The Fear of the Lord

 

Spiritual-Awakening-Sedona

I read a lot of blogs by a lot of different people.  I read history blogs, news blogs, religious blogs, and some fun stuff.  I recently came across this daily devotional blog that had a post about the fear of God.  The writer of the blog post, the Rev Richard Floyd said that fearing God is not very popular these days and I would have to agree that is true.  No one wants to think that God is something or someone that should be feared.  With this in mind the author offers this bit of advice, “If fear seems too strong a word, sidle up to it slowly by thinking about ‘awe’ and ‘reverence.’” I like these words but I would like to go a little bit further.

The writer of the Proverbs has it: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7). Perhaps it should read that it is not the fear of the Lord that is the beginning of knowledge but that the fear of the Lord is the principal part, the very foundation of knowledge. Fear here does not mean terror; it means awe and reverence. It is the simple fact of life that we will never reverence others until we reverence God. It is only when God is given his proper place in the center that all other things take their proper place.

So let us shift our thinking away from “fear” and more towards “reverence” but not just reverence for God but reverence for all of God’s people and all of God’s creation.

Miracles Are All Around Us

A Meditation on Matthew 14:14-22

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The Gospel of Matthew 14:14-22

At that time, Jesus saw a great throng; and he had compassion on them, and healed their sick. When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a lonely place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” They said to him, “We have only five loaves here and two fish.” And he said, “Bring them here to me.” Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass; and taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven, and blessed, and broke and gave the loaves to the crowds. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children. Then he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds.

This Gospel passage is a beautiful story, not that all biblical stories are not fantastic, but his one is especially enjoyable.  In this passage, we read the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000 with just a few loaves of bread and some fish.  I have used this passage before to talk about feeding the hungry and the Icon for this particular passage is used for our Church Community Meal, but there is another meaning as well that of miracles.

Just sticking with the food theme for a minute I offer this illustration. About five years ago a few people here at the Church decided we needed to help the local community by providing a meal for those in need, in need not just physically but emotionally and spiritually.  We planned it all out, picked the date, cooked the food and opened the door.  A few people came, 35 I believed for that first meal, it and was great.  We decided that we would cook a full on Thanksgiving meal that year and so the week before Thanksgiving we cooked turkeys and all the fixins.  We opened the doors, and the people came and came, and came.  So many folks came that we had to ask people to leave so we could seat more!  We were picking the bones of the turkeys to make sure we had enough food, but no one went without that night, and it has been the same ever since.

I read a sermon recently by Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber, if you have not read her stuff I suggest you do she is one of the brightest voices in Christianity today, anyway, in the sermon she mentions that this story appears six times in the Gospels.  She reminds us that there are only four Gospels so this story appears twice in some of them, so it is important.  Pastor Nadia asks the question about the miracle itself, was it that Jesus took the bread and the fish and multiplied it or was it that the people were so moved that they, reached into the own stores of food, and shared with their neighbors?  I like to think a little of both but will focus on the second part, the sharing part.

Sharing, as Pastor Nadia points out, is not new to many folks, after all we learned to share in kindergarten or at least we should have.  The people had come from far and wide to hear Jesus and I find it impossible to believe they did not plan ahead and bring some food, heck I don’t drive more than an hour away without a granola bar or something with me just in case.  These folks were used to traveling, and so I am sure there was food hanging around.  Sure maybe some did not come prepared, but I think most did.

Jesus taught them, Scripture tells us that the number was around 5,000 men and that number did not include the women and children so we can be safe to say that this figure was probably two or three times the reported number.  Apparently journalistic accuracy was lacking in the first century as well. (that was a joke my friends) The Apostles come to Jesus asking what they are supposed to do; Jesus looks at them in what I can only imagine is a look of exasperation, and tells them to feed them.  They look back with a look of total amazement, I can just see Judas clutching the money bag thinking that this is going to bankrupt them, and they say with what?  All we have is this bread and some fish; Jesus tells them to bring them to him, he blesses them and tells them to distribute them. They do, and the rest is history.

