Monday, September 27, 2010

Special Sermon

Today, our normally scheduled readings have been preempted. The Diocese has declared that this Sunday we would celebrate our ongoing journey with RSVP. Now some of you may be asking yourselves, “What RSVP is and why we are celebrating it?” Probably, for many of you, you didn’t even know that we were on a journey with RSVP. If you fall into these categories, that is ok; there is no reason to feel embarrassed. RSVP stands for Revitalization and Strategic Visioning Project. It is part of the Diocese of Swampland's effort to bring new life and new light to the mission to Christ’s people throughout Michigan and the world.

Part of the RSVP process was to have people sit down and really look at where the diocese has been and where it is heading. And also, to sit down and look at what drew each of us to the church, what keeps us in the church, and how we can spread this energy to those in our communities and out into the world. I would like to take this time here to ask you to consider these same questions: What brought you to St. Swithin's? What made you want to come back week after week? And finally, what do we have to spread to our community and to our world?

We really need to think about these questions because how we answer them becomes our defining story. If we tell ourselves we are blessed and capable, we will find the blessings in our midst and find the energy and ability to make those things happen. If we tell ourselves we are doing God’s will, we will find that paths will open and opportunities will arise. Our old ones will dream dreams and our young will see visions. If we have faith that God is with us and gives us gifts for the journey, no matter where on the journey we find ourselves, I am certain we will find those gifts surround us.

But if we tell ourselves the story that I have been hearing all too often, we will find this to be true. I have been hearing that we are “just too old” to do anything. We cannot possibly become a thriving flourishing congregation because we do not have any young people. This is not something that I have heard from just one person, I have heard it many times. The story we tell ourselves is the story we come to believe. If we tell ourselves this story, if we keep telling ourselves that we are too old, it will become true. We will continue to grow older and we will continue to find our numbers are dropping.

I am sad that this story has become the story that surrounds us here at St. Swithn's. We continually tell ourselves that we are too old and that we have nothing left to offer. What is unfortunate is if we argue for this reality, it will surely become ours. If we argue that as a congregation we are just too old and can do nothing, we will do nothing.

But that argument forgets one of the great truths that we hear in today’s gospel; this truth is that we are blessed! Jesus tells us in the Beatitudes that even those things that we may not readily consider blessings, things such as mourning or hungering for righteousness, even those things are to be considered blessings! The story that Jesus gives us is not that we are too old or that we do not have enough, the story that Jesus gives us is that even when the world tells us we are lacking, we are still blessed! What we may see as a curse, in God great plan, we will find it a blessing!

And again, in Ephesians, we are told that we have been blessed, we are told that the Spirit has given gifts to the people. All people! If you are here, you have been blessed! We all have been given gifts, we all have been given talents. We all have been given a heartfelt desire that God wants to use for the building of the Kingdom.

As the diocese is revisioning its mission in the world, so too, we need to revision our mission as a congregation and also in our lives. We need to find a new song, a new story, a new voice. We need to find a new vision. Or maybe we don’t need to find a new vision, but search to find that vision that God has had for us all along!

But living out God’s vision can be scary! In living out the vision, God expects us to put our faith in God, not in ourselves. God asks us to trust. God asks us to be about the work of building the Kingdom in the world. God calls us to be a part of something bigger than ourselves, but God also asks us to trust.

What is God asking of us? If we were not afraid of failure, what would we do? If we knew God had blessed our efforts, what would we do to change the world? I believe God has something planned for us. I think God has more planned for us than just to watch us grow old. I believe that God has given us a set of gifts and talents that is just waiting to find expression in the world! If God believes in us, how can we doubt?

Now that you have had some time to think about the questions I asked at the beginning of the sermon, I am now going to ask you to answer those questions in writing. I ask you to write the answer to those questions on the card that you should have found in your bulletin. Those questions again: 1) What drew you to  St. Swithin's? 2) What keeps you coming back week after week? 3) What gift or talent do you have that you could share to help bring the Good News to the world? On this last question, I am not asking for a pledge of money, I am asking about what talents or passions you have that could be used to the greater glory of God.

