PAVAROTTI & A CLUB-SINGER

This foreigner dares to approach this Jewish Messiah (Matthew 15:21-28). How do we explain the broad spectrum of people that dared—facing one obstacle or another—to approach and speak to Jesus?
The worst kind of Pharisee was gutted by Jesus hanging around the ‘unholy’ instead of around them. What never struck them as strange was that ‘the unholy’ loved to hang around Him and not them.
A commander in the conqueror’s army. A woman in public, part of a hostile people and religion a member of the Jewish Supreme Court, a “bad” Samaritan in John 4 or this Sidonian (a Greek also) woman with a severely troubled child. All of them experiencing great turmoil and trouble and yet all believing they could speak to him. There was some rivalry between the disciples of John and Jesus and John’s disciples were jealous of Jesus’ success (John 3:26, with context) yet when John is killed his disciples go and tell Jesus (Matthew 14.12). What was it about Him that led the high and low to feel they could speak to Him?
It’s said of Albert Düerer that he sharpened the wit and talent of all he met. He brought the best out in them. You’ve met people I hope, who made you feel you had something worth saying, an opinion worth hearing or an insight that added light to the matter under consideration or a need that that needed expressed. Don’t you love such people?! The way they carry themselves, the way they treat people; the very way they look at people as they listen to them—all of that enables us to dare to speak to them and this is especially true if we’re the shy or easily intimidated kind–too afraid to take up the time of the great woman or man or too afraid to have everyone looking at or listening to us while we’re doing it . (That kind of fear, that painful shyness, the anguish of a profound sense of unworthiness, is often thought to be humility when the sufferer knows it isn’t that and even that being misunderstood adds agony on top of agony.)
The beauty of these “liberators” (and that’s what they are) is that they don’t have to know our particular needs—God has been at work in them (whether they know that or not; whether they know Him or not—and they have that love of people and don’t swagger because they are (in this) our betters. Jesus was the most unselfconscious lover of God and people that ever lived. He didn’t have to psycho-analyze them in order to act toward them—He acted out what He was within.
Though I never had the privilege of being around him much, on those rare occasions when I got to listen to his lectures and was part of a group he chatted with afterward I always experienced that sense of things in Everett Ferguson, a noted Church Historian. I always believed he listened to us as though he believed our opinions were worth expressing and worth hearing. But in addition to that he took an interest in people’s daily lives. (I have a friend who some years back couldn’t wait to tell me about his exhilarating experience with Ferguson.) There is no pretense on his part, no feigned humility, he was ‘ordinary’; he just possessed a gracious openness to others. There’s something immensely liberating in that and we thank God for such people. And linked to all that that is what cannot exist without it, there is humility. How difficult I would think it to be when you know you are more advanced, mature, (or whatever word I should be using here)—how difficult I would think that must be and yet there are those beautiful people who obviously carry it off with ease and without being conscious of it. Reminds me of Moses when he had been with God up the mountain, came down and his face shone and he didn’t know it (Exodus 34:29). Someone, at this moment I can’t remember who, nicely said that when you meet such people you don’t ask if they have been with God, you just ask, “What did He say?”
I watched a documentary on Pavarotti, one of the world’s leading tenors. The camera followed him here and there in company with several of his acquaintances and they ended up in a little restaurant that hosted singers. One of them was a tenor who was obviously very capable but whom I (who am utterly ignorant of all the marks of what constitutes skill in this area) thought was “not bad” but not much better. Imagine my delight to hear Pavarotti speak to his companions about the club-singer’s interpretation of the song he sang, and P. speaking about different ways of interpreting. He expressed his own way of rendering the song but admitted that the club-singer’s way may be better than his own. I liked the man Pavarotti better having heard him speak that way. Here, perhaps the world’s most popular tenor, expressing his view of this man whose name I can never remember. You can imagine that this ‘unknown’ gentleman would have got hold of the DVD and watched it again and again and been lifted by it. A gracious, generous word that isn’t too sugary, is water to a parched soul and a shadow of a great rock in the blistering heat.
And what has all this to do with Jesus Christ? Everything! The spirit of Jesus Christ (and His Spirit) is abroad in the world. He had and has embodied and exemplified all that is best in humankind and continues to shape the world. I don’t have to tell you He is beyond all we can say about Him but, still. He is “the Son of Man”—a human—more than that but not less and He admired and admires loveliness in humans (in part) because He is the author and sustainer of it.

