Monday, March 31, 2008
Sunday, March 30, 2008
Easter 2, 2008 John 23 March 30, 2008 Rev. Benton Quest
In my years as a camp counselor, I have had to come up with all kinds of icebreakers when dealing with groups. You know about icebreakers, those silly games like state your name and your favorite generic drug that begins with the first letter in your name. You know those, right? Well I found one that works extremely well. This is to ask people to tell about their favorite scar.
When I first ask people to tell me about their favorite scar, they usually look at me as if I have completely lost my mind. Then, after they realize I am serious, they begin to laugh. Then after the laugh, most people settle down into a contented smile. That’s right, a smile.
It may seem strange that we smile when we think of our scars, but in my experience, that is the almost universal response. When we think about our scars, we aren’t sad and we don’t frown. Our scars are kind of like old friends. They remind us of our heroic moments and our stupid moments. They remind us of when we were heroic and when we just didn’t think things through. Our scars are the chronicle of our lives.
It may surprise you that I would speak so forthright about scars. It may also surprise you that I could make such glowing generalities about scars. But really, it shouldn’t be that surprising: To be human is to have scars. In the process of living, we get scars. Some of these scars are imposed upon us by others and some we impose upon ourselves. Some happen by idly walking into a wall while others happen when the bully pushes us down the slide. No matter what, we all have scars.
There is one common denominator with all scars: they are not acquired without pain. These is pain in a cut, there is pain in a scrape. Scars are what we have left to show that we have endured the pain. Scars are our “trophy” for having endured the pain. Even if we get the scar from surgery, we still had to endure the pain of recovery.
Now, when you get a scar, it is pretty much there for life. Plastic surgeons can work on scars to try to reduce them, they can make scars less visible, but they really can’t make them go totally away. Once you get a scar, it is yours for life.
So, to restate what I had said before: our scars tell the story of who we are. We may not like the pain associated with scars, we may not like the look of the scars; but like them or not, we have scars. To be human is to be scarred.
So why all of this carrying on about scars? Well, there was something in the gospel today that really bothered me: Why was Jesus able to show his wounds to the disciples? Why could Jesus show his hands and side to Thomas? I thought after our death our bodies would be glorified. I though we were to have wonderful bodies, bodies that were so much better than the bodies we have now. So if we are supposed to have these wonderful, glorified bodies, shouldn’t the risen Christ have a gotten a glorified body also? Why weren’t those ugly holes all healed? Why wasn’t the gash in his side made sealed up? Since Jesus is God incarnate, then surely his wounds should have been healed; his scars should have been made clean. This question really bothered me. Maybe the whole thing about a glorified body was wrong.
No, there had to be something more to this. It was then that I started contemplating scars. Our scars are a chronicle of the events of our lives; our scars document the learning of our lives. These scars document what it is that makes each of us special. To take away the scars, to take away events that caused these scars, would be to change us from what we are.
To be human is to be wounded; to be human is to be scarred. Yes, we have been wounded, and yes, we have been scarred; but it is not our scars that make us human. In a perfect world, there would be no scars. God does not want us to have wounds, scars. But God also gave us freewill. And it is with this freewill that we choose to go against God, it is with this freewill that we choose to sin. And it is through this sin that wounds occur and that we obtain our scars.
Now Christ was without sin, but became sin for our sake. He took on our woundedness, he took on our scars. By coming to us, even after his resurrection, as one who is wounded, Christ continues to show us that he is the suffering servant. Christ does not just shake off the flesh and say, “Wow, I’m glad that is over.” No, he continues proudly in the flesh, wounds and all.
The writer of the Gospel of John calls Christ’s wounds a sign. A sign is something that points beyond itself. So these wounds of Christ point beyond what we can see and point us to something larger. The wounds of Christ point us to the redeeming power of God. The world had given all it had to Jesus. The world did everything it could to break Jesus. The world inflicted the greatest torture it could conjure up upon Christ. And to all involved, It looked like the world had won, but in the end, it was God that had prevailed. The worst that the world could inflict, death, had no control over Christ.
