Death comes to us all, but that does not mean we should embrace it as something to be celebrated. The Scriptures tell us that death was a distortion of God’s good creation brought into the world by sin and the devil (Gen 3). The devil now has the “the power of death” (Heb 2:14) and he seeks to weave death into all parts of our society, and he is doing it quite efficiently. Mass killings are now common place in our society. The horrific events are streamed onto our televisions. Video games, movies, television shows and music turn graphic murder into popular entertainment. Instead of boxing being the most violent sport that our culture allows, now mixed martial arts is mainstream. Abortion and assisted suicide are considered part of our culture’s health care. Our six year-olds play games on their phones depicting a zombie apocalypse. Death is everywhere, and the devil rejoices.
Followers of Christ are called to stand against a culture of death. While the devil comes to “steal, kill and destroy,” Jesus came to bring “life and that more abundantly” (John 10:10). In the early decades after the life, death and resurrection of Christ, the first Christians were surrounded by a culture of death. In the Roman Empire public executions were common. Unwanted babies were cast aside. Spectator sport in the coliseum included animals fighting to the death, soldiers killing one another, and followers of Jesus being burned at the sake. And the united response of the followers of Jesus was to resist the culture of death. They refused to participate in entertainment that celebrated death. They were willing to take in and care for babies that others decided they didn’t want. When disease and plague swept through the empire, followers of Jesus showed amazing courage to care for the diseased and dying while others fled to protect their lives. Death didn’t hold power over the followers of Jesus. How was this so?
In the Gospel, the good news of salvation, we are told that Jesus, the eternal Son of God, chose to be lowered under the angels for a time, and to suffer the death that humanity deserved on the cross. He was then exalted and crowned “because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone” (Heb 2:9). This passage goes on to tell us, “that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery” (v 14). Death is the enemy and it is wielded by the devil. But God turned the script upside down by taking death upon Himself and setting free everyone that receives His sacrificial death by faith. This conviction, not just affirmed as an idea, but embraced wholeheartedly, transformed the early followers of Jesus. They were fearless in the face of death, knowing that even if their physical bodies were killed, their souls were cleansed and they would live forever before their beloved Lord. This deep affirmation gave them courage to stand against and be rejected by the culture of death that surrounded them.
May followers of Christ today be so moved by the Gospel that we too are willing to stand against a culture of death. May we celebrate life from conception until natural death. May we resist the many ways that death and murder as fascination and entertainment want to make their way into our minds and behaviors. And may we be thoughtful and resolute in finding ways to push killing out of our cities.
Together in the Journey,
Fr. Cam Lemons
In what will likely be an unpopular opinion, I encourage our community to stand against the Equality Act, currently before the US Senate. My convictions are based on the way this act will remove gender specific spaces in our society, expose vulnerable females to harm, and redefine gender legally, moving us further away from our biblical foundations as a nation.
The Equality Act is well intentioned, desiring to protect members of the gay and transgender community from discrimination in housing, employment and education. According to the scriptures, we are all created in God’s image and deserve the dignity of being treated with respect and fairness. Discrimination against those that believe or act differently, so long as those beliefs or actions don’t harm others, should never be accepted in our nation.
But the ways these protections are being proposed in the current bill will change our society in several detrimental ways. The Equality Act will legally redefine gender to be a personal choice rather than a biological reality. If a person says they are male, irrespective of their biological gender, they will be considered male before the laws of our nation. If someone says they identify as female, legally, they must be allowed in all female spaces. This has far-reaching, detrimental ramifications for women.
Women’s sports will no longer be a place of fair and competitive contests. Any male, without requiring a gender reassignment surgery, who says they identify as female, could be allowed to race, or fight against female competitors. One female MMA fighter, who was born a male, was allowed to fight in the women’s division and broke her opponent’s skull. The victim, Tamika Brents, said afterward, “I’ve never felt so overpowered in my entire life.”
Female specific places will no longer be safe for women. Men, including violent offenders, in jails and prisons that say they identity as females would now have to be held in female sections of the prison. Bathrooms, locker rooms and showers would no longer be exclusive to those that are biologically female. Battered women’s shelters, with women still dealing with the trauma of violent encounters with men, would now have to accept biological men.
In addition to leaving vulnerable women exposed, this bill also fails to make provisions for religious organizations. If a church school doesn’t want to hire a transgender individual because that person’s lifestyle goes against the church’s deeply held religious beliefs, they would be breaking the law. They would face lawsuits, fines and possible closure.
