Friday, May 7, 2021

The Second Person to Walk on the Moon (a Steve Orr scripture reflection)

Quick. Can you name the second person to walk on the moon? 

People can usually name Neil Armstrong as the first person to walk on the moon. After that, for most of us, it gets a bit fuzzy. Oh, sure, we can Google the answer in a few seconds ... but that’s not the point of this exercise.

I attended so many leadership and management classes, self-help recordings, sales seminars, etc., that started with some version of that question. 

“Do you remember who was the second ...?”

Attendees might be allowed to discuss it for a while, but people usually couldn't come up with the answer. It turned out, though, that coming up with the right answer was never the point. Eventually, the leader revealed the secret of the exercise: the answer didn’t matter. 

No one cared who was second. All that mattered was who was first. 

It’s a pernicious kind of thinking. It belongs to the same divisive, manipulative, and deceptive motivational claptrap as the 110% lie. It’s the idea that whatever is first has more value and whatever is not first is somehow less than

Let’s pause here and be clear: people who excel are worthy of praise and reward. But, someone is always going to be second ... and third ... and last. Are these people —who competed and tried their best— to be disdained just because they didn’t come in first?

This week’s scriptures ask us to trust: that God only asks us to love one another, to follow the commandments, and that God will ensure the victory. Our faith, love, and obedience are our only “contributions.” 

We are not competing to be the best Christian, to be “first” in faith, love, and obedience. Giving 110% doesn't ensure the victory. It’s not that God doesn’t ask us to do things in the Kingdom; it’s just not a competition. Loving, serving, obeying, and trusting in God are actions all of us can perform.

We don’t need to know who comes in second because we don’t need to know who comes in first. In the Kingdom, none of those things matter. 

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Will you be with us Friday morning for DaySpring’s Lectionary Breakfast? Join us at 8:00 on Zoom for a great hour of fellowship, scriptures, and discussion. 

Blessings,
Steve 

Contact me for the Zoom link.

NOTE: Zoom allows you to mute the camera if you don’t wish to be seen and to mute the microphone if you don’t wish to speak.

SCRIPTURES FOR THE COMING WEEK
Read them here:

Sixth Sunday of Easter (May 9, 2021)
Acts 10:44-48
Psalm 98
1 John 5:1-6
John 15:9-17

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Wardrobes, Wrinkles, and Wormholes (a Steve Orr scripture reflection)

I remember my first wormhole.

Do you remember yours? Was it The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis? Maybe A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle? Long before I read either of those wonderful books, though, I encountered my first wormhole in a more traditional sci-fi novel: Robert A. Heinlein’s Tunnel in the Sky

What’s a wormhole? Einstein would call it a space-time bridge. For Lewis, it was a way through a magical wardrobe from a British country estate to the Land of Narnia. L’Engle used a tesseract to move children from one side of the universe to the other. Stephen King calls it a thinny. Heinlein called it a gate. Online Gamers would likely say portal (That’s also how Native Americans thought of it). 

However you term it, the definition is the same: a kind of doorway leading from one place to somewhere that’s usually far, far away. This kind of “travel” is often called teleportation.**

But, these are all fictional ... right? So, what does it really matter? 

Well, it turns out scientist believe they have, indeed, teleported something from one place to another. Mind you, it was just a particle (so nothing as complex as, say, Schrödinger's cat). Plus, there is some debate about whether the particle actually went anywhere. One theory suggests what really happened was that the process disintegrated the particle, sent only the information about the particle ... and then made a new, identical particle at the other location. 

Whatever it was that happened in that lab, something very similar happened in this week's Acts 8 scripture. God used the apostle Philip to lead the Ethiopian Eunuch to belief in Jesus as the Messiah (Christ) and then teleported Philip to Azotus (about 30 miles away). 

Now, you might pooh pooh my belief that God used teleportation to move Philip from one place to another. Let me know if you can find another answer. To me, it looks like God needed Philip elsewhere on short notice. And it reads like Philip experienced it, too.

When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he was passing through the region, he proclaimed the good news to all the towns until he came to Caesarea. Acts 8:39-40

So, was it teleportation? Did God send Philip through wormhole?

