Thursday, September 6, 2018

Nostalgic Requiem

Memory eternal:  Daniel "Dano" Everett (April 23, 1957-July 13, 2018)

I honestly don't know why Dano's death has hit me so hard.  I had lost contact with him years ago, and efforts to reestablish contact 2 years ago were unsuccessful.  And truthfully, we only knew each other for a few weeks, albeit through the bond of long distance (through) hiking.

Perhaps it was because of those few weeks.  We saw eye to eye on a great many things.  We also disagreed on quite a few things.  We had many great  discussions "after hours" - that is, upon ending the day and setting up camp, eating, gathering water, etc.  in preparation for the next day of hiking along the Pacific Crest Trail.  We were both on it long before it became the "popular" thing to do.  And perhaps it is my nostalgia for hiking and the outdoors(something I'm not likely to be able to do much of these days) that is at the heart of why this hits me so hard, despite that I never knew him all that long.

Yet unlike today's society, I quickly learned that while we disagreed on some rather fundamental and serious things, he was not one who would simply abandon you merely because you and he disagreed on some particular point.  Oddly enough, I only remember those disagreements from my own trail log of those days.  He actually seemed to value dissenting opinion or contrary points of view.  Not knowing him since, I cannot comment on whether this trait continued, but from the few things I read, it sure seemed that it did.

And honestly, as I reflect on my trail log from those weeks in September of 1988, the positives far outweighed our "disagreements" anyhow.  I think of the layover at White Pass Washington, where we were sitting in a small cafe waiting out a minor storm, in order to head back onto the trail.  I recall our discussion there (see below), and how we eventually "saved" the store and Post Office when a blower unit on the back of the store caught fire and he and I ended up putting the fire out before it did any real damage.

I remember the day shortly after we first met, where he offered to take a photo of me with the northern peaks in the background (the lead photo here was of Dano, and the next on the roll from that day), and what eventually led to a couple of weeks of hiking and camping together, until the weather forced me to make a decision to end my hike (a decision I've regretted most of my life since).  I remember how outgoing he always was, and how he always found a reason to smile and laugh.

I remember how we disagreed on matters of religion and faith.  Granted, at that age, I was a spiritual infant, with he not far behind me in that arena.  I often found myself in the years since, wondering how his views may or may not have evolved or changed, and given that I am a pastor today, look at his death now from one standpoint:  Had he come to know who Jesus truly was?  Truthfully, having not stayed in contact these past 30 years means I know little to nothing about him, in reality, outside of his somewhat hermit-like existence in Alaska, that he made a conscious choice not to battle cancer a second time, and that he continued to love the outdoors, as I do. 

I know little else, but that he and I were quite alike in many ways.  In fact, much of what I remember comes straight from the trail log from that summer, which jars and stirs my memory back to those days.   Here is one such entry from our resupply and layover at White Pass, Washington:  "Dano was trying to write a letter to someone, but he had nothing to say.  He didn’t want to write pages on end of the “physical experiences,” and didn’t write of the other experiences because no one understands those.  Most people only want to hear about the physical side of it, like slide shows, etc...  I thought a lot about that and we talked about it too.  Most of this hike will remain forever unknown to most people.  I realized that the mental and spiritual experiences are by far the biggest..."   (PCT Journal, September 7/Day 136 1988)

It is that spiritual experience of seeing God's handiwork and creation that in part leads me to do what I do today.  So perhaps as I always do at the death of anyone and appeal to the mercy of Almighty God on their behalf, I say "good bye my old friend."  Rest eternal grant him, O LORD, and may perpetual light shine upon him.  Amen.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Independence Day

No disrespect to Woodie Guthrie: he had no clue what he was talking about.  And he was flat out wrong.

This 4th of July began as they have for the past several years with our annual breakfast run:  The largest we've had with 14 bikes, 2 cars, and 22 people.  Today turned out to be a warm day.  An hour ride to Kearney, breakfast called ahead to accommodate the large number, and by 11 we were on our way north out of town to continue with a ride around the countryside.

