The Peace of the Persecuted for Christ

The third in a series of three sermons given by Dr. Ralph Blair at the 2011 Preaching Festival held in Ocean Grove, N.J.

Six years ago, we celebrated the 1604 launching of the King James Version of the Bible.  After six years’ work on translation, the King James Bible was published.  2011 marks the 400th anniversary of that publication date.  Since we already celebrated the 400th of the launching, we’re skipping celebration of the publishing.  But, at least in passing, and as we continue through Jesus’ Beatitudes and arrive this morning at the one on “peacemaking”, let’s note that King James took for his own motto, the Latin version of this Beatitude: “Beati Pacifici”, “Blessed are the peacemakers.”  And his reign was pretty peaceful.

Jesus said:          

How fortunate are peacemakers, for they will be called God’s children.

Whatever peace this world enjoys, it’s never without disharmony, distress and hostility, too.  And even aside from violent crime and atrocities of war, this world’s precarious peace is disturbed every day by racial rivalry, inter-identity group animosity, pit bull politics, Twitter tantrums, school bullying, interpersonal intimidation, family feuds, divorce, continuing estrangement of former friends and on and on it goes.  Read more →

Preaching Festival 2010

 1910 ~ The Centennials ~ 2010

William Holman Hunt  – Louis Klopsh – The Fundamentals F. F. Bruce

This is the opening talk by Dr. Ralph Blair given at the 20120Preaching Festival.  The 201o weekend focused on a group of centennial, historical Christians whose journeys and testimonies are an encouragement and inspiration to all.  Sermons from the weekend are available here.

Introductory Lecture

 William Holman Hunt     April 2, 1827 – September 7, 1910

In 1854, 27-year-old William Holman Hunt unveiled his first rendering of what eventually would be three versions of his painting, “The Light of the World”.  It was an instant classic – enthusiastically received by both the art world and the general public.  The painting depicted the text of Revelation 3:20 where Jesus says: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and I will sup with him and he with me.” Read more →

“Ye Olde Postmodernism”

The first in a series of three sermons given by Dr. Ralph Blair at the 2010 Preaching Festival held in Ocean Grove, N.J.

“Ye Olde Postmodernism”

Prefixing “Postmodernism” with the quaintness of “Ye Olde” and its visions of English village shambles and whiffs of ale and Cheshire cheese, isn’t as anachronistic as “Ye Olde’s” pseudo 16th-century affectation, itself.  And digging through ancient layers of human history to find traces of today’s pop jargon isn’t as out-of-joint as it may seem.

Way back in the mists of Eden, a pontificating snake strikes the pose of a primeval postmodernist.  Not yet cursed to crawling around in the dust, the snake struts its stuff.  The snake sneers at what it dogmatically disdains as a dogmatic God.  It’s judgmental of what it judges to be a judgmental God.  It pretends to push a participatory pluralism but betrays its postured tolerance for a diversity of truths by slithering into its own “grand narrative”: It, alone, is right and God is wrong.  It exchanges the truth of God for it’s own lie and labels that, the “truth”.  It tries to replace God’s revelation for us with its own revolution against God.  Discarding God’s clear meaning, the snake hisses rationalizations that the meaning of any author, including God, is secondary while any recipient’s reading, and especially the snake’s own reading, is primary.  This trickster tells the humans: “Words mean what you say they mean.  There’s no inherent meaning in words, you idiots.”  And with a serpentine “truth” of its own, presented in the guise of a simple question – “Hath God said?” – it proceeds to trap its prey in a wily postmodernist deconstruction of God’s word of love. Read more →

“The Good News: It’s a Whole Lot More!”

The second in a series of three sermons given by Dr. Ralph Blair at the 2010 Preaching Festival held in Ocean Grove, N.J.

 “The Good News: It’s a Whole Lot More!”

Luke gives us this report: “Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were approached by a slave girl who had a spirit of fortune telling on which her owners made a great deal of money.  She trailed after Paul and the rest of us, shouting, ‘These men are servants of the Most High God.  They’re telling you how to be saved.’  She kept on screaming this, day after day.  Finally, Paul became so troubled by the screaming that he turned around and said to that spirit, ‘In the name of Jesus Christ, I command you to come out of her!’  And at that very moment the spirit left her.”  (Acts 16:16-18)

The Greek term that Luke uses for the source of the slave girl’s fortune telling “talent” literally means “a spirit of puthona”, or Python – the ancient mythical sentinel snake at Gaia’s navel, the supposed “center of the earth” at Delphi.  Was this girl a pawn of con men?  Maybe she did ventriloquism and the peasants took her strange sounds as “secrets from the spirit world”.  Read more →

“The Light of the World”

The third in a series of three sermons given by Dr. Ralph Blair at the 2010 Preaching Festival held in Ocean Grove, N.J.

“The Light of the World”

In the biblical book of Revelation, at 3:14-22, we read Christ’s letter to the messenger of the congregation at Laodicea in Asia Minor.  Here it is:

   “These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation.  I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot.  How I wish you were either one or the other!  So, since you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I’m about to spit you out of my mouth.  You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’  But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.  I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.