What we see here is the miracle of sharing full on.  Jesus, once again, gives us the example to live by, we take the extra of what we have and share it with others.  If they kept those loaves of bread and fish, they would spoil in the Palestinian heat.  Jesus blessed them and gave them away and encourage the others to do the same.  So they dug into their picnic baskets and found extra and gave it to the guy next to them who may be shared something with them, this is what we are supposed to do, share with those in need from the gifts that we have been given.

Several years ago I was on a train in Romania.  If you ever want an experience go on a cross-country train trip in Romania, it is amazing.  The train is made up of compartments of six people, you may or may not know all of them, but you travel together.  As the journey continued it turned to meal time.  Each person took some food from their bag and all six of us shared what we had, a loaf of bread, some cheese, a bottle of wine, some salami, whatever we had we shared, and each of us ate and were filled.

The miracle is not the multiplication of the loaves the miracle is getting people to think of another and help them when they need it and ask for nothing in return.  The miracle is the person next to you sharing what they have with you and you sharing with them not storing things up while others are in need.  Scripture tells us that if we have two cloaks we should give one to someone who has none, how many of us have more than one jacket while our neighbor goes without?

The miracle is a change in our hearts that makes us less selfish and more willing to help and love our neighbor that is the miracle of the story, that everyone helped everyone else and no one was turned away hungry.

What I did on my summer vacation

Nova Scotia

When I was in elementary school, we always had this first day of school ritual of telling the class what we did on our summer vacation.  One by one my classmates would rise and tell of their adventures to Disney World, the beach, or some other fascinating place.  We would listen attentively and then move on to the next item on the agenda for the day.  But listening to how others spent their vacation was, well, cool.

I have just returned from a vacation to Nova Scotia, if you have never does yourself a favor and go its beauty is unsurpassed.  I have not traveled much outside of the US, and then it was to Romanian primarily, but there is something about Nova Scotia, and Cape Breton especially, that just draws me in.  As the old song goes, home of my heart Cape Breton.

So what did I do on this vacation?  Well, I did way too much although I find being busy and seeing different things to be very relaxing.  I have never been one who can “power down” for any length of time.  I do not like to be idle, and I am not one for sitting on the beach.  The one regret I have of vacation is spending enough time on the balcony of our Inn in Iona to enjoy the view.  It was awesome and awe-inspiring!  I did get up early to catch the sunrise over the lake and did get to see the sunset a few times, and it was worth it.  But I did not spend time just taking it all in.

The View

The View from the Iona Heights Inn

In a recent essay, Pastor Carey Niweuwhof, who coincidently is from Canada but not Nova Scotia, wrote about the advice he received from people about what to do on vacation. He came up with three rules, if you will, about vacation.  I will post a link to the article at the end of this one, and I encourage you to read it, but I will summarize the rules and put my spin on them.

  1. Do the things that restore you.

What restores me will be different than what restores you.  You might be the person who likes to sit on the beach, I am the type that wants to check out what is going on in the area and visiting the historic site.  Since I am a church geek, I also like to visit churches, all kinds of churches and see what is up there.  I like to check out their bulletins and see what the community is doing, but I also like the architecture of churches.

I enjoy museums and galleries, and I like to find out of way places and monuments.  One can learn a lot about a community from their monuments and what they prize about their history.  Cape Breton was settled by Scots who left Scotland during the Highland Clearances.  Some of those first settlers were also my relatives, so I had to visit a few cemeteries, on what I was calling the “dead relatives tour.”  Knowing my history is important to me, and I get energy from finding a grave or a place where they lived.

  1. Do the things that energize you.

Part of the joy of vacation is doing something different and the time to recharge your batteries.  Those of us who working professions of social service or helping need this time to recharge, not that others don’t, but when your life is spent giving to and living for others this is imperative.  I took time, intentional time, to re-engage with Scripture and have kept it up since I have been back.  I also took time, again deliberate time, to re-engage in a deeper pray life.  It’s easy on vacation to do these things but are we carrying them forward when we return?

