Monday, May 14, 2018


"But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart."  (Luke 2:19)

At the outset I will state that it's probably much more likely I'd be struck by lightning than that I'd be asked to speak at the Marian High graduation!  This is just a piece about if I were speaking at the Marian High graduation!  It's purely hypothetical.  I'm a Protestant.  I'm an Ordained minister.  My theology differs from Roman Catholic theology- in some instances, it differs quite a bit!  I am not a celebrity.  I don't have a list of great monumental life achievements.  And, I'd expect that like all schools, if there is a special speaker for Marian's 2018 graduation, certainly that speaker was chosen many months ago.  But one can dream.  This has been a very difficult year for Marian High School.  On April 3, 2018, it was officially announced by the Marian school board that the school would close at the end of the 2017-2018 school year.  A group of committed parents valiantly went to work in an effort to save the school.  In my opinion, they did an outstanding job.  Many stepped forward in support of saving Marian High School.  On May 10, 2018, the Archdiocese of Boston formally announced that despite the efforts of the Save Marian organization, the school would absolutely be closing in June 2018.  My wife has been employed in the office at Marian, I think, since 2005.  My three kids graduated from Marian, in 2001, 2003, and 2005 respectively.  Despite the fact that I left the Catholic church over forty years ago, my wife and I found that Marian was a great fit for our family. There is so much I could say, but without further ado, here is what I'd say if I were speaking at graduation:

This graduation day brings more than the usual rush of emotions, both of great happiness and ecstasy and of nostalgic sadness.  Until April 3 of this year, who of us would have believed this would be Marian's final Graduation Day?  I'm the only one of our family who never actually attended Marian High nor worked at Marian High, that is, unless you count my volunteer time when my kids were here.  I haven't lived in Framingham since 2010.  So, you'd think this wouldn't be quite as difficult a day as it is for my wife and grown kids.  But let me tell you, it is!  However, my speaking here today does underscore a great truth:  Scripture says in Luke 1:37, "For with God nothing shall be impossible."

To those who worked to save the school and feel you failed, remember those words!  I actually have a Marian High School 2017 key ring.  I will keep that key ring until it is so worn and tarnished that it falls apart!  The buildings may be closed up.  The physical property may become something totally different.  But in the sense of that film, "We Are Marshall", every one of us who's ever been a part of Marian High School will go on and it can always be said of us that, "We Are Marian!".

I'm a Protestant minister and I'm speaking at the Marian High graduation!  If that's not God, if that's not impossible, I don't know what is!  And, I'm going to say some things today that are most unusual for a Protestant minister:  I'm going to speak about Mary!  Now, that wouldn't be at all unusual for a Catholic, but it's very unusual for a Protestant.   You see, Protestants don't tend to teach or preach or speak about Mary.  I pastored a small Protestant church in Framingham for over twenty years.  In all that time, I don't think I ever gave a single sermon about Mary.  Oh, we'll mention Mary briefly at Christmastime, or briefly in teaching on the incident of Jesus in the Temple as a twelve-year-old.  But we don't talk about Mary, because it just plan sounds too Catholic!  And that's a shame, because we evangelical Protestants claim to be people of the Bible, and you can't be any more of a "person of the Bible" than Mary!  So today I'm speaking about Mary.  It's fitting because this is Marian High School, named for Mary.  And let me say this:  If you'll truly follow the example Mary sets for us in the Bible throughout your lives, you'll be outstanding and godly men and women!

I want to briefly tell you six things about Mary from the Bible today:

Number One; Mary Was Faithful to God's Plan.  We don't have time, but sometime in the next few days, take some time and read Luke's Gospel chapter one.  The verse about nothing being impossible with God that I cited comes from that chapter.  Tradition tells us Mary was a teenager when she was visited by the Angel Gabriel and told that she would be the virgin mother of the Messiah, Jesus!  Wow!  Have you ever thought about how difficult that all must have been for her?  Everybody thought she "fooled around" before marriage.  In many quarters, she was disgraced and disdained.  But she said, "Yes" to Gabriel and "Yes" to God!  Would you say "Yes" to God, no matter what that meant?  Most people wouldn't but Mary did!  She was faithful.  She was a giant of faith!  Will you be a giant of faith like Mary?  Will you say "Yes" to God no matter what that means?

Number Two; Mary Was Obedient to God's Word.  In Luke 1:38, Mary said to the Angel Gabriel, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me accouding to thy word".  Mary said, "If God's Word, says it, I want to do it, I want to obey it!"  Do you obey God's Word?  My late father would have said, "It doesn't take a college degree to see that most people don't!"  Well, it doesn't take a college degree or a high school diploma to see that most people don't desire to obey God's Word, but if you will be a person who honors and obeys God's Word, there will be great blessings for you!

