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John W. Eyster: Thrilled to hear Pope's message

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By John W. Eyster
December 26, 2013

“Lord, grant your peace,” Pope Francis prays for the whole wide world.

I was THRILLED when I heard Pope Francis’ “Urbi et Ordi” (“to the city and the world”) message yesterday!  The New York Times captured the source of my THRILL in its headline for its feature article, “Pope, Off Script, Nods to Atheists in Holiday Call for World Peace.” I encourage you to read this article.

I did look up the FULL TEXT of the Pope’s Christmas message and found it published by the Washington Post from Associated Press, "Text of pope’s Christmas message."  I urge you to read the FULL text and note where the Pope plugged in his OFF SCRIPT appeal.

Following his text, the Pope attested, “True peace is not a balance of opposing forces. It is not a lovely “façade” which conceals conflicts and divisions. Peace calls for daily commitment, starting from God’s gift, from the grace which he has given us in Jesus Christ.

“Looking at the Child in the manger, our thoughts turn to those children who are the most vulnerable victims of wars, but we think too of the elderly, to battered women, to the sick. Wars shatter and hurt so many lives!”

With the SPIRIT of Saint Francis of Assisi, Pope Francis embraced in his prayer specific situations throughout the world where violence rages, including:  Syria, Central African Republic, South Sudan, Nigeria, Israel, Palestine, Iraq.  For all, he prayed earnestly, “Lord, grant your peace.”

HOLY SPIRIT working through Pope Francis, he went off script and spontaneously said, “I invite even nonbelievers to desire peace. Join us with your desire, a desire that widens the heart. Let us all unite, either with prayer or with desire, but everyone, for peace.”  What a thrill to hear the Roman Catholic Pope embracing ALL HUMANKIND!  I believe this reflects again the fact that JESUS through the HOLY SPIRIT has hold of Pope Francis!  What do YOU think?

The spontaneous appeal came after the Pope had said, “Too many lives have been shattered in recent times by the conflict in Syria, fueling hatred and vengeance. Let us continue to ask the Lord to spare the beloved Syrian people further suffering, and to enable the parties in conflict to put an end to all violence and guarantee access to humanitarian aid. We have seen how powerful prayer is! And I am happy today too, that the followers of different religious confessions are joining us in our prayer for peace in Syria. Let us never lose the courage of prayer! The courage to say: Lord, grant your peace to Syria and to the whole world.”

SPONTANEOUS APPEAL by POPE FRANCIS:  “I invite even nonbelievers to desire peace. Join us with your desire, a desire that widens the heart. Let us all unite, either with prayer or with desire, but everyone, for peace.”

And then he returned to the text, “Grant peace to the Central African Republic, often forgotten and overlooked. Yet you, Lord, forget no one! And you also want to bring peace to that land, torn apart by a spiral of violence and poverty, where so many people are homeless, lacking water, food and the bare necessities of life. Foster social harmony in South Sudan, where current tensions have already caused numerous victims and are threatening peaceful coexistence in that young state.”

Preparing for my visit as Guest Pastor at Hebron United Methodist Church, east of Fort Atkinson, next Sunday, December 29 for the 9 am Service, I have entitled the message, “The WORLD is flat:  God so loved the WORLD.”  This message launches from the declaration in the Gospel of John 3:16-17 (Contemporary English Version), “God loved the people of this world so much that he gave his only Son...God did not send his Son into the world to condemn its people. He sent him to save them!”  ALERT:  The “WORLD” not the “earth” is flat!  The title of the message got its formulation from Thomas Friedmann’s best-seller, “The World Is Flat:  A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century.”  Friedmann gives us an informative insight into our 21st century with valuable perspective and interpretation.  I recommend the book – be sure you have the latest edition:  3.0.

I shall QUOTE POPE FRANCIS in the message at Hebron United Methodist Church next Sunday!  The last time I was reading and quoting a Roman Catholic Pope was Pope John XXIII (October 1958 – June 1963).  God does work in mysterious ways, doesn’t He?!

Marilyn and I are looking forward to this visit back to Hebron United Methodist Church because it was 45 years ago that we started ministry in that congregation.  Their pastor died late November 1968.  I was graduate student at Garrett Theological Seminary, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL.  We were asked if we would serve Hebron on an interim basis pending the appointment of a new pastor by the WI Bishop.  So, we celebrate Christmas 1968 with the Hebron congregation.  This is the 45th anniversary of the first Christmas we celebrated with the people of the Hebron congregation.  Our first child, Beth Kari, was born while we lived in Hebron, June 1970.  I completed the M.A.T. at UW-Whitewater while serving the Hebron Church.  I was an Intern in Social Studies at Parker High School, Janesville as part of achieving the degree. I was then hired to teach at Parker High School by Principal Hugh Horswill starting August 1971, so we moved to the Janesville area in June 1971 when Beth was 1 year old.  Our family included two foster sons, Mike and Scott at that time.  We had a special home out in the middle of the PRAIRIE east of Janesville which we rented from Hjordan Farms along Rock County J.  We look back the 45 years with awareness of many changes and with gratitude for so many blessings.

As we all prepare to complete 2013 and move into 2014, I join POPE FRANCIS to PRAY, “God grant your peace.”  Do you agree?

I pray for you all a meaningful, satisfying and blessed completion of 2013 and then a fulfilling, productive and peaceful 2014!



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