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What Real Action?

“Loving God, thank you for your continual patience with me,” Disciplines 2019 has us pray on page 55. It goes on, “Help me to worship you with a joyful, undivided heart. Amen.”

Pop Quiz: Psalm 138 says, “I will praise you, Lord, with all my heart.” Is that true or false for you?

Don’t be too quick to answer…”with all my heart” has never been easy, and it’s getting more difficult in our constantly distracted, and distracting, culture.  A “joyful, undivided heart” is a rarity.

Going back to that same page 55 where we began today, here’s a succinctly piercing self-inventory for each one of us:

What real action

do you have to take

to make your worship experience

more personally meaningful?”

Again, don’t be too quick to answer. But do answer.

See you back here tomorrow.




269, 270, 273 or 280?

My favorite part of this whole thing: “The legends attributed to the mysterious saint are as inconsistent as the actual identification of the man.” And that’s from no less of an authoritative source than, which says —

Saint Valentine, officially known as Saint Valentine of Rome, is a third-century Roman saint widely celebrated on February 14 and commonly associated with “courtly love.”

Although not much of St. Valentine’s life is reliably known, and whether or not the stories involve two different saints by the same name is also not officially decided, it is highly agreed that St. Valentine was martyred and then buried on the Via Flaminia to the north of Rome.

In 1969, the Roman Catholic Church removed St. Valentine from the General Roman Calendar, because so little is known about him. However, the church still recognizes him as a saint, listing him in the February 14 spot of Roman Martyrolgy.

The legends attributed to the mysterious saint are as inconsistent as the actual identification of the man.

One common story about St. Valentine is that in one point of his life, as the former Bishop of Terni, Narnia and Amelia, he was on house arrest with Judge Asterius. While discussing religion and faith with the Judge, Valentine pledged the validity of Jesus. The judge immediately put Valentine and his faith to the test.

St. Valentine was presented with the judge’s blind daughter and told to restore her sight. If he succeeded, the judge vowed to do anything for Valentine. Placing his hands onto her eyes, Valentine restored the child’s vision.

Judge Asterius was humbled and obeyed Valentine’s requests. Asterius broke all the idols around his house, fasted for three days and became baptized, along with his family and entire 44 member household. The now faithful judge then freed all of his Christian inmates.

St. Valentine was later arrested again for continuing to try to convert people to Christianity. He was sent to Rome under the emperor Claudius Gothicus (Claudius II).

According to the popular hagiographical identity, and what is believed to be the first representation of St. Valentine, the Nuremberg Chronicle, St. Valentine was a Roman priest martyred during Claudius’ reign. The story tells that St. Valentine was imprisoned for marrying Christian couples and aiding Christians being persecuted by Claudius in Rome. Both acts were considered serious crimes. A relationship between the saint and emperor began to grow, until Valentine attempted to convince Claudius of Christianity. Claudius became raged and sentenced Valentine to death, commanding him to renounce his faith or be beaten with clubs and beheaded.

St. Valentine refused to renounce his faith and Christianity and was executed outside the Flaminian Gate on February 14, 269. However, other tales of St. Valentine’s life claim he was executed either in the year 269, 270, 273 or 280.

Other depictions of St. Valentine’s arrests tell that he secretly married couples so husbands wouldn’t have to go to war.

Another variation of the legend of St. Valentine says he refused to sacrifice to pagan gods, was imprisoned and while imprisoned he healed the jailer’s blind daughter. On the day of his execution, he left the girl a note signed, “Your Valentine.”

Pope Julius I is said to have built a church near Ponte Mole in his memory, which for a long time gave name to the gate now called Porta del Popolo, formerly, Porta Valetini.

The romantic nature of Valentine’s Day may have derived during the Middle Ages, when it was believed that birds paired couples in mid-February. According to English 18th-century antiquarians Alban Butler and Francis Douce, Valentine’s Day was most likely created to overpower the pagan holiday, Lupercalia.

Although the exact origin of the holiday is not widely agreed upon, it is widely recognized as a day for love, devotion and romance.

Whoever he was, Valentine did really exist, because archaeologists have unearthed a Roman catacomb and an ancient church dedicated to St. Valentine. In 496 AD Pope Gelasius marked February 14th as a celebration in honor of his martyrdom.

Relics of St. Valentine can be found all over the world. A flower-crowned skull of St. Valentine can be found in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, Rome. In 1836, other relics were exhumed from the catacombs of Saint Hippolytus on the Via Tiburtina and were identified as Valentine’s. These were transported for a special Mass dedicated to those young and in love.

Fr. John Spratt received a gift from Pope Gregory XVI in 1836 containing a “small vessel tinged” with St. Valentine’s blood. This gift now stands placed in Whitefriar Street Church in Dublin, Ireland.

Other alleged relics were found in Prague in the Church of St Peter and Paul at Vysehrad; in the parish church of St. Mary’s Assumption in Chelmno Poland; at the reliquary of Roquemaure in France; in the Stephansdom in Vienna; in Balzan in Malta and also in Blessed John Duns Scotus’ church in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, Scotland.

St. Valentine is the Patron Saint of affianced couples, bee keepers, engaged couples, epilepsy, fainting, greetings, happy marriages, love, lovers, plague, travelers, and young people. He is represented in pictures with birds and roses and his feast day is celebrated on February 14.

— Happy Valentine’s Day!

Surrounded & Sharpened

“It’s easier to make good choices when you surround yourself with good people,” says a character in episode 10 of season 4 of “Blindspot.”

