Wednesday, 25 February 2009

"When Success Is Failure"

Orange Standard Article 3 ~ February 2009

Jesus told a parable:
"...a rich man's farmland produced heavy crops ... he said, Soul you have plenty of goods ... Eat, drink and have a good time. But God said to him. You fool this very night you will be asked for your soul. Then who is going to possess all that you have prepared. This is what happens to the man who hoards things for himself and is not rich where God is concerned" (Luke 12: 13-20)

The success story is always interesting! Local boy makes good has its appeal for it excites, stimulates, as it gives hope to the aspirant whose dream of emulating a star in sport, music, art and business is fired up with what they have achieved.

This story of Jesus was of success without a happy ending. The man had his priorities wrong. It is an unusual story for Jesus who was always slow to condemn. He often found reason to treat gently those likely to be treated harshly. He was quick to aid the ill regarded and devalued. He loved children and their distinctive actions and reactions were used to teach necessary lessons to adults.

A man of the people he chose working men to be his disciples and close companions in His ministry. He recognised qualities in them needed to make people aware of the plan and purpose of God for mankind. He set standards for them and valued their successes as His representatives in their work and witness for Him.

Success to them and the man of the parable was very different. He had a bumper harvest and thought of building bigger barns in expectancy of continuing good fortune. He must have impressed others by his hard work and the gain from it. But to God he was a fool and his folly was that he had a wrong view of life and its purpose. He valued it by possessions, and regardless of what he had been taught about God and the much greater benefits that come by faith in Him. He was broadly minded and Soul absent-minded.

His thinking is so much that of the great number of people today that this story has permanence, or continuous relevance.

It is the reason why the Gospel must be preached so that people hear of the provision God has made for them in Jesus Christ, His person and work, and what His life, death and resurrection means for humanity.

There is the thought in a little prayer of St Augustine, "Thou, O God, hast made us for thyself and we cannot rest until we rest in Thee."

Rev. Canon Dr. S.E. Long

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Retired rector’s 40th clerical union paper

Canon Ernest Long read his 40th paper to the Lurgan Clerical Union (LCU) on 4th December, in Donaghcloney church hall, Diocese of Dromore. The LCU is the clerical society for Dromore Diocese. Canon Long’s papers over many years have been on a multiplicity of subjects and many were published in magazines, newspapers, pamphlets and books.

Monday, 16 February 2009

The Legend Of The Wisemen

Orange Standard Article 3 ~ December 2008

"After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked 'Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh." Matthew 2: 1 and 11.

The most mysterious figures in the Christmas story are the Magi who came, guided by a star, to the stable of the Bethlehem inn just after Jesus was born to see Him in the straw of his crude cradle.

The New Testament writers do not tell us who they were or even how many there were of them. Tradition says that there were three wise men, so called because they were among the most learned of their day. A time when there was an expectancy of the coming of a great king who would bring peace and prosperity to a troubled world. And Judaea was to be the place of his appearing.

Wisemen or kings? According to "The Lost Chronicles of Sufi Abbas", the astrologer of Carmena, the three were kings. Marco Polo found the papers and lost them but he talked of their contents to his daughters Fantina, Bellela and Moreta, and named the kings and described their appearances:

Gaspar of Tarshish, young, tall, straight and black.

Balthazar of Chaldea, middle-aged, medium height and brown.

Melchior of Nubia, old, short, bent and white.

The girls each had her own remembrance and valuation on the Chronicles. Fantina explained that shortly after the kings began their journey led by the star they were in trouble for Gaspar's camel had trod on a viper and died. Young and strong he urged the other two to go on and he would catch up with them. Traveling a short distance the two lost sight of the star. They turned back to link up with Gaspar again and to tell him that the star was gone. He listened and pointed, "But look there it is."

The moral of Fantina's story is that those who follow the star must share with each other their joys and sorrows, privileges and responsibilities. The selfish always lose the heavenly vision.

Bellela told that when the kings rested on their journey they wondered about the one to whom the star was leading them. They agreed that he would be kingly, grand and wise. They disagreed on his appearance; each favoured his own colour for him. They quarrelled and lost sight of the star when they separated to go their own way. Disappointed they came together and the star was there again.

The moral of Bellela's story is that nothing should be allowed to separate people from one another. They need one another, for no one lives by himself alone.

Moreta said that as the kings were different they differed in their expectation of the one they would see at journey's end.

Gaspar looked for a great king and he took with him his tribute of gold, the proper gift for a king.

Balthazar hoped for a god and he brought incense for his worship. Melchior longed for a Saviour who would save him from his sins and his gift was myrrh for him who would sacrifice himself even to death for him.

Myrrh for embalming.

A king! Jesus, the King of Kings, came to reign in the hearts and minds and by the wills and actions of those who committed themselves to Him.

A god! Incense was used by the priest in the worship of the Temple. The Latin word for priest is pontifex, bridge builder. His task was to help people to turn to God. Jesus is the great high priest who brought God and people into a relationship when by their faith in Him they were called the people of God.

A Saviour! Myrrh was used to embalm the bodies of the dead. Holman Hunt's famous painting shows Jesus at the door of the carpenter's shop at Nazareth. He stands arms outstretched and the sunlight casts a shadow on the wall behind him. It is of a cross. Jesus died on the Cross. "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin, and live to righteousness: By his wounds you have been healed." 1 Peter 2:24.

The moral of Moreta's story of the wisemen is that everyone can get what he needs by his faith in Jesus Christ.

The insights from the three accounts are that people should be unselfish, kind to one another, not self indulgent; they should not let disagreements separate them, for divisions are weakening and defeating; and they can have their every need met in Christ.

Rev. Canon Dr. S.E. Long
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