   Those whom I love, I rebuke and discipline.  So be earnest, and repent.  Here I am!  I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. 

   To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne.  He who has an ear to hear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

A 19th century art critic referred to Holman Hunt’s famous painting, “The Light of the World”, as “a painted text, a sermon on canvas”.  And, so it has been since it was first displayed.  Jesus is knocking at a door in the dark, a door all overgrown with weeds and dead flowers.  His lantern shines the light.  As he knocks, he calls out:  “Listen!  If anyone in there hears me and opens this door, I’ll come in and we’ll dine together.”  (Rev 3:20)  And remember that, in the biblical culture, dining together wasn’t about just grabbing a quick bite.  It was evidence of most intimate fellowship. Read more →

The Summing Up

A Sermon by Dr. Ralph Blair at City Church, New York on August 31, 2003

As you may know, the night before he died in the Iraqi desert, NBC correspondent David Bloom sent his wife an e-mail that was later read at his funeral at St. Patrick’s Cathedral here in the city. Here’s what he said to her in that last e-mail: “I hope and pray all my guys get out of this in one piece, but I’ll tell you, Mel, I am at peace. Here I am, supposedly at the peak of professional success, but I could, frankly, care less. It’s nothing compared to my relationship with you and the girls and Jesus.”

Despite a grueling pre-launch schedule for that last Columbia space shuttle, Commander Rick Husband made sixteen daily devotional video tapes for his children to watch, one for each of the sixteen days he’d be in space. And they watched them – right up into the morning the shuttle broke up and disintegrated forty miles over their Texas home. He’d also given a tape to his pastor. On that tape he says: “Tell them about Jesus. He means everything to me.”

But Jesus does not mean “everything” to everyone! New Yorkers hardly need to be reminded that Jesus is a “stumbling block” for many people. Citing the prophet Isaiah’s warning to Read more →

Pink Slips of Providence

A Sermon by Dr. Ralph Blair at City Church, New York June 22, 2003

Unemployment here in the city is around 9%? That’s far worse than the national rate of 6.1%. But 6.1% is better than the national average over the last 25 years. So what do these figures mean? Well, it’s one thing to know the figures from the papers. It’s something else to know them from pink slips. With a pink slip in hand, the figure is 100%.

Pink slips aren’t pretty. So why are pink slips pink? Pink is rosy. But pink slips don’t paint rosy pictures. They don’t put you in the pink; they put you in the blues. And then they can put you in the red – that darker shade of pink. At least that’s what fearful fantasies portend.

But can fearful fantasies predict truly? What if first impressions of pink slips are but partial and premature? Of course, they are but partial and premature. By definition, they’re shortsighted. So pink slips are poor predictors of all that’s coming. Mere fantasies cannot truly predict outcomes. And, even if they prefigure some of the circumstances, how can they Read more →

An Atheist’s Advice

A Sermon by Dr. Ralph Blair at City Church, New York on June 22, 2003

An atheist’s advice? Here it is: Christians should be Christians. That was the advice of at least one atheist. Back in 1948, French Dominicans asked existentialist Albert Camus to talk on the topic: “What Do Unbelievers Expect of Christians?” His remarkable response was that Christians should take their Christian faith more seriously than many do – and not in terms of mere “abstraction.” This philosopher who spent his life fighting nihilism and totalitarianism said that Christians should “speak out, loud and clear … in such a way that never a doubt, never the slightest doubt, could rise in the heart of the simplest man” as to the truth of their Christian witness.

This was in the same year that another honest unbeliever, Eric Blair, wrote his prophetic novel against the totalitarian utopias of Stalinism, Nazism, capitalist excess and the welfare state – all of which were foolishly embraced by Christians who failed to grasp the depths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Blair, whose 100th birthday was 12 days ago, wrote the book under his Read more →

Blessed Assurance

for The City Church, New York on March 9, 2003

As I mentioned, today is the birthday of Phoebe Palmer Knapp. It was 130 years ago, in the Knapp mansion on Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn, that she first played her new hymn tune for her friend, the blind poet, Fanny Crosby. “What does this tune say, Fanny?,” she asked. Her friend answered with no hesitation: “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!,” and she went on to write the rest of it.

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine! Both women knew just what that meant, though they came from very different backgrounds. One was born to New York’s high society and married the founder of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. The other was born to a hardscrabble life up in Putnam County and now lived among black servants and day laborers in a tenement down at Varick and Canal Streets. But they both belonged to Jesus. They both belonged to Jesus, to whom, in Fanny’s words, they submitted in perfect delight, in whose Spirit they were Read more →


New York, July 21, 2002

“Eternity” is for sale, and so is “Truth” – as high fashion fragrances from Calvin Klein. And they’re not cheap. That’s the point. And these bottled ego-builders are the least of the luxuries available to those who think they need such things.

A New York Times advertising supplement on “The New Luxury” assures us that “The ego builder’s soul mate is the person who pays an outrageous price for the ultimate product … [and that] to most ego-driven people, it’s important that everyone else know that they own the best, whether it’s the biggest ranch or the car with the longest hood.” According to this Read more →

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