It was that ride that stands out the most.  The sun was shining, and the sights and smells of the Nebraska Countryside rolled on by.  Cornfields, soybeans, hay, alfalfa, interspersed with the occasional farmstead, the rolling hills of prairie and forest, were remarkable.  A ride in the wide open rolling expanse of the sandhills culminated the after-breakfast ride, and it hit me like a thunderbolt:  This land is bigger than you or me.  It's high time we begin to recognize that it exists and will persist, despite our ingenuity or our flaws, of which we've had plenty of both throughout our brief history among the nations.

These days we want to make it all about us.  Often it's about us vs. them.  Yes, we are more divided than ever.  And yet the land itself - the very creation we are called to tend - dwarfs the problems and divisions, which are really nothing new.  This persistent error that the land was made for you and I is part of the attitude that lends itself to these divisions.  The sense of entitlement - or ownership - contributes to it.

Maybe America needs to to take a collective motorcycle ride across the vast expanses of this great nation, and see the beauty of it all.  Passing those out riding - none of whom I likely even had ever met before - and giving the hand down signal of the brotherhood of two wheeled riders, to me united us not because of what we rode, but because of what we were riding through.

Oddly enough it was the words to another song that kept playing through my head while riding today.  This song almost became the nation's anthem.  It acknowledges our flaws, all the while celebrating the good that ultimately can come from those who recognize the stewardship and care that God has given us over a land bigger than all of us, and a land that was never ours to begin with. 

Bates' lyrics really do lend itself to the blueprint of this country:  a blueprint we are rapidly forgetting.

O beautiful for spacious skies, For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties Above the fruited plain!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for pilgrim feet, Whose stern, impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat Across the wilderness!
America! America! God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

O beautiful for heroes proved In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved And mercy more than life!
America! America! May God thy gold refine,
Till all success be nobleness,
And every gain divine!

O beautiful for patriot dream That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam Undimmed by human tears!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

May we never forget the creator of all things, for as President Ronald Reagan once said, when we cease being one nation under God, we will be a nation gone under.

Monday, April 16, 2018

An Unglorious Death

America is now a culture of death.  We are as upside down and sideways as ever, when it comes to the respect for life.  The same is true when it comes to any sense of virtue or morality:  James Comey (the now disgraced/fired head of the FBI), who is clearly a man of questionable moral character, accuses the current president (also a man of questionable moral character) of being unfit for the job, all the while being in a slobbering love affair with a woman of questionable moral character who once ran for the same job.  The complete loss of virtue and morality in this nation (and the world) has led to this culture of death.  We are infatuated with everything wrong, bad, and just plain evil, which would include death, no matter how one wants to approach the topic.

While not specifically American, we see the world following suit in this recent report on a fashion show in which the models carried replicas of their own severed heads down the runway.  I don't even know where to begin on just how sick and twisted that is.  We glorify and glamorize death at every turn (often couched in the language of individual choice), and then have the audacity to react in horror at the latest school shooting or mass murder.  The gory-er and sicker a movie or TV show is, the more it is viewed, it would seem.  We portray death as grotesquely and vividly as possible at every turn, and then wonder why people solve their problems by killing those with whom they disagree.

It was not always this way, either here at home or abroad.  Yes, I know there has always been sin, evil, and death (murder) in our world.  But yet the cultures of the world didn't always glamorize these things the way we do today.  Life was a cherished possession.  Death was seen as that which was the natural outcome of life.  It was neither glamorized nor feared.  For a long time, it seemed that much of the civilized world took Luther's Small Catechism seriously:  "We should fear and love God so that we may not hurt or harm our neighbor in his body, but help and befriend him in every need and danger of life and body."  Death was also seen as the gateway to eternal life, with implicit trust in the salvation through Christ in the Christianized world.  Or as the late Rev. Dr. Billy Graham is rumored to have said, "Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God."

