Sunday, June 24, 2007

Spiritual Freedom

Dr. Jon Burnham preached this sermon
from Luke 8:26-39
on June 24, 2007
at Batesville Presbyterian Church

Our shadow selves lurk around and leave a corrosion effect on our inner lives. Sometimes our shadow selves break through to the surface and manifest in unhealthy behaviors and activities. Let us take as an example a 26 year old Grammy Award winning pop singer, songwriter, dancer, actress, and author. She was born in McComb, Mississippi, and raised Southern Baptist. She was an accomplished gymnast, attending gymnastics classes until age nine and competing in state-level competitions. She performed in local dance revues and her local Baptist church choirs, and was auditioning for the Disney Channel's The New Mickey Mouse Club by the time she was eight. Her career skyrocketed during her teenage years and she has now sold over 76 million albums worldwide according to TIME magazine. The RIAA ranks her as the eighth best-selling female artist in American music history, having sold 31 million albums in the United States alone. Recently, she has been in the press for less flattering reasons. In January, she lost an aunt with whom she was very close, after a long battle with breast cancer. That shock sent her into a nosedive. Since January she has checked in and out of a drug treatment center, shaved her hair with clippers in a possible show of solidarity with her aunt, and now is back in treatment.

This week her lawyers have demanded a Florida radio station remove "offensive" billboards which feature her with a shaven head. The billboards, meant to advertise a Florida radio station, included the slogans: "total nut jobs", "shock therapy" and "certifiable", which ran across a picture of a bald Brittney Spears. Due to our jealousy at her success, we may join the throngs who now look down on her. But the truth is, if we look deep enough inside ourselves, we all need treatment. Thomas Keating refers to centering prayer as divine therapy. We all need divine therapy to rescue us from the shadowy mob that inhabits our inner lives. We all need spiritual freedom. Jesus dishes out spiritual freedom.

One day Jesus and his disciples sail to the country of the Gerasenes, directly opposite Galilee. Apparently they have not landed right at the town, since the first person they meet is a man with a disordered mind who lives among the tombs. Tombs where Jesus lived, in Palestine, were often caves, where an outcast could find shelter. This distraught man, who lived in the cemetery caves, hadn't worn clothes for a long time. When he saw Jesus he screamed, fell before him, and bellowed, "What business do you have with me? You're Jesus, Son of the High God, but don't give me a hard time!" (The man said this because Jesus had started to order the unclean spirit out of him.) Time after time evil energies threw the man into convulsions. He had been placed under constant guard and tied with chains and shackles, but crazed and driven wild by the cryptic energies, he would shatter the bonds.

This story raises the question of how we understand malicious energies. In our Book of Confessions, part of our Presbyterian constitution, we find a belief in rebellious angels. The Second Helvetic Confession, written in 1563, says "Consequently we teach that some angels persisted in obedience and were appointed for faithful service to God and men, but others fell of their own free will and were cast into destruction, becoming enemies of all good and of the faithful ..."1 The Larger Catechism, written about 100 years later (in 1647), warns against "all compacts and consulting with the devil."2 Of course these confessions were written before the scientific age that we live in. Later Presbyterian creeds and confessions do not mention such specters. We prefer to focus on the love of God expressed in Jesus Christ. But our Bibles can not be tamed, nor can they be silenced, and our Bible story today finds Jesus speaking to the demons who are infesting a man.

Jesus asks a very important question: "What is your name?" The man can only answer, "Legion," and Luke explains that many demons had entered him. "Legion" is an interesting name. The Roman army occupied the Jewish state of Israel during Jesus' lifetime. A Roman legion consisted of 6000 foot soldiers. The demon-possessed man says his name is "Legion." Perhaps that means he is possessed with 6000 demons. Eugene Peterson, in The Message, suggests the man's name is Mob. "Mob. My name is Mob," he said, because many demons afflicted him. And they begged Jesus desperately not to order them to the bottomless pit. (Luke 8:30-31, The Message) Our false selves fear transformation. Our shadow selves shirk from recognition, remaining hidden from us if possible, so they may continue to drag us down and hold us back from a fuller life of freedom in Christ.

The first step toward spiritual freedom is to name whatever has us tied with chains and shackles. We may name it addiction. We may name it gluttony. We may name it greed, jealousy or anger. We may name it bitterness. We may not even know what to name it. Even so, we can identify something in ourselves that is not holy, something that is fragmented and in need of healing. Then Jesus can provide us with spiritual freedom even as he did with the tormented man in our Bible story today.