This Sidonian-Greek woman had heard of Israel’s Messiah, the son of David, and the stories she heard about him were such that she followed him and his group calling out to him for pity and help. Do you suppose that would have happened to Hitler or Stalin?
“And what made you so daring that you just kept following and calling over and over and over again? Why would you not be intimidated into desperate silence?” Had we asked her that she probably would have said. “It was the stories I heard about Him. They all had a number of things in common and one of them was that he really liked people like me and wanted to help us so though it seemed He was ignoring me. I knew it couldn’t be true!”
God’s blessing on those that help to free us from crushing shyness or a crippling, paralyzing sense of unworthiness. God bless all those that make us believe our concerns matter to them or that our words are welcome even if we know we aren’t in their league or feel we have little to offer.

UNCLE PEABODY

How fine it was of God to come to us in our awful need and put himself in harm’s way that we might be saved. Knowing our sins as only he can know them because of the infinite purity of his heart, still he came and put himself between them and us. In our bones we know there is nothing comparable to His holy love but when we see people who reflect Him in that way our souls rise to their feet to applaud the wonder of it all and we’re pleased to be in the company of the kind of people the Dragon Slayer gathers around Him.

Irving Bacheller told of such a person in his book, The Light in the Clearing. The parents of Barton Baynes had died of diphtheria so the eight-year-old lived with his Uncle Peabody and his sister Delia. They lived on a farm a long way from the big cities; in the open country, surrounded by forests, rivers and all the other marvelous things associated with the wilds.

He liked his hard-working aunt Deel but there was a forbidding side of her that the child couldn’t understand or warm to. He saw her as a great fixer of things, as one who knew what had to be done and got on with it, as one who knew about right and wrong, about hell-fire and who would go there. But chiefly he knew her as one who found it hard to put up with a child and his childish ways. He knew she loved him and her brother dearly but he wasn’t just sure how he knew it.

It was different with his Uncle Peabody. Bart worshiped him. Between them there was warmth, mutual acceptance, a healthy view of who each one was. They contributed to each other’s store of treasure and gladness. The boy loved his uncle’s imagination and the wonderful people who lived in it. It wasn’t at all unusual for him to end the night in his uncle’s lap in the big sprawling corner chair, hearing amazing stories until his body surrendered to the Sandman’s call.

Silas Wright, once senator for New York, came to visit Peabody and wanted to take a few days to fish. Wright who loved children, who was always and ever a friend to every child he met, had taken a great liking to Bart and Bart to him, so you can imagine the boy’s delight when the senator invited him to come with them.

“If it’s okay with your aunt Deel, it’s okay with me,” his uncle said. Thrilled to the heavens the boy floated into the kitchen, asked for approval and was refused. But just as his world was crumbling, in walked uncle Peabody to tell her that “the great man” was very keen to have the boy go. That being the case, aunt Deel changed her mind. Bart was beside himself with glee and ran on his tiptoes out of the house and threw himself down in the grass, rolling and tumbling with the joy of it all. This running on tiptoes and the sprawling and tumbling in the grass was Bart’s customary way to exult.
[I had a nephew who used to do that—run around on his tiptoes when something delighted him. With ease I can now see Billy grinning, jumping and running tiptoed around the house. I’d completely forgotten that until I came across Bart. What a lovely memory. jmcg]

Bill Seaver, a man Barton didn’t like, was going with them as a guide because he knew all the special places, and, besides, he could cook nearly as well as aunt Delia. The couple of days were like paradise; filled with drama, rivers, fighting brown trout, bending rods and hissing lines, noisy waterfalls, whispering trees and huge, delicious meals of fresh fish and bacon fried in its fat, boiled potatoes, flapjacks and loads of maple sugar!