This is just a brief example of the many ways this bill would change our society. At its foundation, it is based on a misunderstanding of gender. Gender isn’t a choice a person makes, it is gift that God gives when we are conceived. The scriptures say that “God created humanity in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Gen 1:27). Part of the beauty and strength of humanity is our maleness and femaleness. This isn’t something to be diminished, ashamed of, or manipulated. It is something to be explored, embraced and celebrated.
Those that suffer with gender dysphoria (GD), the feeling of not being at home with one’s biological gender, deserve our compassion and support. This can be a very serious psychological issue, and should never be dismissed or ignored. However, the current encouragement to resolve the tension through gender reassignment treatment and operations, is a false hope. These options often relieve tension in the short term, but the studies of individuals over the course of several years have many warnings. In the most comprehensive study, conducted in Sweden, which is generally very supportive of the transgender, fifteen years after reassignment surgery, individuals had a suicide rate 20 times that of comparable peers, as well as significantly higher rates of psychological disorders.
We would be wise to put our brakes on the Equality Act, and to think more critically and carefully about the role of gender in our society, and the far-reaching implications of redefining it. Please join me in calling our congressional representatives to voice our opposition of this bill. If you would like assistance in knowing how to call and speak to a congressional office, you can visit the "calling congress" tab on the website of StTimothysBishop.com.
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:6-7
We were staying in a house in Mammoth when we received the shock. I was stepping out of the shower and I could hear my wife’s turbulent voice in the adjacent room.
“Are you serious? It isn’t possible!” Silence while she listened to the person on the other end of the phone. “Could it be wrong?”
I quickly wrapped myself in a towel, as my mind ran to put pieces together, speculating what was causing the chaos on the phone call. Eventually, like Lego pieces clicking together, I came to the true conclusion, ‘my wife has Covid.’
She finished talking with the nurse and I held her close as she stood with the look of trauma on her face.
Of all the members in my family, there was one in particular that we needed to keep from getting the virus; that was my wife. With her chronic lupus condition and her propensity toward pneumonia, she was in the high-risk category to be badly affected by the disease.
We had been taking extra precautions to limit her contact with others, and I had been praying everyday that she wouldn’t get the disease. And then she did.
We don’t know how she got the virus. And one of the great mercies of my life: her body has reacted extremely well. Her symptoms are mild and she continues to improve.
My mind speculates on what could have been, and I shutter. My empathy for those that are dying, or have lost loved ones to this disease has deepen like a steel shovel breaking into hard soil. Not everyone has been as fortunate as my family has been. And the number of infections continues to multiply in our state and across the globe.
It is both a time of gratitude in my life, and a time of anxiety. And God’s word gives life-giving direction amid the difficulty. In the letter of Philippians we are encouraged to take every worry, every anxiety, every concern and burden to God in prayer.
One of the great mistakes we make in our prayer lives to think that God, our marvelous Creator, is looking for shiny, polished people that come into his presence with their lives all put together. I find the more specific I can be with my struggles when I pray, the more of God’s powerful presence I get to experience. In our current difficulty it might sound something like this: Father, I am prone to anxiety. I worry about my loved ones, who are vulnerable, getting sick. I feel fearful about the direction of our nation, and our economy. My heart breaks for those that are dying. I feel impotent to change the direction of these enormous burdens.
God is looking for real people to be in relationship with Himself, not with cardboard cutouts that have a smile painted on. And once we come to him with our real struggles and worries, he draws near to us (James 4:8). It is important that after expressing our concerns and negative feelings to God that we don’t just say ‘amen,’ and rush back into the chaos. Give God time to respond. Allow his peace to start to move into your heart and your mind. Open up the Scriptures to allow him to speak His hope and promises into your life. See if you can move from a place of fear to a place of gratitude. As bad as things are, we can always acknowledge they could be worse. Take for instance where my heart is at today: Father, in the midst of this chaos, including isolation, cabin fever, and inconveniencing friends and family, thank you that it isn’t worse. Thank you that I’m not at the hospital today, or the graveside. Thank you that you’ve promised that even the hardest things in our lives will be used for good in your purposes, for those that love you. May you redeem even this tribulation. Amen.