I don’t know. There’s no reason that can’t be the explanation. But, that’s not the point of the tale, is it? I think the takeaway is something else, entirely; something found in the “bookends” of the story. It begins with God sending Philip to proclaim the good news to someone. And how does it end? Apparently unaffected by his miraculous journey to Azotus, Philip just heads north and keeps on telling folks the good news about Jesus. 

And isn't that always the point?


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** “the transfer of matter from one point to another without traversing the physical space between them”


Deeper Dive - Teleportation in the Bible:

Even Deeper:

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We are deep into the Season of Easter and are enjoying our time to discuss the related scriptures. Join us Friday morning at 8:00 on Zoom for DaySpring’s Lectionary Breakfast. It’s truly an hour like no other.

Blessings,
Steve 

Contact me for the Zoom link

NOTE: Zoom allows you to mute the camera if you don’t wish to be seen and to mute the microphone if you don’t wish to speak.

SCRIPTURES FOR THE COMING WEEK
Find them here:

Fifth Sunday of Easter (May 2, 2021)
Acts 8:26-40
Psalm 22:25-31
1 John 4:7-21
John 15:1-8

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Stephen King and the Not-Good Shepherds (a Steve Orr scripture reflection)

Stephen King creates some very intriguing characters. Most are captivating, drawing us ever deeper into his tales. Perhaps surprisingly, it is his lesser characters that often capture our interests and imagination. Consider King’s  “low men.” 


These low men usually show up to perform distinct, limited —almost always bad— actions. Then, fairly quickly, they move off the stage. They’re pretty horrible. In their true form, they appear as rat-like humanoids, complete with fleas, lice, and, sometimes, rabies. They dress in garishly colored, out-of-fashion clothing, and they drive what appear to be vintage cars —but might actually be something else, entirely. 

There is no question as to how King wants his readers to regard these creatures. 

If having the heads of rats isn’t frightening enough, the fact that they walk among us on two legs just ratchets up the creep factor. And in every scene, we always have the sense that things are about to go from bad to worse.

We don’t need fiction, though, to think of similar folk. We’ve all met some, haven’t we?

This week’s scriptures are all connected to the actions of shepherds. In the Gospel of John, Jesus contrasts himself (“the good shepherd”) with those who, by their acts of low character, have proved themselves to be not-good shepherds. Of those real life “low men,” He says that when “wolves” threaten the sheep, the not-good shepherds will run away and leave the sheep to the wolves. The result? Some of the sheep are “snatched” by the wolves, which will surely lead to their deaths. Others “scatter” in fear for their lives.

He says the not-good shepherd “runs away” because the not-good shepherd “does not care for the sheep.” By contrast, Jesus tells us that the good shepherd will do all he can to protect and save the sheep, even going so far as to lay down his own life for them. We are the sheep in this illustration and those claiming to be our spiritual leaders are the shepherds. 

The point: Jesus wanted everyone to understand that the measure of whether a shepherd is good or not-good is based on what the shepherd does for the sheep. Most importantly, He wanted us to know that everyone has a choice, Himself included. 

The main reason that King’s “low men” are the way they are is because of what they are. As King’s creation, they have no real choice to be anything other than low. By contrast, Jesus did not lay down his life for us because it was destined. He had the power and authority to choose.

He chose that because He is the good shepherd.

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Join us Friday morning when we, once again, discuss this week’s scriptures. DaySpring’s Lectionary Breakfast meets at 8:00 on Zoom.

All are welcome.

Blessings,
Steve

Contact me for the Zoom link.

NOTE: Zoom allows you to mute the camera if you don’t wish to be seen and to mute the microphone if you don’t wish to speak.

SCRIPTURES FOR THE COMING WEEK
Find them here: 

Acts 4:5-12
Psalm 23
1 John 3:16-24
John 10:11-18
Fourth Sunday of Easter (April 25, 2021)


Friday, April 16, 2021

A Fable Inspired by Sin (a Steve Orr scripture reflection)

A few years ago, I wrote a short fable to illustrate this week’s 1st John selection. It was based on the idea that the word “sin” is also an archery term meaning to “fall short” of the target or bullseye. 

Here’s the fable and the scripture is just below it.

Two Archers Meet in a Wood
An archer, dressed in brown, entered a vast Wood from the east. Another archer, dressed in green, entered the Wood from the west. The brown archer strode purposefully. He clearly had a destination in mind. The green archer ambled a bit, taking in the beauty of the Wood. 

