I figured I was in for a rough day as soon as I woke up around 5:30AM with my left foot bothering me in a familiar way (at least for my right foot) . And indeed I was, at least enough that the subject managed being discussed in an indirect fashion with my roommate as I hobbled out to choir practice, with my pastor before he anointed someone for some knee problems, and with someone who hates feeling old, as I do with a passion. Needless to say, while I feel particularly awkward while hobbling around, it appears that most of the people around me are painfully incurious about the matter, even if it makes it hard for me to scamper out of the way of others as is my normal habit in being out and about. Suffice it to say that the standing around today was not something I greatly enjoyed, and the general high amount of pain I was feeling made me more than usually distracted, which proved to be a bad thing today, but that is another story.
Rather than spending time on my feet, I would like to spend most of my time today discussing at least briefly the two split sermons we had from gentlemen visiting from the Home Office for the regional leadership workshop that our congregation is hosting. I will likely have more to say about that tomorrow night. The first message discussed the responsibility of ordinary believers to be people whose life and example and the exercise of their God-given talents serves as a force of (potential) change for the world at large. I thought the speaker did a good job looking at relatively obscure people in the Bible. My favorite reference was to Shaphan who helped change biblical history by reading a book, a very Nathanish thing to do, quoted from 1 Kings 22:8-13: “Then Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the scribe, “I have found the Book of the Law in the house of the Lord.” And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, and he read it. So Shaphan the scribe went to the king, bringing the king word, saying, “Your servants have gathered the money that was found in the house, and have delivered it into the hand of those who do the work, who oversee the house of the Lord.” Then Shaphan the scribe showed the king, saying, “Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.” And Shaphan read it before the king. Now it happened, when the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, that he tore his clothes. Then the king commanded Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam the son of Shaphan, Achbor the son of Michaiah, Shaphan the scribe, and Asaiah a servant of the king, saying, “Go, inquire of the Lord for me, for the people and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that has been found; for great is the wrath of the Lord that is aroused against us, because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us.””
The second split sermon focused on a relatively little-known story in Daniel that showed him fasting for three weeks, at least of a kind, and receiving a glimpse into the territorial nature of the demonic realm. As a student of history and someone who has a powerful interest in demonology, I find the story to be very fascinating on many levels. For example, in many lands, particularly Thailand, the practice of the local heathen population in buying spirit houses–I have seen rows of dozens of these demon domiciles for sale along the roadway from Chiang Mai to Mai Sai–is a very common one. Even so, I was greatly intrigued that the speaker spoke of fasting as a discipline, as that is something far more common in reading books relating to Christian mysticism as a language which is common in our church tradition. I’m not sure how many people caught that, but it was the sort of thing I read frequently in books and it was a reference that I found striking and unusual, to say the least. Also of interest was the way that the speaker referenced an essay by Woodrow Wilson, not someone I would think of as being an obvious choice for moral lessons, especially given his racism and terrible Progressive political beliefs, to say nothing of his naive internationalism.
What I took from these two messages as a hint for what will be discussed tomorrow I would like to discuss as we close for today. For one, I listened to the first message in particular as a call for greater responsibility on the part of memberships for using their talents in the service of the mission of our organization, and not to despair if we think of ourselves as particularly ill-suited people when it comes to such matters as a result of our health problems or our crippling timidity or other such factors, and not to think that we are too insignificant to make a difference. In listening to the second message, I discerned a call for us to be more aware of the larger spiritual ramifications of the world in which we live, which might indicate a growing interest in messages and reflections on the spiritual reality that exists behind the material reality that we normally interact with and think about in a world that is painfully materialistic in a philosophical sense. While these are implications that I will muse on and ruminate on, they definitely got my attention, to be sure.
 See, for example: