Saturday, January 26, 2013

Do you remember when you were a child and you would play make believe games involving your favorite fantasy characters?  Or maybe it was just playing “doctor”. The first step in the game is to choose who each person wants to be. That is, of course, unless you have a true mind for fantasy and you allow yourself to be all the characters. (If you fit in that category, please know you are in good company!). As we continue to grow in life our fantasies change and, then, one day, we are just who we are. No more pretending to  be Bart Starr (or Aaron Rogers) in the backyard; no more acting out the life of Princess Di (or Princess Kate) at a royal tea. So, what happens?

Laurence Boldt identifies the problem as the “Voice of Conformity.”  He writes, “it’s the one that tells you that you must stay in line and follow the …pattern for your life…It’s the one that tells you that you must spend your life doing what you ‘should’ do instead of what you really want to do. It’s the one that tells you not to expect too  much—that you will only be disappointed if you try to follow your dreams.” This captures the essence of the problem for me. I recognize that adults need to do what they need to do in order to meet the obligations of life, that we need to be responsible partners, parents and co-workers.  But does that mean that we no longer get to choose who we will be? Is it all set out for us, the path we must follow? Or do we still get to decide who we want to be?

Kayla McClurg writes that Martin Luther King, Jr. “didn’t start out to be who he ended up being….His identity emerged gradually from within as he yielded to the guidance of the community and listened and prayed and read and participated and took risks of creativity.” She describes Rev. King’s journey of discovery, from being a church pastor delivering well-prepared and well-received sermons to a local church, to a civil rights leader delivering stirring, world-changing speeches. And it all started because he saw in the story of Rosa Parks a serious societal problem he wanted to help solve.  King’s dream for his life: “preacher…father…citizen…would be fulfilled far beyond his imagination.  What about us? Are we still becoming ourselves? Are our deepest callings still unfolding, beyond our imagination?...”

Is there someone inside of you waiting to be revealed, to live the dream beyond your dreams?  Speak your dream to your faith community: Who do you want to be?

Pastor Bill
*quotes taken from inward/outward, Church of the Savior

Minister of Word and Sacrament
Hope Church, Sheboygan, WI
(920) 452-5648

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Elementary Wisdom

I had the opportunity to walk couple of young children, brother and sister, from our church to the parking lot which I use on Sunday mornings. It is about a one block walk and it requires crossing the street. I was providing them a ride home after worship because their mother was ill and they needed transportation to Grandma’s house.  We were walking along, the little boy, maybe a 1st grader, on my left, and the his big sister, maybe a 5th grader, on my right.  As we were heading down the alley I said it was important that we hold hands, especially as we prepared to cross the street, thinking that I was conveying some new gem of information that would assist them today and in life. You know, “look left, right and then left again.” Wisdom that comes with age.

So, the little boy says to me: “I know the rules, Pastor Bill. ‘Stop. Think. What could happen? Is this what you want?’ That’s what teacher says.” I asked him to repeat his lesson which he had obviously memorized from his public school teacher. We arrived at the curb and before entering the street, I decided to try out his lesson: we stopped; we thought about what we were going to do and whether that was smart; we asked each other if anything bad could happen if we crossed; and we concluded that this was a safe time to do what we wanted, get to the other side of the street.

Now, I know you are thinking, here is a perfect opening for a joke: “Why did the Pastor cross the street?”  And there is probably a good punch line to that question, which you are welcome to send me. But that is not my point today.  I was thinking about how maybe we adults should invite elementary school teachers to do a seminar for us each January to teach us the valuable lessons about life they are teaching the children.  And then we could try to apply it to our life situations. Say you are about to say something to your spouse or co-worker in the heat of anger when you “Stop. Think. What could happen? Is this what you want?”  Say you are trying to decide whether to eat another cream-filled donut or take a walk: “Stop. Think.  What could happen? Is this what you want?” 

We know the rules of life, but why should we obey them?  In the end it’s because we want what God wants for us: that we should get safely to the other side. A good lesson.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Saving Starfish

Well, we all know what today is, right? If your answer is, “the beginning of the National Football League’s Playoffs!” you would be correct, but that is not the only significance to this day.  Today is also the “Twelfth Day of Christmas”.  And you know what happened on the Twelfth Day of Christmas? “My dear love brought to me…” (Can you finish the lyric?)  What makes the Twelfth day important in many parts of the world is that it is the day of the Twelfth Night, which is, in some traditions, bigger than Christmas Day is in most of the western world.  The Twelfth Day is followed in the life of the Church by the first day of Epiphany, a day for a celebration feast.

So, I was doing my usual intense study for my sermon on Epiphany Sunday, paging through Sports Illustrated (Dec. 10, 2012), and I came across a story about a football player named Larry Fitzgerald. Mr. Fitzgerald is a receiver for the Arizona Cardinals football team. It turns out that Mr. Fitzgerald likes to travel the world and as he does so he does good things along the way. He helps children get fitted for hearing aids in Rwanda.  He plants trees in Ethiopia.  Next he is going on a mission trip to the strife-torn people in Darfur.  When asked about the reasons for his travels he told the SI reporter, “It gives you perspective.  If you get consumed by fame and fortune, your world can be a very small bubble. We have a lot of issues here, but they pale compared to around the world. Yet even in the poorest places I’ve been, people’s happiness isn’t dictated by their bank account.”  Mr. Fitzgerald then talked about his reason for being: “God didn’t put me on earth to amuse the masses but to do more.”  He explained his work by telling a version of the well-known story of a man who encounters a thousand starfish washed up on the beach. A stranger encounters the man as he is about to throw one starfish back into the ocean waters to save it.  The stranger tells him that he cannot possibly save them all, to which the savior replies, “But I can save this one.”

What gift are you bringing to someone you love on this Twelfth Day? You may not be able to save the world, and that’s alright, because Someone did that already.  But, may you awaken from your Twelfth Night to a blessed first day of Epiphany in which you will come to know how you can become a gift to some little starfish on some ocean shore of life.  Don’t let your happiness be dictated by what you have but by what you can give.  May you have an Epiphany this year as you discover why God put you here and may you become a Wise Man or Wise Woman who makes the journey you are called to make in this life, and to do the work you are called to do: saving starfish.