Seaver was a rough and ready man who was always ready to swear, though he held it down to the less notorious kind in respect for Silas Wright. “It won’t harm me,” said Wright, “but there’s the boy to think of.”

While fishing, Wright slipped off the rock he was standing on and sank shoulder -deep in the water and Bart immediately ran toward him, his hand out and yelling, filled with fear. Peabody helped him out of there with his pole while Bart stood sobbing, tears flowing down his cheeks.

“What’s the matter?” his uncle demanded. “I was afraid—Mr. Wright—was goin’ to be drowned,” he managed to explain. The senator shook off some of the water, came over and knelt down in the front of the boy and took him in his arms and kissed him. “God bless the dear boy!” he said warmly, “It’s a long time since anyone cried for me. I love you Bart.”

After that, when Seaver swore the senator gave him a protesting look and hissed at him to put an end to it. The openness of the boy’s affection added to Wright’s care and affection for him. He and Bart went off on their own to a shallow area farther down the river and beyond the trees so the boy could catch some smaller fish of his own. This he did. It was beginning to get dark and on their way back Bart, admiring his fish, was whispering to himself, making plans to jump out on his uncle and scare him and then tell him how he had caught his fish.

He ran ahead of Mr. Wright and tip-toed into the rear of the camp. Suddenly his heart stood still when he heard his uncle use words that were wicked, even outrageous words; the kind you’d expect to hear only from the worst mouths. The kind of words that Uncle Peabody himself had taught him to despise. It was more than the immediate shock that filled Bart with dismay, his whole world was in danger.
His aunt Deel had told him that the Devil used bad language to tempt his victims into a lake of fire where they sizzled and smoked and yelled forever, every minute feeling worse than sitting on a hot griddle. What was running through Bart’s pained heart and mind was this question: “How am I to save my uncle?”

Standing heart-sick with his hand over his mouth, he was terrified that his dear, careless uncle was in awful danger. The fear he had felt for Mr. Wright was nothing to compare with this. He walked away from the camp a little and sat down dejected, disappointed and fearful. Finally Wright came into view, noted the boy’s anguish and wanted to know what was wrong. Bart couldn’t tell him though he had thought of it. His pride in his uncle and his love for him wouldn’t allow him to spread his uncle’s shame. He’d have to bear the burden alone until he saw Aunt Deel. To make sure Peabody wouldn’t shame himself before Mr. Wright he made a loud remark as they approached the camp.
He lay down almost immediately, subdued and a little withdrawn from his uncle, but wondering as well if Bill Seaver was responsible for all this, wondering if he had done right to leave the defenseless uncle in the man’s company. But mostly he wondered if his beloved uncle were beyond hope and if he’d have to fry and smoke forever. His aunt Deel would know what to do and he could hardly wait to see her.

Peabody checked him out and found his face still wet with tears while he slept. Wright and he put two and two together and the uncle, deeply saddened, confessed he didn’t know how to behave himself when he got out in the woods. “I wouldn’t ’a’ had him hear that for a thousan’ dollars,” he said. Then, almost to himself he said, “If you’re goin’ to travel with a boy like that you’ve got to be good all the time—ye can’t take no rest or vacation at all whatever. You’ve got to be sound through and through or they’ll find it out.”
The next day they started back home after a marvelous big breakfast. They fished here and there along the river and finally reached the Seavers place where Peabody and Wright hitched up the team for the drive on home. As soon as they arrived and while Peabody was showing his sister the lovely trout Silas Wright hurriedly changed and headed off to an appointment. Bart had no time to waste and said to his aunt:
“I’ve got to tell you something.”
“What is it?” she asked.
“I heard him say naughty words.”
“What words?”
“I—I can’t say ’em. They’re wicked. I’m—I’m afraid he’s goin’ to get burnt up,” he stammered.
“It’s so. I said ’em,” his uncle confessed.
His aunt turned to Bart and said, “Bart, you go right down to the barn and bring me a strap—yes!—you bring me a strap—right away.”

