Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Dog Days

This is the article I wrote for the August Newsletter of Hoover First UMC.  (Decided I needed to post here more often, so going to start posting some of my sermons and newsletter articles.)

As I write this, the Dog Days of Summer are upon us.  This season of the year finds many of us feeling lazy as the summer moves towards a hot, sultry weather end.

After I wrote the words "dog days," I thought I had better find out what it really meant.  A search of the internet yielded something unexpected.  I always thought that the "dog days" came from the idea that domesticated dogs are just lazy when it is extremely hot.  But, this is not the case.

The expression goes all the way back to the Roman times.  The brightest star in the sky is Sirius, which is part of the constellation, Canas Major ("large dog") and is sometimes called the Dog Star.  During this time of year, from sometime in July to sometime in August, Sirius rises and sets with the Sun.  To the ancient peoples, it seemed that this star was adding "heat" to the already warm summer weather. 

This surprising history reminded me how through the ages, people have thought that forces beyond their control have pre-determined their lives.  Ancient peoples often thought that the stars moving through the sky somehow determined their aspects of their existence.  As modern people, we often scoff at the ingorance of previous generations, but even today, people know their zodiac signs and follow their horoscopes which are based on constellation and stellar events.

Although we may put less stock in the stars controlling our fate, we do at times fall into the trap of thinking that events in our lives are pre-determined or beyond our control.  Yet as Christians, we understand ourselves as blessed by God with freewill.  We have the power to make choices and to change our lives.  Certainly, there are circumstances that are beyond our control that limit us, but often the biggest limits we face are the ones we place on ourselves.  Too often we are like the lazy dogs of summer thinking that eventhing is fated and we are unable to change the course of our life.

Perhaps we sometimes even have this fatalistic way of thinking about our church.  We might look around and worry what is ahead for our congregation.  But even here, we have a choice.  We can choose to follow God's call to faithfully to reach out to others.  We can look for God's Spirit at work in the world and seek to join in.  Or we can lay down under the porch and just endure the Dog Days....

"See I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity..... I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, belssings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendeants may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him..."  Deuteronomy 30: 15,19-20a

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