Daily Devotions

A Monks' Story

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The following story I have used in a number of sermons throughout the years. I found the story in a book entitled, The Art of Possibility, by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander.


A monastery has fallen on hard times. It was once part of a great order which, as a result of religious persecution in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, lost all its branches. It was decimated to the extent that there were only five monks left in the mother house: the Abbot and four others, all of whom were over seventy. Clearly it was a dying order.
Deep in the woods surrounding the monastery was a little hut that the Rabbi from a nearby town occasionally used for a hermitage. One day, it occurred to the Abbot to visit the hermitage to see if the Rabbi could offer any advice that might save the monastery. The Rabbi welcomed the Abbot and commiserated. "I know how it is," he said, "the spirit has gone out of people. Almost no one comes to the synagogue anymore." So the old Rabbi and the old Abbot wept together, and they read parts of the Torah and spoke quietly of deep things.
The time came when the Abbot had to leave. They embraced. "It has been wonderful being with you," said the Abbot, "but I have failed in my purpose for coming. Have you no piece of advice that might save the monastery?" "No, I am sorry," the Rabbi responded, "I have no advice to give. The only thing I can tell you is that the Messiah is one of you."
When the other monks heard the Rabbi's words, they wondered what possible significance they might have. "The Messiah is one of us? One of us, here, at the monastery? Do you suppose he meant the Abbot? Of course-it must be the Abbot, who has been our leader for so long. On the other hand, he might have meant Brother Thomas, who is certainly a holy man. Or could he have meant Brother Elrod, who is so crotchety? But then Elrod is very wise. Surely, he could not have meant Brother Phillip-he's too passive. But then, magically, he's always there when you need him. Of course he didn't mean me-yet supposing he did? Oh Lord, not me! I couldn't mean that much to you, could I?"
As they contemplated in this manner, the old monks began to treat each other with extraordinary respect, on the off chance that one of them might be the Messiah. And on the off off chance that each monk himself might be the Messiah, they began to treat themselves with extraordinary respect.
Because the forest in which it was situated was beautiful, people occasionally came to visit the monastery, to picnic or to wander along the old paths, most of which led to the dilapidated chapel. they sensed the aura of extraordinary respect that surrounded the five old monks, permeating the atmosphere. They began to come more frequently, bringing their friends, and their friends brought friends. Some of the younger men who came to visit began to engage in conversation with the monks. After a while, one asked if he might join. Then another, and another. Within a few years, the monastery became once again a thriving order, and-thanks to the Rabbi's gift-a vibrant, authentic community of light and love for the whole realm.

Prayerfully imagine a similar realization taking place at Westminster. It is worth praying for!

The 4th and Patriotism

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Before the age of 14, I was an Air Force brat, so patriotism was an important part of my upbringing. Yet, for my generation, patriotism was also a bit suspect. Watergate and the feeling of failure in Viet Nam had a huge impact on my early adolescence. Still, I appreciated being American, and the freedoms and opportunities it provides.
It was in Seminary that truly understood the gift it is to be an American. One of my Seminary roommates was an Anglican Priest from Uganda. Idi Amin ruled Uganda with horrendous brutality between 1971-1979. A number of my roommate's family members were murdered by Amin's army.
I watched my roommate innocently look upon American with a certain awe, marveling at the lack of fear, the freedom to travel, and the freedom to make simple decisions without concern for his life or the lives of others. Watching his appreciation for our country, helped me see with even greater clarity the blessings we experience every day as Americans.
We are not a perfect nation, but there is nowhere I would rather live and call my own. Amidst, confederate flag debates, Donald Trump's insensitive sound bites, and the nation's addiction to the Kardashians, we are still able to sing, America the Beautiful.
Pray for our nation on this Independence Day. Pray that our foreign policies will bring freedom to our world. Also, pray that each one of us will be grateful for the special gift of calling the United States of America our home.

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