Just like the previous point, what energizes me is going to be different then what energizes you.  I see these two as working hand in hand with each other, and I get energy from what restores me as the batteries recharge my energy level is restored.  However, I think I need a vacation from my vacation when I return!  I planned way too much, but it was still energizing and restorative.

  1. Avoid what drains you.

Life drains me!  How can we avoid that?  Those of us in the social service or helping professions, well I find this anyway, just doing what we do drain us.  That is not to say that people who are not engaged in these types of professions do not also get exhausted, but I find that I get drained often.  Just like a rechargeable battery, we need to be careful how many times we hook ourselves up to the charger, one of this day it might not work.

I also find that I am not able to totally disengage from my ministry life.  I continued to post to the blog, write the daily Bible study email, and correspond on Facebook and Twitter.  I just did a little less, and I posted vacation type stuff rather than the usual things.  So y’all got a vacation from me while I was on vacation!

I did restrict my work to early morning hours.  I have a practice of rising early, sometimes between 5 and 5:30 as this is when I am at my most creative.  I know some folks who do better in the late hours of the day, not me, I am better in the morning.  So I would rise early, make some coffee, sit on the balcony and read Scripture while the sun was coming up, and then go and write for an hour or so.  For some this might be draining but for me this restores me and energizes me.

At the end of the essay, Carey talks about self-care.  As a fire chaplain, we talk a lot about self-care since we are usually the worst at taking care of ourselves.  However, if we do not take care of ourselves, then we will not be available to take care of others.

I used to think that vacation was selfish and that the time could better be spent on a mission trip or some other such activity then I hit the wall.  Vacations are important and if you are a member of the clergy and do not take a vacation, or a day off during the week for that matter, then you need to start before it is too late.  If you burn out, you will be of no use to anyone.  Hey, even Jesus withdrew from time to time for a little R & R, he set the example, we need to follow it.

Some New (And Better) Rules For Your Next Vacation

You are a Royal Priesthood

serve him

In the daily Bible study work that I am presently engaged in, (sign up here) the focus is on the First Letter of St. Peter.  At the present time we are working our way through the second chapter and the focus is on the calling of all Christians to the priesthood.  For some this is a radical concept and I can recall several conversations I have had with people who say they are not priests, but St. Peter would disagree.

“…you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 2:5

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” 1 Peter 2:9

There are two great characteristics of this priesthood that all Christians are called too.

The priests are the ones who have access to God and it is their task to bring others to him. In the ancient world this task was reserved for the professional priest, and in particular the High Priest who was the only one that could enter the Holy of Holies. Through Jesus Christ access to God becomes the privilege of every Christian. The priest is the one who builds bridges so others can come to God; and the Christian has the duty and the privilege of bringing others to that Savior whom they have found and loves.

The priest is the one who brings offerings to God. The Christian also must continuously bring their offerings to God. Under the old way the offerings brought to God were animal sacrifices; but the sacrifices of the Christian are spiritual sacrifices. The Christian makes their work and offering to God. Everything they do is for God; and so even the smallest task is done with glory. The Christian makes their worship and offering to God; and so the worship of God’s house becomes a joy. The Christian makes themselves an offering to God (Romans 12:1). What is desired most by God is the love of our hearts and the service of our lives. This is the perfect sacrifice which every Christian must make.

All Christians have the responsibility to serve others and to being others to God.  We also have the responsibility and the duty to make sacrifices to God no matter what our position in life is.  We are a Royal Priesthood!

The Danger of Discussion

A Sermon on Titus 3:8-15

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More and more we see that discussions, any debate will soon end in some sort or rant or disagreement.  Watching the TV “news” programs, one wonders how anyone can understand anything with everyone yelling at each other.  No one listens anymore to anyone.  We have our mind made up prior to the discussion and nothing, not even the truth, will change that opinion.

St. Paul is warning of the same type of argument in this particular passage from his letter to Titus.  The passage stresses the need for Christian action and the danger of a particular kind of debate.

