Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Honey From The Rocks

Psalm 81:1, 10-16    (NRSV)
Sing aloud to God our strength;
    shout for joy to the God of Jacob.
I am the Lord your God,
    who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.
    Open your mouth wide and I will fill it.
“But my people did not listen to my voice;
    Israel would not submit to me.
So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts,
    to follow their own counsels.
O that my people would listen to me,
    that Israel would walk in my ways!
Then I would quickly subdue their enemies,
    and turn my hand against their foes.
Those who hate the Lord would cringe before him,
    and their doom would last forever.
I would feed you with the finest of the wheat,
    and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.”


Have you ever had an “aaahhh” moment?

I want to be honest with you, I sometimes struggle with “religion”
          I love Jesus but religious folks can sometimes drive me crazy

The actions yesterday in Charlottesville, Virginia by people (many of whom) say that they love Jesus but act with hatred toward others can sometimes put a wall between me and Jesus. 
          I unfortunately --- sometimes let them do that too me

Because of that, I unfortunately have become a little jaded toward “religious folks” --- please see the quotation marks when I say “religious folks” --- I know that I am stereotyping --- I own that

When somebody says something like “Jesus loves you” --- my eyes can begin to roll

But something happened --- Matt’s sermon last week made me really reflect on looking in the mirror

          And because of that ---
I decided I wasn’t going to let the "religious" folks do that too me anymore.

          But the initial ahha moment happened a few years ago
                   I am slow to learn and need reminders like Matt gave us

Nancy and I were running a half marathon with the catchy name:
          WINE 13.1, in southwest Michigan
As I was running along --- at about mile 8 --- which was the hilliest section of the course,  I had just completed a second steep and long hill and there it was ---- an innocuous sign in somebody’s yard. 
          There had been numerous signs along the way
                   Run Forest Run
                   Worst Parade ever
                   Remember, you paid for this
                   There is Wine at the end of the race
          But this one said quite simply:
                   Jesus Loves You

My “normal” reaction would have been to roll my eyes and kinda say to myself “ya right” or “whatever”

But this time was different

This time I said to myself --- THANK YOU --- I KNOW YOU LOVE ME!

For me it was a profound moment --- because I clearly heard God speak to me through that little sign


Ever had honey from a rock?
          I imagine that it is kind of like getting blood from a turnip

Yet our scripture this morning says that it is something that can REALLY happen!
          “with honey from the rock” God says “I would satisfy you.”

To find honey --- one of the best things that experts say to do is to listen for the buzz of the honey bee and let them lead you to the hive
          But that is not the kind of honey that this Psalm is talking about

The phrase --- HONEY FROM THE ROCK sounds ridiculous ----
But according to orkin.com bees do indeed make hives in rock crevices along with hollow trees and under the eaves of your roof

In John Gill’s Exposition of the Old and New Testament he points out that:
"The land of Canaan abounded with hills and rocks in which bees had their hives, and from whence honey dropped to lower places; hence the land is said to flow with milk and honey ...."

But the phrase, as it is used here in verse 16, does not refer to actual honey from a bee, but rather to God’s deliverance from times of trouble.

In verse 11, God says,
"But my people did not listen to my voice ...,"
and in verse 13, God laments,
"O that my people would listen to me, that Israel would walk in my ways!"

In verse 16, God tells how listening would benefit them:
"... with honey from the rock I would satisfy you."

The question that this verse begs of us is:
DO WE ACTUALLY LISTEN FOR OR TO GOD?

Before we rush off and answer that question we need to make sure we understand a couple of things about what this verse is saying.

First, the Hebrew word rendered here as "listen" — shama — means "to hear intelligently”, but there is an interesting nuance to this “intelligent listening” --- for the word often implies not just attention but also obedience.

The King James Version of the Bible often translated shama as "hearken," which seems to tie together both the hearing-God meaning and the obeying-God meaning rather nicely.

Yet, while hearing and obeying are connected, they are also very different things.

Any of you who have ever had teenagers know that.
Our teenagers often hear us --- but they are not always obedient to what they are hearing.

So the real question for us is not do we listen for God but rather: do we hearken to God?

I want to take a moment this morning and have us look at the two different ways that we can LISTEN to God.

Most of us want to hear from God . . . I want to hear from God.
          The problem is ---- it seems sometimes that God is difficult to be heard

There is a term that was coined by the mystic poet known as Saint John of the Cross in the 16th century.  He wrote a poem in which he described  a time in which he did not sense God’s presence --- a time in which God seemed distant or far away ---- He called it THE DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL
We actively --- even intently listen for God --- yet we hear NOTHING

The interesting thing about this Psalm is that it speaks as if God’s messages are readily available --- if we would only truly listen.

One of the problems is that we want a personal message from God --- and sometimes we get that. 

Sometimes God does speak directly to us
I can think of a couple of times in my life where I very clearly heard God call to me

But more often than not, God speaks to us what I would call: generally or corporately.

Think about what can happen when you read a passage of Scripture or hear a sermon.

We can just let those words roll over us without trying to glean anything from them ---- or we can put some energy into trying to find ourselves in them.

If I am preaching on the Parables, for example -----
You might ask yourself which character in the story you most identify with.

If the parable is the Good Samaritan, who do you connect with most?
the victim,
the people who passed by the victim without helping,
the Samaritan who did help him
or even the innkeeper where the Samaritan took the victim?

By the way ---- There's also a donkey in that story, although that might be too much of a stretch.

Or if the Scripture is from an expository passage, such as an excerpt from Philippians,
Can you put yourself in the audience to whom it was addressed, ---- but in a modern context.
While I may not be a convert from a pagan religion to Christianity, struggling to learn what it is all about, as were some in the Philippian church --- The truth is --- I sometimes live as though the Christian faith I grew up with was some unknown thing and act as though I were a pagan.

So how does Paul's admonition to let my mind dwell on whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, pleasing, commendable and worthy of praise — and then to do those things (Philippians 4:4-8) — apply to me?

One of my goals every time I get up here to preach to you is to get you to ask yourself a simple question ----- WHAT IS THE SERMON ASKING ME TO DO?
Before I finish writing a sermon, I ask myself --- SO WHAT, so what if I preach this . . .

If you can answer the ---- What is this sermon asking me to do question --- then I would suggest that you have heard something from God.

Shama means in part, "to hear intelligently."

Putting ourselves into a parable or Bible story or engaging in some post-sermon: What is this sermon asking me to do? --- is, in fact, I believe, a way of hearing intelligently

I don’t know --- maybe we conclude we haven't heard from God because we think it can't be that easy, and that it can't really be from God unless we've also felt something.

But I am convinced that God speaks to us through many different avenues.
That sign on the race course (And Matt’s call to look in the mirror)  --- I believe --- was God speaking to me

Unfortunately, there is also that second part of "hearken," the obeying part.

Most of us would prefer to just skip over this part.

Now I have no idea how hard the ancient Israelites worked at hearing God ---- what I do know is that the Hebrew Bible is filled with stories about their ongoing failure to obey God.

And that’s not that hard to understand --- is it?

Many of us today have an instinctive resistance to obedience.
We are "self-made" people who value our free will.

But the reality is that we have true freedom only insofar as we act within the confines of our highest values.

The place most of us first learned about obedience was at home as children, where we initially were given no choice but to do the will of our parents.

Gradually, as we matured, we were granted more freedom, but our parents hoped that they had succeeded in implanting some of their values in us that would serve as both guides for and moderators on our freedom.

Once we became adults, we had to decide which values we would carry over from our parents and which would be supplanted by other values.

But whatever we ended up with, we essentially took the role once filled by our parents, and, in that sense, we relate to our values as something to obey, ---though we probably don’t use that terminology.

While we are called to be obedient, our free will still remains in force, we choose to whom we will be voluntarily obedient to --- God or some other ideology (or maybe even just ourselves)

Being a part of the family of God implies:
That I recognize God as my parent, and, as his adult son or daughter, I choose to draw my values from God and allow those values to guide me.

In other words --- We CHOOSE if we will be obedient to God or not

Choosing to be son or daughter to no one, however, explains the Israelites' problem.

As the author of Psalm 81, speaking for God, put it,
"But my people did not listen to my voice; Israel would not submit to me."
And thus the Lord said,
"So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts, to follow their own counsels"

In other words, "Okay, do it your way. Be your own authority."
But the implication is that the result will be far from satisfying.

God, of course, invites us to join God’s family, and live like the children of God — grown children, mind you, because this is not a call to childishness.

It is a call to reflect the values of the family and of our creator parent.