Theologically, no one has the right to rob another of their life.  Remember the 5th commandment?  (Or 6th if you are a Roman Catholic...)  It's all a part of that lost virtue and morality that is so absent from many corners of our society today.  Yet because of evil in our world, murder happens all the time.  Sometimes we are left only with the option of "kill or be killed," as in the case of warfare.  This speaks to the depravity of the human condition (and the need for the messiah, to point us toward our current church season of Easter).  But we have so mainstreamed death, and especially the robbing of another's right to life, that we glamorize it as entertainment, and react in horror to it when it happens a little too close to home.

It is, however, one of the few real certainties of life.  Everything dies.  Everyone dies.  We chronicled a number of "ordinary" saints throughout Lent this past Lenten season, and in a good many cases, they were robbed of their life as they were martyred for their beliefs.  One of the more gruesome accounts was that of Saints Perpetua and Felicity:  two women who were recent converts to Christianity in a time when it was illegal, and were executed in most brutal fashion, in 203 AD.  Legend has it that Perpetua's final executioner was so moved by her resolve to die, rather than renounce her faith, that his hand trembled and he missed in his first attempt at piercing her through.  This led to her guiding his sword to her neck, enabling him to finish the job he'd been called to do:  to rob her of her life, all because she was Christian.

It was not the brutality of their death, but it was the hope that they maintained leading up to it.  We could also look to the more recent example of the Coptic martyrs, who while their own heads were being severed from their bodies, were praying that Jesus receive them into the kingdom of heaven:  expressing implicit trust in salvation through Christ alone.  It is remarkable that the 21st martyr was a man who was only Christian upon seeing the resolve of the others' faith, NOT in calling for death to their enemies, but in practicing the morality and virtue of the Christian faith that is so lacking in the world today.  There is no glory in death, outside of a hope in something beyond death.  This means that there is no glory in death outside of Christ, who smashes death on our behalf.

Yes, death is rather unglorious.  There is nothing that should attract us to it, nor should we celebrate or glamorize it.  We should see it for what it is:  an end to this life on earth.  And if we have any desire to make it glorious at all, it can only come through a hope in something that lies beyond death:  that thing we call "heaven."  And heaven is not obtained by the individual in the murder of those with whom they disagree.  Heaven comes only through the one who differs from all others, in dying an undeserved and especially unglorious death, all for the sake of others, and then destroying death's hold by rising from it.  If you want to know which religion is the only one in which God does something about death for us, it is the religion that expresses faith in Jesus the Christ.

Don't glamorize death.  Don't seek it either for yourself or for others.  Don't become numb to it through a loss of any sense of morality or virtue in your own life.  But above all, don't celebrate it as entertainment and then react in horror when it becomes real.  And if you really want to find something glorious in death, look to the glory of the risen Christ.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things.

Gnosticism is alive and well in many of our churches today.  What is "Gnosticism," you ask?  It is arguably the first heresy to develop within the nascent Christian church, even being challenged and countered by Saint John in the Gospel that bears his name.  From the Oxford Dictionary:  "Gnostic doctrine taught that the world was created and ruled by a lesser divinity, the demiurge, and that Christ was an emissary of the remote supreme divine being, esoteric knowledge (gnosis) of whom enabled the redemption of the human spirit." To put it another way: We are saved through knowledge ("gnosis," or γνῶσις) and only those who truly had this heightened, enlightened state - a divine "Word" or revelation from God - were found to be saved.

Extreme liberalism is one such gnostic manifestation. Why would I say such a thing? Because I have found far too often that my liberal friends think the rest of us who are more orthodox or conservative are just too dumb to really grasp their enlightened thinking. Let me illustrate with a recent post from a social media page with clergy from an unnamed Lutheran denomination.