TITUS, my son, the saying is sure. I desire you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to apply themselves to good deeds; these are excellent and profitable to men. But avoid stupid controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels over the law, for they are unprofitable and futile. As for a man who is factious, after admonishing him once or twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is perverted and sinful; he is self-condemned.

When I send Artemas or Tychicos to you, do your best to come to me at Nicopolis, for I have decided to spend the winter there. Do your best to speed Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way; see that they lack nothing. And let our people learn to apply themselves to good deeds, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not to be unfruitful.

All who are with me send greeting to you. Greet those who love us in the faith. Grace be with you all. Amen.

The word that St. Paul uses in English we translated to practice fine deeds and was used to describe a shopkeeper standing in front of his shop selling his wares to those who passed by.  This phrase can mean two distinct things and St. Paul, always a master of language uses it to mean both.

St. Paul is using this passage to point out that Christians should only engage in respectable and useful trades. There were certain professions that the early church insisted one should quit before they were allowed to ask even for membership in the Church.  There were, and still are I believe, certain professions that are incompatible with the life of a Christian.  It was not easy to join the early Church, and much was required of those who wanted to join.  A definite change of lifestyle, to a lifestyle more compatible with the life of a Christian, is what was called for.

However, there is a much wider meaning of this phrase that was more than likely what St. Paul was getting at in his choice of words.  St. Paul believed that a Christian must practice good deeds that are helpful to all.  He does not preach that works will lead you to salvation, what he is preaching is that as a Christian we should be, and must be, moved to the right deeds.  Christianity is not static, and there needs to be movement and growth or, as St. James puts it, it is a dead faith!

The second part of this passage warns the readers against useless discussions.  I often wonder what St. Paul would think is he turned on any of the national “news” programs on any given day or night.

The Greek philosophers spent their time on their fine-spun problems. The Jewish Rabbis spent their time building up imaginary genealogies for the Characters of the Old Testament. The Jewish Scribes spent endless hours discussing what could and could not be done on the Sabbath, and what and what was not unclean. It has been said that there is a danger that a person might think themselves religious because they discuss religious questions.  It is far easier to discuss theological issues than to be kind and considerate and helpful at home, or efficient and diligent and honest at work. There is no virtue in sitting discussing profound theological questions when the simple tasks of the Christian life are waiting to be done.  Such discussions can be nothing other than an evasion of Christian duties.

St. Paul was confident that the real task of the Christian was not in his words but his actions.  I think he would agree that there is a place for discussion and learning, but any discussion that does not end is some action is largely a waste of time.  It is the preacher’s responsibility to move people to action.  To simply stand here and provide an entertaining and bland sermon is not preaching, that is shirking the responsibility of the preacher.  The task of the preacher is to get the listener to move, to grow, to evolve, and to change; to take the words of Scripture into their hearts and apply them to their lives.  The discussion is good, the action is better.

It is St. Paul’s advice that contentious and opinionative people should be avoided.  Scripture calls this person a heretic. The Greek word is hairetikos. The verb hairein mean to choose, and hairesis means a party, (as in political party) or a school, or a sect. Originally the word carried no bad meaning. However, the wrong sense creeps in when a person erects his private opinion against all teaching, the agreement and the tradition of the Church.

Simply put, a heretic is a person who has decided that they are right, and everyone else is wrong. St. Paul’s warning is against the one who has made his ideas the test of all truth. We should always be careful of any opinion that separates us from the fellowship of our fellow believers. True faith does not divide, real faith unites.

St. Paul’s advice to us is that as Christians we should practice good deeds, I would add that we are required to practice good deeds, so that we can be independent but also so that we can help other who are in need.  And this needs to be done without qualification and expecting nothing in return.  Christians work not only to have enough for ourselves but that we have something to give away, and this is not just money this also includes or time.

All of St. Paul’s writings point us in the direction of grace, and it is that grace that we should strive for and that grace not only comes from hearing the word but then putting that word into action.

