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Jon Burnham
Husband / Father / Pastor / Relentless spiritual seeker
Husband / Father / Pastor / Relentless spiritual seeker

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Before we jump forward to 2018, let's take a moment to go back in time to 1611 in England and imagine what kind of language they used to celebrate Christmas.

Guess what? You don't have to imagine it. We have a written record of it. Here is a taste how people put language to the wonder of Christmas in England in 1611.

Praise the Lord from the earth,
ye dragons, and all deeps:
Fire, and hail; snow, and vapours;
stormy wind fulfilling his word:
Mountains, and all hills;
fruitful trees, and all cedars:
Beasts, and all cattle;
creeping things, and flying fowl:
Kings of the earth, and all people;
princes, and all judges of the earth:
Both young men, and maidens;
old men, and children:
Let them praise the name of the Lord:
for his name alone is excellent;
his glory is above the earth and heaven.

He also exalteth the horn of his people,
the praise of all his saints;
even of the children of Israel,
a people near unto him.
Praise ye the Lord.
(Psalm 148:7-14, King James Bible)

How would you describe that language? I would say it’s eye-opening. Elegant. Interesting. Startling. Stunning. I especially love the reference to dragons. I wonder what kind of language you would use to describe Christmas? Would you include a reference to dragons in your description?

Jon B.

Image attribution: Fiorentino, Rosso, 1494-1540. Small angel playing (detail from Madonna of Spedalingo), from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. [retrieved December 13, 2017]. Original source:

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Making your way in the world today
takes everything you've got.
Taking a break from all your worries,
sure would help a lot.
“To find peace."
"To know where you belong.”
That is my prayer
for you today.
I pray
you may
find peace.
I pray
you may
know where you belong.
One of my favorite Bible verses
I return to again and again ...
is this:
“Whether we live
or whether we die;
we belong to the Lord.”
(Romans 14:8)
“With the Lord”
is where we belong.
Now and forever.
Jon B.
P.S. May you find yourself
at peace with the Lord today.
St. John's Presbyterian Church, ACTS FUND
5020 West Bellfort Ave, Houston, TX 77035

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Imagine tonight in the sanctuary. We have a 20 year old gospel singing Elvis Presley doing "Where Could I Go but to the Lord?" Some of the sisters faint in their pews. Some of the brothers begin to cry.

You really don't have to be a huge fan of the Hebrew Bible (what we Christians call the Old Testament) in order to realize that our church campus is situated on the edge of perhaps the largest Jewish community in Houston.

I'm not going to tell you the so-called Old Testament is unparalleled in expressing the human condition through story telling. Remember Adam and Eve? Abraham and Sarah? Isaac and Jacob? Dreamy Joseph and his coat of many colors? Moses and Elijah? And the wide range of human emotion and experience from mountain tops of spiritual heights to the valleys and pits of depression. All is exposed in the Psalms of David, is it not?

Speaking of David, the Ash Wednesday Sermon will be about David and Bathsheba and the amazing Psalm that David composed after he was called out by the Prophet Nathan for the sins of adultery and murder for which God forgave him and yet he still paid a heavy price. This story will knock your socks off.

Ash Wednesday marks the first day of Lent, forty weekdays before Easter. The practice of placing ashes on the forehead symbolizes repentance and contrition. We will engage in that mysterious liturgy in the church sanctuary and courtyard tonight. Will you be blown away tonight at 7:30 PM in the sanctuary? Will you then have that moment and that memory for all eternity? Only if you are present to experience it live.

Jon B.

P.S. And you can attend and enjoy the mysterious Ash Wednesday Service starting in the sanctuary today at 7:30 PM, on March 1, can you not? And if you Mark your calendar and set a reminder now you will be more likely to remember to attend, will you not? That's right
An Ad for Ash Wednesday
An Ad for Ash Wednesday