Each moved on a path that brought them to the center of the Wood. At last, they saw each other and stopped. For a few seconds each just looked at the other. 

Finally, the brown archer said, "Hello friend. I see you, too, have come to use the King's archery range."

The green archer appeared surprised, looked about, and, for the first time, took notice of the targets off to the north. But, the brown archer missed this reaction, already setting up his gear for the shoot. 

The green archer said, "So, this is the King's range?"

"Oh yes!" replied the brown archer. "Do you not know? The King has set aside the whole of His Wood for the pleasure of His subjects. And he encourages us to use the range to improve our targeting."

The brown archer then nocked his first arrow, drew back, eyed the target, and let fly. The arrow flew swiftly across the vast clearing toward one of the targets. At first, the arrow was on course, but at the very last it appeared to lose speed. When it finally struck the target, the arrow rested well below the bullseye. 

"Sin!" cried the green archer, a bright grin splitting his face. He was suddenly awakened to the fun he might have here. 

Selecting an arrow from his quiver, the green archer quickly nocked it, drew deeply on the bow, and released. In no time, a loud "THUNK" heralded the arrow's arrival across the clearing. But it was not on the target. It wasn't even in the hay bales backing the targets. The brown archer finally saw it, buried to the fletching in a hollow tree.

"Miss," said the brown archer. 

"At least it didn't fall short like yours!" crowed the green archer. Then, he grabbed another arrow, set it to string, and pulled even farther back before releasing. This arrow flew even faster than the first, slicing past the targets, over the bales, past the nearby trees, and off into the forest. No sound of its landing was heard.

The brown archer watched, frozen, as the green archer lofted a third arrow high and to the left; a fourth high and to the right; then, turned and sent one through the woods behind them. Finally, shaken from his shock, the brown archer, cried, "What are you doing? You're not even trying to hit the target!"

"Of course not," replied the green archer. "How boring! The fun is in not aiming for the target! I so enjoy the feel of flinging the arrows off at top speed, the flexing of my muscles, and that sense of power! I really don't want to fuss with all that aiming."

The brown archer had heard enough. "Don't you realize there are others in the King's Wood? Your wild arrows could easily hit someone, could maim or kill. We come here so we can practice our aim. This clearing is set up for just that exercise. That's why there are targets. Certainly the King knows we will not always hit the bullseye. I tally many a sin because I am plagued with a weak pull; my arrow often falls short. But no one, not even the worst archer, comes here intending sin. And we never act in a way that might endanger others."

The green archer, not liking this lecture, was no longer enjoying himself. He spoke petulantly, "Well, you’re no fun." Gathering up his gear, he stalked away, continuing his original journey.

The brown archer watched the other bowman disappear to the east. He stood that way for a while, thinking of the wild abandon with which the other had launched his missiles, recalling when he, too, had been the thoughtless archer. Finally, he selected an arrow from his quiver, nocked it along the string, pulled deeply on the bow, eyed the target for a long while ...

And then let fly.

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"All who indulge in a sinful life are dangerously lawless, for sin is a major disruption of God’s order. Surely you know that Christ showed up in order to get rid of sin. There is no sin in him, and sin is not part of his program. No one who lives deeply in Christ makes a practice of sin. None of those who do practice sin have taken a good look at Christ. They’ve got him all backward.

So, my dear children, don’t let anyone divert you from the truth. It’s the person who acts right who is right, just as we see it lived out in our righteous Messiah. Those who make a practice of sin are straight from the Devil, the pioneer in the practice of sin. The Son of God entered the scene to abolish the Devil’s ways." (‭1 John‬ ‭3‬:‭4-8‬ The Message)

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PHOTO: Steve Orr


DaySpring’s Friday morning Lectionary Breakfasts are a true pleasure. Join us on Zoom at 8:00. We enjoy the treasures the King has shared with us, luxuriating in each other's company, and tasting the Word to see that it is good.

Contact me for the Zoom link.

NOTE: Zoom allows you to mute the camera if you don’t wish to be seen and to mute the microphone if you don’t wish to speak.

