March 26, 2019

The Second Time

For some reason, there's a difference between preaching at a church the very first time as a candidate to be their pastor, and the second time once you've been called to actually be the settled pastor. You'd think the first time would be the scarier of the two. But no, preaching as the candidate chosen by the search committee is really not that frightening. At least not to me. For some reason, it's easier for me to put myself in God's hands in that circumstance. I know it's for the best that the congregation sees me the way I am. And though I prepare the best sermon I can come up with, I know that it's not what the congregation wants or expects, the best possible outcome would be for them to vote No. And if they vote Yes, then it's clearly God's will that I be their pastor.

But what truly fills me with trepidation is that second time I preach in front of a congregation—that is, the first sermon I preach in a pulpit after I've responded

March 25, 2019

Old Time Religion

My devotions this morning were on Psalm 15. My meditation led me to an interesting place, so I thought I'd cross post this here from over on Psalm Today...
O Lord, who may abide in your tent? Who may dwell on your holy hill?
Those who walk blamelessly, and do what is right, and speak the truth from their heart;
who do not slander with their tongue, and do no evil to their friends, nor take up a reproach against their neighbors;
in whose eyes the wicked are despised, but who honor those who fear the Lord; who stand by their oath even to their hurt;
who do not lend money at interest, and do not take a bribe against the innocent. Those who do these things shall never be moved.
Psalm 15 

Where is God's holy hill? At the time this was written, it was Mount Zion in Jerusalem. For that was where God's dwelling on earth was. In the Christian era, Zion refers not to a place, but to a people. For all the elect are collectively the body of Christ, and the body of Christ is the temple—God's earthly dwelling

March 24, 2019

Psalm Today

In order to turn Opossum Screed into more of a personal blog, I'm going to be posting daily devotions based on the psalter on a different site: Psalm Today. The URL is <psalm.today> and it will be exclusively devoted to meditations on the psalms. See you there!

Walking in the Truth

SCRIPTURE READING
The shortest book in the Bible is 2 John, but it does have one thing going for it, and that’s that it comes before 3 John. And it’s 3 John that I’m going to read from this morning.

This little book isn’t divided into chapters, because it’s only got 15 verses in all (two more than 2 John). And it’s really just a personal letter from John to a guy named Gaius. John is thought to be the same John who wrote not only the other two letters of John, but also the Gospel According to John. And that’s why we call him John the Evangelist.

One of the main points of the letter that we know as 3 John is to warn Gaius

A Pastoral Prayer

As we bow before you this morning, O Holy One, we do so in thanksgiving for the week that is past, and imploring you to be with us in the week that is just beginning. Help us to face the tasks and challenges of the days ahead. And give us the blessed assurance that we shall never be called upon to face them alone or in our own strength, but shall at all times be accompanied by your presence and fortified by your grace. Remind us, too, that we are but members of a much larger body, which we think of as the body of Christ Jesus, your Son. Thank you that through all our life together and our lives apart there run the footprints of Christ, who for our sakes was made flesh, and tasted all the changes and temptations common to humanity. We thank you for the spiritual

March 17, 2019

Prayer for Christchurch

The following prayer comes from the statement of the United Church of Christ's national setting condemning the white nationalist terrorist attack on Muslims worshiping in Christchurch, New Zealand, in which at least 50 people were murdered in their place of worship.

Holy One, called by many names,
our hearts are once again touched and broken
by events in our communities.
You created us from love and call us to love you
and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.
Once again we find ourselves facing the reality

St. Patrick's Day

This flag represents the four provinces of Ireland.
Clockwise from top left:
Munster, Connacht, Leinster, and Ulster.
In many sports, Ireland fields all-island teams, which include members from the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom. When it comes time to play the pre-game national anthems, neither God Save the Queen nor The Soldier's Song would do, since either anthem would represent only part of the team. So in the 1995, the Irish Rugby Football Union commissioned Phil Coulter to write a song suitable to be played as an anthem that both sides could sing. Ireland's

March 15, 2019

For the King, Against the Emperor

The chair of Lajos Kossuth, preserved in the Great Church of Debrecen
Today Hungarians commemorate the Revolution of 1848. Led by Lajos Kossuth, the revolutionaries were defeated by the Austrians the following year, resulting in the oppression of the Hungarian people and the suppression of its language. Many Hungarian revolutionaries—including Kossuth himself—fled to the United States to avoid execution by the Austrians, and some even fought on the side of the Union in the Civil War.

One historically interesting aspect of the Hungarian Revolution was that, because the crown of St. Stephen had passed to the Hapsburgs, the Emperor

March 14, 2019

Thank God It's Pi Day


It's Pi Day in America. So why not celebrate by singing along to American Pi(e)?

March 12, 2019

Check This Out!