And death has no control over us. This is the promise made to us believers. This is the promise of our baptism. The tortures of the world will not hold. Through Christ’s love, we will prevail over the powers of the world
Because we will prevail over death does not mean that we will not encounter pain and suffering during life. It does not mean that we will not receive scars. Because of the world we live in and the people we are, we will encounter suffering. However, I also know that when we suffer, Christ suffers along with us. We are not left alone during these times. By showing his wounds, Christ reminds us that the pains of the world are still with him. He still bears the wounds that were inflicted. These wounds did not go away, they are still there.
It is the wounds that were inflicted upon him because of our sin that he shows to the disciples. But Christ shows these wound not to make the disciples feel guilty nor to make us feel guilty. By showing us his wounds, Christ is saying to us, “I have withstood this suffering for you and I will continue to be here. I will not leave you alone.” Christ’s body is wounded, even after his resurrection, not as a means of seeking revenge, but as a means of providing us what we need to continue in faith.
This may sound odd, but when we think of Christ’s scars, we can smile. The wounds on his hands and feet and the wound on his side are the chronicle of our salvation. We would not be who we are without them. But it is more than just the wounding, it is the resurrection that brings the healing. The scars of life will not go away, but through Christ’s own scars our scars are recognized and redeemed. To be human is to be scarred, but to be Christian is to know that Christ is with us to heal our wounds and to give us the strength to carry on.
I had entered two of my sun catchers in an art show at Delphi Glass. I am happy to say, the Santa won second place in the sun catcher category and Jesus won third place in the sun catcher category.
The only problem with all of this is that there were only three entries in the category. But still, I am proud of them and I can now claim to be an award winning artist!
Saturday, March 29, 2008
Well, Nick made it safely to Florida and is having a great time. He has been telling me that the weather has been warm and wonderful down there. I am happy because when he was in Jacksonville in January, it was not really wonderfully warm. I told him that when he comes home, I expect to see a tan, AND NO TAN LINES!
We have really been tossing around the idea of moving to Florida. There is nothing keeping us here in Michigan. And hopefully moving away from the grey winters may help my depression. I could also handle living within a couple of hours of the gulf or the ocean.
Even in I ended up working at a Starbucks in Florida, IT WOULD BE A STARBUCKS IN FLORIDA! If I am going to sell overpriced coffee, it might as well be to Speedo clad bronze gods.
Thursday, March 27, 2008
Nick is flying to Florida after work today.
SOMEDAY I will be able to go with him, but as things are now, I am back at home waiting for his return. He is going to celebrate the 20th Anniversary at the church he helped to found.
Ten years ago today, the FDA approved the "Little Blue Pill." I remember all the discussion if insurance should pay $10 per
Here is an hilarious, but definitely NSFW spam ad for Viagra.
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Monday, March 24, 2008
This Easter was different than ones of the past. In many ways, it had a whole lot more meaning. I think this was because I really identified with the stories and with the whole season.
The Holy Week is all about the tension of the worldly and the divine. The disciples are forced to view the trials of life and to deal with these trials without the support systems they thought would be there. There are troubles and trials of life and but also there are the promises that are made in the death and resurrection of Christ.
So, I guess that going through the trials of life that seem to be quite abundant right now, Holy Week seemed to be especially meaningful.
You might say that this is just another example of an "opiate of the people" and you may be right, but in many ways, our views of life are just exactly that, our VIEWS. Life may truly be going down the tubes, but if we have a positive attitude, we can usually make it through.
If you are interested, here is the sermon I preached on Easter morning. The service was an Easter Vigil which involves moving from darkness into light.
Easter Vigil Year A, March 23, 2008 Matthew 28:1-10 Rev. Benton Quest
It must have been a hard time for the disciples. Everything they had given their lives for was gone. Their leader was killed on a cross and was now laid in a tomb. They didn’t know what they were going to do. They were afraid of the people around them and afraid that they may be the next to be searched out and killed. There was no light to guide them. The world looked pretty dark and ugly.
Every good Jew would have known the stories of redemption we have heard this morning. They would have known how God had upheld and sustained them, the Chosen people, throughout history. They would have heard these stories since childhood. But with all the events that have happened over the past week, things looked like they may be too dire for even God to be able to handle. So the disciples sat, locked way, and waited.
I just love the irony we find in the Bible. But what I find unfortunate is that we often hear the stories so many times that we lose the irony and the lessons we can be taught by the irony. I am kind of embarrassed to say that one of the big, glowing, ironies of the whole Easter story had totally eluded me: That would be the irony of the tomb.