Call it shama? — or call it listening to God — or call it obedience — or call it hearkening ... whatever word works best for you.

But the result is having access to and being satisfied by the sweet honey that comes from the rock that is the Lord.

I believe we are at a watershed moment in our lives as Christians.
Charlottesville has changed everything
And if it hasn’t --- maybe you need to ask yourself: WHY NOT?

Jesus calls us to be a people that Love God and Love Others ---
and only when we learn to do that ---
only when we are obedient to God’s call and character in our lives and in our daily actions ---
can we experience that sweet honey that flows from the Rock of Jesus.


So tell me ---- What’s this sermon asking you to do?

Monday, August 07, 2017

Is Your Head Getting In The Way?

1 Corinthians 13     NRSV
          If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
          Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
          Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.



Wow, it has been a wild and crazy couple of weeks.  And of course it was all capped off with our daughter Jessica marrying Sam Fain two weeks ago.

The wedding was wonderful -- but not without a few hiccups (that may become subjects of sermons in the future) ---
In case you are curious:
·         The night before the rehearsal --- the creek that runs through our yard became a mighty overflowing river (something our neighbor of 35 years says never has happened before).  Of course what made this a big deal is the rehearsal dinner was to be held in that very yard the next evening
·         That next night, as we were driving home from the rehearsal, we found out that the caterer had not shown up yet.  As you can imagine, if you have 40 people coming to your house for dinner, you need to have food.  Somehow, we managed to get food from another vendor and only a half hour late.  There is a footnote to this story --- the caterer showed up (two hours later than we expected) --- We had plenty of food!

The wedding itself was beautiful
·         I cried at all the right times --- and managed to hold it together when I was supposed to

Following the wedding, we vacationed for a week in South-west Michigan and got to enjoy our other girls.

A week ago yesterday, Haley, our youngest flew back to Chile (South America)

Friday, Lindsey our middle daughter boarded a flight and has returned to Spain

Our house seems awfully quiet! 
And a little sad :(

Tomorrow, I am sharing in Richard Jackson's funeral.  Craig (his son) and I were talking earlier in the week, and somehow we began talking about Dick Lancaster's sermons.
Craig mentioned how heady they were. 
And having read a number of them, I have to agree.

Meridian Street is not a church that struggles with the head triad of the enneagram.

If I had to pick an Enneagram typology for Meridian Street my guess is #5. 
          The Wise Person

But I will talk about our three types in a moment.

First let me digress and share a story from this week.

Tuesday toward the end of our staff meeting we got into a lively and passionate discussion about the worship service times
--- since the summer is coming to an end ---
What is the plan following Labor Day??

The discussion was very lively and got rather loud --- I like to believe that it was a Spirit filled discussion.
          I don't think Raina was so sure about that --- I think we terrified her

But it was a very serious and spirited discussion
·         Should we continue with the two service schedule?
·         And while we are convinced we should continue with two services --- are they at the best times and are they the styles they should be?

The reason we went to two services was for a number of reasons --- but I would argue that there were primarily three
·         The numbers did not justify three services
If you excluded the choir the 9 pm service often only had about 35 people at it
·         The times were extremely difficult
          I really don't think this needs much justification
                   three services that overlap --- doesn't make a lot of sense
·         There was no time for fellowship
I have been here a year already and there are some of you I really have never met
Matt may not admit the same --- but I know it is true for him as well

We had a phenomenal discussion --- and reached no resolution
·         We talked about tweaking the service times
·         We talked about the style of worship the 9:30 am service should be
We walked about the reality that some people have left and others will leave if their worship service is messed with

I will be completely honest with you:
          My HEAD knows EXACTLY what we need to do
          It is my heart that is wrestling with me over it

If you have thoughts about how we can best achieve the goal of creating more fellowship time and yet maintain the integrity of our worship --- please let me know!

That is the classic challenge of the HEAD triad

This triad is made up of the number 5, 6 and 7 typologies

Let me give you real quick synopsis of the three typologies

Fives might be called THE WISE PERSON

Fives are attracted to and value wisdom, knowledge, and learning.  They want to understand the world and make it a more reasonable place to live in.  For Fives, life is about having insights, learning about the nature of things, and seeing how everything fits together.

Sounds like Meridian Street to me!

Some famous Fives would not be a surprise --- Einstein, Darwin, Sir Isaac Newton, Steven Hawkins, and Bill Gates

If there is one verse that typifies Fives it is the Shema:
"Here O Israel: the Lord is our God, the Lord alone."

