Saturday, June 21, 2014

According To Luke: New Wine (I Did That!)

Luke 5:33-39    (NRSV)
Then they said to him, “John’s disciples, like the disciples of the Pharisees, frequently fast and pray, but your disciples eat and drink.” Jesus said to them, “You cannot make wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them, can you? The days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.” He also told them a parable: “No one tears a piece from a new garment and sews it on an old garment; otherwise the new will be torn, and the piece from the new will not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine desires new wine, but says, ‘The old is good.’”

Today we celebrate seven students who have completed their high school requirements, and are ready and anxious to begin the next chapter of their lives --- and while my sermon is geared toward them, my hunch is that there are plenty of life lessons for each of us.

While our graduates are coming to what quite possibly is the biggest transition in their young lives --- the truth is we all face transitions and we choose to either learn from them or be controlled by them.

Lindsey, our 23 year old daughter, graduated from Indiana University in December decided that before she completely joined the workforce that she wanted to take some time and travel.  When she shared this idea with me, she came to me and said --- “If I don’t do this now, before I begin working full time, when will I ever have the opportunity?”  Both of her sisters had spent a semester abroad during their college years --- Lindsey never did because she participated in the LITTLE 500 all four years, and could not do that and miss a semester on campus.

Lindsey is probably our most frugal daughter and she had saved thousands of dollars over the years so that she could do just that.

Six weeks ago she embarked on a two month backpacking tour of Europe (by herself).  As she prepared to leave, I really only had two requests of her.  First that she contact me regularly --- my hope was I would hear from her at least weekly.  My second request was that she journal daily about her adventure.

Much to my surprise she texts with me virtually every day.  It has been a joy to be a part of her adventure.

About three weeks into her trip she told me that she had to go out and find another notebook, because she had filled the one up already.  I have to admit --- that made me smile.

Asking her to journal about her trip reminded me of a story I once heard about a family that had gone to visit the Grand Canyon to celebrate a son’s graduation from High School.

The father before the trip had given each of the children a small moleskin book so that they could record their insights and observations on during the trip.  His hope was he could help them begin a new journey in being more intentional in noticing what was happening in their lives and the accomplishments along the way.

As they finally got to the Grand Canyon the son was thrilled.  He seemed overwhelmed by the experience of standing at the edge of that huge expanse and just taking it all in.

That night --- he sat down and wrote in his journal.

The father, later that evening, after the kids had gone to bed, found his son’s journal sitting out and he could not withstand the temptation to look and see that his son had written about the experience.

He opened the journal and read what he wrote:
          “Today I spit two miles!”

The father had to chuckle --- he had asked his son to write about HIS ACCOMPLISHMENTS --- and spitting two miles is a pretty impressive accomplishment.

One of our traditions here at Ridge Church is that during the breakfast for the graduating seniors and their families that we show a short video created from the wonderful Dr. Seuss book: OH THE PLACES YOU WILL GO.

If you have never seen the video or read the book DO IT. 

Dr. Seuss nailed it and is an inspiration for us all!

What Dr. Seuss reminds us is that life is an adventure, and that it is filled with ups and downs, but the key is to GO.  Don’t sit in the waiting rooms of life expecting somebody else to make you happy, to provide you fulfillment.  Go, despite the times of failure --- because today is your day and your destiny awaits.

The thing I love about Dr. Seuss is that he isn’t talking to just 18 year olds.

Right before sitting down to watch the video I had been bemoaning to Nancy all the challenges that I am currently having to deal with at Ridge Church.

I even made myself a list of the biggest challenges and I came up with 8 of them.  And as I stared at the list --- I found myself in one of Dr. Seuss’ waiting rooms --- waiting for somebody or something to fix the problems for me.

Then as I watched the video I got inspired.

As Dr. Seuss writes:

You will come to a place where the streets are not marked.
Some windows are lighted.  But mostly they're darked.
A place you could sprain both your elbow and chin!
Do you dare to stay out?  Do you dare to go in?
How much can you lose? How much can you win?

And IF you go in, should you turn left or right...
or right-and-three-quarters? Or, maybe, not quite?
Or go around back and sneak in from behind?
Simple it's not, I'm afraid you will find,
for a mind-maker-upper to make up his mind.

You can get so confused
that you'll start in to race
down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space,
headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.
The Waiting Place...

Dr. Seuss’ advice for us is to escape THE WAITING PLACE because there are so many places for us to go.

Yogi Berra has been quoted as saying:
          “When you come to a fork in the road --- take it!”

Which fork should you take?

That’s a tough question --- and in my opinion --- sitting still should not be an option--- because that becomes the WAITING PLACE.

Let me offer 4 pieces of advice --- nothing too original --- but helpful where we are on our journey.

First, recognize that Graduation is not an end, but only a new and awesome beginning.

Did you note the advice from Arie Pencovici from the front of the bulletin?
Graduation is only a concept. In real life every day you graduate. Graduation is a process that goes on until the last day of your life. If you can grasp that, you’ll make a difference

Every other year we offer a confirmation class for our students who are in middle school. 

There is a part of me that wishes we never needed to do one because there seems to be this attitude that once you have been confirmed that the church is no longer necessary.
          Confirmation almost has the feel of graduating from church.

But our religious life, and the rest of our life are never done.
          We should always be growing
                   Always changing

The second piece of advice I would tell you is to develop your own values

My hope, not just for our graduating seniors, but for each of you is to take the values that you have been given and test them, challenge them, turn them over by looking at them critically.

Take a course in world religions.

Find out what Buddhism has to offer, understand Islam, and critique your own religious heritage vis-à-vis other religious traditions and sometimes they will win.

Hinduism, you will discover, has more tolerance for other traditions built into its very fabric than any other practiced faith today.
That is a good challenge for Christians.

Understand Freud’s critique of religion.

Read Nietzsche’s critique of Christianity and Western bourgeois culture.

Read Machiavelli’s cynical advice on how to advance power through personal duplicity.
Understand and critique.

Someone once told me that when they were at Vanderbilt, one philosophy professor said in a lecture that when you go to college you take all your inherited values and you blow them up like balloons and put them on a board.

          And your job is to throw darts at them and pop them.

You have to throw from a pretty good distance and most of us are not all that skilled at throwing. He said, you will hit a few and burst them, but not many.

Remember, the purpose of education is that you make your values your own, not because someone else told you that was what you should treasure or believe.

Understanding all the alternatives,
understanding the deficits,
you treasure them as your own because YOU have decided to keep them.

Third, remember that every day is a new beginning.

Don’t ever believe that you have arrived --- life is a journey and every day is a new beginning.

When you fail --- see it as a growth opportunity.
          Learn and move forward

Finally --- Be proud of what you accomplish.

When Jessica was in High School, the Munster Theatre Company put on a play that I was not familiar with.  I was familiar with the book that it was based on, but I had never heard of the production.  I am talking about WORKING based on Studs Terkel’s book and brought to the stage by Stephen Schwartz.

The closing number of the show is a moving song called Something to Point To

The song is a reminder that we all have things that we can point to --- things that we are proud ---- places where we made a difference.

What reminded me of the song is this house.

Does anybody know what this house is?

I sure do, this house is owned by a niece of Gloria Banjura and was destroyed by the flood of 2008.

LARRI, Lakeshore Area Regional Recovery of Indiana rebuilt this house.  I can point to it and say I DID THAT.

Celebrate those things that you accomplish.

Today, to our graduates we celebrate with you as you point to that diploma and say: I DID THAT.

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