Number Three; Mary Was a Prophetic Voice.  Now that may sound a little spooky.  You may say, "Well wait a minute, Pastor Bob, I'm just an ordinary person, I can't speak as a prophet or a prophetess!"  I'm not talking about any foolish, crackpot nonsense here!  In the cults and in false religions there's plenty of that.  But Mary was a prophetic voice.  Have you ever read The Magnificat of Mary in Luke 1 verses 46-55?  It's one of the most beautiful portions of Scripture in which Mary speaks both poetically and prophetically!  Listen, you don't have to be a Billy Graham or a Mother Teresa to speak prophetically.  It just means you know God and you walk with God and you vocally speak what God wants you to speak.  Do you know what was the greatest thing about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr?  It's not all that leadership in the civil rights movement, as great as that was.  It was King's prophetic voice that sparked his actions in the civil rights movement!  Do you know who Corrie Ten Boom was?  She was a Dutch watchmaker who rescued countless Jews during World War 2.  She wrote several books which speak prophetically.  Like King, her prophetic voice led to her actions.  There's so much more I could say about this, but there are kids here who can and will change the world if they'll really get to know God, speak with a prophetic voice, and then let that lead to action.

Number Four; Mary Was Reflective of God's Wonders.  Luke 2:19 says of Mary that she, "...kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart."  "All these things" was all she had seen and experienced God say and do.  She thought about this stuff.  She reflected on it.  She meditated on it.  And it affected her in a very positive way; and then she affected others in a very positive way!  What do you think about?  Listen, we all think about a lot of stupid or worthless things!  I do!  Great people think about a lot more than stupid and worthless things.  They think about what really matters!  There's a discipline to that!  Somebody says, "But Pastor Bob, I'm only a teenager!"  Listen, Mary was only a teenager, but she kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart!  Do you want to be like everybody else?  Some of  you do want that.  That's too bad.  But if some of you will discipline how you spend your time and talents, and what you think about and what you give your attention you, you'll inspire others and you'll motivate others, and you'll change your world!

Number Five; Mary Was Longsuffering and Committed to Christ.  John's Gospel tells us Mary was there at the cross when Jesus was crucified.  Can you imagine the sorrows she experienced?  The woman's name Dolores literally means "sorrows" in Spanish, and specifically refers to the sorrows of the Virgin Mary.  There's a line from the movie "Field of Dreams" that I love.  It's when the voice says to Ray the main character, "Go the distance!"  Most people don't "go the distance".  When the going gets tough, most people get going, meaning they leave!!  Not Mary!  Did you ever stop to think she could have been jailed or even killed?  She didn't care.  She was "all in" when it came to her faith.  She was willing to "go the distance".  Most people are not willing to "go the distance" with God.  Are you willing to be like Mary?  Are you willing to "go the distance"?  If you will, you'll be one of the heroes of the faith!  No kidding!

Number Six; Mary Looked to Jesus Christ for Help.  Do you remember the first miracle Jesus performed?  It was the changing of water into wine at the wedding at Cana in John chapter two.  There was a real crisis at this wedding.  They were running out of wine.  Mary did not know what to do, so she turned to Jesus.  Then she told the servants in John 2:5, "...Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it."  And the rest is history!  Need help?  Jesus is the answer.  I remember when I used to volunteer in the Health Room way back around 2000 I'd hear the Religion teacher Mrs. Cunis leading her classes in what she called, "The Miracle Prayer".  She taught them this prayer over and over.  Mrs. Cunis told her classes, "In life,  if you're ever in a crisis, pray this prayer."  Here is what she taught them to pray, "Jesus, I'm a sinner.  I can't save myself.  I need you, Jesus.  I need help Jesus.  I believe you died on the cross for me and I believe you rose from the dead.  I ask you to come into my heart.  I ask you to come into my life.  I ask you be be my Lord and Savior, Jesus.  Amen".    That's a great prayer.  If you pray that prayer, you'll be like Mary.  You'll ask Jesus for help.  I don't say that life will be easy.  It may be very hard.  But the Lord will be with you.  The Lord will help you, and the Lord will see you through.

Yes, if you'll truly follow the example Mary sets for us in the Bible, you'll be outstanding and godly men and women.  God bless you!