Sixes are what we might call: THE LOYAL PERSON

Sixes endeavor to be faithful, conscientious, responsible persons, keeping their word and honoring their commitments.  They want to make the world a safer and more reliable place in which to live.  Sixes crave safety and stability.

Some famous Sixes are George Bush, Richard Nixon, and David Letterman

If there is one verse that typifies Sixes it is 1 Peter 5:6-7
"Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you."

Sevens might be called: THE JOYFUL PERSON

Sevens are attracted to and value joy, variety, and excitement.  They want to be happy persons, seeking to make the world a more delightful place to live in.  Sevens want to experience all the possibilities life has to offer.  Having fun and being positive are what life is all about.

We all know some of these people --- they are the ones at a party that bring it to life.  They like to take risks --- they are thrill seekers and adrenaline junkies.

Some famous Sevens are: Franklin Roosevelt, George W Bush, Winston Churchill, Solomon in the Bible, and I would add my daughter Lindsey --- (She is the one who convinced me to jump off a cliff and out of an airplane with her).

I am not a Seven!

Their bible verse would be John 15:11
"I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete."

So why have we spent the last few weeks looking at these 9 "types"?

Because, like any tool, they can help us understand ourselves better, so that we can better related to each other and work together as a body.

The three triads tend to approach God, spirituality, and even prayer in very different ways.

By gaining some better understanding of what makes you tick; will ultimately help you understand your relationship to God and maybe more importantly what you look for from God.

I think there has been some outstanding work done drawing the links between the Enneagram and our spiritual lives.

Cron's book: The Road Back to You, as challenging it can be to get through, provides an excellent introduction to the Enneagram.

But if you really want to go into how these typologies affect our understanding of God, I would recommend the even more challenging book by Richard Rohr called: The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective.

I know for me, I have had my eyes opened in some new ways as I have worked through this material that I think we make me a better person, and hopefully a better pastor.

I think the perfect example was the staff's wrestling with the worship times.

There is no perfect solution --- the history of the middle service proves that.

But instead of insisting on our own solution --- what if we were to lay out our concerns and pre-conceived notions and try to line them up with the bigger picture (what we are trying to accomplish.)

Because regardless of what our typology is --- most of us believe we have the solution.
We all wear glasses that define our personal view of the world, those glasses make it hard for us to see other's potential solutions and pre-conceived ideas.

I chose some rather interesting pieces of scripture today.

The one at the top of your bulletin I think fits this Head triad.
"Wise men and women are always learning, always listening for fresh insights.”
~ Proverbs 18:15 (The Message)

That is the gist of the HEAD triad

But did what about what Nancy/Katie read to you?

I think this is the challenge of the Head triad --- to temper our intellect with our heart.

Richard Rohr in his daily devotional shared a paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 13 which he says came from Brother Joseph Schmidt.

I invite you to listen to these words, and see if you can't find yourself in them.

As Richard Rohr says: "Only when we face and embrace our false self with humility can we begin moving toward freedom and wholeness, toward being Love."

If I live my life to perfection, doing what is right and good on behalf of others, but act with compulsion and without love, then I am nothing at all.

If I take care of the needs of everybody in the world, especially the poor, because of my own need to help, but am without love even for myself, then I am nothing at all.

If I am efficient and successful in all that I do for the sake of justice, but act out of drivenness and without love, then I am nothing at all.

If I am cultured and refined, and in touch with the pain of existence, but am absent from the pain of persons in the present moment who need my empathy; and if I act without love and compassion, then I am nothing at all.

If I have the gifts of wisdom, insight, and understanding, but am not engaged with those around me in the present moment and am without a spirit of compassion and love, then I am nothing at all.

If I am faithful, loyal, and obedient, and never deviate from the law, but am judgmental and blaming, and am without love, then I am nothing at all.

If I live in a pain-free world of dreams and plans, enjoying optimism and pleasurable options, but am not addressing present problems and am avoiding people in actual distress and am without love, then I am nothing at all.

If I am strong and powerful, but lose my best self in a spirit of resentment, retaliation, and vindictiveness, and know nothing of the vulnerability of love, then I am nothing at all.

If I am settled and accommodating, holding onto a sense of distance and calm, but am not journeying inward to know and appreciate my weaknesses and gifts, and am neglecting my own legitimate calling to love myself, then I am nothing at all.