As iron sharpens iron, says Proverbs 27:17so one person sharpens another.


You and I know too many examples of bad influence.

Maybe we’ve even BEEN those less-than-stellar people.

What’s one thing you could do to improve your ability to sharpen another today?

And who are a couple of people who could help you “make good choices” today? Might be a good time to reach out to them, even if it’s just to check in.


A Far More Relevant Church

I didn’t trip over his first sentence; some did, and rightly so.

“It’s not important for the church to be relevant. It is important for the church to be holy and wholly incarnate by being Jesus good, Jesus true and Jesus beautiful.”

Leonard Sweet wrote that and posted it publicly yesterday. I grabbed onto it and zoomed to the way he ended that thought.

“It’s not important for the church to be relevant” is not a call from him to seek irrelevancy.

Quite the contrary: he’s inviting us to “holy and wholly incarnate by being Jesus.”

And I immediately flash to Bill Mallard, another of my heroes from seminary days. (Ask me about him sometime; loved that guy, and have a letter from him that’s framed in my home office.) He taught us the importance of the Incarnation — or, as John 1:14 says, The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. That, and the crucifixion, death, and resurrection of Christ were among the chief tenets of the early Church.

Dr. Mallard would couple that with John 3:16God so loved all of creation, to stress how big and broad and complete is God’s grace.

Dr. Sweet weaves much of that together in calling us into being “holy and wholly incarnate by being Jesus good and Jesus true and Jesus beautiful.” He’d which he’d be the first to say that’s far more relevant than something like a screen in a sanctuary.

Your thoughts?

Jesus Good, True, and Beautiful

“It’s not important for the church to be relevant ,” writes none other than Leonard Sweet today.

But that bomb through the window isn’t where he stops.

“It is important for the church to be holy,” he continues, “and wholly incarnate by being Jesus good, Jesus true and Jesus beautiful.”

The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch, says Acts 11:26.

What’s it mean in our era, this year, today, to be “Jesus good” like Sweet writes?

What will we stop doing, and what will we start doing, to be “Jesus true” right now?

And dare we even consider what “Jesus beautiful” means now?

I look forward to hearing from you about this, and I’ll see you back here tomorrow.

Meanwhile, by the grace of God may it be said of us, “they’re called Christians.”

BONUS BLOG: Wintry Mix

Christ Jesus talked about a day like this.

Wintry Mix. Sounds so innocent. Maybe even kinda fun, like new flavor of ice cream. I’d like some peppermint in my Wintry Mix, please. In a waffle cone.

But this morning we’re having a Wintry Mix. And it’s definitely not fun, not even kinda.

This particular Wintry Mix brings with it such horribly flavored toppings like iced-over vehicles and driveways and streets and roads and parking lots.

It’s driven our church’s Official Storm Team (a/k/a Storm Troopers) to vote unanimously to cancel our Sunday morning activities. That’s never an easy decision; it’s one the four of us make only after several communications back and forth, and it’s well-fortified with numerous prayerful considerations. And I thank those other three people; they are greatly appreciated.

Christ Jesus talked about a day like this.


He didn’t say much about freezing rain, or snowplows, or ice melt, or anything like that.

But he did say, There’s a day coming when you will be scattered to your own homes. (John 16:32)

One of my favorite messed-up adaptations of Philippians 4:13 is, “I can do all things through a Bible verse ripped out of context.” With that in mind, let’s apply it to John 16:32.

Here we are, unable to gather as the church this morning. And it feels weird.

But it’s normal for way too many Christians, for any number of reasons. Maybe they have a lack of transportation. Or they’re dealing with illness or injury. Or their church has been forced underground by persecution. Or…. Or….

Days when you and I face nothing more than a Wintry Mix, we have nothing to complain about. But it’s so easy to fall into the ditch of those in Psalm 1:1 who do nothing but complain.

On this day of a Wintry Mix, when we’re scattered to (our) own homes, if I could assign homework, it’d be along these lines —

1. What does God promise us in Psalm 1?

2. What does Psalm 1 say we can do to enjoy what God promises us?

3. Let’s practice that. Flip over to the New Testament and Philippians 4:13 . What does it really say? (Hint: it’s not “I can do all things through a Bible verse ripped out of context.”)

4. Is Philippians 4:13 your own Affirmation of Faith today? Why or why not? Don’t be too quick with your answer. Serious stuff here.

5. What was going on in John 16 and neighboring chapters when Jesus warned us that There’s a day coming when you will be scattered to your own homes? (Hint: it had absolutely nothing to do with a literal Wintry Mix.) Warning: very serious stuff here.

6. Wrapping together Psalm 1 and Philippians 4:13 and John 16:13, so what? What’s God telling you today?

— I’d love to hear from you on this day of our Wintry Mix.

And if you’re a part of “Journey Church, a contemporary United Methodist congregation,” I sure do miss being with you today.




Why Are You So Happy in Two Places?

Jeanne Brown is a friend in real life and online; we met several years ago when I was appointed to pastor the church with whom she and her family are active. She recently wrote this and has graciously given me permission to share it with you here —

I was asked why I’m so happy when I’m singing in the choir and when I’m at church.

I now know the answer: “In those two places I am not judged and I am forgiven even when I make mistakes.

— Doesn’t get much better than being “not judged” and “forgiven even when I make mistakes.”

My hope and prayer for you is that you find just such a place among God’s people where you’re truly Welcomed Home.