

We have begun a Sunday morning class at St Marks centered on Christian Apologetics – the ancient task of believers giving an answer for their faith within both the marketplace of ideas, as well as the marketplace of commerce and power.  Our short course was put together by the Oxford Center for Apologetics in Oxford, England; there are some wonderful speakers.  These speakers seek to give Christians a basis for giving an answer for their faith in the modern world.

I find the lives of early Christians almost impossible to imagine; especially those who lived in Rome and the larger cities.  For over one hundred years their lives were haunted with the possibility of arrest and torture, and yet their numbers continued to grow and grow.  During some air travel this past summer I found myself watching the recent movie about the Apostle Paul over and over.

 

Given what I know of early Christianity, and the Judaism of that era, I found the film very convincing.  I was also struck with how well the early struggles of believers were portrayed; what it must have felt like to be a young man, or a young mother, or a grandfather, sister, or husband and wife, living through the dangers of being an early believer in Christ.  Their courage and sense of certainty regarding the life of Christ must have been truly remarkable.

Perhaps this is an urban legend – I do not know.  I was told the story of a Catholic Bishop living in South America who once said to his colleagues – “My good friends, our predecessors lived as princes in palaces, we live comfortably in the suburbs . . . those who follow us will live in the barrios, and those who follow them will live in the prisons, and those who follow even further will walk with Paul and Peter to the Cross.”

Whether or not this is true, the reality of the observation cannot be missed; and that is why I believe it is important that we help one another give an answer for the faith that we carry.  It is important that we help one another in “Finding Our Answer.”  We never know when another human being might be searching for the love and truth of God, and it might become our good fortune to share that message with them.  We also cannot know when we might need to give an answer for the faith that is within us, so that we might honor and shower praise upon Christ with our own voice in our own day.

Join us in the Ministry Center at St Marks this Sunday at 9.30 – Room 101 – if you would like to join us.

1 Peter 3:14-15

14But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear,* and do not be intimidated, 15but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defence to anyone who demands from you an account of the hope that is in you;

Christian Apologetics – Why Christ?

cslewis apologetics course

Have you ever found yourself in a group, attending a gathering, or visiting with a friend who has questioned your faith in Christ and you have not known what to say?

Have you ever left a conversation with a loved one and wished that you had been able to explain more of the Christian faith to them?  Perhaps a child, grandchild, or friend?

A formative experience I recall from college is being given the opportunity to answer for my Christian faith in the midst of classrooms where faith of any sort was regarded as weakness.  There was no anger, no overt hostility, simply a mild and cloying disgust with those interrupting the program of progressive materialism and politics.  I have never been one to shrink from giving an answer . . . even a wrong one . . . when being pressed or made to think I am a fool for believing in God.  These college trials lead me to read in the classical Christian discipline of apologetics.  They also strengthened my sense that Christ is the way, the truth, and the life.

Over the next few months at St. Mark’s I will be leading a class with discussion about Christian Apologetics in the modern world.  It is based on the work of Ravi Zacharias, and the Oxford Center for Apologetics – which I was able to visit this past summer during our choir trip to England.  The class will be video, lecture, and conversation.

Join a group of people who will be looking into the Why? of Jesus Christ in the modern world.

We will meet in room 101 of the Ministry Center at 9.30 am, following Sunday Coffee in the parlor.  Please contact me if you have any questions

Blessings and Godspeed, Alston

The Morning Watch

Bible Study

When I was a boy, I used to spend my summers in Montana with my grandparents.  Part of the morning ritual in the summer was listening to my grandfather fumble in the kitchen for the “Sanka” – the original instant coffee.  There was the sound of a kettle, a toaster popping, opening and closing of doors, and the heel of cowboy boots on the concrete garage floor.  We would go out into the early summer chill of the Montana morning to catch the horses for the ride later in the day.  My job was to carry a rubber pan full of feed through the waist high grass and thistles that were soaked with dew; I would come back soaked and freezing to the bone.  A bracing beginning to the day.

Later when I was in boarding school, I would sometimes be awakened by the loud banging of garbage trucks picking up dumpsters, and slamming them down again, amid the dark dormitories.  4.30 – 5.00 – 5.30 am.  These have always been my times to rise.  In the 9th grade I would go down to the school cafeteria at 5.45 to read a book, study, and sit with two of the coaches as breakfast was being prepared for the students.  There was a kind of holiness about that time, and sitting with those coach/teachers.

Through the years these early hours have become my own morning watch with God.  Sometimes when I open the Bible, or some other companion book from the saints, I feel like that boy going out into a wide mountain pasture hoping that the horses of the Spirit will come and partake of my little portion of feed.  Or I feel like the boy who went into a basement cafeteria in the morning darkness to sit with his elders, like some boy a long time ago walking the stony streets of Jerusalem to sit quietly with the elders at the Kotel and offer prayers for the good of my nation and myself.

And now that I am older I am trying to “discover” the habit of the morning watch with the youth in my world.  And so we rise early, sit over coffee and pastry, say a few prayers, share a few joys and sorrows, and then go out into the pasture of the day in the hopes that some of it has been redeemed through our prayerful intentions.

My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O LORD; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up. – Psalm 5:3

https://english.thekotel.org/kotel/kotel_cameras/

The Kotel live web cam from Jerusalem