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Here is my Super Bowl story. 10 years ago I was seeking a new call as a pastor. My prayer was "Lord, I want to be a pastor in a Major League City." Today, 10 years later, I live in a major league city, Houston, Texas. This weekend we are hosting the Super Bowl. The stadium where the game will be played is five minutes from my house. Prayer answered. Thank you, Lord.
So, what is like living in a major league city that is hosting the super bowl? Does it make you tingle 24/7 and lose sleep at night? No. It's more like living in a small town that is hosting a Cherry Festival. If you are on the Cherry Festival Planning Committee or really into cherries then you will be caught up in the excitement of the Cherry Festival. If you are not on that planning committee or a big fan of cherries, you probably won't notice anything different.
That is what it's like living in a city that's hosting the Super Bowl. If you are on the Super Bowl Planning Committee or if you are a huge NFL fan then you are very excited and it seems to be happening all around you. If you are not involved in hosting the event and not a big NFL fan, then you don't notice anything different except maybe a little more traffic the day before and the day of the game.
The reason for that is when you live in a major league city there are big events happening every week if not every day. There are big name rock concerts, plays, symphony concerts, art gallery openings, new restaurants opening, NBA games, MBL games, NFL games, college sports, etc. happening all the time. So you really don't notice any one event because that's just part of the ongoing flow of activity. However, if you are really a big fan of some particular event or activity, then of course you notice it and get excited.
I share this because it came as a revelation to me. I moved here from a small town. I soon noticed that what would have been a big deal in my small town was hardly noticed in the big city. There's too much happening all the time to take notice of any particular event for long. It's an interesting dynamic and I didn't expect.
By the way, the photo is from my high school days when I played quarterback at my small town high school. It was a big deal to me and the whole town because high school football is still a big deal in small towns all across America. However, I'm not sure it's such a big deal now as it was when I played back in 1978-80. I put a team picture because football, like like, is a team sport.
I learned a lot from playing football. I learned when you get knocked down you jump back up on your feet as quick as you can and act like nothing happened and it didn't hurt even when it did. I learned to be a leader by going first and inviting others to come along and follow your enthusiasm. It was a valuable experience but there are other ways, less dangerous ways, of learning such life lessons.

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Original story. Two old donkeys were walking down a dusty country road . . .

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You may want to read our church's new book for free here now:
"Healing Happens Here: Faith Stories from St. John's Presbyterian Church"

This book was written in celebration of our 60th Anniversary.

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The religious landscape looks bleak and chaotic. Yet God is doing a new thing! Discover and tell good news stories about what is working in the church today. Learn where to find such stories. Learn how to speak them into eBooks that you can publish for free. Grow your congregation’s platform. Foster cohesion among your congregational leaders. Become a writer and publisher! This skill may develop into a side business for you over time.

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A few months ago in a galaxy far far away . . .

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Urban Gardening at St John's Presbyterian Church in Houston. Want to join us? Call the church office.

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T. Hartley Hall was a memorable figure. He served as president of Union Union Presbyterian Seminary when I was an M.Div. student there in 1992-94. I have a few memories of him to share. He was a Southern gentlemen of the previous generation. He was a Presbyterian from a previous generation. He smoked cigarettes constantly (as did many of us in that time) and often expressed concerns about his tobacco company stocks.

T. Hartley Hall (he always used his full name) toured the Middle East with a group of us from the seminary. On the flight over from New York to Iman I couldn't sleep on the plane but he had no such trouble. He put on his eye shades, stretched out his hands behind his back and snored like a baby. He was a loud person even when he slept.

Every afternoon at 4 pm or so wherever we were, on a bus or on a plane he pulled out a small, expensive looking wooden case and put it on his lap and ritually opened it up. The case contained a fifth of high quality Single Malt Scotch with glass cups. If you were sitting next to him he invited you to partake. I did share the cup with him from time to time on that journey.

Another memory was when we were having a spirituality conference at the seminary. We had a guest speaker and were having dinner with the faculty and conference leaders. The conference leader asked us all to describe what we mean by "spirituality." I tried to say something profound as did everyone else. When it was T. Hartley Hall's turn to answer he cleared his throat and I rolled my eyes. I didn't expect much from him. He was not very "spiritual" in my eyes. He then went on to eloquently and briefly describe spirituality as stewardship by which he meant giving 10% of your income and above to support the work of Christ's church. That blew my mind. It was so basic. It took me many years to grow into his definition of spirituality. Come to find out, he was actually much more spiritual than me.

Rest in peace, T. Hartley Hall. I'm glad I got to know you in your prime. You were a mentor to me. I look forward to glad reunion in the life to come.
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