Love is patient; love is kind;
love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude.
It does not insist on its own way;
it is not irritable or resentful;
it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.
It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends.
—1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Using the Enneagram: Looking For A Hero

Titus 3:3-5            
For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, despicable, hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.

Matthew 16:24-28           
24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?
27 “For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. 28 Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”


Over twenty years ago a friend shared with me a series of books that has stuck with me over the years.  The books were "The Hero Within" and "Awakening the Heroes Within" by Carol Pearson.  They struck me because I am one who believes that the Christian life is one of a journey --- a journey to draw closer to God (as found in Jesus) and a journey for us to draw closer to each other.  Pearson invited her readers to join her on a journey of self-awareness and understanding believing that understanding what makes us tick will help us as we relate to God and others.

In "Awakening The Heroes" Pearson wrote:
“Each journey is unique, and each seeker charts a new path. But it is infinitely easier to do so having at least some knowledge about the experiences of those who have gone before. When we learn about the many different heroic paths available to us, we understand that there is room for all of us to be heroic in our own unique ways.”

The paths that she helped us to understand were what she called archetypal personalities.  And she defined six primary archetypes and six additional ones.  I found her analysis enlightening.

Maybe it was the revival of the Marvel Super-Hero franchise --- or maybe it was because Matt is such a big Richard Rohr fan, and my hunch it was a combination of the two of them.  But earlier this year, Matt suggested we do a series based on a couple of books that he had found, one by his beloved Rohr.

For the last few years there has been a real revival not in what Pearson defined as archetypes --- but in another ancient personality typing system known as the Enneagram --- which Rohr writes about.

In Greek Ennea means nine and gram means point.
The word refers to a circle inscribed by nine points which is used as a symbol to arrange and depict nine personality styles.
In its current formulations, the Enneagram brings together insights of perennial wisdom and findings of modern psychology.

To avoid a long story --- let me just say that the roots of the Enneagram are disputed. 

According to the Enneagram Institute:
The Enneagram of Personality Types is a modern synthesis of a number of ancient wisdom traditions, but the person who originally put the system together was Oscar Ichazo. Ichazo was born in Bolivia and raised there and in Peru, but as a young man, moved to Buenos Aires, Argentina to learn from a school of inner work he had encountered. Thereafter, he journeyed in Asia gathering other knowledge before returning to South America to begin putting together a systematic approach to all he had learned.

But the truth is: where this concept came from isn't that important.

What is important is what the Enneagram has to offer you and me.

In the introduction to the "The Road Back To You", Ian Cron (an Episcopal priest) shares a story of his encounter with Brother Dave, a seventy year old Benedictine monk and Spiritual director (again --- now you understand why Matt was so interested in this book).

Brother Dave explained the Enneagram by saying:
"It is full of wisdom for people who want to get out of their own way and become who they were created to be.
It has to do with self-knowledge.  Most folks assume they understand who they are when they don't
They don't question the lens through which they see the world --- where it came from, how it's shaped their lives, or even if the vision of reality it gives them is distorted or true.  Even more troubling, most people aren't aware of how things that helped them survive as kids are now holding them back as adults.  They're asleep.
What we don't know about ourselves can and will hurt us, not to mention others,
As long as we stay in the dark about how we see the world and the wounds and beliefs that have shaped who we are, we're prisoners of our history.  We'll continue going through life on autopilot doing things that hurt and confuse ourselves and everyone around us.  Eventually we become so accustomed to making the same mistakes over and over in our lives that they lull us to sleep.  We need to wake up."

It was John Calvin who said: "without knowledge of self there is no knowledge of God."

So for the next few weeks Matt and I are going to look at this typology known as the Enneagram and the lives of people who exemplified those typologies; so that it might help us achieve our full potential.
         
This morning, I want to spend some time on heroes --- because the people we will point out are often seen as heroes.

What makes someone a hero?

We love our heroes.
We love to have somebody that we can look up to, somebody who can guide us, somebody who can blaze a trail through the jungle that we call life.

I want to take you back about 40 years ago --- during an earlier crisis in the Mideast.

There was, at that time, a madman by the name of Ayatollah Khomeini --- do you remember him?

Ayatollah Khomeini, at that time was leading a revolution in Iran that led to the overthrow of the US puppet government lead by the "Shah of Iran".  He also seemed to be threatening to take over the entire Mideast region.