If you have never heard of the irony of the tomb, that is ok. I am not even sure if it is an official designation. Actually, it is something that came to me while I was thinking of how the whole message of the Easter Vigil could be applied to my life. It was then that I realized that we have two opposite and unexpected things happening almost simultaneously. In one part of Jerusalem we have a closed tomb. We have a man who was bound by death and the grave being released from these bonds. We have the stone being rolled back and the one who was previously bound emerging into total freedom. On the other side of Jerusalem, we have that group of disciples gathered together. They are locked in a room and are bound by fear. We don’t know if they had forgotten what they were told, or if they doubted that they were taught. It seems impossible they could have forgotten what they saw with their own eyes when Lazarus emerged from the tomb. All that we know is that the ones who had been assured of the freedom that Christ’s death and resurrection would bring were choosing to remain trapped and bound by their fear and doubt. Such an ironic situation: freedom had come to the disciples and they were choosing to remain bound in their fear.
Now it would be easy to say that the disciples lacked faith, but that is unfair. We have the gift of perspective. But even though thousands of years have passed, and with all of our perspective, we still find ourselves in the same ironic position. We still find ourselves locked away in fear. And I think in some ways the irony is even intensified; we have all the stories the disciples had plus we have the story of the resurrection, which was just something that was hinted at for the disciples. And yet, we still find ourselves choosing bondage over freedom and darkness over light.
Why do we do this? Why should we choose to remain in a tomb or darkness when the risen Christ is just waiting for us? I think in many ways, the promise of the resurrection is just too much for us to believe. The gift of unearned forgiveness and eternal life is often just too much for us to consider. We live in the world of that which is seen and that which is predictable. The whole concept of resurrection is beyond what we can readily experience. So instead of going out in faith, we often default to our fear and remain bound.
But we can learn from what may be the biggest irony of the whole Bible: The history of our salvation does not travel through the biggest or the strongest. The salvation of Israel and our salvation travels through those who were small, weak, or in the eyes of the world, damaged. Moses had a problem with speaking and killed a man. Jacob steals the birthright from his brother. David was the youngest of his family and was an adulterer.
And if we look at the disciples it was not much better. These people were simple towns folk. Fishers, tax collectors, no one of fame or status. It seems ironic that Jesus would not have picked people who were well known and would have immediately commanded respect. It seems ironic that Jesus would have picked simple people, even people whom society disdained. But this is part of the whole chain of irony we see: Jesus spreads his message through those who often seem to be the least likely candidates.
We even see the irony in Christ’s choice of who first sees him in his resurrected state. We need to remember that women did not have much status in the world of Biblical times, so for a woman to be the first to see the risen Christ and to tell of the resurrection would be similar to having a complete nobody trying to see a product. In biblical times, such a fantastic story as the resurrection coming from a woman would not be believed. It would have been better to have a man report back that he had seen the risen Lord instead of a woman. Jesus should have used someone with social clout to tell of the resurrection. It reminds me of those Geico commercials we have been seeing lately. In the Geico ads, the company makes sure there is a famous spokesperson along with the unknown person because supposedly we won’t believe the unknown person but we will believe the famous person with him or her. But Jesus isn’t Geico. Jesus didn’t use the famous or the powerful to spread his message. The risen Christ sends his message into the world through Mary, the one person whom society would have the easiest time discrediting. It is total irony that the one person who could be most discredited is the one person who truly did spread the message.
And the irony continues. Christ appears to those who have locked themselves away. He calls them out and uses them to spread his love and his message. Even though the disciples may have forgotten the promises that were made, Christ still follows through on those promises.
Christ changes Paul; the one who persecuted the Christians became the one who would bring the message of Christ to the gentile communities.
And Christ can even use us! We can see that Jesus reaches out to all kinds of people. We can see that Jesus can perform great miracles with just us fallible sinners. Even in the midst of darkness that may be in our lives, Christ can bring light.
Our day is moving from darkness into light. And with that light comes the promise of another day. Mary went to the tomb in the dark of the morning, but encountered the light of Christ which blessed her and sent her to spread the word. The disciples were closed away in darkness, but the light of the risen Christ would search them out and release them from the bonds they placed upon themselves. We may feel lost in the dark but the light of Christ is always there for us, begging us to come and follow.
