Monday, June 28, 2010

Bloom Where You are Planted

It is that time of year when Methodist ministers move. In the past few weeks you may have seen those of "our type" sneaking in ABC stores trying to quickly obtain boxes...or maybe some other stuff. After all moving is stressful.

We've moved 7 times. I celebrate that I was not on the list this year although it is almost a reflex action to start looking for boxes this time of year.

I think back on the memories of moving. There was that move from seminary to our first church. A hurricane came through the night we moved. We packed in the rain. When we arrived at our new parsonage the guy we followed had attempted to save a few steps and planted his rented moving truck at the front door with the wheels on the lawn. When he attempted to leave he bogged down in the wet grass. The tow truck also bogged down so when we arrived it looked like someone was putting a septic tank in the front yard...or maybe a swimming pool.

My first thought was, "The people who come to see us will think I did it and know that their new preacher must really be stupid." I quickly put the word out that it was that other "stupid" preacher not this one.

I then remember the move where we decided that we had enough money to actually have someone move us. That was the good news. The bad news was that the guy showed up with another preacher's furniture already in the truck figuring that Methodist ministers do not have that much stuff...He got only half our "stuff" in the truck and then said, "You must have been hiding things when I came to give you an estimate."

What? So I ended up borrowing one of his other trucks and driving it to the new place. When we got there his movers were quite drunk. They must have helped some other Methodist preachers find boxes at the ABC store and hung around a while.

I remember finding my dear wife crying out in the backyard of one of our "new places." She told me that moving was hard. I reminded her that when we started dating years before she informed me that "She always thought she wanted to marry a minister." The problem was that her "model" for this was her Lutheran pastor who was with the church for 35 years. She married the wrong denomination...and maybe the wrong guy...but not really.

Anyway I remember and empathize with all those dear ministers who just moved. We Methodists laugh at our Baptist and Presbyterian minister friends who talk of "interims." Presbyterians often have as much as two years of interim time before they get a new minister. The interim time for we Methodist ministers is "two hours."

Everybody moves the same day. You say bye in the morning and hello in the afternoon. It is kind of like those divers who do not "de-compress" and come up too quickly from the depths. They get cramps called "the bends." Well...such quick transition can give one the emotional "bends" as we go from tears of goodbye to greetings of hello...but that's the way it is.

"Bloom where you are planted," is our motto even if there is a bit of "transplant shock." So to all my Methodist minister brother and sisters I send a prayer your way...let me know if you need me to make an extra trip for you to the ABC know to return some boxes for refunds or something like that....


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Jesus Has Left the Building

The newspaper article was accompanied by a photo of people taking pictures as it happened. From street level the cameras were focused on the roof as Jesus left the building. The 12 foot sign which read "Jesus Saves" was taken down the other day by a crew that was donating their services in order to "save" the Jesus Saves sign.

It seems that Jesus was being saved so that he could reside at another church campus that is offering him a home and another building to inhabit. They want the 60 year old "Jesus Saves" neon sign to continue to be a landmark for people who need to "find their direction today."

It seems that a campaign was launched to save Jesus from the wrecking ball that was soon to destroy the building upon which his name rested for all these years. Progress was going to destroy Jesus. His saving sign would no longer beam across the way. So the powers that be came together to save Jesus so that he could continue to "save" all who would pay attention.

I wonder how many who passed by paid attention to the sign? Are we saving a piece of history or are we saving something else? Do some people see Jesus much like they view this sign? Is Jesus like a museum relic? His shinning message was nice but now it is time to move on. We must make a place for modern things and new highways that take us places faster.

We no longer have the time it takes to pause and watch the on and off flash of words that say, "Jesus Saves." What is it that Jesus saves anyway?

Maybe one day it was a sign that people heeded but after all it is a bit "dated" don't you think? My friend Ed Kilbourne says in one of his songs, "I'd rather be 'used' than 'saved'". Well this Jesus was so used up that he almost fell victim to the recking ball.

So Jesus has left the building. The truth is that he left long ago. His rusting sign may have graced the roof for years but he was not there. The neon lights may have peered into the night but if you had investigated you would find the same thing that those distraught women found early one morning long ago when they went to find a relic in a graveyard. To their surprise they faced an empty tomb with a sign across it that read, "Jesus has left the building."

The "Jesus Saves" sign is something that some of his followers came up with much later. I suppose that "sign" has turned as many people "off" as it has turned people "on." I used to have a book entitled, "I'm Saved, You're Saved Maybe."

The Jesus I encountered a while back can never be confined to a sign or a building or a phrase. Religion likes to capture him but he will not have it. Jesus is...well...out there offering transformation to all who will pay attention. The choice is not whether to preserve an old flashing sign or relegate it to a museum. The choice is whether to be "used" by the very alive spirit of Christ or to be safe and "saved" from a world where change happens all too fast.

Jesus has left the building. Jesus "saves" all right; he saves us from hiding in the past and relegating his revolutionary message to a placard that decays along with that famous "moth and doth that corrupts."

Bless you,

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Old Dust

Wow and I thought that the dust in our house was old. We just spent 200 million dollars to dust an asteroid. It seems a spacecraft was launched in 2003, landed on a 1600 foot piece of rock that is 2 billion miles away, collected some "dust", and returned a few days ago.