The poster, a male Lutheran pastor, begins by saying how he had just returned home from presiding over a wedding. Here is the pertinent part of his post: "Traveling to part of rural America considered "flyover country" this week...observing "Cultural Christianity". Primary values being: Guns, Barbecue, deer hunting, individual salvation, white superiority, "standing for the flag, kneeling for prayer" (words on t shirts of some white people), hatred of foreigners...and those not explicitly "born again" Christians. Some of the "dumbest acting" white people (in view of conversations with them) I have ever observation. I really don't know what to say about this except that it is a culture opposes to inclusivity, thinking, openness, considering "the least among us" as valuable, viewing "foreigners" as having anything worthy of contribution, valuing and learning from other cultures, etc."

I live in rural America and nearly all of what he said is flat out false. In fact, the only thing true is the part about standing for the flag and kneeling for prayer! (virtues that were celebrated for centuries before some in this current generation) And yet it shows just how insane the two left coasts are when it comes to how they view the vast majority of the country: It illustrates perfectly how deep the rift is between the two factions or ideologies at play today. Sadly the political rift and the theological rift largely follow along the same divisions. It is no more than a modern day gnostic view of the world, where this pastor supposedly thinks he is more "enlightened" than all of us simpletons in "flyover country." The very term used is reprehensible, suggesting that those in the broad middle of the country are of less value, less worth, and of course less intelligence than him. Many in this modern day gnostic heresy also hold that the best way to win a debate is by the assassination of your opponent also. Former VP Joe Biden, who was all on board with the campaign slogan "Love Trumps Hate," would rather have beaten the crap out of the current president earlier in life.

This attitude sickens me. It is worth pointing out that it does appear on both sides, but regardless of who is adopting the "more-enlightened-than-thou" attitude, it goes against every grain of decency and virtue there is. The poster was even called on by another pastor to repent and retract his heinous attitude, and instead of that happening, dozens of other clergy jumped on to the bandwagon in agreement and berating the one who called for repentance on his sickening and shameful attitude in the first place! For any individual or group to adopt such a condescending and insulting attitude towards a great deal of the country is unconscionable, and is at the heart of our nation's sin today.

Psalm 55 says "Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest—  I would flee far away and stay in the desert;  I would hurry to my place of shelter, far from the tempest and storm.” Confuse the wicked, O Lord, confound their speech, for I see violence and strife in the city.  Day and night they prowl about on its walls; malice and abuse are within it.  Destructive forces are at work in the city; threats and lies never leave its streets."  This psalm has spoken to me ever since my long distance hiking days:  Where even then I perceived a widening rift between city and country.  Any time a select group of people - especially those motivated by a specific ideology - begin to see every one else as inferior or of lesser value, they have become a modern day gnostic, and it is the worst form of atheistic and humanistic idolatry there is.

The reality is that we are not, nor have never been, truly "gnostic" people - none of us - no matter what party, religion, ideology, or affiliation. We know nothing. Rather, reality is that we are all in a state of "agnosis" - the "inability to perceive or having defective knowledge." This is the reality for humanity, and especially today's extremes both in church and in politics. The saddest part of all are those who think they are smarter than they actually are, don't realize just how defective their knowledge is, or their inability to perceive reality. I would certainly include the gnostic pastor mentioned above. Such attitudes wreck the very fabric and foundation of our society, our church, and our government.

I have come to understand asceticism much more of late, and I find it more appealing each passing day: withdrawing from society entirely, because the extreme factions, fighting, and murder-as-solution-to-disputes that come from the attitude mentioned above. The other reality, though, is that we cannot nor must not withdraw, but always act as a witness to the truth, and that truth cannot and must not be set by us, for truth is absolutely relative for humanity. The source of truth must come from outside: God.