Together in the Journey,
My father was a patriot. He had grown up in a poor section of Riverside in a dysfunctional family. For his eighteenth birthday he was given a suitcase, and told to find a new place to live. He chose to enlist in the Navy, where he served three stints in Vietnam. He was trained as an electrician and then used his GI Bill to become a civil engineer. He served another 20 years in the reserves including a call to active duty following 9/11. My father didn’t always agree with the decisions that America and its leaders made, but he wouldn’t criticize them. “America’s been good to me,” was his default reaction.
Truly, America has been good to most of us. It has given us a relatively safe place to live. It has given us opportunities for education, and pursuing meaningful employment. It has helped us preserve our health, raise families if we choose, and to believe and worship according to our conscience. When you put our nation in the context of the way most kingdoms of the world through history have functioned, we’ve been blessed to have such a place to live. (Not to mention it has given us the Sierra, and the Pacific Ocean and the Grand Canyon).
But that doesn’t mean we can’t seek to continue improving for the better. It is a mistake to think that we must choose between affirming America’s strengths or criticizing her faults. Any successful business leader in our prosperous nation would tell you for them to continue their success, they must regularly take an honest inventory of the state of the business. What are we doing right? Where are we making mistakes? How can we improve? What can we celebrate?
It is this elusive mix of appreciation and critique that moves a healthy organization forward. And it is this level of common sense that our nation needs from us at this critical time. One of the cautionary moments in Israel’s history that has been preserved for us in the Scriptures, came during the reign of King Jehoiakim at the end of the 7th century BC. The nation, for several generations, had been drifting away from the faith of their ancestors. But they still had a prosperous nation. A ragged prophet by the name Jeremiah came warning the nation that they needed to do away with the injustices, abuses and deception of their nation. They needed to return to true worship of the Almighty Creator, and to living out his just principles, or else they would face judgment. What was the response from the privileged and ruling classes in Jerusalem?
“The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord” (Jeremiah 7:4)! The people pointed to their nation’s history, and the victories that God had given them in the past, including the construction of the glorious temple, and they claimed they were protected. They refused to look critically at the state of their nation. They clung to the fact that they had been a blessed, and God honoring nation. They weren’t willing to consider that God wanted them to continue growing and improving. Eventually the judgement predicted by Jeremiah fell upon them and Jerusalem was overthrown by the Babylonians.
God honors a people that are willing to appreciate and preserve what has been given in the past, while continuing to make improvements toward a just and equitable society in the present. We are at a critical moment in our nation’s history. There is no shame in being American, and in being a patriot. We come from a strong and beautiful nation, with a rich history. Let us love our nation enough to work toward making it a place that is safe, and equal for all peoples, young and old, black and white, healthy and unhealthy. May America continue to be beautiful as we choose to stand shoulder to shoulder with one another.
Together in the Journey,
Fr. Cam Lemons
I remember the pit in my stomach as the elderly lady at the podium recounted the words of her professor at the University of Oklahoma, “You don’t have to try so hard. I won’t give a student of your color anything higher than a ‘C’.” I remember the shock I received when Obama was announced as the winner of the 2008 presidential election. The church was politically conservative, and had even been preaching such in the weeks leading up to the election. But when the room heard that a black man could be elected President of the United States, it visually erupted like a cork bursting from a champagne bottle. I remember the disbelief I felt when my new housemate was pulled over for the third time in our first month of living together. He was never breaking the law, never received a ticket or a warning, he was just a young black man driving a nice car. I lived in that neighborhood for 10 years and never got pulled over unless I was speeding or talking on the phone while driving. I still experience these jolts occasionally, like this week when I read about a National Beareau of Economic Research (NBER) study that sent out 5,000 resumes to American employers. The resumes were the same, but on half they put stereotypically white names, and on half they put stereotypically black names. The white resumes were 50% more likely to get a callback for an interview.