In order to turn Opossum Screed into more of a personal blog, I'm going to be posting daily devotions based on the psalter on a different site: Psalm Today. The URL is <psalm.today> and it will be exclusively devoted to meditations on the psalms. See you there!

March 11, 2019

The Power to Confuse Me

Please note: This post also appears on Psalm Today. In the future, all psalm meditations will appear on that blog instead of this one, so please bookmark this url: https://www.psalm.today — thanks!
Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness because of my enemies; make your way straight before me.
For there is no truth in their mouths; their hearts are destruction; their throats are open graves; they flatter with their tongues.
Make them bear their guilt, O God; let them fall by their own counsels; because of their many transgressions cast them out, for they have rebelled against you.
But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, so that those who love your Name may exult in you.
For you bless the righteous, O Lord; you cover them with favor as with a shield.
Ps. 5:8-12 

I often give those who vex me the power to confuse me. Where once I knew right from wrong, if I am angry or hurt or intentionally misled, my moral compass starts to malfunction, and the path of God appears to be overgrown

March 10, 2019

Accepted in God's House

Please note: This post also appears on Psalm Today. In the future, all psalm meditations will appear on that blog instead of this one, so please bookmark this url: https://www.psalm.today — thanks!

Give ear to my words, O Lord; give heed to my sighing.
Listen to the sound of my cry, my King and my God, for to you I pray.
O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I plead my case to you, and watch.
For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil will not sojourn with you.
The boastful will not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers.
You destroy those who speak lies; the Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful.
But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love, will enter your house, I will bow down toward your holy temple in awe of you.
Ps. 5:1-7

Psalm 90 acknowledges that God has been the dwelling place of God's people through all generations. But in Psalm 5:4, the psalmist acknowledges something else—that God is not the bed and breakfast of those who are evil. Just as there is no room in their hearts for God, God does not provide shelter

March 9, 2019

Sleep in Peace

Please note: This post also appears on Psalm Today. In the future, all psalm meditations will appear on that blog instead of this one, so please bookmark this url: https://www.psalm.today — thanks!

There are many who say, “O that we might see some good! Let the light of your face shine on us, O Lord!” You have put gladness in my heart more than when their grain and wine abound.
I will both lie down and sleep in peace; for you alone, O Lord, make me lie down in safety.
Ps. 4:6-8

I think the "good" that the many wish to see and evidence of the light of God's face shining upon them, are material blessings, represented in v. 7 by plentiful wine and grain. And yet the psalmist isn't interested in material blessing because they are not possessed by materialism, but are the possessors of the joy of the Lord and the peace that passes understanding. The former is more

March 8, 2019

To Find the Grace in Anger

Please note: This post also appears on Psalm Today. In the future, all psalm meditations will appear on that blog instead of this one, so please bookmark this url: https://www.psalm.today — thanks!
But know that the Lord has set apart the faithful for himself; the Lord hears when I call to him. 
When you are disturbed, do not sin; ponder it on your beds, and be silent.
Ps. 4:3-4

Being set apart for God is one of the more phenomenal truths found in the scriptures. It's not just (and not even always) an honor. As often as not, it's an awesome (read: awe-ful) responsibility. Think of Noah and the ark, Jacob wrestling God, Israel in Egyptian bondage, Paul in prison, Stephen being stoned, and Christ on the cross.

Yes, we all have our own cross to bear, though they're seldom delivered in

March 7, 2019

Rock of Ages and the Brewing of Soma

Augustus Montague Toplady
(1740-1778)
In my daily devotion today, I used one of the stanzas of Rock of Ages as my morning prayer. The words to this hymn were composed by an Anglican minister named Augustus Toplady (and while the temptation to pronounce his surname as it's spelled—top lady—is strong, the correct pronunciation is actually top-lədee). Toplady was raised from the age of about six months by a widowed mother, his father having died in Colombia during a conflict between Spain and Britain called The War of Jenkin's Ear. From an early age, Toplady was attracted to things spiritual, and shortly after moving to Ireland at the age of 15, he was, as he put it, "brought nigh to God" during a revivalistic meeting in a barn. The preacher remains unnamed, but the consensus (which Toplady himself denied) was that he was closely connected

Nothing in My Hand

Please note: This post also appears on Psalm Today. In the future, all psalm meditations will appear on that blog instead of this one, so please bookmark this url: https://www.psalm.today — thanks!

In a sermon he preached on the Magnificat, Calvin said that "our soul's eternal salvation depends on God's exercise of his marvelous power... it is God who rescues us from the depths of hell and from sin's curse, and who brings us to the hope of salvation. We contribute nothing." There's no greater affirmation of

March 6, 2019

Adrift on Ash Wednesday

There are times in a Christian's life when we're adrift—between projects, between homes, between jobs, between relationships. But there is no greater feeling of being unmoored than when we are between churches. Because for whatever reason, there are truly times when we are without a faith community.