Worse still, he seemed to relish in rubbing our noses in the dirt, especially when his followers had taken the American Embassy hostage.

Ayatollah Khomeini had single handedly put the whole world on edge as he seemed to be trying to export his brand of Muslim Fundamental Revolution.

          NO ONE was strong enough to resist him.
          Nobody seemed to be able to stand up to him.

But then suddenly one man appeared.
A man who claimed to be deeply religious and claimed that God had given him the mission of overthrowing the Ayatollah.

Everyone heralded him as a hero
          his people
          the rest of the Mideast region
          even the United States government

He said that if his country would just follow him -- they could be saved!

Do you remember this hero of ours?
          His name was Saddam Hussein.

By 1991 we branded this HERO the devil --- and we all know the sad tale of American lives and innocent civilian lives lost in trying to remove him from power.

We need to be careful of the heroes we choose.


There is a wonderful old Bonnie Tyler song called "I Need A Hero" that seems to hit the nail on the head.
The words go:
Everyone's looking for a hero
Everyone's waiting for the big boys
Everyone's watching for a hot shot
Everyone's waiting for a big noise
I need a hero
I need a hero in the morning light
And he's got to be fast, and he's got to be cool,
and he's got to be larger than life.

What strikes me is that most of us really do feel like we need a hero right now.

We want Wolverine (or John Wayne --- depending on your age) to swagger into Indianapolis and stop the crime and violence

We want a Ronald Reagan or John F Kennedy to make us believe in our country again.

We need a hero --- to come in and tell us what to do, or better yet, to just get the dirty work done for us --- because isn't that what a hero is supposed to do?

I grew up believing in heroes.
The heroes of my childhood were
          James Bond
          Clint Eastwood
          The Lone Ranger
          Zorro
We all have had heroes --- whether it was Superman, Rambo, or Luke Skywalker
          We all want a hero

The Jewish people were also looking for a hero.
For them the hero had to fit a certain expectation --- and they called that expected hero the Messiah.

Over the centuries, as the Jewish people were repeatedly beaten up by every two bit country that had any military power their expectations for a hero grew.
The prophets of the Hebrew Bible are filled with stories of the longing of the people for this hero to come and save them.

But the Jewish people --- like us --- did not get what they bargained for. 
Instead of a mythical Messiah --- they got a Christ who came and spoke of peace and love and the empowerment of each person.

He taught that the power of God does not work from the outside --- but rather God works inside each of us.
          "Greater things than I have done (Jesus said) you will do." (John 14:12)

I chose these two passages of scripture because of what they teach us

The passage from Titus (a book most of us never read or even knew was there). 
The author of Titus reminds us that the heroes that God chooses are not supermen or women. 
The heroes are you and me.

We may be foolish, disobedient, and subject to all kinds of sin --- but when the spirit fills us --- God will use us to be heroes in this world.

And of course the Matthew passage is where Jesus calls us to be disciples and reminds us that being a disciple is not a waltz through a rose garden but giving up our selves for God.

If we want to follow Jesus --- then we must become a hero for Jesus

Yet we have to be careful --- our love of heroes is very fickle.
We may love them today --- but tomorrow --- tomorrow we may want to see them crucified because they do not do what we want them to do.

We can pretend all we want --- but the Christian church is in deep trouble today.
We are losing our effectiveness to reach the people of this day and age.

Some will argue that it is a problem of leadership
          Bishops
          District Superintendents
          and even our Pastors

And that very well may be true

But the answer isn't found in this pulpit.
          The answer is found where YOU are sitting

It is easy to sit back and wait for a hero

It is easy to be told what to do, or better yet, to watch somebody do it for you

But in the end --- it all boils down to you and me ---
what will the power of God be like in our lives?

We can sit back and wait --- as we watch the world pass by.

Or we can take the power of the presence of Jesus and bring light into this world.

It was Florence Nightingale who once said:
“I am of certain convinced that the greatest heroes are those who do their duty in the daily grind of domestic affairs whilst the world whirls as a maddening dreidel.”

There is only one hero we really need --- and that is the hero that is in each of us.
The hero, transformed by the power and love of Jesus.

For Jesus is the only hero that isn't fickle and never lets us down.

One final comment:  The stories that you all have shared with me of your heroes have been amazing.  It has been a joy to read them.

