Monday, March 30, 2015

MUDDLED MIND: A Non-Catholic Confession


I was watching an episode of CNN’s Finding Jesus series last night when I decided to write about not using CNN as an accurate source for information about the life of Jesus.  CNN promotion says, “Finding Jesus discovers fascinating new insights into the historical Jesus, utilizing the latest scientific techniques and archaeological research.”  However, in a 8 pm rerun it told about Jesus’ brother being bitten by a snake and Jesus breathing on the bite and it being gone immediately.  I don’t remember that from my reading of the Gospels.  

Earlier yesterday, I watched Louisville lose a close one to Michigan State, a university I have pulled against since 1979 when they beat Indiana State in the final game of the NCAA tournament that year.  Magic Johnson Vs Larry Byrd made that a game that is still talked about.  Indiana State went into that game undefeated.   The day before that on Saturday I had watched my Kentucky Wildcats advance to the Final Four by winning a game that they probably should not have accepted the win and should have let Notre Dame go to the Final Four instead of them. (I am aware of how crazy that sounds.  Look at the title of this blog.)

While doing research on the Finding Jesus series, I ran across this story http://www.cnn.com/2014/08/15/health/mental-illness-not-criminally-responsible/index.html
You will have to read it for yourself, but what it did in mind was make me question something I thought I was clear on.  Every time there has been a mass murder and the headlines start reading “the mentally ill” I have responded by saying “why don’t they say evil?”.  This CNN story is about a program in Maine for persons who have even committed murder, but who are found not to be criminally responsible because of a mental illness and are given a chance to
rebuild their lives and re-enter society.  They say they have had no recidivism.  This forced me to rethink.

Was I pushing the evil theory so hard because I felt like I was not evil, but I was not sure I could not become ill ( psychotic when manic) enough to commit a horrific crime?  Maybe I was not being fair.  After all I had not talked to or did not know any of the people I had made my judgmental statements about.  Was I simply trying to protect myself in my own muddled mind?

CNN’s theology, NCAA basketball, NASCAR at Martinsville,VA, my own iracing.com racing which did not go well over the weekend, and mass murders.  The historical Jesus and the historical NCAA basketball tournament.   A muddled mind for sure.

© Ed Cooper, March 30, 2015, Stoney Creek, Tennessee
All rights reserved

Sunday, March 22, 2015

LET HIM DENY HIMSELF: SCS No. 42

My wife Patty is on the far right, I am next to her, next to me is 
Dr. Dennis D. Pruett (April 16, 1924- November 14, 2014)
Founder of Mashoko Christian Hospital Among Other Mission Work
Beside him is his wife Jean

Sunday, March 22, 2015, Stoney Creek Sermonette: Number 42

(This is a series of sermonettes on The Gospel According To Mark.  We will not be to the crucifixion and resurrection in the book of Mark by April 5, 2015 so we will not be doing the resurrection story when it is being celebrated this year.)

(Ed Cooper is an ordained elder and minister in the Christian Church/Churches of Christ which are a part of the Restoration Movement started in Appalachia in the early 1800’s. Ed started preaching as a teenager in the village churches around Mashoko Mission, Zimbabwe, Africa when he was there with his parents.)

SCRIPTURE for Today:       Mark 8:31-38 King James Version (KJV)
31 And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.
32 And he spake that saying openly. And Peter took him, and began to rebuke him.
33 But when he had turned about and looked on his disciples, he rebuked Peter, saying, Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men.
34 And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
35 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it.
36 For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?
37 Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?
38 Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.

SERMON for Today:

In last week’s scripture lesson (Mark 8:29) Peter was the one who knew the answer to the question Jesus asked about who he was.  In today’s lesson Peter rebukes Jesus for saying he will be killed and resurrected.  Jesus has some harsh words for Peter. He says, “Get thee behind me, Satan.”

I am not saying I am an Apostle or as important as Peter, but I do recognize some of Peter in myself and I have seen this same thing in others as well.  Even though Peter had just said Jesus was the Christ, he felt like he needed to correct Jesus so Jesus fitted the picture that Peter had painted of him in his mind.  Jesus was not suppose to die.  He was suppose to run the Romans out of town.  How many times do we think we know better than God what should be happening in our lives?  How many times do we think we know better than the other person what should be happening in their lives?  If my dad was still alive today, the first words out of my mouth would be, “you were not as dumb as I thought you were.”

Chapter Eight ends by telling us what it takes to be a follower of Jesus.  His message to his disciples and the people was simple.  Deny yourself and follow me with your whole self.

The goal of self-denial and taking up one’s cross is not pathological self-abasement or a martyr complex but being free to follow the Jesus without any reservations or anything being more important. Self-denial means letting go of self-determination and replacing it with obedience to and dependence on God and His Son.

Jesus’ paradoxical statement demands two different senses of the word “life”: whoever lives a self-centered life focused on this present world will not find eternal life with God; whoever gives up his self-centered life of rebellion against God for the sake of Christ and the gospel will find everlasting life with God.

