(sorry this is late - I misfiled it on the computer and thought I had lost it)
Life or Something like It
There are weeks when I don’t know what to say.
Often it is because the readings don’t seem to bring anything out for me. I read them and read them, and just don’t know what they might be saying for “this” week.
Sometimes it is because I have heard the stories so many times, that I always feel like I am repeating myself, and coming up with something new is just so hard.
Sometimes I think too much about who I am speaking to, whether it is graduates, or guests, or people getting their baby baptized... when you think of a specific audience it gets harder to tailor the message.
But sometimes, like this week, it is all about me. The way I am feeling, the things going on in my life, my own lack of spiritual discipline – and I lose track of the Bible readings. The stories get pushed out of my head by my own stress, anxiety, and worries, whatever...
The world presses in on me. I think about my own graduation from High School, my subsequent graduations from various universities, I mean, I have had 5 graduations so far... and what I thought life would be like at each juncture. I think about failed relationships and the things I have not yet accomplished, I think about the struggles for freedom in Iran, or peace in Afghanistan; I think about raising my kids and what if they turn out just like me...
And I get tired...
Ever had a week like that? Where you just can’t focus, where you don’t want to do anything? Where little things frustrate your best intentions and you find yourself falling further and further behind?
So... let’s think... what could be behind that? It could be that you get sick just when you least expect it... even a cold. It could be that the weather is bringing your mood down. It could be depression or anxiety taking hold. And just maybe, it is that the world is kind of scary.
Problems have a way of growing, sort of like a snowball rolling down a hill, and sooner than you hoped they seem overwhelming; don’t you think?
Sort of like... say... a giant? Or a storm?
Let’s assume that today is the first day of the rest of your life. Whether you are a teenager who is getting their first job, or leaving High School, or moving out; whether you are falling in love, or getting married, having your first child, celebrating yet another father’s day, changing careers, running out of money, divorcing, retiring, going back to work....
See, for all of us, tomorrow will be different than today. This is the first day of the rest of your life!
Which means the giant is waiting... The storm is out there....
I know that this is a sort of dark and dismal message for me to keep repeating. But I read today’s Bible readings this week and heard an incredible message that I did not expect:
See, Saul was prone to depression. The Bible tells us he would have fits of rage where the only thing that would calm him down was music. And here we have him out in the desert, worried about an opposing army, and paralyzed from acting in any way because of this giant that stands between his side and theirs.
I wonder if the giant was a soldier, or a feeling?
The disciples had issues. Lots of issues if you think about it, they had doubts, and fears, and control issues, and infighting, and loneliness, and anger; and they take a day off, and go out in a boat and decided to spend the night being rocked peacefully by the waves; and a giant storm brews up and threatens their lives.
I wonder if it was a real storm, or their anxieties?
Cause life sometimes seems like that to me, like there is some giant opponent moving the chess pieces in ways I don’t want – or a giant storm that rages just out of reach, causing my safe little boat to be tossed in unsafe ways.
And do you realize what it takes to get through this in the Biblical accounts? It needs someone who sees it differently.
David was able to defeat Goliath because he thought outside the box; Jesus was able to still the storm because he approached the crisis differently.
I want to let you in on the dark side of ministry.
This is also true if you are a funeral director, doctor, or maybe even a police officer... although we all get to see different sides of it...
I have seen, and been intimately involved, in the death of a thousand people.
And here is what I have seen... I have seen toddlers drowned in swimming pools, and teenagers murdered by supposed friends. I have seen young women killed in car crashes and guys just starting their first job who took their own lives. I have seen people die of cancer – people who were in their teens, 20’s, 30’s 40’s all the way up to 100’s. I have seen a person go out to the garage for a wrench and have a heart attack. I had a parishioner who had a heart attack every time she watched the Montreal Canadians win. Believe it or not it killed her on the 12th time. I had a two parishioners killed when a jumbo jet flew into their office tower, one killed by falling off a path in the Rockies on their honeymoon; and another who got up to shave, had an aneurism, and died.
I have also, for the record, seen hundreds of people die peacefully in their sleep.
Now imagine this. I am the father of two toddlers and I have already named 100 ways they might die before tomorrow. Every time someone I know goes away I think about them having a traffic accident, or a plane crash, or a train derailment... or a meteor falling out of the sky and killing them...
The best valedictorian address in history was actually a song based on a column a journalist wrote, I have quoted it before; the song is called “everybody’s free” by Baz Lurhman, and here is a stanza that I have never forgotten in the almost 20 years since this song was first released around my own High School Graduation...
Don’t worry about the future; or worry, but know that worrying is as
effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubblegum.
The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that
never crossed your worried mind;
the kind that blindside you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday.
See, being a minister has allowed me to see life differently – to see it through the eyes of everyone who shares their stories with me – to see it as fragile and impossible to plan for...
And in the midst of that there are many days when I wake up unable to face another minute of it. I know I am not alone in this – some of you feel it too, some of you are yet to discover that part of yourselves, but it will come.
But this is where faith enters in... The giant can be slain, the storm can be stilled. It can be done by believing that you are not alone to face the dark and scary places in life. When you allow yourself to be strengthened, by the faith that connects each of us gathered in the room, by the power of the universe that flows through all living things.
I think that, perhaps unintentionally, Star Wars does a better job at explaining the Christian Faith than most things...
I don’t have time to explain everything about the movie, but there is a character called Luke Skywalker, who discovers he is destined to be a Jedi Knight; and goes to a remote location to figure out his calling and be trained by an ancient Jedi Master, Yoda.
Jedi knights have a connection to the power of the universe which they call the force... it gives them, curiously the power to move mountains... if you believe...
Yoda lifts Luke’s rocket out of the swamp using the power of his mind
And Luke says, “I don’t believe it!”
To which Yoda replies, “That is why you fail!”
He also explains it this way: ““Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you? Hmm? Hmm. And well you should not. For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. You must feel the Force around you; here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere, yes; even between the land and the ship.”
I leave you with a final word from Yoda... “Do, or Do Not, There is no Try!”
11 months ago