I wish that I had the time to share each and every one.

Yes, they are stories of some of the great heroes of our day:
          Dr. Martin Luther King
          Mahatmas Gandhi
          John Glenn
          Stay at home moms

But they were also filled with stories of:
          Your children and grand-children

And what would strike some of you the most --- is that some of the heroes who were shared are sitting right here in this church this morning.

There are people in this church who already see the hero in you.

I do want to share one statement that one of you shared with me:
I have always believed in "The Power of One."  This is the power we all have.  You don't have to be rich.  You don't have to be of any race or religion.  You don't have to be a mover or a shaker.  You simply have to have the courage and love in your heart to make a difference in someone's life. 

Over the next few weeks --- as we go on this journey of self-discovery. 
As we look at and try to understand what makes us tick --- may at the same time, we look in the mirror and see the hero within.

May God give us the wisdom, not to wait to be given the answers to the problems of the world, but to find them written on our hearts in God's indelible handwriting.



Let me close with Brother Dave's prayer:
May you recognize in your life the presence, power, and light of your soul.
May you realize that you are never alone, that your soul in its brightness and belonging connects you intimately with the rhythm of the universe.
May you have respect for your individuality and difference.
May you realize that the shape of your soul is unique, that you have a special destiny here, that behind the facade of your life there is something beautiful and eternal happening.

May you learn to see your self with the same delight, pride, and expectation with which God see you in every moment.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Finding A Storm Home

Mark 4:35-41   (MSG)
Late that day he said to them, “Let’s go across to the other side.” They took him in the boat as he was. Other boats came along. A huge storm came up. Waves poured into the boat, threatening to sink it. And Jesus was in the stern, head on a pillow, sleeping! They roused him, saying, “Teacher, is it nothing to you that we’re going down?”
Awake now, he told the wind to pipe down and said to the sea, “Quiet! Settle down!” The wind ran out of breath; the sea became smooth as glass. Jesus reprimanded the disciples: “Why are you such cowards? Don’t you have any faith at all?”
They were in absolute awe, staggered. “Who is this, anyway?” they asked. “Wind and sea at his beck and call!”



A young man committed suicide and as his family tried to understand WHY, they found a rather strange note nailed to a tree outside his house:
This tree is the only thing in my life that has roots.

Where do you find roots --- what provides stability in your life?

In our story this morning, the disciples are in a boat with Jesus.

One of the rather interesting phenomena about the Sea of Galilee is that storms can blow up suddenly and intently.

As the Disciples are in the boat with Jesus --- heading to the "other side", the Gentile side --- the non-Jewish side of the lake --- a massive storm blows up.

Jesus is sound asleep

But the disciples are panicking
The boat is being swamped by the waves and they are fearful for their lives

They wake Jesus up ---- not really sure what they were expecting him to do
BUT --- he tells the waves to BE STILL
          and they listen!

The wind died down
          The waves ceased

And the Disciples had no idea what had just taken place

Life is full of storms

Some of the storms of life it appears that we might have some control over them

Others seem totally outside of our hands.

Think of some of those storms

·         Divorce
·         loss of a job or job change
·         illness
·         addiction
·         death of a loved one
·         children growing up and leaving the nest
·         Floods
·         Car Accidents
·         Tornados & Wind Storms
·         I am sure you can add others to this list

Where do you find shelter in the storms of life?

Who is able to calm those storms?
          Who says: "Peace, Be Still" in your life?

If we don't have somebodies --- it often feels like we are going to go under

I hope you are familiar with Garrison Keilor and his tales from Lake Wobegon

Keillor is the creator and former host of A Prairie Home Companion, a weekly radio show on NPR. 

One of the show's best-known features was Keillor's "News from Lake Wobegon", a weekly storytelling monologue, claiming to be a report from Keillor's fictitious hometown of Lake Wobegon, "the little town that time forgot and the decades cannot improve ... where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average."

The opening words of the monologue usually do not change: "Well, it's been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon, Minnesota, my hometown, out on the edge of the prairie."

Garrison Keillor tells a great story:

In Lake Wobegon every child was assigned a storm home --- a home that you could go to if the weather got bad during the school day and you could not get home safely.  That is a big deal in Minnesota

The home that he was assigned to was the Krueger's --- they were an older couple who lived in a cute little green cottage by the lake.