He walked slowly to the barn feeling sorry for a moment that he’d told. Scalding tears started to flow down his cheeks. He sat down for a moment to collect his thoughts when he heard her call him to hurry up. He picked the smallest strap he could find and slowly made his way back but as he approached her he said with a tremble, “I—I don’t think he meant it.”

“He’ll have to be punished just the same—he will!”
They all went into the house together with Bart sniffling and Peabody meekly following his sister’s determined stride. The boy, curious to see what was going to happen, saw his uncle lie face down on the sofa and his aunt laying the strap on him. It was more than he could bear so he threw himself between his beloved friend and the strap and pleaded with sobs that she forgive him.

Uncle Peabody left the house in silence, looking very sober, and though he tried hard later, the boy could find him nowhere. Late in the afternoon when he was in the barn he saw his uncle coming down the lane with the cows and an ax on his shoulder. With joy in his heart as great as he’d ever known he ran out to greet him. The man greeted him cheerfully and leaned over and held him against his legs, then looked into his eyes and asked, “Are you willin’ to kiss me?” Bart did and the man said, “If ye ever hear me talk like that ag’in, I’ll let the strongest man in Ballybeen hit me with this ax.”

I love everything about Bacheller’s story and as it stands it has such power that I’m a bit uncertain about isolating some things in it; but maybe nothing will be lost if I do. But just in case, let me ask you to reread the incident before you’re finished with this piece.
I love the fact that senator Silas Wright whose reputation as a selfless and honorable person was ranked by Missouri senator, Thomas H. Benton, as right up there with Washington and Lincoln—I love it that he loved children and made a good friend of eight year old Bart. Can you imagine how wonderful it must have been for the boy when the senator took him off by himself for that special time? Isn’t it sheer joy to see older men making the world a safer and more joyful world for a child?

I love the boy. A boy who was sensitive enough that he could weep if he thought a friend was in danger. I love it that the boy would often fall asleep in the lap of his uncle, that he’d be allowed to prattle on and on to him, that he’d be shocked by bad language. Maybe above all, I love it that the boy’s first concern was that his beloved uncle not be lost or have to endure great loss.

I love it that the child wouldn’t spread the shame of his friend even to someone as fine as Silas Wright, keeping it to himself, bearing the burden of it alone. I love it that when he finally shared it, he did it only because he felt he must and that he shared it only with the one person he believed could save his friend. I love it that his little heart was hurt to see the punishment and that he threw himself in harm’s way to save the heart of his own heart.
When I’m thinking about this child and if I listen hard, from some great distance, from his secret lair where the Dragon prowls I imagine I can hear a long, angry screech of pain and sense his deep fear. A child can do this to him! One lovely, wholesome child foreshadows his doom. That’s a great thought to begin your day with or to go to sleep on.

We must do all we can do to nurture such children who shake the massive walls of Pandemonium (Satan’s capital city in Milton’s Paradise Lost).

 

Acts: The Gospel of The Holy Spirit (Part 56)

Watch the latest video from McGuiggan Reflections.
For the next few months, we will be exploring the book of Acts in a series titled Acts: The Gospel of the Holy Spirit. We hope you enjoy and can benefit greatly from this study. To contact Jim, feel free to email him at holywoodjk@aol.com or visit his website at http://www.jimmcguiggan.com.
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? ? ?

“For God so loved the world that He punished Jesus of Nazareth so that He could stop hating it.”

“For God so loved the world that He punished Jesus His Son so that He could appease (propitiate) Himself.

God forgive us.

Someone thought the first 2 might be what I believe so I need to say that I hold the first 2 are sick, God-dishonoring doctrine. God does NOT PUNISH the innocent! And He certainly never PUNISHED  Jesus!