I recall the discussions on a controversial topic in our church back in 2007, and I recall one pastor on the more orthodox side of things quipping that he questioned whether his orthodoxy was the correct position every day, wondering whether God truly was calling us into a radical paradigm change here in the 21st century. He also remarked that the "other side" had no such dilemma in their thought: they simply knew they were right. And while this is not always true of the orthodox position, it is more often the case than not.

It is time for us to stop thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought (no matter the position), and rather once again, turn to Christ solely for our guidance, direction, and lessons on how we live with and love one another. More importantly, let his words stand on their own, without our agendae always interfering. It's the first way to make the church great again, and who knows? Maybe it will make America great again too?

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Hashtag Politics

"A lie is still a lie no matter how many believe it.  The truth is still the truth even if no one believes it."

It sure seems as though truth = lies today, and lies have become truth.  Everything is haywire as a result.  If we truly take our charters of freedom seriously, then we should still recognize that all rights and all freedoms come ultimately from God, and not man.  Rather, what we have today is that everyone has become an expert on God, and can effectively (better than God himself) tell us what God would do, or would think, rather than actually appeal to anything we DO know about God.  Everyone is creating their own personal god, and these gods are based largely on lies, personal feelings, and often pithy soundbites and memes that themselves are based largely on lies, or at the very least, a gross distortion of truth.

It's easy to spew those out.  Then, when it actually comes to doing something constructive or helpful, we end up with this:

It is now a very effective way to create "trends" on the internet, but sadly it requires little to no actual effort on the part of the user.  It's a Hashtag:  A quick way to promote a cause, and get people to buy into it.  It's a means of getting people to agree to something without having to do much else.  Case in point: the aforementioned kidnapping of hundreds of Nigerian Christian girls by Boko Haram, presumably to be converted for the purpose of wives or to be sold into sex slavery.  What did you hear of them after, other than the hashtag campaign?  Nothing was done here, other than the hashtag campaign, which lasted a few weeks at most.  Yet Nigeria still maintains a website with information, and from their own website: 57 ESCAPED, 4 FOUND, 106 RELEASED, 4 INFANTS WITH OUR GIRLS, 19 PARENTS DEAD, 113 STILL MISSING!

These hashtags are the internet sound bites: quick, pithy little statements that are preceded by a “#” which allows them to be tracked on the internet.  So trending topics, such as the #bringbackourgirls” campaign, can be easily identified.  It was very popular for a few days.  But I wouldn’t even call the brief awareness that it created anything substantive as far as a resolution or result.

Sadly, among theologians and the internet, it seems that today what most are getting is “hashtag theology.”    Quick, pithy soundbite styled memes that are posted on social media to make a point, with no supporting documentation or facts to back them.  In other words - its stuff based purely on a lie, most often.  A recent example: A facebook meme floating around is one which purportedly pushes, as Christian duty, to get residents of Great Britain to welcome Syrian and other refugees into their country, but does so by attempting to create guilt in claiming that Great Britain is at fault for creating the refugees in the first place.  It begins with this line: “Over the last 200 years, Britain has systematically invaded, ravaged and destabilized just about every country in the world.”  (I can no longer find a link to this meme)

Now when pushing the poster about this claim, and asking for examples of some of the countries that were invaded by Great Britain in the last 200 years, this is what I got: “I do believe the first settlers to America came from Britain? (settlements do not equate to invasion/ravagement/destabilization).  I do believe the civil war was between the U.S. And Britain? (Seriously?)  I do believe Australia was colonized by Britain sending its prisoners there? (So far we're up to 2, even though some are lies and mistruths)  Modern day terrorists are funded guessed it, the USA & Britain!”  (of course, because it keeps the war industry going, or some similar nonsense like that...)  Like the Michael Brown and Ferguson Missouri situation with “hands up, don’t shoot.” - what might be a great humanitarian thing is based on and being justified by lies  (I especially like the Civil War one...). 

