Month: November 2016

Falling in Love with Alex P. Keaton

When I was in junior high, I fell in love with Alex P. Keaton – not Micheal J. Fox, although I loved him too, but specifically Alex P. Keaton.    My family and I watched Family Ties every Tuesday night without fail.  We loved the story of the liberal family and the conservative son and their conversations and convictions about the world.  We loved their banter, and the way in which they were a family first and respected each other’s points of views, even though they were not shared.  Near the end of the series Alex falls in love with Ellen.  Ellen is an art history major.  She is everything that Alex is not, and yet they fall deeply in love. The romantic in me was hooked.  I can still hear that song they played at the train station when he ran after her…..

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Alex  was this great character.  He was over achieving, idealistic, cocky and caring.

When I went to college, I met and fell in love with my own Alex P. Keaton.  I fell in love with a Ronald Reagan loving, Richard Nixon defending, Political Stats obsessed Republican. He and I came from different religions – he was Southern Baptist, I was Presbyterian.  He was raised in a rural community, I in a college town.  He was raised in a conservative family,  I was raised in a liberal family. We could not have been more different.

We both loved politics.  In college, we would watch C-Span – for fun.  We loved the conversations, the debates, the strategies.  Some couples watch sports together, we would watch both conventions together.  It was fun. My relationship with my Alex P. Keaton has been the longest friendship of my life.  We will be married 20 years this July, after dating forever before that.  This year, we sat together on the couch,  with our kids and watched the election process and first we were humored by the rhetoric, and then we were angered, and then saddened, and eventually we were so numb to it, we weren’t even shocked anymore, we just despaired. – It wasn’t fun anymore.  It became dirty.  The democracy we believed in, was replaced with Jerry Springer.  What would Alex P. Keaton say?

Perhaps you have heard the news that our country is more polarized today than ever before – race, religion, culture, socio-economic, gender.  A recent survey learned that today more than ever, parents would not want their children to marry someone from a different political party.  I can’t imagine my life without coming to respect and understand someone who came from a different political party, community and religion than I.  I humbly believe that we make the world better, together than we do apart.

I guess what I want to say is this,  go hug a Democrat.  Go hug a Republican.  Sit yourself down at a coffee shop, or go for a walk and just talk.  Talk about your kids. Talk about your worries. Talk about your lives. Listen.  Listen. Listen. Hear each other’s fears. Hear each other’s concerns.  Do not belittle your friend by resulting in name calling or blaming. If you think  Hilary or Donald are Hitler, they’re not.  Hitler was Hitler.  Stop calling people Hitler. It’s not helpful.

If we are going to heal this pain, we have to be the ones to do it.  He have to stop shouting into the wind. We have to turn down the rhetoric and turn up the civility.  We have to model for our children the ideals and values,  I truly believe most of us hold in common.  He have to find the humor in each other, accept each other, and love each other.

Thanksgiving is in a few days. I imagine we will all be sitting across the table from someone in our family who is either grieving or celebrating this past election. Most of us will come to the table with someone who feels differently than we do — thank God for that!  Those differences are a gift. Start listening and striving for a solution, together. Our families can model for the country, how the country should behave. It begins with family.– Too idealistic? I pray, not.

I pray that as we pass the dressing and the green bean casserole, we start to see each other again. I pray that through our conversations and mutual respect for one another- through the bonds of family, healing across our beautiful land can begin.

For those of you who love Alex, as much as I do… enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Future

Isaiah 65:17-25

For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind. 18But be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating; for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy, and its people as a delight. 19I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and delight in my people; no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it, or the cry of distress. 20No more shall there be in it an infant that lives but a few days, or an old person who does not live out a lifetime; for one who dies at a hundred years will be considered a youth, and one who falls short of a hundred will be considered accursed. 21They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. 22They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands. 23They shall not labor in vain, or bear children for calamity; for they shall be offspring blessed by the Lord— and their descendants as well. 24Before they call I will answer, while they are yet speaking I will hear. 25The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox; but the serpent—its food shall be dust! They shall not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain, says the Lord.

This morning is our annual commitment Sunday.  It’s the Sunday we ask you to bring your financial commitment to worship and we invest in the future of the church. It’s a really important Sunday as our elders have discerned what is needed for the following year for ministries to take place.  The session has created a vision for ministries for children and youth, for our community and for worship. It’s a vision that has only been imagined, for a future not yet realized.  It’s the Sunday in which we put our hope in the future of ministries of this congregation through the act of giving an offering.

We are asking all our members and friends to stand up and be counted, to make a generous commitment for the witness and program and mission of this church in the year ahead. Not nearly enough of our members and friends do that. If you believe that we don’t need your gift, please allow me to gently challenge that misconception: we need everyone.

It costs $1, 214, 677  a year to run this place.  Today we have about $237,000 in commitments for 2016, and so we only need $980,677 more. The year ahead will be critical. It’s a significantly important Sunday, because what people contribute impacts our future. Our offerings today are an act of faith and an expression of hope that ensure that our ministries grow, and our acts of service continue. But there is more to our offering than line items and ministries.What we are really doing when give an offering, is we are putting our hope and trust in the building up of the kingdom of God.

Our offering is an act of faith, equal to kneeling in prayer, engaging the Word, serving the poor. Giving an offering is a way of saying that we believe in the kingdom of God can be realized here on earth. It’s a way to testify that we believe that God is in the future and we are willing to invest in that future.