Saturday, May 12, 2018


"Render therefore to all their dues: ... honour to whom honour." (from Romans 13:7)

I've really debated within myself whether to write and post this piece.  Over the years I've written and posted some items online that I really believed had great significance and would have a great impact.  At least- that was my hope!  Shortly after Senator Edward Kennedy was diagnosed with brain cancer, I wrote an open letter to him online.  It was a pretty well-written piece.  I'm sure he never saw it; it got very few "hits", and it probably made no impact.  Earlier this year, I wrote an open letter to President Trump, and that one is pretty much in the same category.  Interestingly enough, I did once post an item on my blog that got over 5,000 "hits".  That was a piece stating my thoughts and opinions about Boston radio talk show host Jay Severin and his program.  Frankly, most of my posts never get 200 "hits" and may never get 75 "hits".

So, I really debated this one, wondering if even one hundred people would read it, wondering if anyone would "share" it on social media, wondering if anyone would forward the link to it to their friends, wondering frankly if anyone would even remotely care!

I decided that the words from Romans chapter 13 that I opened with indicate that I absolutely must write this piece and post it online!

It can be kind of embarrassing to be sort of obsessed with a celebrity.  I wouldn't want people to really think of me in that way; as the kind of guy waiting to get a celebrity's autograph, or the kind of guy who'd be blushing and spilling his glass of water while stuttering nervously and attempting to shake a celebrity's hand.  But today I'm admitting that's the way I feel about John McCain.  In answer to one of those questions asking what celebrity you'd like to go to dinner and a ball game with, for me, my number one choice is John McCain.  When Billy Graham was alive, he probably would have been my number one choice, and I don't know what some of you will be thinking after you read this, but my other choices are (in this order):  Robert Duvall, Jimmy Swaggart, Mike Pence, Rob Gronkowski, and lastly Dr. Phil Mcgraw.

I first became fascinated and obsessed with John McCain during his run for the 2000 Republican Presidential nomination.  The more I saw and learned about John McCain, the more impressed I was and the more fascinated I became.  Then, at some point, I watched a television drama about his early life, particularly his six-year imprisonment in Hanoi during the Vietnam conflict.  Many of my friends know I don't like to post about politics on social media.  That's why when Donald Trump said that John McCain was not a hero "because he was captured",  I merely wrote on Facebook that it made me "sad".  Today, I really regret downplaying that.  Now, I did (somewhat reluctantly) vote for Donald Trump for President in 2016 and I will probably vote for him again in 2020.  But that remark was so inappropriate and so insensitive that it still boggles my mind that it was said.  And, the comment from the Trump staffer this week to the effect that, "he's dying so what does it matter"... well that comment was perhaps even worse.  It was this week's comment that moved me to write this piece, even though I may look foolish to some people.  (Honestly, with all I've said and done in my life, I probably look foolish already, so I guess it won't hurt to write this!)

Can you guess I'm one of those preachers who can be known for giving long introductions in his sermons and for using lengthy illustrations in his sermons?!   So far, this is only the introduction!  Now I will attempt to get to what I really want to say.

I guess I will never meet John McCain.  I guess we will never have dinner together and go to a ball game or some other event.  That's too bad.  Maybe we'd have nothing in common.  I wouldn't have lasted twenty-four hours in that "Hanoi Hilton" before I would have been crying like a baby!  I would never have had the guts to do so much of what he did in life!  Listen, I know he has a number of personal failures in his life, too.  But John McCain is a great hero in my eyes.  The first thing I would have done is saluted him.  The second thing I would have done is shake his hand and tell him I'm very proud of him.  I would have told him I voted for him for President in the 2000 and 2008 Massachusetts Republican primaries, as well as in the November 2008 Presidential election.  I would have told him about my mother, the late Virginia M. Baril.  She was a lifelong Democrat.  In 2000, just a few months before her death, she changed her party status in Massachusetts from "Democrat" to "unenrolled" so she'd be able to vote for John McCain in the Republican primary.  And, I'd tell him my sister Dianne feels the same way and admires John McCain as much as I do - maybe more!   I'd probably have asked him questions about the current political scene and about his military service.  And, I'd probably just have asked some general questions about things he likes to do, places he's visited or would like to visit, favorite books and movies, and things like that.  Finally, I would have clearly talked about my personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and how it's God who is my purpose and reason for being "twenty-four/seven".

Will John McCain ever read this?  I don't know.

I've certainly prayed for him.  And, I've admired his daughter Meghan McCain and the strong stand she took on The View to defend Mike Pence and his faith.  I think in my last moment with John McCain at our "meeting" I'd have quickly (and a little nervously) said, "Can I just briefly pray for you?" and if he'd allow it, I'd have laid my hand on his shoulder and prayed a very heartfelt prayer.

If there's been some miracle, and he's reading this, I say "THANK YOU, JOHN McCAIN", and I add that a lot of people love you, respect you, and are praying for you.