If we are not ashamed of Jesus now he will not be ashamed of us on Judgement Day which is coming someday.

PRAYER for Today: Matthew 6:9-13 King James Version (KJV)
9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
10 Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

© Ed Cooper, March 22, 2015, Stoney Creek, Tennessee
   All rights reserved

Friday, March 20, 2015

UNTIL THEY ARE MY REALITY: a poem by ed


Am I thinking,
or am I dreaming?
Because for a moment
I believed I was a person
which cannot be true because
all my life I have been told I am
nothing, but the label they gave me,
and to not think about climbing too far
up the mountain of success, but rather just
accept my place and wear my psychiatric label.

However, I just decided
they cannot control my fate
with their hate of who I am or
with who I can become despite labels.
So, if I am thinking or dreaming does not
matter because I will continue to dream and
think about my dreams until they are my reality.

© Ed Cooper, March 20, 2015, Stoney Creek, TN

  All rights reserved

Sunday, March 15, 2015

SHOUT IT FROM THE MOUNTAIN TOPS: SCS No. 41

Cumberland Mountains, Campbell County, Tennessee

Sunday, March 15, 2015, Stoney Creek Sermonette: Number 41

(This is a series of sermonettes on The Gospel According To Mark.  We will not be to the crucifixion and resurrection in the book of Mark by April 5, 2015 so we will not be doing the resurrection story when it is being celebrated this year.)

SCRIPTURE for Today:       Mark 8:27-30 King James Version (KJV)
27 And Jesus went out, and his disciples, into the towns of Caesarea Philippi: and by the way he asked his disciples, saying unto them, Whom do men say that I am?
28 And they answered, John the Baptist; but some say, Elias; and others, One of the prophets.
29 And he saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Peter answereth and saith unto him, Thou art the Christ.
30 And he charged them that they should tell no man of him.

SERMON for Today:

Last week we discussed Jesus feeding the crowd because of his compassion for them and about our becoming a part of the Kingdom of God now.  By which I meant getting involved in doing God’s work now.  In our scripture lesson today Jesus asks a simple question that most people today have an answer to, but don’t know what that answer really means.  Most of us would give the same answer as Peter did, but we would not all mean the same thing even though we would use the same words.

There have been more books written about Jesus than any other single person who ever walked on the face of this earth.  They range from Albert Schweitzer's The Quest of the Historical Jesus to N. T. Wright’s Simply Jesus to books denying that Jesus was a real figure of history.  Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965) spent most of his life working as a doctor in a hospital he founded in west central Africa in what is now Gabon and his life’s work won him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1952 for his “Reverence for Life.”  In his book about Jesus he concluded that critical 1st century theology had been ignored by the faithful. He said almost all early followers were known to have been illiterate and only few literate leaders then in power could have been aware of the critical unfulfilled First Century promise indivisible from the original theology of Jesus. Schweitzer observes that the early church leaders introduced a modified theology, once the prompt return of Jesus failed to occur. Obviously, the early leaders would surely lose power, and their employment, if they failed to modify the original theology.  We are still modifying it today.

Can you say you believe and act on the belief that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God?  Are you looking to follow Simply Jesus or do you follow some interpretation of what Jesus said and did that either the church you attend came up with or you came up with on your own?

Jesus is still asking.  “But whom say ye that I am?”  Your present joy and your future joy depends on how you answer this simple question.

Verse 30 no longer applies.  Jesus wants us to tell others.  Shout it from the highest mountain tops so all can hear.

PRAYER for Today: Matthew 6:9-13 King James Version (KJV)
9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
10 Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.


© Ed Cooper, March 15, 2015, Stoney Creek, Tennessee
   All rights reserved

Sunday, March 08, 2015

HOW MANY LOAVES DO YOU HAVE?: SCS No. 40


Sunday, March 8, 2015, Stoney Creek Sermonette: Number 40

(This is a series of sermonettes are on The Gospel According To Mark.  We will not be to the crucifixion and resurrection in the book of Mark by April 5, 2015 so we will not be doing the resurrection story when it is being celebrated this year.)

SCRIPTURE for Today:       Mark 8:1-8 (NRSV)
8 In those days when there was again a great crowd without anything to eat, he called his disciples and said to them, 2 “I have compassion for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat. 3 If I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way—and some of them have come from a great distance.” 4 His disciples replied, “How can one feed these people with bread here in the desert?” 5 He asked them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven.” 6 Then he ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground; and he took the seven loaves, and after giving thanks he broke them and gave them to his disciples to distribute; and they distributed them to the crowd. 7 They had also a few small fish; and after blessing them, he ordered that these too should be distributed. 8 They ate and were filled; and they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full.
SERMON for Today:
The real question here is not how many loaves do you have, but what can God do with the loaves you do have?  If Jesus had been told they had but three loaves and three little fish He would still have been able to feed the people and would have because He knew they were hungry.  He said, “I have compassion for the crowd.”  He can take whatever you have to offer to the Kingdom and multiply it just like He did the loaves and the few little fish.