These experiences came to me as an adult, and as such, they were hard to incorporate into my view of the world. I had grown up in a rural, predominantly Anglo corner of California. In my world, everyone seemed to have the same education and the same opportunities, and if someone worked hard enough they had a considerable chance to be financially and vocationally successful. Race wasn’t talked about much; it wasn’t even thought of much. It wasn’t until I was in my mid-twenties and was hired on as an associate pastor at a large African-American church that I began to understand, in part, the experience of racism. Over the course of four years I was steeped in the black experience of America. I enjoyed the passion, the deep love, the wonderful music and the meaningful friendships that were formed through this season. But I was also grieved. I was grieved that my new friends were constantly hounded by the question of race. Did I get pulled over because I was doing something wrong, or because I was black? Did my resume get turned down because it wasn’t as good, or because my name is Jamal? Don’t act like a fool in this restaurant, because if you do, they won’t say, ‘there were some silly young people in there,’ they will say, ‘there were some crazy black kids in there,’ and it will reinforce what people in our nation think about us. My black friends had to think about being black all the time, and it was exhausting. It led some to feel angry, and it led most to feel powerless and an outsider in their own country. The country where they were born. The country for whom they served in the military. The country that said all people had an equal God-given right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
Racism in America in the 21st century is a phenomenon that can be measured and shown in numbers. But more importantly, it is a subjective experience that is felt daily by millions of citizens. We exist in two different experiences of America. One of us has the choice to think about race. The other has the race question looming over them several times a day. One America, two different worlds.
There is an opportunity in this thundercloud. One of the things that makes America great is the way we have chosen to set the Biblical ideal of the equality of all people as our nations’ standard. This belief, so widely held in the world today, has its origin in Genesis 1:26, in which God makes humanity in the ‘imageo dei,’ the image of God. Each person, the bible says, has God’s likeness imprinted in their being. This means the church is called to be at the forefront of standing against racism, in all its personal and systemic forms. For the Christian, there is more at stake than trying to make an equitable society. We believe when we dehumanize another, or when we stay comfortable in a system that devalues a group, we aren’t just hurting them, we are sinning against God and marring a part of his likeness expressed on earth. When we stand up for a group that is discriminated against, when we reach out to an individual that has a different experience of American than we do, we are embracing and drawing close to part of God’s self-revelation entrusted to us. Stand with me against racism. God is there.
Together in the Journey,
Fr. Cam Lemons
This past week a beloved leader of one of our churches passed away, and my father, one of my best friends, was put on hospice. Neither one of the illnesses seem to be Covid related, but they did thrust me personally into the heartache that many in our nation are facing right now with the illness and loss of loved ones. In a culture of affluence, and amazing technologies, we get used to controlling the world around us in ways that increase our comfort and ease. We push a button and our house cools, avoiding record April heat. He turn a key and we can speed down the road to get food brought to our towns from Chile, Australia and France. Most of our lives we are able to ignore the unpleasant reality of dying. But as the scriptures say in Job 5:7, “Man is born to trouble, as sparks fly upward.” Just as a fire will inevitably produce orange specks in the rising smoke and ash, so will the human life produce times of suffering and eventually death. These difficulties are compounded when we believe the modern western narrative that suffering can be avoided and death can be delayed. If we expect not to suffer, it makes the suffering even more difficult. When early followers of Jesus were suffering for their faith, St. Peter wrote, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal… as though something strange were happening to you” (1 Pet 4:12). Hardship in this life is the lot of humanity, but we don’t have to fear it.
In Kübler-Ross’ classic study, On Death and Dying, she observes the 5 stages that often accompany the dying process. These stages can be experienced by the dying person, their loved ones, and their care givers. The stages include denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. They don’t necessarily come in order, and individuals experience these cycles differently. But they can be helpful ways of processing and talking about an issue that is difficult for many people. The denial stage includes the initial shock, and sometimes avoidance, of losing a loved one. One of the difficulties that I experienced in the past week was the realization that sometimes you lose a loved one long before they take their last breath. I wasn’t prepared for that, and it thrust me into this stage of grief. During the anger stage it is common to experience irritability and anxiety. Why couldn’t something have been done about this? The bargaining stage includes a search to make sense of the situation. It can be assisted by reaching out to others and sharing the story of what you’ve gone through with your loved one’s death. The depression stage can include feeling overwhelmed by facing life without your loved one, feeling helpless, hostility or a desire to disappear behind closed doors. If we know that this a natural part of mourning and grief, it can keep us from despair when we go through these feelings. The acceptance stage entails having a new plan to carry on. Options are explored and some traction is gained with finding a different way forward.
When the stages of grief are explained, they may seem neat and orderly, but they are nothing of the sort. CS Lewis explained it well in A Grief Observed,
“For in grief nothing ‘stays put.’ One keeps on emerging from a phase, but it always recurs. Round and round. Everything repeats. Am I going in circles, or dare I hope I am on a spiral? But if a spiral, am I going up or down it? How often -- will it be for always? -- how often will the vast emptiness astonish me like a complete novelty and make me say, "I never realized my loss till this moment"? The same leg is cut off time after time.”
