August 23rd, 2011
This past Tuesday at noon our church began a new ministry to the community: Faith@Work. It was, I believe, a great success made up of business leaders from all parts of the community. Here is an abbreviation of my remarks I shared at the Faith@Work luncheon.
Four Things I hope My Son Packed for College
Now that I have seen my first born off to college I guess that makes me an expert on family transition – well, not really. The most vulnerable part of dropping your child off to college is the feeling that he is not adequately prepared. The truth is, now that they are adults they have to make their own choices. Here are four things I hope my son packed for college and plans to take with him through life:
I grew up where hard work was not just valued; it was essential, yet I was a lazy student for many years. In
Colossians 3:17 we read. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus…
Don’t cut corners; whether you punch a clock or are salaried or a student or a volunteer. Your primary employer is God, to Whom we dedicate all our labors. Even the most menial and mundane of tasks are offerings to God.
No doubt we all consider ourselves to be, by and large, honest folks. Indeed I hope so. We sure need more of it. One of the many reasons we are in the mess we are in regarding the economy is the lack of honesty in the workplace. This may be a bit simplistic, but it doesn’t make it less true.
The Bible reminds us, “let your “Yes” be yes and your “No” be no…” (James 5:12) When people know that your word is a seal, you spend less time defending, explaining or promoting. It takes much more work to be dishonest over trivial matters than it does to be honest over large affairs.
Related but distinct from honesty is integrity. In nautical usage integrity refers to the seaworthiness of a ship’s hull – to be sound inside and out. Stephen Carter writes that integrity is: “discerning what is right and what is wrong; acting on what you have discerned, even at personal cost; and saying openly that you are acting on your understanding of right from wrong.”
Adding to that definition of integrity is to be known as a person who is the same at the office, at home, at the ball field and at the church. Your clothes may change from one place to the next, but your character does not. The person sitting at the boardroom table should be the same at the supper table.
Proverbs tells us: “Better to be poor and walk in integrity than to be crooked though rich.” (28:6)
This is a mean world and mean times and sadly we think that the only way to survive is to be mean in return. We hear and use the phrase “dog eat dog” is if it is an irrefutable truth.
There are many ways to define compassion, but the simplest is to simply be willing to share with another in their hurts and also their joys. Nowadays the term compassion is often ridiculed as weak.
Compassion is not about being nice or pleasant. Neither is compassion only for your favorite causes or people. Jesus showed compassion not only to the weak and marginalized but for those who may very well have been against him, like Nicodemus the Pharisee or the scribe who debated Jesus on the most important commandment but walked away admiring Jesus or the one called the “rich, young, ruler,” whom Jesus looked upon and loved.
Colossians 3:12 As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.
I hope my son packed hard work, honesty, integrity and compassion for college. He is going to need them not only in the classroom but for life. We too need to pack our briefcases, lunchboxes, pocketbooks and laptops with these four things. It will not only make us better people, but it will make for better businesses and therefore better communities.
August 17th, 2011
This past Sunday I celebrated communion with the Sunday School Class called “Jesus’ Special Followers.” Many of you are familiar with this great class of adults who share at least two things in common: they love Jesus and they have some level of cognitive impairment. Week after week there is a loving team of volunteers who work with these students and their caregivers to provide safe and sacred space to feel loved, valued, and affirmed. This particular Sunday I was asked to gather with them in the Storey Chapel to participate in a worship service where we sang “This Little Light of Mine” and “Jesus Loves Me” and a few other choruses. They formed a choir and sang raucously and joyfully before quieting down for my brief meditation leading into communion. Just before sharing in the bread and cup of Christ, one of the class members ambled to the near center of the Chapel to sing “The Lord’s Prayer.” He sang the tune near perfectly as well as each word. Well, almost every word.
When it came to the line, “Forgive us our debts…” he sang instead, “Give us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” This sounds similar, but it is of course a completely different meaning. Who wants to be given debts? I have enough, thank you very much, so I certainly do not want to go around asking for more. I have no doubt you probably feel much the same.
Here was a gentleman who, one could argue, has been given his fair share of debts, physically and mentally. To my observation, he has far more debts than I do. Yet here he was singing “Give us our debts.” I am sure it was just a faux paux, a slip of the tongue, but still it set me to pondering.
Some of us have more and ask for more, some have less and even from their comparative poverty give away even more. After his song I was aware that I was indebted to him and all of the others who sang and gave and loved so liberally that morning in the Chapel. I was indebted and yet, as the prayer goes, he forgave even those debts.
Forgiveness really does set you free. If you are the one forgiven you are set free from the debt and the bondage created. If you are the one forgiving, you too are set free in that another’s sin or debt no longer has you defined or bound.
Maybe when we sing “Give us our debts” it is about being willing to take on the burdens of another; to lighten the load that someone else might be set free. Jesus said this much when he taught: “…if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.” (Matthew 5:41-42)
Whatever conclusion you or I might draw from this wayward line sung in the Chapel, I know this much: I walked out of the Chapel with a lighter load than when I entered, all because of a man who cannot walk that well, talk that well and maybe not even think that well took on part of my debts. How can I not do the same thing for another?
Thank you good folks for the many ways you help lighten my load. Thanks be to God!
