POPE AND CIRCUMSTANCE

Pope Thumbs Up

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They took palm branches and went out to meet Him, shouting, “Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Blessed is the King of Israel!” John 12:13

 

Pope Francis visited the United States in September, 2015. His humble manner was apparent from the moment he stepped off “Shepherd One” to be met by President and Mrs. Obama. The Obamas’ unprecedented personal greeting of the pontiff was a sign of the high respect afforded him during his visit to this powerful and well-to-do nation during a time of economic, social, and political turmoil. The New York Times described the visit as a “security circus,” but Francis seemed oblivious to all the fuss. He exited the plane carrying his own valise, reported to contain a razor, a breviary (prayer book), an appointment book and a book to read. When he wasn’t riding in his open-air, Fiat-Chrysler-made Jeep Wrangler “Popemobile,” he was ferried around in an ordinary Italian-built Fiat featuring the custom license plate “SCV 1,” the initials for Status Civitatis Vaticanae, Latin for Vatican City State. The Pope insisted on foregoing the bullet-proof glass bubble atop the Jeep, so that he could be closer to the people. No small task for the security guards entrusted with his safety.

 

While Pope Francis wanted his visit to be about the people, other players were busy putting the trip together. ABC News reported that the pontiff brought about thirty people with him, including Vatican clergy and press. Although the pope speaks relatively good English, Monsignor Mark Miles served as interpreter for him when the message got tricky. Also accompanying him were seventy-six accredited journalists from all over the world. Pope Francis stayed at the Apostolic Nunciature of the Holy See, better known as the “Vatican Embassy,” nice accommodations but not as opulent as one might imagine.

 

Pope Francis is perhaps the best-loved leader of the Catholic Church in modern times. To his credit, he sincerely tries to keep things simple, honest and straightforward. The accompanying show of magnificence is in stark contrast to the way the Christ lived and moved and conducted Himself while in this world. I am quite sure this humble pope has considered how different his life style is than the Man Whom he represents.

 

Lord Jesus, thank You for wise and humble religious leaders. Amen

IN THE FULLNESS OF TIME

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Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem…to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. Luke 2:4-5

God’s timing is immaculate. Many years ago, I studied the Bethel Series, a 1961 Bible study developed by the Adult Christian Education Foundation in Madison, Wisconsin. In that study, we reviewed all of the events that came together just prior to the birth of Jesus. Each occurrence had specific meaning, the combination of which meant Christ came into the world at the perfect time.

Alexander the Great studied under Aristotle in their native country of Greece. As King of the Macedonian Empire in the fourth century B.C., Alexander brought the Greek language and culture to all of the nations he conquered, unifying the people in a new way. He believed Greek enlightenment was for all peoples and he wanted every nation to be as advanced as his own. Within the next two centuries, the Roman Empire had expanded throughout Europe and beyond, which led to a long period of peace under Roman rule. The Romans had also built many roads to far off places, making trade possible among a wide variety of nations and peoples. The Romans had so efficiently organized their world that there were no wars between rival tribes, nations, or factions. Meanwhile, every Hebrew man, woman and child knew about the old time prophets’ predictions of a coming Messiah. Though many Jews were living beyond their native land of Israel, the dream of the Savior was still alive.

This period in history is referred to in Galatians 4:4-5: “…when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law,  in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children.” The stage was set, the players were in place, and a star broke forth from its moorings in space and sped across the night sky. A man and his very pregnant wife found a stable when no room was left at the inn, and a Child was born. He came in the fullness of the world’s time and yours and mine.

Thank You, Jesus, for being our “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Amen