Truly the loss of a loved one is an amputation of sorts. We have lost a part of ourselves when the other has died. And there is no easy way to avoid this suffering for those that have given part of their heart to another. When we consider death in light of the Christian faith, there is some comfort in the conviction that death isn’t the end. There is the promise of eternal life for those in Christ. But maybe what is more helpful when we are in the grieving process, is to hear God say through tears, “I’ve lost a child. My only Son died. I understand what you’re going through.”
This post was written by Michael Dorame of Trinity Church, Lone Pine.
At Matthew 17:20 Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, if you had faith as small as a mustard seed you could move a mountain; nothing would be impossible”. For faith to become a force, it has to become an act of believing. So, how do we couple faith with belief to eliminate doubt? The apostle Paul tells us in Galatians 5:6 that faith works or is activated or energized by love; it is important that faith expresses itself in love. We can learn about faith and try to perfect our faith but still not have power in our prayer life unless we know that love is the force that flows through faith.
In I Corinthians 13:2, Paul stipulates that even if he possessed enough faith to move mountains, that without love, God’s love in him, he would be nothing. In Galatians 5:22 we’re taught that love is a Fruit of the Holy Spirit and in I Corinthians 14:1 we’re taught to make love our highest goal when earnestly seeking the Fruits of the Spirit. Once we understand and become determined to practice the Fruit of the Holy Spirit, which is love, this Fruit manifests itself as caring about others. True faith-driven intercessory prayer is then powered by our love for others.
The more we pray using the Holy Spirit Fruit of love, the more we realize that there is supernatural power in our prayer life. At James 5:16, we’re taught that the earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. As we experience the results of love-driven prayer, we find ourselves engaging more and more in using prayer as a means of communicating our daily circumstances with Our Lord. At I Thessalonians 5:17, we’re instructed to pray without ceasing.
Over the years, my personal transformation has caused me to talk more with Jesus, reverentially, as my ever present Lord. The Bible is replete with examples of people who had a personal relationship with God. They’re given to us as living examples, thereby enabling us to emulate their personal relationship and powerful prayer life but it requires a commitment on our part to read and study the Word daily; personalize, internalize and walk in the Word as we talk and enjoy our relationship with Jesus; then the Holy Spirit gives us insight about what to pray for.
Yes, I believe that our Creator is listening to and answering our prayers. As one of many examples, one of the times in history when the Israelites were disobedient to the Lord, king Solomon interceded for them with a prayer asking for forgiveness and restoration or favor. At II Chronicles 7:12-14 it’s written, “Then one night the Lord appeared to Solomon and said, “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this temple as the place for making sacrifices. At times I might shut up the heavens so that no rain falls or command grasshoppers to devour your crops or send plagues among you. Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land”.
I know that many believers worldwide are praying fervently and earnestly for those who are affected by the current plague of COVID-19 and we as “One Nation Under God” are interceding with our prayers as well. I’ll conclude with my personal intercessory prayer: Dearest Father God, please endow us, your people, with the virtue of humility which blesses us with the strength to provide your loving care to others in their time of need, we ask that you bless our national governing leadership with the knowledge of what is written in Your most Holy Word, “The greatest among you must be a servant; but those who exalt themselves will be humbled and those who humble themselves will be exalted” Matthew 23:11-12. In the Name of Jesus we pray,
Thank You Father, Amen.
We’ve been thrust into the most life altering scenario the world has seen since the second world war. We are isolated and stuck behind our own doors. Our commerce has ground to an eerie stillness with the streets of Times Square empty and Vegas’ casinos silent. Jobs are being lost by the millions. And the stock market staggers like a cornered boxer. It may seem the only thing to do is to ride out the storm, hunkered down, watching the drama play out before us on the tube. But there is a more proactive way for us to engage this catastrophe. In fact, our world needs us to show a different way. I propose six meaningful actions we can engage in to help our country at this time.
First, abide by the government’s call to social distancing and shelter in place. This one might be obvious, but it needs to be repeated because it is against our nature and our habits to hunker down when the weather is pleasant, and when we are feeling lonely. By choosing to participate in these guidelines, we are placing the lives of the vulnerable and elderly above our own convenience and pleasure. These actions touch the heart of God, who, when He walked among us, stopped to notice and heal the poor and paralyzed when others had learned to just walk past (Luke 5:18).