August 9th, 2011
Not so long ago Amy, the boys and I headed “home” to visit my family. Due to a rather demanding summer I had not been home to visit my daddy since last May. Keep in mind that they are only just over an hour’s drive away. A visit was long overdue and greatly welcomed. At supper we sat down to the usual bowls and dishes that we each contributed to feed the masses. One platter stood out – okra, fresh from the garden and fried to perfection. It was my brother Scott’s offering. I did not know he even knew how to cook. There are several good restaurants where you can eat fried okra and most of them do a commendable job. Nothing, however, compares to homegrown okra fried the old-fashion way. It tasted like home.
I thought about this a few days later when I was kneading dough in preparation for cinnamon rolls I would bake on the first day of school. The dough recipe I use is the one my grandmother shared with me when I left for seminary. Her sour dough bread was a parting gift to me when I would head back to college. In seminary I learned to bake it so that no matter how far away I lived, I could always have something that tasted like home. Perhaps one day my boys will have families of their own and share with them cinnamon rolls or Amy’s sweet potato biscuits and their taste buds will remind them of what home is like.
What is it that tugs at your heart and calls you back home, even if it is in the fading confines of memory? The idea of home – even if it is just an idea and not a reality – is a place of stability; a place one goes to, if not literally then in memory. Home is a place we call hope and therefore home is for sending, such as going to work, to school, or to something new. Home is also a place of receiving, to be welcomed back and nourished. Home; it is a lovely thought, isn’t it?
I am convinced every human life longs for a place to call home; a place that can send you out ready to face the world and a place that will welcome you back when the world has you weary. Jesus modeled this with his own disciples in their travels. Capernaum was “home base” where lessons were taught, miracles occurred, and fellowship was enjoyed. Of course they did not stay there but quite often ventured out; down the River Jordan and all about and around Jerusalem. Home was not simply a place, but a belonging.
How is your faith a “home” to you? Is it a place that readies you for the challenges of family, school and work? Does your faith nourish you in a way that sustains you when the going gets tough and the demands compound? Is your faith a home for you when you cannot find the strength or the answers to go any further on your own? Many, indeed too many, have made their faith not a home, but an office for work or a retail store to consumer.
Jesus wants something more than our frentic work that seeks to prove worth by busyness. Certainly to be a follower is also more than just “customizing” the beliefs to suit our own whims. No, I believe what Jesus wants more than anything is a relationship that sustains, rejuvenates, authorizes, and commissions.
Come home and on your way home you will find the table spread by other members of the family who search, and seek and serve. Also I encourage you to see you can better prepare your own home to be a place of receiving as well as sending. Your family needs this and your faith deserves this.
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (Jesus, Matthew 11:28)
First Day of School August 9, 2004
First Day of School August 8, 2011
August 1st, 2011
The MINI is good for hauling most anything I can strap on the roof - including kids
For owners of the MINI Cooper there is a unique culture. It is a quirky English car that has been around since 1959 and so most references to the MINI are couched in English colloquialisms. The “bonnet” is the hood; the “boot” is the trunk (yes, it has a trunk), and driving one is described as “happy motoring.” Well, after more than eight years I am out of the MINI, having traded it for a more grown-up car that can better transport my kayaks and navigate Forest Service Roads, and, quite frankly, it is easier to get in and out of without making those groaning noises.
When I bought my first MINI in early 2003 it was a novelty car. For the first couple of years people would stop and ask me about the car – “What kind is it? (MINI Cooper) Who makes it? (John Cooper Motorworks) Where do you keep the clowns? (Underneath the hood, they power the motor)” Over time church members have taken great delight in gifting me with toy MINI cars not much smaller than the original. In my study at the church I counted 15 toy MINIs along my book shelves that have been given to me and there are several more similar toy cars at home. What do I do with them now?
While Amy and I walked away from the crash, the 03 MINI did not!
About a year after I purchased my MINI I was in a pretty bad wreck on the interstate that totaled four cars, including my own. It did such a good job protecting Amy and I in the wreck that I went straight to the dealership and ordered another and have not looked back…until last week. Well, as I wrote in the first paragraph, I am now out of the MINI. It was great “motoring” while it lasted. Yes I know, too much sentiment for a car.
My sweet new ride...notice the extra seating for family
All analysis aside, cars are just things. They are modes of transportation that offer varying levels of comfort and perhaps can make a personal statement about the owner, but they are still things. As I am approaching the return to school through the lenses of my youngest son and the start of college through my oldest son I am reminded how precious relationships are. Things come and go and for that matter so do people. Yet our relationships have an enduring quality.
Family, friends and the community of faith deserve our investments and attention; not the cars we drive or even the houses we live in. In the Gospel of John Jesus uses the term friend to describe a disciple. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. (John 15:12-14)
For Jesus loving one another is a sign of community, fellowship, and church. Disciples are friends and according to theologian Raymond Brown friend and love is the same thing, although the English language cannot fully convey this relationship. “The mark of the faithful community is how it loves, not who are its members.” (New Interpreters Bible Commentary)
There is much that changes in this world – the clothes we wear; the furniture we use, and the cars we drive. These are all just temporary things. Our investment in God’s community here on earth, however, is an enduring inheritance.
I am blessed to not only be your pastor, but also your friend.