Please do NOT put your name on the cards; this is something between you and God. But I do ask you to put the cards into the offering basket. I will take the cards and compile the results. Hopefully, in this way, we can learn something about our journey together as a congregation and see where God may be leading us.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Gift That Keeps On Giving, Keeps On Giving!

Haven't had a Stage Mom post in a while!  Yeah!!


She has started to come back to church.  And since we do not have Sunday School during the time of the church service, she now sits in the back row and talks all the way through the sermon.  How very adult.  This is behavior I would expect from 12 year-old, not a 40 year-old.


Mr. Stage Mom has been working for the church as janitor.  He was having difficulty finding a job so the church opted to pay him to clean the church weekly. (There were members of the board who were not pleased with this dicision.  I was not around when the decision was made.)

What should take approximately 4 hours to do, he has been doing in one hour.  Needless to say, the cleanliness of the building has been suffering.

Now we are dealing with the problem of how to tell him to pick up the slack.  The President is friends with him and doesn't want to say anything.  The Vice-President's wife is friends with Stage Mom and is out to get me.  (Sounds paranoid, but it is true.)  So VP is out.  Anything I will say will be twisted by Stage Mom.   Arrrggg!!!

I just wish they would go somewhere else!

Sunday, September 19, 2010



Happy Talk Like A Pirate Day!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Why Do We Even Try To Preach On This? Pentecost 17 Proper 20C

Pentecost 17 Proper 20C     September 18. 2010       Luke 16:1-13      The Rev. Benton Quest

This gospel reading is one that I always dread preaching about. One commentator likened it to a holiday that only comes once every three years. But probably, it would be an un-holiday. I really don’t want to have to preach on this reading, but when I try to talk myself into preaching on one of the other readings; I start to call myself a chicken. So, without further ado, I am going to jump into it and see what happens!

So what is so horrible about the gospel reading? Well, it doesn’t make sense! And on top of it, no one, even the most learned of the scholars, seem to be able to figure out exactly what is going on.

If we look at the reading, it sounds as if Jesus is telling us to not only cheat people and is telling us that there is even a reward for those who DO cheat. If cheating is rewarded, then I want to work for the IRS or maybe I should begin selling used cars! Actually, my apologies to any IRS agents out there or used car salespeople. And also, if there are any IRS agents, my name is actually Barak Obama; Pastor Benton is just my pulpit name.

But all kidding aside; how are we to deal with this reading? It sounds totally unchristian. Actually, it is even worse than that, it sounds totally non-biblical. It goes against the eighth commandment! We are not supposed to steal, and yet, this dishonest manager is stealing from his boss. The manager has been stealing from his boss for a while! And in the face of all this stealing, the manager is commended.

Some commentators have suggested that the manager was actually only cutting his commission off of the amounts owed. That sounds plausible. But in the case one of the debtors, that would equal a 100% commission for the manager! And we are not talking about small amounts of stuff here. We are talking about something like 900 gallons of olive oil and bushels and bushels of wheat! No, this theory doesn’t hold up.

Some have suggested that the manager is taking off the interest that the man had added to the amount borrowed. In removing the interest, the manager was keeping the landowner honest. That could be seen as an honorable thing! But again we are faced with the amounts that are involved and by the seemingly arbitrary way the manager reduces the amounts. For one debtor the amount is reduced 50% and for another it is only reduced 20%. No, this just seems to be a random cut. I don’t think we can get away from the fact that the manager is still squandering the landowner’s money.

And when the landowner sees what the manager has done, well, we would expect him to get upset at the manager, wouldn’t we? Instead, the landowner commends the dishonest manager! Now notice here, it is Jesus that calls the manager dishonest; the landowne refers to the manager as being shrewd. Then Jesus says that the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light. And that we are to make friends for ourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when the money is gone, our friends may welcome us into the eternal homes.