Enjoy the week!
Steve

SCRIPTURES FOR THE COMING WEEK
Third Sunday of Easter (April 18, 2021)
Find them here:

Acts 3:12-19
Psalm 4
1 John 3:1-7
Luke 24:36b-48

Saturday, April 10, 2021

A Perfect Recipe for Chaos (a scripture reflection for Eastertide by Steve Orr)

An orchestra should be chaos.

Each instrument is unique; even those that are similar are not exactly alike. Not one of them makes the same sound. Oh, sure, some of them are intended to make the same sound —are designed to do so— but, even those are just similar, not really the same. 

Then, to compound it all, each operator is distinct from every other one. There is absolutely no way to guarantee cohesiveness in carrying out their assignments. And there are dozens of them, often a hundred or more. Every single one of them endowed with free will. That’s a recipe for chaos.

And yet.

They can make music to thrill the very soul. They blend their idiosyncrasies. They agree to be in a shared experience. They accept a script prepared by others. They are willing to be led. All of these, and a thousand other little acts of togetherness, result in something unlike anything that can be achieved alone.

All because they allow it; choose it; will it; do it.

An orchestra is a good way to describe  the disciples of Jesus in those weeks and months following His resurrection. We see them that way in this week's scripture from Acts. They show us a willingness to set aside, for a time, the needs and wants of the individual so that everyone may benefit mutually. They act like family. Psalm 133 sums it up, well: “How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity.”

What do we call this kind of orchestrated togetherness; this mutuality of caring? Over the millennia, people have given it many names, some good and some that are not complimentary by any stretch. I think it deserves a good name, and I think I have a come up with a good one. 

It's music; music to God's ears.

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PHOTO: part of the Paducah Tilghman High School Orchestra, circa 1969.

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DaysSpring’s next Lectionary Breakfast is this Friday morning. Join us on Zoom at 8:00. We enjoy a great discussion of the scriptures for this coming Sunday’s sermon. 

Contact me for the Zoom link.

NOTE: Zoom allows you to mute the camera if you don’t wish to be seen and to mute the microphone if you don’t wish to speak.

Blessings,
Steve


SCRIPTURES FOR THE COMING WEEK
Find them at:

Acts 4:32-35
Psalm 133
1 John 1:1 - 2:2
John 20:19-31
Second Sunday of Easter  (APRIL 11, 2021)

Thursday, April 1, 2021

The Motel of the Mysteries (an Easter reflection by Steve Orr)

My favorite work by David Macaulay is 
Motel of the Mysteries

He is famous for creating bestseller nonfiction books that visually educate us on all sorts of things.* In Motel of the Mysteries, Macaulay uses fiction to poke a little fun at archeology and our modern world.


The set up: 2000 years from now most of the American continent is covered in a thick layer of petrified material. It has become one giant archeological site; people from across the globe try to piece together what life was like before the not-fully-understood catastrophe made it uninhabitable. 

Macaulay uses humor to shows us how easy it is, despite best intentions, to get it all wrong. Absent any written record, there is plenty of room for misinterpretation. There are some pretty humorous parallels to Howard Carter's excavation of Tutankhamen's tomb. Every time something is discovered about life, before, it is assumed to have religious significance. And that's what happens when the ground gives way beneath an amateur archeologist. He drops several feet into what he concludes is a previously undisturbed "burial" chamber in one of the former civilization's mysterious "motels." 

A great part of the fun in reading through Motel of the Mysteries is that, due to Mr. Macaulay's remarkable drawings, we readers recognize everything and know it is not what they think it is. Some of my favorites are the Sacred Urn (commode), the Sacred Point (foil seal on the toilet paper roll), and the "Plant That Would Not Die." We know, though, that it's just a motel room and that each discovered item is not something of religious significance. 

If you have any interest in archeology —whether you read Michener's "The Source" cover to cover or are just a fan of Indiana Jones— you should find this an entertaining afternoon’s read.

And that brings us to this week's scriptures. Somewhat like Macaulay's future archeologists, we must decide what actually happened in the past. We read of a day many of us consider the most important in all of history, if not all eternity. It’s important we figure out what we are going to believe and why. History can be a messy process. Archeologists, scholars, and historians do the best they can with the resources available to them. Often, the only resources available are the reports of witnesses. In the end, though, it’s up to us to decide for ourselves how much of history we are willing to believe.

