Abraham and the Law of Distinction

“There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who believe there are two kinds of people and those who don’t.” –Robert Benchley

Hebrews 11:1-16; Genesis 12:1-9

Early 20th century humorist Robert Benchley once proposed what he called “The Law of Distinction,” which goes something like this: “There are two kinds of people in the world: those who believe there are two kinds of people and those who don’t.” I love how Benchley pokes fun at our human tendency to perceive the world in dichotomous, Manichean terms of black versus white, good versus evil, Republican versus Democrat, Beatles lovers versus Elvis lovers… Well, you get the picture.

We’re really good at putting ourselves and others into categories, often with disastrous results. We all know how “us versus them” thinking, based on false assumptions and stereotypes, can drive a wedge between people that can lead to anything from ridicule to outright warfare. We humans aren’t very good at this kind of categorizing because our knowledge and perception are so limited.

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Babel: Making a Name for Ourselves

The story of the Tower of Babel reminds us that we weren’t made for dominance and isolation, but to scatter God’s glory throughout creation.

Genesis 11:1-9

memorial_dayWell, this is Memorial Day Sunday, the day when we stop and remember those who have fallen in the service of our country. When I was a kid I remember my grandparents, who were teenagers during the war, calling it “Decoration Day.” We spent time on that Monday decorating graves of soldiers, but also of loved ones in the local cemetery. I have been privileged over the years to speak and to offer prayer at many Memorial Day ceremonies in cemeteries across the nation. It’s always a solemn and humbling event.

For most Americans, Memorial Day marks the traditional beginning of the summer and there are picnics to be had, meat to be grilled, and relaxing to be done. The events at the cemeteries are less attended, and many people have a vague understanding of what the day is really about. And yet, this is as important a day as we have on our calendar, for it causes us to remember the sacrifices of brave men and women. But in another way, it causes us to remember with deep reflection the reasons those sacrifices took place.

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Genesis 3: Up the Wrong Tree

Genesis 3

dogs barking up treeWhen I was a kid I used to spend part of every summer at the farm my uncle and aunt owned out in rural Western Pennsylvania. I usually went during the time to put up hay, especially because I was small enough to tuck the bales into the spaces at the top of the barn once we brought the wagon back in. Those were some great times – drinking ice cold whole milk straight from the dairy barn, riding the tractors, and taking a dip in the river when it got too hot.

My cousins liked an evening activity that I never quite understood, however, and that was hunting raccoons at night. If you’ve never been part of this activity, let me describe it to you succinctly—you run at top speed, chasing a barking dog through the woods while shining a flashlight until the dog stops at a tree and barks madly into the darkness where you see…nothing. We never bagged one. In fact, I’m certain I never saw a raccoon on those hunts (and I’m not sure to this day why we were hunting them in the first place, or what we would have done had we shot one). It was great fun for my country cousins, though, and completely pointless to me! Those dumb dogs were constantly barking up the wrong tree, and I think about those nights running through the woods every time someone uses that familiar idiom to describe a fruitless search.

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Genesis 2: The Sequel

Genesis 2 tells us who we are and invites us to turn our lives toward “A New Hope.”

Genesis 2

May the Fourth Be With You…

Well, Sunday was  May 4, a date that has now become an unofficial holiday for Star Wars fans because we can utter the greeting, “May the Fourth Be With You!” (and Methodists everywhere respond, “And also with you!”) I’ve loved these movies (well the first three anyway) since I was a kid. I’ll never forget sitting in the theater as a 13 year-old and seeing that opening scene for the first time. Here it is:

When the Star Destroyer appears and we get that whole idea of its hugeness, you could hear the audience gasp in unison.The effects were unlike anything ever seen in the movies at the time. You felt like you were part of it. I liked it so much that I saw it seven times in the theater!

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Creation: God Builds a Temple

First in the series “Beginnings: The Story of Genesis.”

Genesis 1:1-2:3

bill-nye-the-science-guyYou may have seen this debate a few weeks ago between Bill Nye (The Science Guy) and Ken Ham the director of the Creation Museum in Kentucky concerning the origins of the universe. If you didn’t see it, as I didn’t, that’s ok—debates like this have been going on for decades, even in traffic. All you need to do is drive around and you’ll see Christian fishes vs. Darwin fishes with legs.

And the root of this debate actually comes back to the Bible and the story we’re going to be looking at over the next several weeks. The book of Genesis offers us a story, as many Christians would claim, on how the world came to be. Science, of course, claims to offer a different understanding of how the world came to be. The conflict, as many people see it, is between the natural and the supernatural, the empirical vs. the certainty of faith.

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