Seek the truth, because what is good and true in all God’s creation doesn’t change just because it is rejected by the masses.  Be faithful to the truth.  Live by it.  In so doing, preserve it for a future generation that will need to know and learn it once again.  America will never be great again until we re-learn to put God first.  

Wednesday, January 10, 2018


You cannot trust anyone or anything these days.  It pains me to even have to say this.  And yet every mainstream outlet we have has proven that in this day and age, it is completely normal and good to spread lies, mistruths, and falsehoods, as long as it accomplishes your agendae.  This means that we cannot trust any such outlets to contain truth.  Trust has been broken by all of the lies that have come to light of late.

Why am I on my  bully pulpit about this?  Simply due to getting sucked (briefly) into a social media debate on climate change.  There are reputable scientists on both sides of the spectrum who claim it is either true or false.  Fact is, there is enough uncertainty over global warming that it can really only be classified a theory and nothing more.  And yet the same people time and again, upon citing evidence one way or another, are dismissed outright by the "other side."  The dismissive arguments are worded smoothly to be sure, but few, if any, are actually taking the data at hand and attempting to develop a real working hypothesis out of both historical and current data and modeling.  And so we cannot trust social media.  Nor can we trust science.  (I could go into great detail on the scientific theory of "evolution of species" - also treated today as fact in spite of the overwhelming volume of evidence that FAILS to support the theory).

The fake Russian dossier, along with the rigging of the Democratic primaries a year ago, the "Russian collusion" which is looking more and more like internal collusion to steal an election, the hordes of sleazy harrassment charges across the boards (can't trust Hollywood either), the extreme bias by agents of justice that are supposed to remain neutral in matters, and the like tell us that we can no longer trust our own government.  Frivolous lawsuits (remember the infamous McDonald's cup of coffee?) also mean we cannot trust our own legal system.

The media spins every story, and I mean every story.  News outlets fail to report good news, and focus only on negativity, even when said negativity is misplaced.  This too is across the boards and not limited to a particular political leaning.  It's extremely fashionable today to post intentionally false stories on the internet, which are then picked up as truth and spread like wildfire.  There is no truth in reporting at all, nor can anything on the internet be taken as truth without exhaustive fact checking.  We cannot trust our media outlets at all any longer.

Trust is only one letter away from rust, and it appears that truth today is becoming very rusty.  I recall years ago finding it incredulous that an older man got his news only from short wave radio, and yet I now understand that much better.  In fact, I would even question whether his sources would be reliable and unbiased, actually reporting truth and not a slanted, partisan spin designed to achieve a specific outcome.  It leaves me tired and weary, because everything must now be checked, and even the so-called "fact checkers" are themselves unchecked and able to perpetuate the lies and mistruths.

Seems like the perfect time to renew our trust in Christ.  Since no one can or is able to believe another these days, take the words of Jesus to heart:  "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me."  (John 14:1).   Even if you fail to find any credibility in Jesus as the Son of God, whose blood is given and shed for us for the forgiveness of sin, the message of Christian love and truth would overwhelm the dishonest lies coming at us from all corners of society today.  And they are everywhere:  from books where the author admits "embellishing" things to sell the book, to the rush to publish a story before finding out if it is true, to the general make-it-up-as-you-go-along internet, where if it's posted there, it's likely false.

And how do we know we can trust the Bible?  Simply because if it, too, was a lie, it is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on humanity.  It  has withstood the test of time for well over 2000 years for some parts of it, and it has led to the greatest good humanity can offer.

Give it a shot.  You can't trust anything else, so what do you have to lose?  Who knows?  It might just make the world a better place once again after all.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

'Doomsday' (aka the "Great American Eclipse 2017")

"Dad, do you know what happens during a solar eclipse?"  "No Sun."
How does the man on the moon get a haircut?  Eclipse it.
What do you need to do to have an eclipse party?  Planet.