So let me get this straight. This was a 4 billion mile trip in order to dust? I have a hard time hitting the squirrels in my back yard with a BB gun. The rascals want to gorge themselves with the seed reserved for my birds so I try to pester them with tiny pellets to keep them from thinking they are guests at a free backyard buffet. The squirrels are quite safe due to my inability to hit the broad side of a barn. (Except that one who fell victim to a lucky shot a few months ago but that is another story)

With our technology it seems we can hit a moving target that is 2 million miles away, gather some asteroid dust, and return the "dust broom" safely back all in seven years. Why do we need to dust an asteroid? Well, why did the chicken cross the road? Why climb a mountain? Why pay taxes?

Anyway we did it. As if we do not have enough dust on the top of our refrigerator we have to go millions of miles to bring some more of the stuff to earth.

It seems this dust is really old. They think it will help reveal how planets like ours formed. It seems that the "building blocks" for planets were asteroids. So you do a little dusting on a chunk of rock 2 million miles away and alas what is under the dust is none other than the great, great (keep on going) great grandparent of

"From dust you came and to dust you shall return" goes an old saying. Well now we've "returned" some dust that may tell us about our own "origins." As the water soaked Wicked Witch of the West said as she returned to dust in a cloud of smoke, "What a world, what a world."

Next time I do some dusting in our house I shall smile and think of the big time Creator who, according to the old, old story, created us humans guessed it...the dust. It seems this same creator created most everything. There are billions of galaxies out there, a lot of them dust covered.

It seems now that God does not have to do any dusting throughout the heavenly hosts that we call the universe. We do the dusting for God. What a world!



Tuesday, June 8, 2010

What a Tangled Web We Weave...Us not Spiders

This morning I marveled at the overnight work of a spider who wove her web between two day-lillies. The sun's rays caught the morning dew that collected on the web illuminating its almost perfect symmetry.

Spiders use special internal glads to "spin" their silk. Usually there are at least two kinds of strands in the patterned web. There is the sticky filament for the unsuspecting prey and there is the non-sticky one for the spider itself to walk across. Flies, wasps, and large creatures who gawk at such wonders on sunny mornings do not know the difference. So if you run into one of these pieces of art work that happens to be stretched between two trees on your morning outing you need to whisk away both types of spinnings because somewhere in the "trap" is the creator of the web. Ask the fly corpse you see in some webs if this "ain't so."

How does a spider know how to do this? Do baby spiders spend time at the "knees" of momma learning lessons in how to weave? Are there late night lectures on the "art of web making?" Does each spider have to take an end of semester test that they must pass and in order to be set free on the world to weave?

Unlike the spectators who marvel at the spider's web these multi-leg spinners simply "know." They are born with the wisdom it takes to weave what would take us years to learn. I suppose this should be a lesson in humility.

The webs we weave are often messy. We seem not to know the difference in the "sticky" and the non-sticky so we often get stuck in our own web.

We "spin" out harmful words that pull in those we hurt and find they we are also trapped by our own creation. We weave patterns that we call habits and then sit beside the web complaining that we are victimized by some unseen power forgetting that we are the spinners of our own webs.

Perhaps we need to spend some time with our spider sisters. You know, watch and wait and learn. They simply know. We, however, wise masters of technology that we are...must learn.


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Getting Off Our High Horse

I believe it was my grandmother who first used the expression, "Get off your high horse." I found it to be rather strange since as a child I noticed none of our family owned a horse.

I later came to realize that she was not talking equestrian etiquette. She had in mine something that was closer to a dinner table image; "Eat some humble pie."

It seems lately we've had to get off our high horse and eat some of that pie whether we want to or not. Clouds of ash ground our mighty birds of the air so we can't travel. Billowing masses of oil gush from the pipes of our progress and our robots and our might can't stop it.

Psalm 8 might be a good place to "dismount" from our high horse so that we can walk over to our Creator's "table" and have a piece of pie.
"O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is Your name in all the earth...
When I consider Your heavens and the work of Your fingers...
What are mortals that You are mindful of us????
...Yet you have made us a little lower than the angels...
You have given us dominion over the works of your hands"

But alas the Psalm ends as it should, "O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is Your name in all the earth." Our dominion is but dust and ashes in the face of a mighty volcano. Our wisdom and the fruits of our technology cannot produce an "on/off" switch so we have to wait.

Then from the depths of the mighty sea we again watch as our "power" fails us. We witness our self-made destruction of the very creation the Creator gives us dominion over. It is time to get off our high horse and chew...slowly...our humble pie.

I wonder what we will learn? Is there some "power" for which we cannot drill but must wait on in order to gain? Long ago a wisdom teacher instructed his followers to "wait on the power I will send you." They were ready to mount their horses and ride off into the sunset but they were told to wait for power. The result was something called Pentecost.

So pillars of smoke make us wait and plumes of oil cause us to wonder how in charge we really are. Humble pie is not as sweet as I would hope but I suppose it is time for a piece.

It seems that we cannot see all that we need to see from atop a high horse. I hope we will notice things more closely now. Mother Nature, as we call "her" has a time-table we cannot set. And it seems we need to be more "care-filled" about how we use our dominion over the earth. After all the earth is not ours. It is a gift on loan from one who probably needs to hear just now, "O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is your name in all the earth."
Bless you,