I am currently experiencing such a time. And I know it's not exactly true that I am without a faith community, for I feel tied very strongly to two such communities right now: the one I just left, and the one I'm on my way to serving. The people of the church in Huntsville were extremely loving and gracious in our leave-taking, and the people of the church in Chardon are just

New Site

In order to eventually turn Opossum Screed into more of a personal blog, I'm going to be posting daily devotions based on the psalter on a different site: Psalm Today. The URL is <https://www.psalm.today> and it will be exclusively devoted to meditations on the psalms. I'll cross-post for a little for consistency's sake, but please bookmark the Psalm Today site now so that you won't miss a day's meditation.

Ash Wednesday

Many are saying to me, “There is no help for you in God.”
But you, O Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, and the one who lifts up my head.
I cry aloud to the Lord, and he answers me from his holy hill.
Ps. 3:2-4

Today, Ash Wednesday, I force myself to acknowledge two things:
  1. That I will die someday, and
  2. That I am a sinner.
Either of those things is unpleasant. When combined, however, they are a devastating admission. I don't want to leave this earth with nothing but a negative legacy. But I seem unable to change the way things are. Most people

March 5, 2019

St. Piran's Day


Today is St. Piran's Day, the County Day of Cornwall. We don't know much about Saint Piran, but here's what we do know for sure: He was an Irish Christian, and his unbelieving enemies tied him to a millstone and rolled it into a turbulent sea, which immediately became calm, while St. Piran floated safely to the Cornish coast. Also, his first disciples were a badger, a bear, and a fox. Some say the Cornish anthem is the same as the Welsh one, but sung with Cornish words. But I think it's Trelawny:

Lawless and Aweless

Why do the nations conspire, and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and his anointed, saying,
“Let us burst their bonds asunder, and cast their cords from us.”
Ps. 2:1-3 

The language of the Second Psalm is strange and beautiful. The "anointed" mentioned was probably David, but Christians enthusiastically interpret this psalm to be about Jesus the Messiah (messiah and christ are the Hebrew and Greek words for anointed). I read the following comment on it by a Puritan

March 4, 2019

The Heart's Echo

Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers; but their delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law they meditate day and night.
They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither. In all that they do, they prosper.
The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.
—Psalm 1

Alexander Maclaren (1826-1910), a Baptist minister, authored a wonderful commentary called The Expositor's Bible. His three volumes on the Psalms

March 3, 2019

The Final Verse

Let everything that breathes praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!
Ps. 150:6 

My personal year comes to a close today, and as I read the final verse of the psalter I'm reminded of an exchange Jesus had on Palm Sunday [see Luke 19:38-40] when all his followers began shouting, “Blessed is the King who comes in the Name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!”

Also present in the crowd welcoming him were some Pharisees, and here we

March 2, 2019

The Sword of Discernment

Praise the Lord! Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise in the assembly of the faithful.
Let Israel be glad in its Maker; let the children of Zion rejoice in their King.
Let them praise his Name with dancing, making melody to him with tambourine and lyre.
For the Lord takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with victory.
Let the faithful exult in glory; let them sing for joy on their couches.
Let the high praises of God be in their throats and two-edged swords in their hands, to execute vengeance on the nations and punishment on the peoples, to bind their kings with fetters and their nobles with chains of iron, to execute on them the judgment decreed. This is glory for all his faithful ones. Praise the Lord!
Ps. 149 

Psalm 149 is a source of confusion and discouragement to many Christians. It's a beautiful psalm of praise and rejoicing for the first five-and-a-half verses. But from the second part of verse six on, things appear to get ugly. What

March 1, 2019

St. David's Day

Today is Saint David's Day, the Welsh national holiday. Saint David lived in Wales the sixth century, and is said to have died on March 1 which fell on a Tuesday. For this reason, it is believed that he died in either 589 or 601. It is said that his last words were "Gwnewch y pethau bychain mewn bywyd" (Do the little things in life).

To celebrate the day, here's a video of the Welsh singing their national anthem before a rugby match:

This Is My Father's World

Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise him in the heights!
Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his host!
Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you shining stars!
Praise him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens!
Let them praise the Name of the Lord, for he commanded and they were created.
He established them forever and ever; he fixed their bounds, which cannot be passed.
Praise the Lord from the earth, you sea monsters and all deeps, fire and hail, snow and frost, stormy wind fulfilling his command!
Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars!
Wild animals and all cattle, creeping things and flying birds!
Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth!
Young men and women alike, old and young together!
Let them praise the Name of the Lord, for his Name alone is exalted; his