A large herd of pigs was browsing and rooting on a nearby hill. The demons begged Jesus to order them into the pigs. He gave the order. It was even worse for the pigs than for the man. Crazed, they stampeded over a cliff into the lake and drowned. (Luke 8:32-33, The Message)

Those tending the pigs, scared to death, bolted and told their story in town and country. People went out to see what had happened. They came to Jesus and found the man from whom the demons had been sent, sitting there at Jesus' feet, wearing decent clothes and making sense. (Luke 8:34-36, The Message) Jesus' response to the man is not only to make him whole again. He finds the man some clothes as well. A small, simple, necessary gesture that there is a human being worthy of respect. Jesus even commissions the man as an evangelist—a gentile evangelist: "Go and tell." It was a holy moment, and for a short time they were more reverent than curious. Then those who had seen it happen told how the demoniac had been saved.

Later, a great many people from the Gerasene countryside got together and asked Jesus to leave. He had brought too much change, too fast, and they were scared.

So Jesus got back in the boat and set off. The man whom he had delivered from the demons asked to go with him, but he sent him back, saying, "Go home and tell everything God did in you." So he went back and preached all over town everything Jesus had done in him. (Luke 8:37-39, The Message)

Jesus has power, power even to defeat our ultimate enemies. He boldly confronts those forces which bind us and commands them to come out form us, to leave us, to unbind us, and let us be free. Jesus is more powerful than any addiction, any shadow self, any false self. Jesus would not let demons control the Gerasene demoniac, and he will not let negative forces "get" us. When we name the negative energies that hold us back, and ask Jesus to heal us, we are healed. Jesus grants spiritual freedom from the negative energies that would bind us. Let us claim God's free gift through Christ and begin living a fuller and richer life today.

Spiritual freedom means seeing clearly whose we are and the nature of the world in which we live. We belong to God, whether we live or die, according to Paul. We are children of God redeemed from sin and death. Jesus freed the Gerasene demoniac from the mob of demons that bound him. We have our own issues that web us up and tie us down. Jesus furnishes spiritual freedom when we are willing to confront our shadow selves.

1The Book of Confessions, 5.033

2The Book of Confessions, 7.215

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Lift Off!

Lift Off!

Dr. Jon Burnham preached this sermon from Luke 7:36-8:3 on June 17, 2007 at Batesville Presbyterian Church

"Do you want to ride in my beautiful balloon? We can fly! We can fly!" We were flying high at the church this week in our Vacation Bible School. The ceiling of the Recreation Room wsa filled with rainbow colored hot air balloons the children made in their crafts class. The sanctuary was filled with cries of "Lift Off!" as the children sang the VBS theme song. "Soaring to new heights with God; everybody elevate up off the ground. Lift off!"

We want to soar in our spritual lives. We want to soar to new heights with God. We want to elevate up off the ground. Our scripture this morning teaches us how God's love will lift us up! Lift us a little bit higher. Jesus is the wind beneath our wings. The key to lift off is falling out of our ourselves and into God's love. Without the heavy baggage of our false selves, our true selves lift off. As Jesus said, "My yoke is easy and my burden is light." Jesus invites us into a relationship that will lift us up to God.

We need to be lifted up out of the bondage of our cultural conditioning. That was certainly true of the religious leader at whose home Jesus was eating. He went to the religious leader's house and sat down at the dinner table. Just then a woman of the village, the town harlot, having learned that Jesus was a guest in the home of the Pharisee, came with a bottle of very expensive perfume and stood at his feet, weeping, raining tears on his feet. Letting down her hair, she dried his feet, kissed them, and anointed them with the perfume. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, "If this man was the prophet I thought he was, he would have known what kind of woman this is who is falling all over him."

Then Jesus does something extraordinary. He says, "Simon, I have something to say to you." That sounds like such a simple thing but it is very profound when we reflect upon it. This shows us that Jesus wants to communicate with us. He calls us by name and he has something to say to us. This is a radical message indeed. Jesus wants to speak to us. He calls us by name. Jesus invites us into a relationship that will lift us up to God.

Of course we want to respond to Jesus' special invitation to us. Our story tells us how to respond to Jesus' invitation. We repond as did the religious leader, we say, "Teacher, speak." Jesus then tells a story that carries a heavy punch.

Jesus says, "Two men were in debt to a banker. One owed five hundred silver pieces, the other fifty. Neither of them could pay up, and so the banker canceled both debts. Which of the two would be more grateful?"