No matter how you look at it, this is weird!

I have read one commentator who attacks this problem head on. He says that we should look at the wealth of our time as dishonest wealth. Now we are not just talking about the wealth of today, September 19, 2010, we are talking about wealth from anytime in our history. The wealth of this world is earned by means that are decried by Amos in the first reading. This world’s wealth is acquired by trampling on the needy and bringing ruin to the poor. So since we cannot acquire wealth in any other way than in dishonest ways, we need to be shrewd about how we use this wealth.

Jesus tells us that we need to make friends for ourselves with this dishonest wealth. Now we could say, “Fine, I’ll just give my wealth to my rich friends and they will give their wealth to me. That way I will have my friends and these will be the ‘right’ kind of people!” And granted, that would seem to make life easier, but Jesus will never let us get off the hook that easily.

Remember a few weeks ago? In the past we were talking about what it means to give and what it means to be part of the kingdom. We discussed what proper hospitality looked like and how to be a proper guest. Jesus said that we were to invite people to eat who could not repay our hospitality. We were supposed to give to those in need. And a while back, we discussed gifts given by God. We were told that we received gifts and talents for the good of the whole community; that we are to give of our gifts and talents for the building up of the kingdom. So in teaching us to make friends with our dishonest wealth, we are actually being told to share what we have with those around us, especially with those who are needy.

Now you may be saying, “Benton, make up your mind! You just told us that the manager in the story was dealing with large amounts of wheat and oil. These were obviously rich people! Well, actually, they were not rich people. They were so in debt to the land owner that they could NOT pay back the money. And even if that were the case, even if the manager were dealing with rich people, we need to remember the point of the parable.

You see, the thing to remember is that Jesus is telling us a parable; Jesus is not telling us an allegory. In a parable there is one main point. In an allegory each object represents something else. The story of the dishonest manager is a parable so there is one point that we are to take away. Jesus tells us this point: Use dishonest wealth to make friends. And as I said, previous to this, Jesus has taught us what it means to be a friend; what it means to be a neighbor.

As Christians, we are called to follow the teachings and examples of Christ. This is a tough one! Remember, Christ gave it all, his reputation, his body, his life, so that we may live. He gave these gifts to us while we were still sinners. He gave these gifts to us even though he knew we wouldn’t appreciate them. He gave these gifts to us, even when we didn’t deserve them. This is the type of life we are to follow. We are to give even when we know we will not be repaid. We are to listen, even when we don’t agree. We are to love, even when the other is unlovable. We are to do all of this because Christ loves us and we are to do this because Christ love is given to us and also because Christ’s love is given that other person.

How do we, as individuals and as a congregation, show love to the world? How do we reach out and ease the burden on our neighbors? How do we spread the love of Christ beyond our walls? That is the challenge that is placed before us.

In our world today, we are asked to listen, to love and to forgive. We are to listen to the voice of the poor and the suffering. We are to love those who hate us and wish to hurt us. We are to forgive those who would cause us harm. This is the way we can make friends in this world that will invite us into the eternal homes. This is the way we bring Christ, not only into our own homes, but into the world.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Dealing with me

I am really not loving my personlity type lately.  That probably sounds odd to say.  But I have been dealing with my personaliy type for the past week and I have been thinking.  My Meyers-Briggs score is INFP and lately I have just been getting tired of it.  I am tired of looking at the world in such an odd way.  I get tired of my way not being understood by others.  I am tired of being hurt by things that others just let slide off of them.  I get told to "just toughen up" and if I could do that, I would have done that years ago

What also gets me is that the things that I find that helps me to move beyond these feelings are the things those who are not "in the know" get upset about.  Getting away from the problems.  Getting people to lower anxiety levels.  Not an easy thing t do.

I go from doing fine to wanting to just run away. 

