The strong wind gusts on the first Sunday afternoon of this month remind me that March is a restless time. Many of our familiar clichés and quotes about March confirm the unsettled nature of this, the third month on our calendars.
The time-honored adage, “in like a lion, and out like a lamb,” describes the dramatic changes we might expect in the weather.
Shakespeare’s admonition to Julius Caesar, “Beware the ides of March,” signals a foreboding feeling.
“As wild as a March hare” implies that even rabbits are more impetuous during these thirty-one days.
Maybe the humorous poet Ogden Nash put it best:
Indoors or out, no one relaxes In March, that month of wind and taxes, The wind will presently disappear, The taxes last us all the year.
In March, cabin fever gives way to spring fever. The winter has kept us more confined than we like, with much of January and February being spent on the inside looking out. While winter has not entirely left us, all around are signs of the hope of spring. School children, still bundled against the biting wind, fly kites in open fields.
Emily Dickinson wrote in one of her sonnets,
A little Madness in the Spring Is wholesome even for a King.
Spring-cleaning, which goes much deeper than the ordinary, is one example of wholesome madness. Most homemakers have a moment, often in the spring, when an impulse to tidy up seizes them. The urge takes them from the ceiling to the floor and from the back of closets and cabinets to the far reaches of basement and attic. It is a particularly virulent form of spring fever that can become confounding and even annoying to those not afflicted with the malady.
What is worse is when the spring-cleaning madness, though wholesome in its outcome, works at cross-purposes with March Madness of the basketball variety. Many a couch potato has been rousted from comfort by a renegade vacuum cleaner, intruding into the line of vision during the final seconds of an overtime game.
Basketball has the sports spotlight for the month of March. The National Collegiate Athletic Association showcases conference tournaments, closely followed by The Big Dance, the NCAA basketball tournament. Read more…
It has been a cold winter here in the southern clime. Temperatures in the single digits have registered on my barn thermometer several mornings. One or two encounters with snow and ice added to the dramatic reminder of just how severe winter can be. Even in the face of a polar vortex though, I noticed green shoots emerging from the earth. On the day of the heaviest snowfall this year I saw a single yellow daffodil in bloom.
While another wintery blast or two will surely come our way, the warmer days last week brought a hint of spring to the Upstate. The Eastern bluebirds are searching for a place to nest. Before long purple martin scouts will arrive to find a place to stay until fall. After a gentle rain last week at least five robins plucked earthworms from our yard. Male goldfinches are turning from their winter olive drab to the bright yellow feathers that give them their name. Clare has already seen a hummingbird near the kitchen window. The birds know that spring is in the air! Read more…
Sermon: The Life of Jesus: The Prayer Life of Jesus Text: Mark 1:29-37
Today in our series The Life of Jesus, we will focus on the prayer life of our Lord and Savior by considering Mark 1:29-37:
29 As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. 30 Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they immediately told Jesus about her. 31 So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them.
32 That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed.33 The whole town gathered at the door, 34 and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was.
35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. 36 Simon and his companions went to look for him, 37 and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!”
In Mark 1 we read that Jesus had a busy day on this Sabbath. He had taught in the synagogue, then afterwards gone to that home-away-from-home in Capernaum, the home of Simon Peter. There he healed Peter’s mother-in-law who was ill. Later that night after sundown the entire town came to this home, wanting to hear the teachings of Jesus. They also begged Jesus to heal them of their illnesses. Can you imagine how long it took Jesus to work through that crowd? In Verse 35 we read that early the next morning, before daylight, he got up and went out to a lonely place to pray.
We see prayer as an integral part of our Lord’s life. From the very beginning of his ministry – beginning with his baptism and continuing to the very end of his life – we are told that Jesus prayed. The Father had many things He wanted His son to know, especially during that last week of his life. When everyone else was against him, Jesus’ Father in heaven wanted him to know the sure and steadfast promise, “I will never leave you, and I will never forsake you.” I would submit to you that if prayer was that important to our Lord Jesus, it ought to be a central part of our lives as well. Read more…
Today in our series The Life of Jesus, we want to consider the relationship Jesus had with his disciples. In the days of Jesus a religious teacher, known as a rabbi, was expected to have followers who willingly learned from him. It was only natural, therefore, that early in his ministry Jesus would call disciples. The account in Mark’s Gospel records the simplest invitation Jesus offered: “Follow me.”