Simon answered, "I suppose the one who was forgiven the most."

"That's right," said Jesus. Then turning to the woman, but speaking to Simon, he said, "Do you see this woman? I came to your home; you provided no water for my feet, but she rained tears on my feet and dried them with her hair. You gave me no greeting, but from the time I arrived she hasn't quit kissing my feet. You provided nothing for freshening up, but she has soothed my feet with perfume. Impressive, isn't it? She was forgiven many, many sins, and so she is very, very grateful. If the forgiveness is minimal, the gratitude is minimal."

Then he spoke to her: "I forgive your sins."

That set the dinner guests talking behind his back: "Who does he think he is, forgiving sins!"

He ignored them and said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you. Go in peace." (The Message)

Your sins are forgiven. If Jesus could say that to a woman of ill repute, surely he says that to us as well. Without our sins, we soar to new heights with God. Lift off! Whenever we get serious about entering into a relationship with God, the Lord throws our sins overboard like a bunch of unnecessary sand bags and we soar up and away with Christ. Lift off!

And the fun thing is that we do not travel alone. There are other folks on this journey with us. Our story finds Jesus continuing according to plan, traveling to town after town, village after village, preaching God's kingdom, spreading the Message. The Twelve were with him. There were also some women in their company who had been healed of various evil afflictions and illnesses: Mary, the one called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out; Joanna, wife of Chuza, Herod's manager; and Susanna—along with many others who used their considerable means to provide for the company.

This is not merely an individual enterprise. We are called to support the community of Jesus which is the church. We are called to provide for the church out of our resources. (Luke 8:3) It is amazing what we can do as a Christian community when we provide for the church of our resources.

If you've read our church newsletter in the past few weeks you've seen lists of names of people who have been providing for Christ's church out of their resources. This week, once again, we have blessed by the gifts of many people. Thanks to all the volunteers who helped make our VBS a huge success this year! The list includes members and friends of the church.

Directors: Debi Honnoll, Teresa Brasell

Pres-school: Susan Hardy, Hunter Brock, Jade Henry, Brittany Long, Karlee Woods

Kindergarten: Cathryn McKee, Sarah Ashton Baker, Will Dickins, Ty Ferguson

1st & 2nd Grade: Beth Garner, Paulette Norman, Calvin Hawkins, Lindsey Henry, Jake Rogers

3rd & 4th Grade: Amanda Lee, Chris Cummins, Austin Smith

Recreation: Beth Honnoll, Beth Little, Michelle Mundroff, John Hendren, J.J. Kilpatrick

Decorations: Jana Burnham, Nicole Risner, Debi Honnoll, Teresa Brasell, Beth Garner, Paulette Norman, Andrew Garner, Rob Henry

Music: Susie Van Dyke, Mary Lynn Lewis, Emma Pittman

Bible Story: Fred Henry, Haley Williams, Scott Honnoll, Jon Burnham, Nicole Risner, Mary Lynn Lewis, Emma Pittman

Refreshments: Andrea Staten (Director), Susan Lewis, Christy Waldrup, Teresa Myers Suzan Graves, Brennan Baker, Jade Henry, Adam Cummins

Snack Providers: Christy Waldrup, Teresa Myers, Susan Lewis, Billie Garner, Meg Woods, Paulette Norman, Alison McCord, Mandy Henry, Sara Helen Ware, Connie Baker, Jake Kidder, Margaret Nix, Lucille Monk, Rita Herron, Rebecca Reed

DVD Operators: Brennan Baker, Adam Cummings

Stairmasters: Adam Cummins, Will Dickins, Levi Wilson

Assembly: Jade Henry, John Hendren

Crafts: Jana Burnham, Jennifer Burnham, Daniel Lightsey, Charley Ann Nix

As you can tell, we had a lot of support at Vacation Bible School. And that is merely the latest example of how we work together in Jesus' name. By working together and providing for the common good, we can soar to new heights with God. That was true of Jesus' original followers and it is true for us today. When we work together in the church we soar to new heights with God.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Conversion Community

Dr. Jon Burnham preached this sermon from Galatians 1:11-24 at Batesville Presbyterian Church on June 10, 2007

"Since my baby left me, I found a new place to dwell ... It's down at the end of Lonely Street, that Heartbreak Hotel ... I get so lonely baby, I get so lonely, I get so lonely I could cry." Elvis sang many gospel songs but this was not one of them. Yet, the theme of broken relationship is a valid Biblical theme. For Christianity is a relationship between God and people. Conversion is the key to both starting and continuing our relationship to God. So, I suppose we could say that the church is a conversion community.