Now that I'm through with the bad puns, let's talk about what really happened on August 21.  There was a facebook meme circulating prior to the "Great American Eclipse" that said "If people prepared for the second coming of Christ as much as they prepared for the solar eclipse, the world would be a far better place."  It's a good sentiment that is true and worthy of consideration.  I for one began planning to view the eclipse last October.  The last time I saw one was in 1978 and it was only a partial (I think around 50-60% from my location in Aurora Illinois), and I saw it illegally as a friend of mine and I played hooky from school so we could view it.  As the stuff that comprises legends and lore throughout history, a solar eclipse is indeed one of the most amazing celestial events we could ever witness, and it certainly did not disappoint.  And while I did indeed spend a great deal of time preparing for the day, I would also say that I am more than prepared for Christ's return, which is looking more and more imminent the way the world is collapsing around us.  More on that in a bit.

For me, I truly wondered if, despite that August is traditionally the hottest and driest (and thus clearest) month of the year, if we'd even see it as that would be the day of total cloud cover.  While there were parts of Nebraska that were indeed covered, the clouds we had were on the horizon around us only, as if a large window had opened directly over our viewing location in rural northeast Lincoln County, up on a ridge not far from the center of the path of totality.  The headline image says it all:  I photographed closeups of the sun throughout the entire eclipse sequence, and the most remarkable thing is that when the moon finally exited from in front of the sun, the clouds rolled in and obscured the sky!

The other amazing part of the eclipse, besides the totality phase itself, was that our daughter turned just before totality, as the ground got darker and darker, and shouted "look!"  We all turned to see a mass of blackness to the northwest, and could tell it was coming right at us.  It was the moon's shadow we saw, racing toward us at 1100 miles per hour.  Almost as soon as we saw it, it was upon us, and darkness covered the land for nearly two and a half minutes.  As a result, I didn't catch the "diamond ring" as it entered totality, but would not trade the experience of seeing the moon's shadow coming at us for that at all!

Now sadly, rather than merely take it all in and enjoy this most spectacular display of God's handiwork, the nut jobs all came out of the woodwork (and I don't think I'm being too harsh in calling them that).  Sadly, this would include many pastors and church leaders, who somehow think that they know when the world will end based on such celestial events, despite that Jesus himself says that no one knows the day or the hour, outside of God the Father.  Now there are indeed many passages in the Bible that tells us what signs will accompany the second coming of Christ, or the end of time.  Jesus also says after this:  “the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory…” (Matthew 24:29–30)   There is even the prophet Joel, who is also quoted by the Apostle Peter in his first sermon on the day of Pentecost:  “ ‘In the last days,’ God says,  ‘I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. …I will show wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ ” (Acts 2:17–21) 

Now based on Jesus' own words, I do not believe someone could get such a prediction right, even by accident.  But for a moment, we shall assume the end is upon us.  What then?  “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come," Jesus says.  (Matthew 24:42)  There are many other signs to accompany "the end," and this by itself is a rather common sign, compared to some other accompanying signs. Between now and the next North American eclipse in 2024, there are something like 7 other solar eclipses around the world.   Could it be a sign?  Of course.  If it is, what matters alone is that we are ready for it, meaning that our hearts are right with God and we trust and believe in the salvation that comes to us through the grace and mercy of Christ Jesus.

In reality, what St. Peter was driving at for us is that we’ve been in the “last days” since the time of Christ!  It has been 2000 years and counting in the making!  So don't worry about doomsday.  Don't worry about the signs, if they indeed point to the end.
Allow your hearts to be changed by Christ.
Call on the name of God daily.
Know your unworthiness before God, and cherish your worthiness given you through our Lord Jesus Christ.

I hope you who are reading this enjoyed that unique celestial phenomenon, and may it, like everything else, always point us back to Christ Jesus, who alone saves us from sin, from death, and from the Devil.

(adapted from the sermon for the 11th Sunday after Pentecost, August 20, 2017)

Photo compilations and a few eclipse photos can be purchased here, for those who have requested.