Peace through restitution

The US Government has a fund that it calls “the Conscience Fund,” made up of anonymous contributions sent in by people whose consciences are troubled by things they should have paid for but didn’t. They also keep the letters, like the one that said “I am sending ten dollars for blankets I stole while in World War II. My mind could not rest. Sorry I’m late.” It was signed: an ex-GI. And there was this postscript: “I want to be ready to meet with God.” A similar thing happened in Australia following the Billy Graham Crusades. Government departments received a flood of anonymous payments for everything from undeclared income tax to unpaid train fares.
It reminds us that Jesus said if you want to be at peace with God, put things right with your fellow human beings first. Repentance and restitution are the only things that bring peace to a troubled conscience.

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Bad luck

There was a time when people thought that to get out of bed on the left side was to open oneself to evil spirits. That’s why we talk about somebody in a foul temper having got out of bed on the wrong side. And medieval theologians argued that since a ladder leaning against a wall forms a triangle, and a triangle is a symbol of the Holy Trinity, anyone who carelessly walks through this mystical space is risking divine wrath. That led to the custom of making condemned prisoners walk under the ladder that led up to the gallows. It became a self-fulfilling prophecy of bad luck.
However, God’s displeasure does not come from random acts outside of us, but from calculated attitudes within us. “What does the Lord require of you,” the Bible says, “But to act justly, to love mercy, and walk humbly with Him.”

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It’s easier with the devil

The Red Devil Tool Company of Union, New Jersey has as its slogan, “It’s easy with the devil;” meaning, of course, that their tools make difficult tasks easier. It’s a light-hearted play on a theme that’s as old as humankind: life’s easier with the devil. Or perhaps to put it in a more modern way, stop worrying about whether there’s a God and the high moral and ethical standards of the Bible, and your life will be so much easier. Even the Bible itself talks about “the pleasures of sin;” however we should note that it goes on to add, “Which are for a season.” As responsible parents, we go to great lengths to teach our children that the easy way is usually not the best way and that delayed, rather than instantaneous, gratification is one of the marks of maturity.
It is “easy with the devil,” – but only up to a point.

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Remember to forget

Immanuel Kant was one of the greatest European philosophers. Yet even his brilliant mind found it hard to cope with the reality of human shortcomings. There’s a wistful line in his journal which simply said, ‘Remember to forget Lampe.’ Lampe was his manservant who had been with him for decades and the old philosopher had come to depend on him. But then he discovered Lampe had been systematically robbing him for years, and so he dismissed him. But despite this, he missed his old companion and couldn’t bear the thought of his betrayal; hence his journal entry, Remember to forget Lampe.’
There are times when we also need to remember to forget; particularly when we are being eaten up inside by what someone has done to us. It’s not easy to do and we often need a strength beyond our own. Jesus said you’ll get it if you ‘pray for those who treat you badly.’

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Alive in our hearts

Anna Pavlova was probably the greatest ballerina of all time. But her most memorable performance took place after her death. She was to play the role she made famous, the Dying Swan, at the Apollo Theatre in London. Tragically, she caught pneumonia and died two days before the event. However, on opening night, a packed house watched the curtain rise and a spotlight bathe the stage in a pool of light where Anna should have been. And, as the light danced and the orchestra played, they could still see her, and when the music stopped, they gave her her greatest ovation ever. An empty stage with only a spotlight, but in their hearts she was alive.
It reminds me that for people of faith, the remembrance of Jesus Christ is all that and more. He said, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am.”

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But on a day like this!

The account of how Jesus appeared to two disciples on the lonely road to Emmaus is one of the most poignant stories in the Bible, and reminds us of the Easter message that no matter who we are or what lonely path we tread, there is always a presence waiting to join us. The poet Fay Inchfawn expressed it like this:
When days are short and nights are long;
when wash-day brings so dull a sky
that not single thing will dry.
And when the kitchen chimney smokes,
and when there’s naught so queer as folks!
When friends deplore my faded youth,
and when the baby cuts a tooth.
While John, the baby last but one,
clings round my skirts till day is done;
and fat, good-tempered Jane is glum,
and butcher’s man forgets to come.
Sometimes I say on days like these,
I get a sudden gleam of bliss.
Not on some sunny day of ease,
He’ll come …. but on a day like this!

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“No matter how hard they try, they can’t get rid of the Cross!”

During those dark years when atheistic Communism dominated East Germany, there was a symbol which brought hope and comfort to many who had refused to abandon their faith. It was a huge TV tower built to broadcast atheistic propaganda. Near the top was a globe-shaped restaurant. The remarkable thing was that the sunlight always reflected off the globe in the shape of a cross. The authorities tried everything they could think of to prevent this optical phenomenon but nothing worked. One Christian pastor commented wryly, “No matter how hard they try, they can’t get rid of the Cross!”
Well, European Communism is now dead, but the message of the Cross, that ‘God so loved the world that he gave his only son,’ lives on, and will forever; just as those who believe in Jesus will live forever.

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