Second, connect with our neighbors and friends. Let us look out for one another at this time. Pick up the phone and call the one that might be lonely. Video chat with the friend that is working double time at the hospital. Wash your hands, and then drop off a letter at your neighbors’ houses asking for their phone numbers so you all can support one another. Maybe one person can’t find eggs, but someone else has a surplus. We can join together, and make sure that no one is left behind.
Third, fight your anxiety and fear. This might not seem important for the wellbeing of our nation, but it actually is. When you are gripped with fear, the best we can muster is entertaining ourselves, griping to one another, and judging those that aren’t doing what they are supposed to. We become the worst versions of ourselves. Rather, we must identify our fears, and those activities that cause them. And begin to diffuse them. One powerful way to do this is through our fourth action.
Pray for ourselves, and against the pandemic. Have you discovered the powerful freedom available through Philippians 4:6-7? “Do not be anxious for anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Tell God what you are feeling. Be honest with your struggles. And then thank Him that you are alive. Thank Him for all the ways He has protected you in your life. Thank Him that we are going to make it through this, and even grow stronger in our faith because of it. How do you know if you’ve really prayed through your fears? Just like when you know your purchase went through when you are given a receipt, so when you’ve prayer through these challenges, you receive the peace of God in your heart. This is your receipt from the Lord.
Fifth, redeem the time. It is a joy to relax with an entertaining show or book. But let us also spent some time in producing in addition to our consuming. What skill can we learn or develop? Can we write a story, sing a song, knit a hat, build a bookshelf or plant a garden? When we’ve spent some time making or learning something, we have a greater sense of satisfaction at the end of the day. And we reflect part of the creative nature of our God.
Sixth, share the hope you have in the Gospel. Finally, let us look for opportunities to proclaim that there is more to this life than that which has been taken from us. When the false hopes of money, and work, and social connection and politics have failed us, the follower of Jesus still has hope. We believe that we were made for more than this world and that one day we will get to experience the fullness of life as it was designed to be, free from sin, illness, fear and death, because of the forgiveness and eternal life that was purchased for us through the blood of Jesus Christ. That is a bright hope in midst of a dark time. And there are many that could use some hope right now.
Together in the Journey,
Fr. Cam Lemons
The old saying goes, ‘Trust the Lord and lock your doors.’ Maybe in today’s world we would say, ‘Trust the Lord and wash your hands.’ And while it is easy to say, it becomes increasing difficult to do when cruise ships are quarantined, news outlets are sounding the alarm with each new infection, countries are locked down, and stocks are dropping like flower pedals off spring trees. Our hands are dry and cracked from the weather and the washing. And more importantly our souls get weary from worry and negativity. If we choose to ignore the waves of worry, sometimes they pour in through the side door. We have friends or family members that are concerned about the situation. We question if we should be worried about our elderly loved ones, or our own health if we have vulnerabilities.
If this world and life is all there is, we have much to fear. If we catch the virus, especially for the elderly and vulnerable, there is a significant possibility that we could die. Our lives would be cut short, and they would have ended in premature tragedy. But if this world was made by a God of love, who promises to protect us, and through faith in the death of Christ, has given us eternal life, then this virus is small indeed. At the worst, it could end our life over the course of a few painful days, and hasten our entry into the presence of our wonderful Savior for eternity. If that comfort isn’t real in our mind and emotions, we likely have become too attached to the luxuries and blessings of this life. It is time for us to get on our knees and tell the Lord that we have allowed our hearts to love our three bedroom home, our wonderful grandchildren, our secret fishing spot, and our rich cabernet, more than the one who loaned us these things. It is time for us to reattach ourselves to our hearts true home, where we will finally get to experience these things without the taint of sin and death and fear.
In the early centuries of the Christian faith a great plague stampeded across Europe and the Roman Empire. It killed one out of four that were infected, and by the time it had run its course, over 5 million people had died. In many areas a third of the population lay dead. Can you imagine the fear that swirled around the population, like shower water rising at one’s ankles in a backed up bathtub? What do you think was the response of the small Christian population? Were they tempted to fear? Were they worried? Did they call out to God for help? They probably experienced all these things, but we know from historical records they chose to act with courage. Because they had a solid conviction in God’s forgiveness for them through Christ purchasing them eternal life, in compassion they marched toward the plague of death, rather than away from it. When all their neighbors were in panic, abandoning loved ones in their hour of need, the Christians went in to tend the sick. They buried the bodies of strangers that had been left on the streets to the dogs. They weren’t afraid of illness. And many of them died. But they demonstrated their faith in a dark and scary moment. In the years afterward, millions of Roman citizens became followers of Jesus. And one of the reasons they gave for turning to Christ, was the profound kindness and courage demonstrated by Christians during the dark days of the epidemic.