In the case of that long ago Sunday morning, we are lucky. Some people took the time to write down what contemporaries saw, thought, felt, heard, said, and did that morning. Sure, there are still many mysteries. But we can now be confident there really was a tomb ... and that it really was empty when they got there.

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*Books such as The Way Things WorkThe Way We WorkCastle, and Pyramid


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Friday morning is Good Friday. Join us at DaySpring’s Lectionary Breakfast 8:00 to 9:00. Bring your favorite breakfast beverage to the Zoom call and enjoy an hour of scripture, discussion, and laughter ... a good Friday indeed.

Contact me for the Zoom link.

NOTE: Zoom allows you to mute the camera if you don’t wish to be seen and to mute the microphone if you don’t wish to speak.

Blessings,
Steve

SCRIPTURES FOR THE COMING WEEK
Find them on this Table of Easter Season Readings:

Easter (April 4, 2021)
Resurrection of the Lord

Acts 10:34-43
Isaiah 25:6-9
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
1 Corinthians 15:1-11
John 20:1-18
Mark 16:1-8

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Swedish Death Cleaning and the Poor (a Steve Orr scripture reflection)

The first time I heard the phrase “Swedish death cleaning,” I formed a mental image: people who cleaned up a crime scene after CSI had finished processing it for clues ... in Sweden. Weird as that sounds, there actually are such people; hired to make a crime scene appear as if no crime ever occurred. Hotel rooms come to mind.

The Sweden connection? Not so much. 

Still, that mental image remained for quite some time. Eventually, though, I discovered Margareta Magnusson’s bestseller, The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning, a book with absolutely no connection to CSI. 

Magnusson lives in Sweden and is aged, she says, “somewhere between 80 and 100.” Her little (very readable) book tells her story of how she thought about and then executed her plan to reduce her possessions. Her motivation was to lighten the stress on her children when she dies. By significantly reducing her possessions to what she truly needs and truly wants, she hopes to spare them much head-scratching and hand-wringing when the time comes. 

 

It is a lovely book, a truly gentle reminder (for us all) of an inescapable truth and how we can show we truly care ... somewhat like the comment Jesus made in this week’s reading about “the poor” in Mark 14.

 

Some have misunderstood what Jesus meant when he said, “For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have me.” He was not telling his listeners (or us) to not care for the poor. On the contrary, Jesus was quoting Deuteronomy 15:7-11, and He was saying it to a group of listeners who understood exactly what He meant.

 

Care for the poor was a fundamental part of Israel’s cultural fabric. It was incorporated in the early and most foundational parts of the Law given to them by God. 

 

When some expressed anger that the expensive perfume had been "squandered" on Jesus, He caught them in an attempt to sidestep their responsibilities to care for the poor. Not a single one of them said, "Seeing this expensive perfume used this way reminds me I need to spend some of my money on the poor." No, they just wanted to point out that someone else’s money had not been used to help the poor. [In John 12, the leader of these complainers is Judas Iscariot, the eventual betrayer of Jesus.]

 

So, here is the gentle truth: whenever you wish, you may take some of your resources and share them with the needy. In fact, you are encouraged to do just that. Should others direct some of their resources to the needy? If they want to follow the teaching of Jesus, they should. But you never need to wait to see if someone else does it. The poor surround us, and will continue to do so. You only need eyes to see and ears to hear.

 

You may or may not be ready to start death cleaning, but you can immediately start caring for the poor. Just apply the gentle art of truly caring. 


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 PHOTO: Steve Orr



Join us at 8:00 Friday morning for DaySpring’s Lectionary Breakfast. What happens in the hour we gather is unique. We explore the scriptures on which the coming Sunday’s sermon is based. We read, we discuss, and we laugh. Truly, an hour like no other. 


Contact me for the Zoom link.

NOTE: Zoom allows you to mute the camera if you don’t wish to be seen and to mute the microphone if you don’t wish to speak.

Blessings,
Steve

SCRIPTURES FOR THE COMING WEEK

Find them on the table, here: 

https://lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu//lections.php?year=B&season=Lent


March 28, 2021 - Sixth Sunday in Lent


Liturgy of the Passion

Isaiah 50:4-9a

Psalm 31:9-16

Philippians 2:5-11

Mark 14:1-15:47 or Mark 15:1-39 (40-47)


Liturgy of the Palms

Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29

Mark 11:1-11 or John 12:12-16