He says that he used to walk past the storm home and he could just tell that it was a good home

He knew that he was a lucky child

This storm home became very big in his imagination.

Many times he thought of stopping and introducing himself
"I am the kid, that if there is a blizzard I will come and stay with you."
He says that he felt that they had a relationship in the world --- even thought they had never met

He wanted to believe that he hadn't just been randomly assigned to the Krueger's --- but that they had come down to the school and had picked him out.

He said:
"I often dreamed of going to see them when things got hard --- Blizzards aren't the only storms, you know, and not the worst things that can happen to a child."

"I often dreamed of going and knocking on the door and she would open it and say:
"Ahh, it's you
I knew you would come someday
Won't you come in and get out of those wet clothes
Come on in the kitchen, sit down and I will make you some Hot Chocolate --- Would you like an oatmeal cookie

It's terrible outside"
"And I would say 'Yes'"
"It's gonna get worst they say"
"Yes, it probably is"
"Carl, come down here and see what's in the kitchen"
Carl would say: "Is it our storm child?"
"Yes, he is sitting here
in the flesh
big as life"

"I never did go --- there were no blizzards that came during the day --- Only convenient blizzards --- blizzards that came on evenings or weekends"

"I didn't because all my troubles were bearable troubles.

But I am certain that they were more bearable for imagining that the Krueger's were there --- my storm home.

When things got bad --- I always thought --- there is always the Krueger's"

Let me ask you: where is your storm home?

Too often we make the mistake in thinking that a person is our storm home
That person can certainly be an important part of that home --- but I think we make a mistake when we put our eggs in one basket

When somebody looks to me --- and not the church as their Storm Home --- they are often disappointed

          Because I often disappoint people

It just is not possible for me to be a storm home to 1000 people, any more than it is possible for you to be

Storm homes usually are a group of people

When I was growing up --- my storm home was my UMYF --- my youth group.

We were a group of 30 or so
We came from 4 different high schools --- so there were some challenges to make us a group

But we were always there for each other

After I graduated from High School every New Years Eve one of us would hold a party and we would all come together. 
          Bringing whomever we were dating at the time
Sharing what was going on in our lives

We all knew we were there for each other

We were there with each other through good times and bad times.

·         Through marriages
·         And babies
·         Through divorces
·         Lost jobs
·         death of parents
·         death of one of the group

We were always there for each other

A little over a week ago --- I sat in my back yard with some friends: Mark, Ken, Jim, and Tim --- and as we sat talking around a fire I realized that this was my storm home.

I have been friends with most of these guys for close to 35 years.
          And we have always been there for each other.

Who can you turn to in times of need?

          What are your roots?

          Who can help calm your storms?

A couple years ago I attended the Lake County Urban League's Diversity and Inclusion Awards Lunch.

It was a rather unexciting affair
          The food was so - so
          They gave out a number of awards
But other than the name of the award, and the name of the organization who won it I could not tell you
          What the award was for
          What they did to win it
          What they did as an organization (unless the name gave me a hint)

BUT ---- there was a group of High School students from Merrillville high school that stole the show

They were a part of STAND --- I had never heard of STAND before
·         Socially
·         Together
·         and
·         Naturally
·         Diverse

If you look them up on the Merrillville High School web page you will find this statement
(Stand is a) student-led club that promotes an appreciation for diversity through community service. The club provides its members with the opportunity to earn community service hours through mentoring opportunities, participating in student exchanges with other schools, creating programs that address discrimination and other injustices, and educating and celebrating the rich cultural diversity that exists in our community.

As they shared their values --- and their dream for every person to find their value and worth --- I realized that what they have built is so much more than an extracurricular activity
          Even one that promotes such a good cause

They have built a storm home --- you could see it in how they interacted with each other.

They were there for each other

And they will be there for each other long after they graduate from High School

Where is your storm home?

I have done a lot of funerals for people who have no church --- they have no storm home to help them through the loss

I often wonder how they are going to manage --- how they will survive the storm

When the storms are blowing
          when the boat seems to be filling with water
                   We all need a storm home!

But let me tell you a secret
          Just coming to church isn't enough

You have to create a place for yourself
          Missions
          Ministry team
          Choir
          Usher
          Book group
          Bible study or Sunday school

It is in the small group that we build our strong shelter for the storms of life


Plant your roots --- so that WHEN the storms of life blow --- you have a safe harbor