The Gaelic Flag of Cape Breton

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Traveling around Cape Breton Nova Scotia you just might a blue flag with a white design on it flying.  It is the Blue Gaelic Community Flag and it was approved by the Gaelic Council of Nova Scotia and has started to appear on all sorts of items.

There is a resurgence of learning Gaelic in Nova Scotia and I believe I heard that Gaelic is now being offered in schools in Cape Breton starting in the 4th grade!

The symbolism of the flag gives honor to the tradition of Nova Scotia. The Gaelic symbol is a salmon in the shape of the letter G. The salmon is for the gift of knowledge in the Gaelic traditions of Nova Scotia, Scotland, Ireland and the Isle of Man. The G is for the Gaelic language. The ripples are for the manifestations of the language through song, story, music, dance, and custom and belief system.

That salmon is important to the Gaels goes way back to the legend of Fionn McCool and the Salmon of Knowledge.

As a young man, Fionn was sent to study under the wise man Finegas who lived by the river. Now Finegas had been watching for the Salmon of Knowledge for seven years, but after Fionn joined him as a disciple, the salmon was soon caught. Finegas gave it to Fionn to cook, warning him to eat none of it. As Fionn turned the fish on the fire, he burned his thumb and quickly put his thumb in his mouth to soothe the pain. When Finegas saw Fionn coming with the cooked fish, he knew that something had happened, for Fionn had a special look about him. Finegas questioned him and learned about the burned thumb. He realized that it was Fionn who was destined to eat of the Salmon of Knowledge, not himself. Then he said to the lad who stood by obideiently, “Take the salmon and eat it, Fionn, son of Cumhal, for to you the prophecy is come.” Fionn ate the salmon and became the wisest and bravest of men, with the gift of seeing into the past and into the future.

The Promise of a New Life

The Story of the Hector

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The Hector at Heritage Quay PIctou Harbor Nova Scotia

It is difficult, I would assume, for most Americans to truly understand the immigrant experience.  It is easy for us, in our well-appointed homes with all of our privilege, to sit in judgement of those who come to America, legally or illegally, when we see them on the street or read about them in the news.  But what is it that drives someone to leave all that they have and everyone they know and set off to a strange place they have never seen before?  What drives a person to place their life in the hands of another, with nothing but a promise that they will get you where you want to go?  And what waits for them at their new destination when they arrive? Like so many other immigrants that came to the new world in search of a better life, the story of the first Scottish immigrants to Nova Scotia asks some of those very same questions.

By the early 1770’s the Highland Clearances were in full swing.  People were being cleared off land that they never owned, but land that they had lived on, and fought for, for generations. The owners of the land, many of whom did not live in Scotland, had decided that it was more profitable to graze sheep on that land then to allow families to live and farm there.  These Highland families were driven off the land and into crowded cities and into a lifestyle that they had little or no understanding of so when the opportunity came to leave and seek a new life, or rather continue their old life, in a new place they jumped at it.

John Pagan and Dr. John Witherspoon had been given three shares of land in Canada and were seeking people to come with them to start a new civilization in what would become Nova Scotia (New Scotland).  Twenty-three families and twenty-five single men, 189 in total, agreed to free passage in exchange for one year of provisions and a farm to start their new life.  Most were poor, illiterate crofters and artisans from the Greenrock area of the Highlands of Scotland who only spoke Gaelic but the spirit of adventure was upon each of them.

Around the second week of July 1773 they boarded the ship Hector for the for the eight week journey.  Shortly after they left port they were shown to their accommodations below deck by the crew who were no more than children themselves, but by now they had become seasoned sailors at the age of 11 or 12.  Each family was given one small “place” to call their own with no mattress or any other cover.  All of their possessions would be stored in this “place.”  They were allowed to use old pieces of canvas to make partitions to separate the families and the single men from each other.

Buckets were located below deck to be used for the “necessary” but also served as, what the crew called “puke buckets.”  They soon learned that when emptying them over the side of the ship one does not does this in the wind. Life below deck was unpleasant but the promise of a new life in a new place drove them on.

