The Pastor's Buzz

Pastor Buzz Trexler's blog for God's people in The Meadow.

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Name: Buzz Trexler
Location: Knoxville, Tennessee, United States

Journalist for 29 years; married to Donna for 28 years; parent of David, 27, and Elizabeth, 24; pastor of Green Meadow United Methodist Church in Alcoa since 2002.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Wanted: Authentic disciples of Christ

It's been a while since I pulled out my stamp collection, which I started in college.

I love stamp stories, which is why in 1984 I read a book called "Nassau Street," by the internationally known Herman Herst Jr. Nassau Street was the center of philately in the 1930s, when Herst set up shop there.

One day after reading this book, I was wandering through a stamp and coin shop in Beaumont, Texas, when something on a sales stand caught my eye. It was a hand-painted auction card with a block of four stamps attached, with the card carrying Herst's signature. The auction card noted that the stamps, which commemorated the Byrd Expedition, had once been part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's collection and had been presented to him in 1933 by Postmaster General Farley. The stamps were part of the president's collection, which was sold at auction by order of his Estate in February 1946. The card notes, "Of the above item, which is Number 1RA, only one are guaranteed to exist."

Like most philatelists, I knew that FDR was an avid stamp collector and that Farley created intentional errors for the president and his friends. I didn't know whether this was one of those errors; however, one thing I was sure of was this: This was philatelic history right before my eyes -- and I had to have it. The cost was $50, at a time when we really didn't have $50.

But my wife bought it for me for Valentine's Day.

Within a week, I penned what would be the first of two letters to Herst, the first of which found its way to the auctioneer's home in Boca Raton, Fla. In his return note, he mildly chastised me for not sending a self-addressed stamp envelope, then shared some information with me. I sent him a second letter, to which he replied in friendly tone, again offering more information on this block of stamps.

I submitted the stamps to the American Philatelic Society for authentication, because I could not find them in the Scott's stamp catalog.

The certifier confirmed what Herst shared with me: I would not find them in the catalog, because the sheet of 200 stamps was printed specifically for Roosevelt. They are indistinguishable from single copies of other Byrd Exhibition stamps, and Herst explains that is "why I did sign each one and number them."

This is provenance.

These are the identifying marks.

I have all of that information in my collection: The auction card, the letters from Herst, the American Philatelic Society's certification, and the original receipt. In the collecting world, those items are called "provenance" -- records or documents authenticating an object, or the history of ownership.

In Saint Matthew¹s biography of Jesus, we learn of a time when John the Baptist was in prison and his disciples come to Jesus. The lone prophet who had been crying in the wilderness is now caged. He's waiting, and likely wondering about things. Jesus isn't measuring up to the picture that the baptizer had painted for the coming messiah. Perhaps John was asking himself, and his disciples, "Is this the Christ? Do we have to look for another? Should we keep searching?"

And so, John's disciples come and ask Jesus, in effect, "Are you the one? Are you the authentic Messiah? Or are you just another counterfeit on the market?"

Jesus told them, "Go back and tell John what's going on: 'The blind see, The lame walk, Lepers are cleansed, The deaf hear, The dead are raised, The wretched of the earth learn that God is on their side.'" (The Message)

Jesus knows that John¹s disciples understand that he is pointing back to the writings of the prophet Isaiah. Jesus is using the prophecies of Isaiah as the provenance that details the authenticity of his messiahship. Isaiah wrote, "God is here, right here, on his way to put things right. Blind eyes will be opened, deaf ears unstopped, Lame men and women will leap like deer, the voiceless break into song."

Jesus was doing these things -- and he is still doing these things.

Isaiah's writings, though meant for a particular time and place, became the provenance for the authenticity of Jesus as the Christ.

Many of us who are part of the Christian tradition are engaged in a variety of things that bear little of the signature of authentic Christ followers. If we look at the provenance of Christ, what would be that signature? The hungry will be fed; widows and orphans cared for; sinners will come to know Christ; and the people will live justly, do mercy, and walk humbly with their God. There will be healing in their midst.

An authentic Christian bears the authentic marks of a life like Christ; likewise with authentic Christian communities. It is only through such provenance that the world will accept the message.

Above all others, Christian communities should be the ones who show:

He is the One. We do not need to keep searching for another.

The blind see.

The deaf hear.

The lame walk.

The voiceless have a voice.

Grace and peace ...