All the stuff I find talks about people feeling alone and depressed.  I can relate to that.  What frightens me is the thought that this is all I have to look forward to.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Silly, Silly, Savior! Pentecost 16 Proper 19C

Luke 15:1-10

I was going to hit you with a major mind-bender of a statement at the beginning of the sermon today, but I decided that I had probably better not. I was thinking about what I was going to say and decided that to just come out and say it would probably get me into some trouble. So I decided to give you this little heads-up. The next thing that I say is going to sound pretty close to being sacrilegious: We have some pretty silly stories in our Gospel reading for today!

To hear these stories referred to as “silly” probably is not what we are used to. We are not used to hearing Jesus’ words referred to as being silly. Usually we are told that we need to listen to Jesus’ words and head Jesus’ words. But when we look at our parables today, they are just silly!

Let’s look at the first parable. I am guessing that most of us are familiar with the story: A shepherd has 100 sheep and one runs away. So the shepherd leaves the other 99 sheep and goes to look for the one lost sheep. Sounds nice and cozy, doesn’t it? We like the thought of this. But let’s stop and think about it for a moment. Imagine you were the teacher of a day-care and you had 100 toddlers. You were out at the playground with the toddlers when you realize that one of them is missing. So, without thinking, you leave the other 99 toddlers to go about their business while you go look for the missing one. Now remember, it is just you and the children, there is not another adult there to watch. When you leave to search for the missing child, the other 99 are allowed to roam free, to get into all kinds of trouble. And remember, toddlers are toddlers! While you are looking for the one, ten others may have decided to go home and are just about to step into the street! We may get this warm fuzzy feeling about the Shepherd going out and getting the one lost sheep, but leaving the other 99 to get the one is really not a very bright thing to do!

The same thing goes with the sheep. It would really be silly for a shepherd to allow the other 99 sheep to go roaming around, possibly into the mouths of wolves just so he could find the one lost sheep. It would make more sense to just chalk the lost one up to experience, assume the loss in revenue and go on. The shepherd runs the risk of losing much more by looking for the lost sheep than by not going, and keeping the other 99 safe.

And what about this woman who lost the silver piece? She loses one of her pieces of silver and searches for it. Ok, that is fine, but then she calls everyone and throws a party! Unless the amount that was lost was quite large, the amount the party would cost is probably more than the value of the coin. We can probably agree that it would be silly to throw a $100 party to celebrate the finding a coin worth $10.

But these are the examples that Jesus gives us to help us to understand just how much God loves us and wants us to follow God’s way. So what can we learn about God from these parables and by extension, what can we learn about how we are to live our lives?

Well, first off, I think we can safely assume that God plays by a whole different set of rules than the world. Where the management people would keep telling us to watch our expenses and to figure out the ultimate cost to benefit ratio, Jesus is saying something different. Jesus is telling us that no matter how far we may wander, no matter how lost we may appear, we are not so far gone that God cannot find us. No matter what the cost, God is not content to just let us go. God is not going to chalk our loss up to the cost of doing business. God will work to find us, to save us, to bring us back!

But if we pay attention to the reading, we will also see that this is not just God’s doing. Not only are we the ones who are lost and need to be found, we are also the ones who are to do the searching!

At the beginning of both of the parables, Jesus begins with a question that assumes that everyone would agree with it. “Which one of you…” “What woman…” In starting the parables this way, Jesus is not allowing the listeners to back out. It is assumed that we would be willing to also risk it all for the one lost sheep or we would search until we found the lost coin. It is assumed that we would do the same things that God would do. We are not allowed the opportunity to say, “You know, the 99 sheep are ok.” We are not allowed to just let the lost coin remain lost. Jesus implies that it is our job to be out doing the work of finding the lost.

But it is not all work! We are also to be celebrating! We are to celebrate those who have returned, those who have been found! And our celebrations are to be momentous events! We are to celebrate even the smallest of victories. God searches for us, and we are to search for others. And then let the party begin!