It is irony that Christ, God incarnate would come to save us. It is irony that Christ would not search out the great and powerful but look to the average person to spread his message. And it is a glorious irony that even while we were still in sin, while we still doubt, what we still hide ourselves away, Christ would shine his light into our lives.
Saturday, March 22, 2008
Friday, March 21, 2008
There was a service last night for Maundy Thursday. There will be a service at noon and at seven today. There will be rehersal tomorrow morning and then I have to work. Then on Sunday, I have to preach at 6:30 am and then be at the 10 am service. And after all of that, Nick and I are going to Nick's family for Easter. I actually think I will be happy to go to work on Monday!
Happy Good Friday, all
Thursday, March 20, 2008
I think a major portion of the whole thing is the battle of two worlds that has been the hallmark of my life. I was raised by working class people in a working class home. My folks are "salt of the earth" type people who, due to circumstance of family and society, never finished the eighth grade. Our home was a kick-off-your-shoes-and-put-your-feet-on-the-coffee-table type of place. I don't think we ever had a matching set of towels or sheets. "Pretense" was just a sign of trying prove to others that you were something that you were not.
Now, all modesty aside, I am from that world but I am also from the world of academia. I do not have to go through my vitae, but suffice it to say that I have spent more time in college than some people spend in school. But even with all of this time in college, I still wore my Chuck Taylor's to graduation and wore my Garfield socks to defend my thesis.
I believe one of the best ways to show respect for someone is to provide them with a comfortable place to relax. This belief in comfort makes its way into my theology. Church is a place to "kick back with God." Yes, it is also a place to be challenged and to be moved, but it is also a place to be recharged. Maybe I focus too much on the "kicking back" and that focus on comfort may make some people feel (ironically) uncomfortable. But I also feel that for our faith to be meaningful in our lives, it must be something that we can truly live in.
I guess my focus on comfort opens the door for comments about sloppiness. And maybe there is some truth in that. But I also think that there are some others out there who need their faith to fit like an old shoe or maybe it would be better to say a well made running shoe; something that is truly comfortable and won't cause blisters. Maybe some need the blisters.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
That is the way things have been feeling lately: The wheels are turning, but the landscape has not been changing.
I am supposed to be preaching this Easter. New life, renewed hope. All that good stuff. What do I feel? Lost, frustrated, trapped. More of the same old stuff.
I apologize to my loyal readers (all four of you!) for posting so often about my frustration at the slow pace of change. There are just so many things that combine to make these past years (!) so complex. Whenever something happens, a whole series of guilt, anger, and frustration surfaces.
I placed guilt first because I was raised Roman Catholic and I grew up doing guilt well. I learned early on how to feel guilty about all kinds of things from my thoughts to things my body did. So, of course, when things go wrong, I feel guilty. I feel guilty that I don't put enough time into reviewing the church readings. I feel guilty that I mix up words while reading. I feel guilty that I have these feelings that "the church" doesn't like. I feel guilty that my sense of humor rankles the genteel folk. I feel guilty that I don't have the energy to invest into the church that I would like to have.
But then things switch into frustration. It is really easy to put time into the church when that is your full-time job. However, when you are working 40 hours/week, highly underemployed, trying to make ends meet, and trying to give time to the church, then get some attitude because you are not doing things "right," that gets frustrating. Not feeling supported, that is frustrating. Missing "being smart," that is frustrating.
This last comment about being smart may seem odd, but not if you think about it. Probably the best way to think about it is to be mentally bored. I miss the mental challenges that come from being in a church setting. Making coffee for eight hours a day really doesn't do much to spark the creative juices.
Then comes anger. Angy at it all! Ranting and raving mad! Pissed at the world, at God, at people trying to help me, at life. I start to turn into something that I really don't like.
Then, of course, I feel guilty about being angry and needy. And with that, the loop begins again.
Monday, March 17, 2008
Saturday, March 15, 2008
But face it, the party said if the primaries were moved, there would be a cost. The states, in defiance moved the primary dates, and the cost was exacted.
Now, if there is something unfair about the ruling, go after the ruling. But also realize that when you break the ruling, there will be a cost.
As someone who didn't even vote in the primary because my vote wasn't going to matter, I am offended when Mrs. Clinton says she won Michigan. I know that there were others like me who felt totally disenfranchised and so stayed away from the polls. And when you are the only one on the ballot (there was also some other "also ran" on the ballot whom I cannot remember)it is not hard to win.