 

One Everlasting Whisper

Somebody must have seen his promise as he was growing up. Maybe he was a quiet studious boy but his record doesn’t suggest that. Clearly he was a high-energy person because when he was young he was there, right up front, watching as they were killing a preacher man called Stephen (Acts 7.38) and he was on a high-energy job  (Acts 8:3;9:1, 22:3-4, 26:10-11) when the risen Lord Jesus stepped out on to the road and gave him a new high-energy task (Acts 9:13-19; 22:13-16; 26:14-18). Paul knew all about Jesus unless he was blind and deaf and mute. Everyone was talking about His miracles, His teaching, His death and the miracles being wrought in His name (a dead heretic’s name?)—see Acts 3—5 and Gamaliel’s speech. Then there was Stephen’s message, his glorious appearance (Acts 6.15), his vision of Jesus and his echoing of Jesus’ prayer (6:15; 7:55-56, 60). All this might have been gnawing at Saul and could be what Jesus had in mind when He spoke of goads that were stabbing him (26:14).

There were all kinds of voices and successes that would have been calling Saul telling him he was in the right place, that he should stay where he was, urging him to stay among the big-hitters, “Get the praise, hear them whisper your name when you enter the synagogue or temple, get more letters of recommendation and diplomas (cf. 2 Corinthians 3:1; Philippians 3:4-7). This is the place! They’ll have multiple festschrifts for you. You’re doing the right thing! You’ll be quoted and noted wherever you go.”

But Jesus wasn’t having it and neither was Paul! Someone had ‘whispered’ to him and it was goodbye to the glories of the Jewish academy, comfort, the praise and hello to lifelong criticism, abandonment and loneliness in the company of the Lord Jesus, the self-revelation of God. That man, Paul (not quite single-handedly) wrestled the gospel of God from the clutches of a narrow Jewish nationalism and died saying, “It’s for the world!!!” Thanks to him (God in him, but not God without him) we now get the blessings!
If people asked him why it was that he ran all over the Mediterranean world, establishing and organizing little assemblies of believers in the Lord Jesus Christ and being beaten and slandered and often abandoned he led to Christ–if they asked him that he would say, “The love of Christ leaves me no choice,” (2 Corinthians 514, NEB).

He makes me think of Rudyard Kipling’s 1898 extended poem. The Explorer. (‘The Missionary’ works better for us.)

There’s no sense in going further—
It’s the edge of cultivation,”
So they said , and I believed them
Broke my land and sowed my crop—
Built my barns and strung my fences
In the little border station
Tucked away below the foothills
Where the trails run out and stop.

Till a voice, as bad as Conscience,
rang interminable changes
In one everlasting Whisper
day and night repeated — so:
“Something hidden. Go and find it.
Go and look behind the Ranges —
Something lost behind the Ranges.
Lost and waiting for you. Go!”

So I went, worn out of patience;
never told my nearest neighbours —
Stole away with pack and ponies —
left ’em drinking in the town;
And the faith that moveth mountains
didn’t seem to help my labours
As I faced the sheer main-ranges,
whipping up and leading down.

March by march I puzzled through ’em,
turning flanks and dodging shoulders,
Hurried on in hope of water,
headed back for lack of grass;
Till I camped above the tree-line —
drifted snow and naked boulders —
Felt free air astir to windward —
knew I’d stumbled on the Pass.

‘Thought to name it for the finder;
but that night the Norther found me —
Froze and killed the plains-bred ponies;
so I called the camp Despair.
(It’s the Railway Gap today, though.)
Then my whisper waked to hound me:
“Something lost behind the Ranges.
Over yonder! Go you there!”

Then I knew, the while I doubted —
knew His Hand was certain o’er me.
Still — it might be self-delusion —
scores of better men had died —
I could reach the township living,
but … He knows what terrors tore me …
But I didn’t … but I didn’t.
I went down the other side.

Till the snow ran out in flowers,
and the flowers turned to aloes,
And the aloes sprung to thickets
and a brimming stream ran by;
But the thickets dwined to thorn-scrub,
and the water drained to shallows,
And I dropped again on
desert-blasted earth and blasting sky …

I remember lighting fires;
I remember sitting by them;
I remember seeing faces,
hearing voices through the smoke;
I remember they were fancy —
for I threw a stone to try ’em.
“Something lost behind the Ranges”
was the only word they spoke.