Being in the world looking for the lost is not the easiest thing, in fact, many would prefer that the lost not be found. Being out among those whom society says are untouchable has many stresses in our society, just as many as there were in the time of Jesus. But just as Jesus ate with the sinners, we are called to go out and be among the sinners. We are called to be among those whom polite society may have turned away. We heard about this last Sunday, and we hear about it again today.

But the thing that we always need to remember is that while we are called to search for the lost sheep, we are never a few steps from becoming lost ourselves. God provides shepherds and flocks to keep us safe and provides a home to return to when we stray. But God also asks us to be shepherds and flocks to others. God asks us to provide role-models for what it means to be Christian in the world.

This may seem like a bit of a stretch, but I do want to talk about what has been in the news for the past week. When I look at people wanting to burn the Koran in the name of Christianity, I see sheep that have gone astray. And I do believe that God will continue to reach out to help these people to see how they have strayed. But also, I feel that God is also talking to us. Many people will look at these extremists and assume that they represent the flock, not the sheep that has gone astray. How do we, individually and as a congregation spread the word to our community and to our world to help them to see that we worship a God of extravagant love not intolerant hate? How do we interact with our world to spread the message that we have a savior who is not looking to punish the sinner but to reach out to all people and celebrate their return to the flock? How do we spread the message that not only did our Savior eat with the sinners, but died for us too? This is the message that we are to bring to the world. This is the message the Christ wants us to share. This is the message that will bring the angels joy in Heaven!

We have a God of love, a God of forgiveness, and a God of extravagance. We have a God who will go to lengths that the world would consider silly just to save one who has gone astray. We have a God who loves us more than we can ever comprehend. This is what we celebrate, this is the message we have the opportunity to bring to the world.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Everybody Talks About It...

Whether the weather be cold, whether the weather be hot, we'll weather the weather whatever the weather whether we like it or not.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Heretic Alert

Living in a house with two clergy has its quirks.  Lately, the discussions have been around the concept of  Universalism.

For those of you how don't know, Universalism is the belief that ALL people will get into Heaven.  I will not speak for Nick, but I will say that I am a Universalist.

There are many who believe that there HAS to be a Hell.  The argument goes, "If people are going to go to Heaven anyway, why should they behave?

If you think about this, it is a very childish way of looking at people.  It gives people no consideration for the maturity we would like to assume of the "sapien" part of Homo Sapien.  It really is a very negative way of looking humanity. All the humanists out there should be really upset by this. It says that the only way that people will do anything that does not directly have a positive impact upon them is to have the reward of Heaven dangled out in front of them.

I don’t know, but this just does not feel very good to me.

Now, as I said before, I am a Universalist. I believe the gift of Heaven is out there for all of us. And if it is a gift, then it means that there is nothing that we can do to earn it. To earn it means that it is NOT a gift, right? So Heaven is a gift, and being a gift, it cannot be used as a carrot to dangle in front of others. If God uses Heaven as a bribe, then God is no better than Santa rewarding “good little girls and boys.”

As Christians, we profess to believe that Jesus died for our sins. We are told that this is a gift. Gift means gift. If we have to earn it, it is not a gift. If we have to pay for it, it is not a gift. If we have to be good little girls and boys, then Jesus is no better than Santa.

So the question becomes: “Well, what about Hitler? Is Hitler in Heaven?” (No need to play around with Jeffrey Dahmer! Go right for the big guns!)

If we are the ones worrying about Hitler, aren’t we passing judgment on Hitler? Don’t we violate the “Do not judge lest ye be judged” thing? Why should we care if Hitler is in Heaven or not? Does it make Heaven any less “heavenly” just because Hitler is there? (Just like “does it make marriage any less a marriage if gays are also getting married?”)

Then people say, “Well, Hitler SINNED!” (And that is “sin” with capital letters!!)

But isn’t sin, sin? Don’t we say that the wages of sin is death? So that means there is no rank to sin. Either we sin and deserve death or we don’t sin. It does not say that the wages of certain sin is death while the wages of others sin is to feel kind of bad. If we sin, we deserve death. Full Stop. (“Period” for us Americans.)