Conversion is a word we don't hear too much about in the Presbyterian Church. We tend to think of conversion as a word that belongs in other churches who cajole people in the pews to walk down the aisle and profess their faith in Christ at the conclusion of a worship service. Although we do not ask people to respond to Christ by walking to the front of the sanctuary we do provide other opportunities to demonstrate our conversion to Christ. For instance, after the sermon we stand and confess our faith by saying the Apostle's Creed. Then we respond to Christ by giving our tithes and offerings to Christ's mission through the church when the ushers walk the aisles passing the plate. When we confess our faith and when we give our offerings, we are demonstrating our conversion to Christ every time we gather for worship. The very nature of our liturgy suggests that conversion is something more than a one time event. Conversion is a continuous part of our Christian journey.

Our understanding of conversion hinges on our interpretation of the conversion of the Apostle Paul as described in our text this morning and in other New Testament texts. Let's reconsider the story of Paul's experience on the road to Damascus. Paul, a Pharisee, was an activist for the Jewish faith to such an extent that he persecuted and tried to destroy the fragile Christian church of his day. But one day, as he was riding the road to Damascus, Paul was confronted by the risen Christ. Paul, whose name at this time was Saul, heard a voice from heaven saying, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?"

"Who are you?" Saul cried.

"I am Christ, whom you are persecuting," replied the unseen voice.

The voice from heaven was accompanied by a glaring light that left Saul blind for some days. This dramatic event led to such a significant change that Saul's name was changed to Paul to signify the new mission he had been given by the risen Christ. Paul would take the good news about Christ to the non-Jewish world. Paul would be the apostle to the Gentiles.

The event that we ordinarily think of as the conversion of Paul was more accurately God's calling of Paul to be an apostle to the Gentiles. Friends, Christ called Paul in a way that Christ does not call us. We all have a calling from Christ. Some of us are called to work with our minds and some of us are called to work with our hands but none of us are called to be an apostle to the Gentiles such as Paul. Paul's calling to be an apostle to the Gentiles was unique to Paul himself. So let's not confuse the Paul's calling with Paul's conversion.

It's hard to make a distinction between Paul's calling and Paul's conversion because they happened at the same time. Christian churches who emphasize walking forward at the conclusion of the worship service as a sign of your conversion tend to interpret the story of Paul's conversion as God's plan for us all. These churches tend to emphasize a one time emotional experience with Christ as a sign of true conversion. But I believe we can make a distinction between Paul's call and his conversion. That may come as a relief for us Presbyterians, for not many of us have undergone such a dramatic conversion experience as Paul had on the road to Damascus. Our conversion stories are more mundane. Some of us speak of having a mother or father who brought us to church when we were babies and had us baptized when we were too young to know it. Then at some point when we were older children or teenagers, we confirmed our faith in Christ. Our church provides for conversion by baptizing babies and confirming teen agers. The confirmation class gives us an opportunity to come out of the closet and publicly confess our faith in Jesus Christ. Ordinarily, that is how we Presbyterians express our conversion. Our way is not enough for some people but it works well enough for us. Some of us were reared in other faith traditions and professed our faith in Christ and were baptized when were older children or even adults. However we came to be in Christ's church, we are glad to be here now. As the song says, "Different strokes for different folks."

When we limit our conversion experience to baptism and confirmation, we tend to think of conversion in the past tense, as something we have already done. We have already been baptized. We have already been confirmed. Or, if we have joined this church as an adult, we have already reaffirmed our faith in Christ. All of these conversion experiences are in the past and we do not think of conversion in the present tense.

Yet conversion, as understood by Jesus, was always in the present tense. Now is the acceptable time of salvation. The Greek verb tenses that describe salvation or conversion in the New Testament are in the present tense. Jesus used the phrase "Kingdom of Heaven" interchangeably with the term "Kingdom of God." That phrase, kingdom of heaven, projects us into future tense because we think of heaven as a destination after we die. In reality, "Kingdom of Heaven" is a technical term Jesus employs to refer to a conversion experience that leads to a new way of being in the world. This conversion is available now. This moment and every moment we are to be converted to Christ.
Conversion is our choice and responsibility in every moment we live. Conversion is not a one time experience. Conversion means to change the direction in which we are seeking our happiness. We may be converted to Christ millions of time within our lifespan for each second is an opportunity to seek our happiness in God through Christ.