The church may not have started until the Day of Pentecost when Peter preached and many were saved, but the work of building the Kingdom was the mission of the ministry of Jesus Christ.  What do I mean when I say Kingdom?  God’s Kingdom is God in action and when Jesus came to earth it was God in action on earth big time.  Christians ( the church) are suppose to be doing Kingdom work now until the return of Jesus in all His Glory.

In Chapter 7: 24-30 and Matthew 15: 21-28 we read about Jesus healing a girl of an evil spirit.  The important point not to miss is that in this Kingdom work Jesus performed this miracle for a person who was a Gentile.  The Bible says the mother of the girl “ was a Greek.” ( Mark 7:26)  Jesus opened the Kingdom to all people with this act.

Most people I know do not speak about the Kingdom of God on earth, but speak only of heaven in the future.  The Kingdom of God is at work on earth today and we should let Jesus turn our few loaves into food enough to feed thousands without regard to their race or economic status.  The Kingdom of God is open to all.

PRAYER for Today:
Father, May the Gospel story come alive in us so that we feel your Holy Spirit in the very pit of our inner beings. Help us to show Your love to the world through the lives we live.  For we know You sent Him for all peoples and He gave His all that all of us might have life forevermore if only we find Him, the one and only Way.  It is in His name we pray. Amen.

© Ed Cooper, March 8, 2015, Stoney Creek, Tennessee
   All rights reserved

Monday, March 02, 2015

WORDS WOUND


In the late 70’s my oldest sister and her husband now deceased published Christian-graphic in which they were kind enough to publish some of my early attempts at writing poetry.  When I published a piece about Thomas R. Edwards on this blog (February 14, 2014), I was reminded of the discussion that took place about whether or not to publish my poetry since it did not have any punctuation.  The words hurt then and they hurt again when I was paying tribute to the publisher of Christian-graphic who was more than a brother-in law.  He was my friend.

I recently ran across a poet who won the Pulitzer Prize in 1971 and 2009.  In the books The Carrier of Ladders (1971 winner) and The Shadow of Sirius (2009 winner) William S. Merwin, former Poet Laureate of the United States, did not use any punctuation.  It did not do my inner being any good to know that the form I had used was legitimate.  The words had already left their wounds.

I use this example
to simply say
try to watch
what comes out
the opening in your head

Use your mind
before you speak
so the people around you
will have less wounds
as they live
their lives.

© Ed Cooper, March 3, 2015, Stoney Creek, Tennessee

   All rights reserved

Sunday, March 01, 2015

What Defiles a Person?: SCS No. 39



Sunday, March 1, 2015, Stoney Creek Sermonette: Number 39
(This is a series of sermonettes on The Gospel According To Mark.  We will not be to the crucifixion and resurrection in the book of Mark by April 5, 2015 so we will not be doing the resurrection story when it is being celebrated this year.)
SCRIPTURE for Today:
Mark 7:1-15 English Standard Version (ESV)
7 Now when the Pharisees gathered to him, with some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem, 2 they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. 3 (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands properly, holding to the tradition of the elders, 4 and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches.) 5 And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” 6 And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written,
“‘This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me;
7 in vain do they worship me,
   teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’
8 You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.”
9 And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ 11 But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban”’ (that is, given to God)— 12 then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, 13 thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.”
What Defiles a Person
14 And he called the people to him again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand: 15 There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.”


SERMON for Today:
Jewish tradition allowed that funds originally dedicated to the care of parents could be declared Corban (Hebrew/Aramaic for legally “dedicated to God”), meaning that the person would no longer be required to do anything for their father or mother. These funds could now be given to the temple, if so desired. Such human traditions thus allow room for the depravity of the human heart, directly opposing the Law of Moses which so often serves to protect the weak and helpless, in this case, parents in their feeble old age (making void the word of God). Jesus was telling his critics to stop being hypocrites.
The problem of the defiled human heart is much deeper than one might assume and significantly more serious than mere ceremonial impurity as the Pharisees were accusing the disciples of doing.   The core problem of defilement is what resides in the heart (things that come out), not things going into a person. Throughout Scripture, the heart refers to the center of one’s being, including the mind, emotions, and will.
Jesus is telling us to clean up our hearts so our actions will reflect the spirit of His love of us and the world.  It is a task for today and each day.  There is not a moment it just happens.  It is a work that goes on for a lifetime, but there has to be a starting point.  Have your started?


PRAYER for Today:
Father, May the Gospel story come alive in us so that we feel your Holy Spirit in the very pit of our inner beings. Help us to show Your love to the world through the lives we live.  For we know You sent Him for all peoples and He gave His all that all of us might have life forevermore if only we find Him, the one and only Way.  It is in His name we pray. Amen.
© Ed Cooper, March 1, 2015, Stoney Creek, Tennessee

   All rights reserved