So to say that some people deserve death for their sins, but we only deserve a punishment, if not a full pardon, for our sins is definitely to go against all the judgment stuff we profess to believe.

I am probably a heretic, but I would rather think we have a God who can forgive not only my sins, but the sins of the world. (Isn’t that what Jesus did?) And isn’t it rather presumptuous of me to think that my sin, deserving of death, is less than someone else’s sin, deserving of death.?

If we believe we deserve pardon for our sins, whatever they may be, how can we then expect full retribution for others sins?

However, in my opinion, jumping right to Hitler prevents us from doing the hard work of realizing how we want forgiveness while wanting others to pay for their sins. We want justice, as long as it is justice toward others. When justice is to be extracted from us, we want leniency.

I may post more. I don’t know. All I know is that this discussion has been going on for centuries and will probably continue.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

An Evangelical Nightmare: Pentecost 15 Proper 18C

Pentecost 15 Year C      Sept. 5, 2010     Fr. Benton Quest

Luke 14:25-33
I have noticed something about living in American society; we are a people of instant gratification. When we want something, we want it right away. We have 24-hour stores so we can get our heart’s desire at any hour. We have 24-hour restaurants so we can eat at any time. We have 24-hour gyms so we can workout whenever we want. Whatever we want, whenever we want it. We even have digital recording on our televisions so the television schedule can work around our schedule.

Anymore, you never hear someone on television say, “Please allow six to eight weeks for delivery.” No, now we can have things shipped all over the world with next-day delivery! And why send something by the post office when you can zip a note to someone by e-mail and it is there instantly? Even if you want to change your body, you can have plastic surgery and liposuction. Whatever our heart desires, we can have it instantly.

Now this speed is not necessarily a bad thing. But it certainly changes the way we look at the world. It has changed our expectations of the world. I even think it has changed our expectations of the church. I was told by former congregation member that she was leaving the congregation and joining a different one because they had seven different flavors of coffee and she could bring the coffee into the sanctuary. There may have been other reasons, but this was the one she related to us. She was leaving the congregation because she could get what everyone has come to expect. What you want, when you want it.

So with all this “have it your way” going on in society, Jesus’ words in today’s gospel may strike us as a bit harsh. What Jesus is saying is also something that most Evangelism committees are not going to want to spread. The church is supposed to be all about love and peace and getting along. That is how we are told to get people in the door, right? We give them love! Don’t put too many demands on people. Don’t ask too much of them. And make sure you have seven flavors of coffee. And better have some hot chocolate and tea just in case someone doesn’t want coffee. The usual feeling is that there is enough stress in life; we don’t want to make more for people if they come to church.

Now I am not at all against making people feel comfortable when they come to church, I personally kind of like it! But when the whole process of the church is to make people feel comfortable, then the church is missing something. And truthfully, we like to feel good and comfortable right? And we want our religion to help us be happy in the world, right? Well, unfortunately, this is just opposite what Jesus tells us in today’s gospel. Jesus is telling us that being a Christian will bring us in opposition with our family, friends, and in-laws. Jesus is telling us that being a follower will probably NOT make us the most liked people in the world. Being a Christian means we will have to carry our cross just as Christ carried his cross. And sad truth, telling people they have to carry a cross is DEFINITELY NOT the way to go about attracting new members.

But this is the message that Jesus sets before us today. Jesus makes no bones about it: If we are his followers, we will be in opposition with the world. Jesus is telling us that being a disciple is not easy.

We could probably guess that there would be some difficulty if we just look at the word. The base of the word disciple is discipline. So being a disciple means we have to undergo a discipline. The two parables Jesus tells address just this fact. Following Christ will require a cost to us, the possible alienation from those we know and love. If we want to be a follower, we need to be aware of those costs.