I remember going crazy.
I remember that I knew it
When I heard myself hallooing
to the funny folk I saw.
Very full of dreams that desert;
but my two legs took me through it …
And I used to watch ’em moving
with the toes all black and raw.

But at last the country altered —
Tough Man’s country past disputing —
Rolling grass and open timber,
with a hint of hills behind —
There I found me food and water,
and I lay a week recruiting,
Got my strength and lost my nightmares.
Then I entered on my find.

Thence I ran my first rough survey —
chose my trees and blazed and ringed ’em —
Week by week I pried and sampled —
week by week my findings grew.
Saul, he went to look for donkeys,
and by God he found a kingdom!
But by God, who sent His Whisper,
I had struck the worth of two!

Up along the hostile mountains,
where the hair-poised snowslide shivers —
Down and through the big fat marshes
that the virgin ore-bed stains,
Till I heard the mild-wide mutterings
of unimagined rivers,
And beyond the nameless timber
saw illimitable plains!

Plotted sites of future cities,
traced the easy grades between ’em;
Watched unharnessed rapids wasting
fifty thousand head an hour;
Counted leagues of water frontage
through the axe-ripe woods that screen ’em —
Saw the plant to feed a people —
up and waiting for the power!

Well, I know who’ll take the credit —
all the clever chaps that followed —
Came a dozen men together —
never knew my desert fears;
Tracked me by the camps I’d quitted,
used the water holes I’d hollowed.
They’ll go back and do the talking.
They’ll be called the Pioneers!

They will find my sites of townships —
not the cities that I set there.
They will rediscover rivers —
not my rivers heard at night.
By my own old marks and bearings
they will show me how to get there,
By the lonely cairns I builded
they will guide my feet aright.

Have I named one single river:
Have I claimed one single acre?
Have I kept one single nugget —
(barring samples?) No, not I!
Because my price was paid me
ten times over by my Maker.
But you wouldn’t understand it.
You go up and occupy.

Ores you’ll find there; wood and cattle;
water-transit sure and steady,
(That should keep the railway rates down;)
coal and iron at your doors.
God took care to hide that country
till He judged His people ready,
Then He chose me for His Whisper,
and I’ve found it, and it’s yours!

Yes, your “never-never country” —
yes, your “edge of cultivation”
And “no sense in going further” —
till I crossed the range to see.
God forgive me! No, I didn’t.
It’s God’s present to our nation.
Anybody might have found it —
but His Whisper came to Me!

 

A MIGHTY FORTRESS…

A mighty fortress is our God,
A bulwark never failing.
Our helper He amid the flood
Of mortal ills prevailing.
For still our ancient foe
Doth seek to work us woe.
His craft and power are great,
And, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide,
Our striving would be losing,
Were not the right man on our side,
The man of God’s own choosing.
Dost ask who that may be?
Christ Jesus, it is He.
Lord Sabboth, his name,
From age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

And though this world, with devils filled,
Should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed
His truth to triumph through us.
The Prince of Darkness grim,
We tremble not for him.
His rage we can endure,
For lo, his doom is sure.
One little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly powers
Not thanks to them, abideth.
The Spirit and the gifts are ours
Through him who with us sideth.
Let goods and kindred go,
This mortal life also.
The body they may kill,
God’s truth abideth still.
His kingdom is forever…
Martin Luther
(Holy Father, empower us to sing such truth with assurance in times of joy and sorrow, in times of prosperity and economic trouble, in fear  certainty, confucsion and clarity. Deliver us we pray from glibness and gives us strengthened faith knowing there is nothing you are not LORD over and that you are for us; all of us (Rom 8:31; John 1:4; 3:17), patiently purposing only goods for us. In your Son Jesus, this prayer.)

Acts: The Gospel of The Holy Spirit (Part 55)

Watch the latest video from McGuiggan Reflections.
For the next few months, we will be exploring the book of Acts in a series titled Acts: The Gospel of the Holy Spirit. We hope you enjoy and can benefit greatly from this study. To contact Jim, feel free to email him at holywoodjk@aol.com or visit his website at http://www.jimmcguiggan.com.
Watch on Youtube via IFTTT