Be encouraged. Dark days are an opportunity for us to demonstrate faith. And remember, “Trust the Lord. And wash your hands.”
May the Lord grant us protection and courage in the face of the coronavirus, especially among the elderly, the vulnerable and their medical providers. Grant wisdom to all national and medical leaders, that they may know the best course forward to contain the disease. And may even this be used to draw us deeper in our faith, and to show forth the confidence we have in the Gospel, through Christ. Amen.
Together in the Journey,
Fr. Cam Lemons
Kanye West is one of the most influential people in America today. The hip-hop artist has sold 140 million albums worldwide. He has won 21 Grammy Awards. And his influence expands further through his fashion labels and his marriage to reality TV star Kim Kardashian. Kanye, also known as Yeezy, is notoriously controversial, including storming the stage and taking over award shows when he believes someone else (usually himself) deserved the award. Although he has incorporated gospel sounds and references to God and Christ in his music over the years, these acknowledgements have been outweighed by his expletive-laced tributes to intoxication and easy women. In recent years he has even begun to refer to himself as a god, releasing an album called ‘Yeezus’ with himself on the cover with a crown of thorns on his head and women sitting on his lap.
And now he says that he has been converted to Christ. His newly formed faith has been expressing itself through a series of Sunday Services across the nation in recent months. The Sunday Services have the feel of a southern black church service, complete with organ and choir, though they include less preaching. The music includes classic gospel music as well as some of Kanye’s original gospel music and live remixes. Kanye’s wife and kids often join him in the front row of the participatory concert. Most people in the audience of the Sunday Services, instead of responding to the invitation to join in the worship, spend their time recording the concerts with their phones, content to capture on video whatever Kanye might do or say next.
For several million Americans, especially young people, Kanye might be the primary expression of Christianity that they are exposed to. If his name is on the gathering, it will attract hundreds of thousands of viewers. Is this something to rejoice in? Is it something to mourn?
We live in a celebrity culture in which a small number of people, through social and visual media, enact a huge influence upon our society. Their pictures and posts and words are instantly consumed by millions of people. For some Christians, to see one of these powerfully influential celebrities turn their lives to Christ is a wonderful chance for the Christian faith to move into a place of prominence and power. The thinking goes that now many more people can hear the Gospel that Christ came to bring salvation to those that trust in His death for their sins. And maybe for those that feel insecure in their faith there is a level of validation. If Kanye is a Christian, then we can feel good about following Christ in today’s world.
On the other hand, there are those that are understandably skeptical. Kanye, like many celebrities, is bombastic, and his profession of faith might just be the latest cultural splash that he is making. Wait a few months and he will have found some other way to get his name in the headlines. This way of thinking says, ‘don’t celebrate his conversion, because soon enough he is just going to embarrass the faith and those that sided with him.’
I’d like to propose a middle way in our reactions to high profile conversions. First we need to remember that God wasn’t hurting for witnesses before the latest celebrity came to faith. A celebrity isn’t the great Christian hope for our culture, in fact, God more regularly likes to work from the unexpected margins. Just look at God’s selection of Mary to bear Christ as one example. And in this regard, we shouldn’t put too much hope in a celebrity conversion. For one, it puts too much expectation on a young Christian.
And in the case of Kanye, it is important to remember that he has a history of intoxication and of struggles with depression, anxiety and even paranoia. These struggles don’t vanish when someone gives their life to Christ. Not to mention there are strong social and spiritual attacks that will certainly come for high profile Christians. Just like any new believer, he needs prayer.
And it would be wise for us to be patient to watch for fruit in his new life of faith. It is easy for someone in a high profile position to stumble, and before we proclaim him to be the next great champion of the Christian faith, we need to give it time, lots of time. The years will show if he was able to overcome the trials ahead, and continue in the life of faith. May God help him to do so.
Together in the Journey,
Fr. Cam Lemons