I must say, sometimes the way Jesus states things gets me to scratching my head. In the parables he tells, it sounds as if no one should undertake being a disciple. In the first one, he advises against starting a project unless you can be sure you have the resources to complete it. In the second parable, Jesus warns us against taking on a project that appears to be certain to fail. In both of these situations, the listener is advised that it is better to not even start the project than to start it and have the project fail.

I think at this point the Evangelism committee and anyone who is trying to get volunteers is not so pleased with Jesus. If we take Jesus’ words to heart, then we will never do anything! Since we can’t be sure our outreach efforts will succeed, than according to what Jesus has said, we shouldn’t undertake them. And since we cannot be sure our efforts to feed and clothe the poor will not get swamped, we better not do that either. Really, just about anything we try will probably run the risk of failing. So it sounds like Jesus is telling us to just sit back and do nothing.

But that just does not seem right! I think we can agree that it is Jesus’ intent to have disciples and to have them out in the world. But then we have Jesus telling us to not build if we don’t have the money or don’t attack if we do not have the troops. There must be something missing from our understanding.

But what if we put these parables to God? Would God lay a foundation to something that God could not finish? Would God send out an army knowing that it will be defeated? I think we can say that God would not do such a thing. When God lays a foundation, the towers will be built. When God sends out an army, we can be assured that the army will be victorious. When God acts, the outcome is not in question. When God acts, the outcome will be totally fulfilled.

So if left to our own devices, since we cannot be assured of success, Jesus is telling us to do nothing. But we know that we are not left to our own defenses. We have the promise of God backing up our efforts. We are called by God to go out into the world. We are called by God to reach for those things that may seem impossible to attain. We are called to take on the challenge.

A wonderful example of being called to that which seems impossible to attain and still being willing to take on the challenge was Mother Teresa. There is a story about her wanting to build an orphanage. Someone said to her that it was impossible to do because all she had was two cents to her name. Mother Teresa’s reply was that the person was correct, with just her two cents she could not build an orphanage, but with her two cents and the help of God, they could create a miracle.

But you see, this isn’t the instant gratification that we have generally come to expect of the world. This is not the “I want it so I have to have it” concept of life. This is discipleship. This is having the discipline to move forward trusting that God will provide as you need and direct your steps along the way.

To just rely only on ourselves is foolishness. Just relying on our own means, will eventually end in disappointment. And to just stand and do nothing, to want God to come and make us happy is also foolishness. God’s will will be done, but God chooses to work in the world through us.

When we come to Jesus, we need to realize that we may not always find a place of peace and comfort. When we come to Jesus, we may not find an easy, quick, fix for all of our problems. When we come to Jesus, we probably will not find seven flavors of coffee. But when we come to Jesus, we will find one who gave his life for us. When we come to Jesus, we will find the one that rose from the dead to bring us new life. When we come to Jesus, we will find the strength to continue on even when we can’t foresee the outcome.

So often the world wants to portray Christianity was a place where everything is wonderful and nothing bad ever happens. It would be nice if the world was like that, but we know the world doesn’t work like that. The world can be difficult. Even if we hold fast to our faith the world can be difficult. If Jesus were to promise that once we believed, nothing would ever go wrong, he may have attracted a few followers, but as soon as things got difficult, these few would have fallen away. But Jesus is truthful with us. Jesus tells us that the way of faith may be at odds with the way of the world. And Jesus prepares us for trials that we may face. And even though we may face trials, we are not left alone. We are not left defenseless. Through our faith we are included in the Great plan of our creator. Through our baptism we become heirs to the eternal. Through Christ’s resurrection, we have eternal life.

These are the promises we can turn to in the time of trouble. These are the truths we live out in faith. This is the strength seven flavors of coffee can never give. It isn’t the way of the world, and we should be glad about that. When we look at the world, it is pretty messed up. The way of Christ is not the way of the world, Jesus wants better for us.

Ok, This is a test...

I am trying this to see if the comment setting are working.

Boring, huh?