The Ship Hector was an old ship, built in the Netherlands prior to 1750 and was used primarily for local trade in the waters off the British Isles.  Once the immigrant trade began she was pressed into service and had made at least one trans-Atlantic voyage from Scotland to Boston around 1770. She was 85 feet long and 22 feet wide with 3 masts and weighed in at 200 tons.  She was known as a boot ship and did not look like ships that may come to mind, she had a very blunt nose at her bow.

The ship ran into a hurricane off the coast of Newfoundland and was blown back as far as the shores of Ireland.  Many of the passengers begged the captain to make port and let them off but the captain refused their plea.  If he had not completed his journey he would not have been paid so he set sail again and after a two week delay, land was spotted in what is now Pictou Harbor Nova Scotia.  Eighteen of their number, most of them children, perished during the journey from dysentery and smallpox and those who completed the journey would face continued hardships for many years to come as they scratched out a new life in the new world.

The Hector’s Passenger list

Three Great Facts of the Christian Life

woman on hill at dawn (drop shadow)

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,

To God’s elect, exiles scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance. 1 Peter 1:1-2

In verse 2 we come face to face with the three great facts of the Christian life.

1.  The Christian is chosen according to the foreknowledge of God. The Church is not just a human organization, although it is that as well. Its origin lies, not in the will of the flesh, in the idealism of its members, in human aspirations or plans, but in the eternal purpose of God. When we get discouraged we should remind ourselves that the Christian Church came into being according to the plan and purpose of God and, because of that, it can never fail.

2. The Christian is chosen to be consecrated by the Spirit. Martin Luther said, “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord, or come to him.” For the Christian the Holy Spirit is essential to every part of our lives and every step we make. It is the Holy Spirit that awakens to the longing of God and for the goodness that comes with that. It is the Holy Spirit that convicts us of our sins and leads us to the Cross where our sins are forgiven. It is the Holy Spirit who enables us to be freed from the sins that have gripped us and leads us to see the fruits of the Spirit.  And it is the Holy Spirit that gives us the assurance that our sin have been forgiven.

3. The Christian is chosen for obedience and for sprinkling by the blood of Jesus Christ.  In the Old Testament there are three places where the sprinkling with blood is mentioned and Peter may have had all three in mind.

a. When a leper had been healed, he was sprinkled with the blood of a bird (Leviticus 14:1-7). Sprinkling with blood is the symbol of cleansing.

b. Sprinkling with blood was part of the ritual of the setting apart of Aron and the priests (Exodus 29:20-21). It was the sign of setting apart for the service of God.

c. The great picture of the sprinkling comes from the covenant relationship between Israel and God.  Obedience was a necessary condition of the covenant relationship between God and Israel. As a token of this relationship Moses took half the blood of the sacrifice and sprinkled it on the altar and half on the people (Exodus 24:1-8).

Through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ we are called into a new relationship with God.  Through this relationship the sins of the past are forgiven and we pledge our obedience in the time to come.

This is the purpose for which we are called.  It is by the work of the Holy Spirit that our life is sanctified toward God. It is by the sprinkling of the blood of Christ that we are cleansed from our past sins and dedicated to the future obedience to God.

Pastors and Social Media

social-media

I am always on the hunt for tools for my pastoral tool bag and I recently stumbled upon one that is just amazing.  The Pro Church Tools Podcast “brings together the brightest minds in church to share their best tips, tricks, lessons, & research from the trenches of ministry.”  In each episode the host interviews someone on the front lines of ministry and gains wisdom and knowledge form them about tricks and tips for ministry.

A recent episode focused on the misconceptions that we pastors have regarding social media.  If you have been following this blog for any length of time you know how I view the importance of pastors being involved in social media.  The first thing I will say is that it is here to stay, it is not a fad that will be going away any time soon.  Check out these stats just about Facebook*:

1 in every 13 people on Earth is on Facebook

71.2 % of all USA internet users are on Facebook

In 20 minutes, users share 1,000,000 links and 10.2 million comments.