I think the governments of FL and MI need to quit crying "Poor us!" and face the fact that they made a choice and it had consequences. And I also think the primary should be redone. I also think the states should have to foot the bill. If they wouldn't have been breaking the rules in the first place, we wouldn't be in the situation we are in now.
I guess it is like disagreeing with the placement of a stop light. Running the light and getting a ticket. Then expecting the city to pay for the ticket. It doesn't make sense.
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Well, this is the box update: OCD Alien Boy has put in his two-week notice.
I have some real mixed feelings about the whole thing. Yes, I will admit that there is a part of me that is VERY happy he will be gone. Even though I tried to be a "less anxious presence" around work, having the Alien Boy there made keeping that less anxious presence very taxing.
But another part of me is kind of sad. I have actually seen some change to the positive in Mr. OCD. He actually was making conversation and not just running around cleaning. Granted he had some way to go, but don't we all?
Granted, OCD has to be tied up in perfectionism in some manner, but is there a perception problem also? We all err, but is it more difficult for a person with OCD to admit the error? (Just pondering.)
Sometime I will have to go into some detail about the eye candy and lack there of that can be seen from the box.
Monday, March 10, 2008
Probably not a big thing any more, but when I was in high school, that was the first time my car rolled over the hundred thousand mile mark. And back then, it was cool because the odometers didn't go that high so the car would become "New" as it went back to all zeros.
Now, cars surpassing one-hundred thousand mark are no biggie.
Humm...I titled this milestones so are there other milestones in my life? It doesn't really seem so. A year ago I was in New Orleans. It was nice to be there. I was loving the warmth. I am looking forward to the weather getting warmer. I guess a year ago I would not have thought I would be in this position. I guess I didn't think I would still be unemployed/underemployed.
Now we have the increased stress of Nick being unemployed.
Just had another 800 call come through. I guess I will be happy when I don't have to dread having the phone ring.
When I hate about the situation/economy is that everything become a crisis. No Dr.'s visits until it becomes crisis level. Pay as much on the bills as possible, but still get socked with the finance charges. It was suggested to get credit counseling, but trying to find a reputable one is difficult. And I am not in debt enough to file bankruptcy. (Yep, I am in debt enough to ruin my credit rating for life, but not enough to file bankruptcy.)
Oy Vey! Sorry, didn't mean for this to turn into a pity party.
Friday, March 07, 2008
I work in a Starbucks in a Meijer store.
For those of you who may not be from the Michigan area, Meijer is one of the originators of the "Super Store" concept. The chain started as a small family grocery store and has grown into a series of super stores over something like five states.
Now the Starbucks is an area about 14 feet by 14 feet. It is within this small area that we may have upwards of five people working! So when I was kvetching about the OCD Alien Boy, you can understand some of the frustration. Being in that small of an area with someone who has such high anxiety levels tends to raise the anxiety of everyone.
When you are "in the box," your view of the world does not change much. (I will post a picture when I get a chance.) We get to look out upon the green, yellow, orange, and red bell peppers. We look upon the cucumbers; both seeded and seedless. And we have a perfect view of the grapes.
Now, the grape section I find incredible. I cannot believe how many people who will just walk up to the grape section and start eating the grapes. Part of me wants to run out and hand people napkins when I see it happen. What about grapes makes people think that it is ok to eat them without paying for them? We don't rip open an orange or grapefruit without paying for it. I don't even see people eating things like cherries without paying. But grapes seem to be in a whole different league. People eat them without remorse. And not just one! People will stand there and graze!
I am sure that if you asked these same people if they thought theft was wrong, they would all agree. I am also sure that if you asked these people if they would ever shoplift, they may say that they have thought about it, but would not do it. But here they are, noshing on grapes without a single thought of who is going to have to pay for them.
It just floors me.
I am sure there will be more Views from the Box later.
EDIT: Here is my view from the box.
Thursday, March 06, 2008
How terrible! We can't let them darn Oscars out of our sight! Can you believe they would put that on the cover of a magazine? Do we have Oscar sex going on? Maybe I am just a perv, but it looks like the Oscars on the left are kissing and the ones on the right? Well...uh...
This has got to have something to do with the Homosexual Agenda, somehow.