16 As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 17 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 18 At once they left their nets and followed him.
19 When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. 20 Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.
The relationship between Jesus and his followers, which began in a simple fishing village by the Sea of Galilee, has spread throughout the entire world. The amazing fact is that those first few disciples – fishermen, either casting a net into the lake or mending nets in their boats – accomplished that huge impact.
Recently archeologists have found a boat dating from the first century. It consists of seventeen different types of wood. The builders did not originally construct the vessel with that many kinds of wood. Instead, archeologists confirmed that it had been mended many times with whatever wood was available. These first disciples of Jesus used that same sort of patched boat in their fishing business.
Jesus saw these men that he wanted as disciples – Simon, Andrew, James, and John – and called them by simply saying, “Follow me.” Scripture says they obeyed Jesus and immediately left their nets and boats. In doing so, they were giving up not only their lifestyle; they were also giving up their livelihood. James and John actually left their father standing in the boat. I can only imagine what Zebedee’s reaction was when his sons, partners in the family fishing business, left him with the hired men. According to the Synoptic Gospels – Matthew, Mark, and Luke – these four men were the first disciples of Jesus. Read more…
The ushers at the church I serve have become for me a network of valuable information. Frank Ezell, an avid railroad enthusiast, keeps me current on the latest news from Magnolia Station. Jim Barbee, a true blue University of North Carolina Tar Heel, gives me a regular report on the Atlantic Coast Conference basketball news. Tom Badger is my most reliable informant when it comes to the world of bluebirds.
Several years ago Tom and I had a lengthy conversation before the service about the possibility of a bluebird trail along a back entry to the church property. Within two weeks Tom had placed a dozen or so bluebird boxes mounted on galvanized pipe around the perimeter of the church property. Tom keeps the houses in good repair and ready for occupancy in the spring each year.
Several weeks ago, before the big snowfall, I received a phone call from Herman Whitaker. Herman, an Inman resident, is known by many as the Bluebird Man. For more years than I can count, Herman has been giving away bluebird houses. He, too, mounts the boxes on galvanized pipe.
Herman makes an agreement with the recipients of his craft that they will clean the houses out in late winter. Herman says he has placed more than 350 nesting boxes. Read more…
Most of his contemporaries agreed that George Washington was the right person to lead the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. He became the consensus choice to serve as the first President of the United States. James Thomas Flexner won the National Book Award in Biography and a special Pulitzer Prize for his four-volume biography of George Washington, published between 1965 and 1972. In 1974 Flexner wrote a one-volume abridgment entitled Washington: the Indispensable Man.
As a military leader during the French and Indian War, Colonel George Washington demonstrated the toughness of a frontiersman. Washington proved trustworthy in battle, and those under his command admired his bravery. Washington repeatedly exposed himself to danger in order to protect his own soldiers. After an intense engagement Washington emerged unharmed but with four bullet holes in his uniform. Read more…
Our text for this morning comes from Mark 3:
20 Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. 21 When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”
22 And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebub! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.”
31 Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. 32 A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.”
33 “Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked.
34 Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”
We continue our series The Life of Jesus today as we consider Jesus and his family. I want to encourage you to keep your Bible open, as we will not stick with one text. Instead, we will move through all four Gospels.
Several years ago I was invited to assist Benny Littlejohn in the funeral for his grandmother Hazel Littlejohn. I walked into Greenlawn Chapel a little early and saw Judge Bruce Littlejohn who had already arrived. The Littlejohns and the Neelys have a lot in common. Both families are quite large. I sometimes tell people that we are like wild onions with too many to get rid of and too many to count. To this day I still have not sorted out all of the Littlejohns.
I said, “Bruce, I didn’t know that you were kin to Hazel.”
He answered, “Oh, yes. I’m kin to her.”
“Tell me how you’re related.”
He explained, “I’m her fifth cousin twice removed.”
I laughed, “Bruce, that’s almost no kin at all!”
He quipped, “Kirk, when you’re in politics, you’re kin to everybody.”
Have you ever thought about Jesus and his relationship with his family? Read more…