Conversion implies a change of perspective. This is clear in our text from Galatians. Note the stark contrast that occurs in verse 15. Verses 13–14 have Paul as their subject: "I was violently persecuting . . . I advanced . . . I was far more zealous . . ."  Verses 15–16, by sharp contrast,
begin with the action of God: God "who had set me apart before I was born and called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me. . . ." When God reveals Jesus Christ to Paul (Gal. 1:16), God does so, not to glorify Paul or allow Paul to wallow in that exalted experience, but to lay before Paul a commission. Paul is called to be an apostle to the Gentiles.

Based on his conversion experience, Paul understands transformation as vital for the Christian community. All Christians must be part of an evolving, transforming, redeeming community. So consider your church a conversion community. If your church is not converting you, perhaps you should examine your relationship to your church. The purpose of the church is to continually convert us to Christ. This is a scary way to think about the church because we fear change. Yet, change for the good or for the bad is inevitable. As Bob Dylan put it: "He who is not busy being born is busy dying." Conversion is a process of being busy being born. Conversion is a process of changing the direction in which we seek happiness. Conversion means turning away from our programs for self glorification. We exhaust ourselves seeking happiness in the false security that wealth provides, or wear ourselves out, as the song says: "Looking for love in all the wrong places." Christ invites us to take a break from running ourselves crazy looking for love in all the wrong places. Conversion means resting in Christ even while we are in motion. Christ invites us to be converted in every moment by turning away from our false selves and tuning in to our true selves.

I hope your church challenges you to change the direction in which you are searching for happiness for each church is called by God to act as a conversion community. If your church is not converting you, something may be wrong with the church or with you. If no one in your church feels they are being converted by your church, then the problem may lie with the church. If one or more people feel they are being converted by your church, but you feel you are not being converted by your church, perhaps the problem lays with you. Consider this question in thoughtful prayer and see how God may lead you and your church to become a more effective conversion community.

As the song says, "You better stop, listen, what's that sound? Everybody look what's goin' down." Evaluate the role of your church as a conversion community. Then ask yourself whether you are open to being continually converted by Christ. Each moment is another opportunity for conversion to Christ. To quote the Beatles famous song, "The long and winding road that leads to your door ..." And another Beatles song goes, "Somebody's knockin' at the door, somebody's ringing a bell; Somebody's knockin' on the door, somebody's ringing the bell, do me a favor, open the door and let them in." Let's do ourselves a favor. Even if we've been renting a cheap room in the Heartbreak Hotel, let's open the door to our heart and let Christ in.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Order of the Day

Dr. Jon Burnham preached this sermon from Romans 5:1-5 at Batesville Presbyterian Church on June 3, 2007

Martin Luther felt a keen attraction to the Biblical phrase "justified by faith." This is the phrase that started the Protestant Reformation. He meditated on that phrase and over time it started to speak to him. "Justified by faith" spoke to Martin Luther about how it is that human beings come to know God. Always before, Martin had been taught that the church is the vehicle for human salvation. We are saved by our relationship to our church. But now, this phrase, "justified by faith" was telling him something different.

We are justified by faith. In theological parlance, "justified" means to be put into right relationship with God. For too long, Martin had felt a sense of alienation from God and other humans. He had been taught the church could cure the itch he felt. The church could bridge the gap between him and God. This notion of the church's power led to great abuses of the church's power. Martin had seen the luxurious dwellings of the religious leaders in Rome. He had been to one of their lavish dinner parties. He had heard of their greed and he was afraid their greed had led them to establish the program that he felt was robbing the people of their money and their best chance for salvation. The new idea out of the church's headquarters was that the more money you gave to the church the better chance you had of freeing your dearly departed loved ones from the confines of purgatory or the fires of hell. Money could buy your salvation. That was the church's teaching about salvation. Martin felt uneasy about it. That phrase, "justified by faith" pointed him in a different direction.

"Justified by faith" would eventually lead Martin to post his 95 thesis on the door of the Whittenberg Cathedral. The thesis' were a list of everything Martin claimed was wrong with the church of his day. It was a very precise and detailed list. Martin's 95 thesis led eventually to Martin's being excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church and lit a fire that would eventually burn all over Europe. New churches would be established based on the groundwork Martin laid. The Lutheran Church in Germany would be named after Martin Luther himself. The Presbyterian Church in Scotland would arise from the Reformation. The Reformed Church in France and the Netherlands would emerge during the Reformation. Even the Church of England would trace it's root to that phrase "justified by faith."

"Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ ..." Our faith comes from God and leads us toward peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the bridge between God and humanity. Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, the life. We are not saved through the church. We are saved by faith through our Lord Jesus Christ. This simple idea that we take for granted changed the political and religious landscape of the world. Great suffering would come to the world through Martin's interpretation of that phrase, "justified by faith." Nation would rise up against nation. Protestant would fight Catholic. Catholic would hang Protestant. Protestant would burn Catholic at the stake. Religious warfare is not a pretty sight. Look at Iraq today and you will see a modern version of religious warfare. Shia bombs Sunni mosque. Sunni sends suicide bomber to blow up Shiite standing in line to get groceries. Religious warfare calls forth some of the most brutal violence humans can dish out.

Never think for one minute that the Bible is an impotent book. This book is not dead. It is very much alive. Fortunately, Christianity has passed through the moderating influence of the Age of Reason. We have learned to read and interpret our holy book with some measure of reason. We have learned to tolerate people who interpret the holy book differently than we do. So it is that America was established on the basis of freedom of religion. Our prayer is for our Muslim neighbors is that they too may experience the moderating influence of reason upon their religion. We cannot make this happen. We cannot force it to happen. This moderation must come from within not from without. We cannot bomb them into reason. It will not work. We must pray for our Muslim brothers and sisters and especially for the moderates within their ranks. They need courage to stand up to those who threaten to kill them if they speak their minds. It is not easy to speak up when speaking up means you may pay for what you say with your life.

Martin Luther had a choice. He could take back what he had written in his 95 thesis. He could say he was mistaken in his criticisms of the church. He could repent of what he said. Or he could die the death of a martyr or try to flee his country to save his life. Martin chose to flee his country and live to see another day. Over time his ideas took root. Changes began to occur in his society. People came over to his way of thinking. People began to protest against the church. That is where the name "Protestant" originated. This was a protest movement. The purpose of the protest was not just to complain. The purpose of the protest was to reform the church. This is the meaning of the term "Reformation." The people wanted to reform the church. They protested against the church in order to reform it. This was the intention of the Protestant Reformation.

Throughout the centuries from the Protestant Reformation until now, God has been working through the power of the Holy Spirit for the peace, unity and purity of the church. The recent PUP report at the last General Assembly was named PUP because it was tasked with coming up with a plan for the peace, unity and purity of the church. Throughout their months together, a theologically and politically diverse group, called the PUP Task Force, learned to listen to one another. Conservatives listened to liberals. Liberals heard conservatives. Over time they learned to respect one another even though they disagreed about some things. The gift the PUP Task Force gave the Presbyterian Church was not a report that was written on paper. They gave us the gift of demonstrating how the Holy Spirit can work within a diverse group of Christians in a way that makes them respect one another and listen to one another.

Respect for the other is what our world desperately needs today. We need respect in the Presbyterian Church's debate between liberals and conservatives. We need respect in the dialogue between Christians of different denominations. Presbyterians need to respect Baptists. Protestants need to respect Catholics. We need respect between Muslims and Muslims. Shiites need to respect Shia's. Sunni's need to respect Shiites. We need respect between Christians and Muslims; and between Muslims and Christians. Too much blood has been shed in the name of Christ and Mohammed. We pray that our human societies may move toward a time of renewed respect among people. This respect may only come when God's love has been poured into our hearts.

Every presbytery meeting has an agenda. The agenda begins with the opening prayer. It moves throughout the day with each different committee making their presentation at a certain time on the agenda. For instance, the Committee on Ministry may be scheduled to give their report at 11:30 A.M. The Missions Committee may be listed on the agenda for 3:00 P.M. But at each presbytery meeting, there is also what is known as the "order of the day." Often the order of the day is scheduled at 11:00 A.M. That means that 11:00 A.M. whoever is speaking will stop speaking. Whichever committee is reporting will conclude their report and sit down. Whatever is scheduled to occur at the order of the day takes precedence over everything else on the agenda at that specific time.

My modest proposal is that the order of the day for every religion in the world, and specifically for us, is respect. Now is the time for the order of the day. Now is the time for respect. If we do not honor the order of the day, all bets are off as to how this meeting will conclude. We are treading on dangerous, hallowed ground. Let us turn now to the order of the day. Respect. It may be the key to our salvation.