How are you feeling about the future these days? Some of you may feel really hopeful and optimistic. Some of you may feel uncertain and doubtful. Some of you may feel indifferent. Whatever you feel about the future today, if you have lived long enough you know that your feelings about the future can change based on your life circumstances and the state of the world.

None of us really know what the future holds, the one thing I believe about it however, is that God is already there, waiting for us, and that should at least bring us comfort. When I visit with people who are facing an unknown future, I always assure them, that Jesus is already there, waiting for them around the corner.

I believe in an omnipresent God.

The book of Isaiah is a book that assures of this truth — that God is with us in the past, the present and the future.

The book of Isaiah is a fascinating book that scholars believe is broken into three separate books, written either by three authors, or one author who started writing when he was very, very young, and ended when he was very, very old. Nevertheless, we know that the book is broken into three sections, creatively named First Isaiah, Second Isaiah and Third Isaiah. This morning we land in the 65th chapter of Isaiah in what has been identified as Third Isaiah. We have entered the story at the back end of a saga. Imagine your family is watching Gone with the Wind, and you just walked in at the scene when the war is over, and Scarlet has returned to Terra and has found the ruins of the plantation and rubble of war. That’s about the placement of the scripture passage we find ourselves in today.
Remember that Isaiah tells the story of the Hebrew people living as refugees on the banks of the Babylonia for 70 years The journey had been long –forcibly removed from their homeland of Jerusalem, driven to live in exile in Babylon. They are surrounded by many different religions and cultures and Isaiah keeps preaching to keep the faith and to remember Jerusalem. Finally, they are released to go back to Jerusalem and there is a measure of debate as to whether or not to return.   They are a nation divided.

Isaiah wants them to go back and some do – in hopes for a bright and promising future. They believe that all will be well.

But when they finally get home, they discover that all is not well, at all. They are bone-weary exhausted from their exile, an exile whose losses and fears permeate their every breath, an exile that literally overturns the very ground of their being–family, land, temple, culture, life. Remember that none of the people who returned home, were actually the people who had left home in the first place. These were the grandchildren of the first exiles, going back to their grandparent’s homeland. They had only the stories and the visions of their grandparents to hold on to.
Was this not the holy land of God? Was not this place, Jerusalem, filled with the presence of God? And if so, why do God’s beloved people continue to experience chaos and fear so deep that even to imagine or to hope for something else seemed beyond even the most desperate of grasping hands and hearts. Shouldn’t they be flourishing? Building and planting, inhabiting and celebrating? Living? Isn’t God here in their midst? And shouldn’t that change everything?

The people return to the promise land for the promise of a better future, and the future is not what they hoped it would be. The future they envisioned will require a lot more work than they ever imagined. The people look around and think, is this all there is? What is going to happen? What will the future hold?

And as the look at an uncertain future, where they have more work to do, more things to build, more people to serve, more work to do, Isaiah casts this vision from God. God says, “See, I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind. So be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating.”

Martin Luther is credited to have said, “If I knew the world would end tomorrow, I would plant a tree.” The saying does not appear in his collected works, but it’s the sort of thing Luther could have said, maybe even should have said. It’s very similar to a Jewish saying, “If you have a sapling in your hand and they tell you that the Messiah has arrived, first plant the sapling and then go out to greet him.”

To be honest, there are times when I think about the future of the church and I wonder what in the world is going to happen? Maybe you share that concern about your kids, your career, you marriage? We so want to control the future.

And then I remember that the answer to that question is not ours to answer. It is only on all of us to invest in the promise of the future. It is only on all of us to be the hands and feet and Christ. To plant a tree, plant a church, build a hospital start a university. Create something that will help millions. Spin off an act of creativity that would do proud the God who flung stars into space. Let us dream bigger than what is reasonable. Let us hope bigger than what is practical. Let us get our hands dirty, and invest in a future our grandchildren will live to see.

How do we live today when we don’t know what will happen tomorrow? We draw strength from God, who invites our participation and endures long after the cities and buildings and stones have crumbled. We adopt a posture that asks not what God can do for us, but calls us to bring the Kingdom of God just a bit closer. We love neighbor as self and we strive for just societies and a stable planet- new heavens and a new earth. We pray without ceasing, and we trust in a mighty God from whom all blessings flow.

 

The Reptilian Takeover of America

I posted this about five months ago, I think. In light of the protests and the fear that ensues across the country, I’m posting it again, in hopes that we all can become more aware of where we as a country and as individuals are in our brains, think about why we are there, and work our way into another area of the brain that is less fearful or reactive. What we can assume, I think, is that no matter the outcome of the election, half of our country would be afraid and likely be protesting – And the other half would think that their fear was irrational. I think if we can begin to hear each other’s fears and not dismiss them as unimportant, but really hear and come to understand what it is we are so afraid of, maybe we can slowly come to a deeper understanding that we are not so divided after all. We must start seeing each other.

creating sacred communities

I posted this about five months ago, I think. In light of the protests and the fear that ensues across the country, I’m posting it again, in hopes that we all can become more aware of where we as a country and as individuals are in our brains, think about why we are there, and work our way into another area of the brain that is less fearful or reactive.   What we can assume, I think, is that no matter the outcome of the election, half of our country would be afraid and likely be protesting  – And the other half would think that their fear was irrational. I think if we can begin to hear each other’s fears and not dismiss them as unimportant, but really hear and come to understand what it is we are so afraid of, maybe we can slowly come to a deeper understanding…

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