Not Sure What Is Up

I have been getting some spam comments.  People putting nice Haiku-esque comments which had Japanese porn links embedded within them.  So I started to moderate my comments. 

For a while I was feeling all kinds of sad because it seemed no one was stopping by anymore.  Then I realized that I was monitoring comments and needed to check them!  So I found all kinds of comments!  To quote Sally Field, "You really like me!"

Now I am trying to find a system that works.  I had JS-Kit but it stopped for some reason and now I am in comment la-la-land. 
Ah, the joy of blogs!

Friday, September 03, 2010

Some Reflections on Not Having Kids

I was stumbling around this morning when it dawned (well, not really, it is cloudy) on me that it is LABOR DAY WEEKEND!

When I was a kid, this was a fairly big thing.  We would have to go on some kind of picnic.  Often we would go to a farm field that was the family picnic area.  (There was a swimming hole, horse shoe pits, and a waterfall) or Gov. Dodge State Park in Wisconsin.  The process of getting ready was quite a production.  Had to pack food, clothes, water, kool-aid, all that stuff.  Oh, and beach toys!

Now, Labor Day can come and go with little notice.  Monday is a usual day off for Nick and me so that is not a big reason for celebraton.  Nick's family is about 30-40 miles away, my family is 8-10 hours away.  We don't do the family thing anymore. Jerry Lewis is getting old. (In more ways than one!)

But I miss the Production Number Picnic.  No matter where we went, there was always things to explore, music to listen to, and water.

I don't know if the rest of our lives can ever live up to the LAST HURRAH of childhood summer.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Why We Think The Worst...

This is going to be chock full o' glowing generalities.  Sorry, no answers, I am not wired that way.  But hopefully in fleshing out the questions, we may be able to gain some insight.

One of the things that Martin Luther said in the Small Catechism is "We should fear and love God that we may not deceitfully belie, betray, slander, or defame our neighbor, but defend him, [think and] speak well of him, and put the best construction on everything."  (Response to the Eighth Commandment.)  I think he had a good point.  Why do we seem to assume the worst of people?  Why do we spread our negative theories about people?

I think some of it is survival value.  Let's face it, it is better to be afraid of a stick than to go up and pet a Rattlesnake.  It is safer to have a fear of heights than to fall off a cliff.  People who are not cautious tend to not add to the gene pool.  So avoiding danger has survival value.  Also, letting others know about things that are dangerous helps them to survive.

But this gets bollixed (don't you just love that word!) up when we are dealing with people.  People are more than just stimulus/response or danger/no danger.  People are a whole mix of things.  People can be simultaneously helpful and hurtful.  People can do much to help us, but people can supremely hurt us.  And those who can help us the most, are also the ones who can hurt us the most.  So I guess by presenting people and their actions in a bad light, we are protecting ourselves from getting hurt.  Unfortunately, we are also making it difficult to get the help and support we need.

It also becomes a circle.  We frame someones actions as hostile and act coolly toward the person; the person feels the coldness and instinctively backs away; we now have "proof" that the person is "hostile" and feel that our thoughts have been justified.

Another thing that factors into all of this is what is known as the Fundamental Attribution Error.  The quick definition I give for this is, "I am angry, You are an idiot," or "I am overworked, You are an idiot."  We see the things we do as being attributed to situations in our life such as being overworked or being confused.  But when it comes to other people, we see the problem as being a character flaw.  And it is easier to get angry with and feel superior to a character flaw.  However, it does a disservice to the other person.

I really try to not just assume the other person is an idiot.  But it does happen.  the Fundamental Attribution Error makes it easier to quickly assess a situation, but it doesn't always make it easier to resolve the situation.  In fact, it can cause walls to be erected that need never be there.

The problem then becomes:  How do we stop assuming the worst of people and how do we help others from assuming the worst of each other?  I would hope in a Christian setting that would not be a problem, but it often is worse in our churches.

More questions than answers. 

I usually don't beg for comments, but please!  If you have a though, leave a comment!  Thanks!