48% of 18 to 34-year-olds check Facebook right when they wake up

Average user creates 90 pieces of content each month

More than 70 translations available on the site

About 70% of Facebook users are outside the United States

People on Facebook install 20 million applications every day

People that use Facebook on their mobile devices are twice as active on Facebook than non-mobile users

Australian’s spend more time per month on Facebook than any other country at over 7 hours on average

It is the second biggest website by traffic behind Google (at the moment)

Facebook makes money through advertising and virtual products

The USA has the largest Facebook user base with 155 million people, which represents 23.6% of Facebook’s total users

There are over 16,000,000 Facebook fan pages

71.2% of all USA internet users are on Facebook.  71.2%!  So as a pastor I need to bring my message of God’s love, grace and salvation to that audience.  Why?  Because there is a need in this world for it!

One of the misconceptions is that it takes too much time.  Well I would say how much time would you spend to reach 71.2% of all USA internet users?  Being active in the social media does not take as much time as you think it does.  There are many tricks and tools that make the experience much easier to deal with.  For example I use a service called Buffer.  Now I use the paid application ($10 a month) because it gives me more flexibility.  Buffer works with Twitter and Facebook to allow users to curate information and release it at different times during the day.

Each morning, as part of my morning routine, I read several blogs.  I use Feedly and set up the blog to bring me the headlines.  I scan them and then if something looks interesting I will go back and read it.  If I think it is something that the folks who follow me would like, I put it in the Buffer feed and it will release automatically while I am off doing other things.  I spend maybe an hour a day doing this but then for the rest of the day I am releasing information.

At various times during the day I will “check in” and see what is going on and maybe comment on something to keep the conversation going and that might take 5 or 10 minutes.  Latter in the day I might spend a little more time to see what has gone on during the day.  So in total I might spend 2 to 2 half hours but I believe it is time well spent.

Social Media gives us the ability to extend the reach of our message to more than just the folks sitting in front of us.  Like it or not, the millennial generation gets their information from the internet and it is possibly the first place they will come to find answers to questions and we need to be there to bring the truth because there is a lot of junk out there.

For me, and this is just my opinion, social media is an extension of my parish and the conversations and encounters I have are just as real and fruitful as the ones I have in the parish or at coffee hour.  It does not take as much time as you think so get off the bench and get in the game!

* Thanks to Frances Caballo of the Social Media Just for Authors Podcast for these stats

The Boston Donkey

If you find yourself in Boston and looking for something to do, I highly recommend taking a Boston by Foot Tour.  On July 4th, I was part of the Freedom Trail Tour that follows that red line painted, sometimes it is brick, in the center of the sidewalks in Boston.  This trail follows the path to the sights and places of the American Revolution.

Old-City-Hall-Freedom-Trail

Taking a stroll down School Street one comes to the site of the first public school in Boston, the Boston Latin School, and the site of the Old Boston City Hall.  This is an incredible looking building that is now used for commercial purposes but was once the seat of power in the City of Boston.  On the grounds of the build is a statue of one of Boston Latin’s most famous dropouts, Benjamin Franklin.  He is an imposing figure depicted walking away from the school.  On the four sides of the pedestal that he stands on, are images of his life.

However, this statue is not what drew my eye.  Located across the courtyard from ole Ben is a bronze donkey with a very cool story.

Donkey

The donkey has long been a symbol of the Democratic Party in the United States.  It first appeared in 1837 in a political cartoon that featured Andrew Jackson, who was known to his political opponents as “the jackass.” Several decades later cartoonist Thomas Nast made the donkey a familiar symbol of the Democratic Party.  It was intended to be an insult, but he turned it to a compliment.  Although never officially adopted, all twenty of Boston’s Democratic mayors used this as a symbol during their time in office.

Footprints

The bronze donkey standing outside of the Old City Hall is looking down at two bronze footprints emblazoned with an elephant, the symbol of the Republican Party in the United States, with the words “stand in opposition.”  The footprints face the donkey so standing and looking at this sculpture one is not sure who is standing in opposition or to what one is standing in opposition too.  The beauty of art, it is left to the person looking at it to decide the answer to the question.