Monthly Archives: October 2014

Keystone

keystone

My Keystone Resorts name tag. This one actually has my name on it. Usually at the start of a shift we’d just grab a tag, pin it on, and then inwardly mock the guests who called us by name as if they knew us. I went to Keystone during my wandering years. I had a friend who had a cushy office job out there and I figured I get one of those.

I ended up on the mountain house washing dishes. After a day of this I told my supervisor I needed a position that better matched my skill set. So I ended up at the soup and pasta bar, serving overprice light lunches to the tourists. I lived in employee housing right on the mountain. It was just a little down hill run to the chair lift. And even at 23 years old, I was one of the old men of the place. It was dorm life without the academic rigor. And while it was mostly filled with goofballs, I met some cool people. In particular a fiery little girl from New York City who would come to my dorm room and make me sing with her while she played guitar. That and making fun of the knot heads we lived with was as romantic as we got. Although we corresponded for a bit after I no longer worked there when I was at K.U. before finally losing touch.

I didn’t stay long at Keystone, a couple months I think. Long enough to realize that the dorm-living part of my life was probably behind me. Long enough to pay for my skis. Long enough to find a name tag with my actual name on it. Long enough.

That They Will Be One

Almost five years ago I got to deliver the communion meditation on the first Sunday that a split church celebrated communion together. This is that thing.  And here’s a little of my story.

 

It was an honor to be asked to deliver the communion meditation today.  It’s the first Sunday of the new year – 2010.  It doesn’t even sound like a year.  Isn’t a movie set in the far future?  New faces.  A new building for many of us.  New ways of doing things.  And now we prepare to celebrate the new covenant.  The new life that we have in Christ.

I’d like to take this opportunity to introduce myself and my journey.

I’ve been at Adrian Christian Church for around 7 years, which is as long as I’ve been at any church since I was a kid.  I grew up at the First United Methodist Church of Abilene Kansas.  It was there I was baptized as a baby.  I first made a decision for Jesus at a concert held at the high school in Abilene.  I don’t remember much about it as I was 5 years old.  If my mom was here, she would be happy to supply you with all the details.  I was brought up “a good little Methodist” as my driver’s ed teacher used to say.  Confirmed and given a brand new bible when I was 13.  I attended Sunday school all the way through high school even when I was given the option by my parents not to.

After high school my journey really began.  It would be almost 10 years before I would attend one church with any regularity.  On my own at college I spent some time with ichthus and navigators, and a few different churches from very charismatic to very traditional.

When MaryEllen and I got married and moved to Virginia, we visited a number of churches, finally landing, to our surprise, in an Episcopal church, which we only tried because it was close and we could walk on Sunday morning.  We stayed and grew together there.  Any of you that know me, know that there is still a place in my heart for the old liturgy and traditions.  About 13 years ago we left Virginia, ended up in Adrian, sampled some more, and eventually landed at Adrian Christian.  It was during all this wandering, this journey, that I began to grow spiritually.  My world got bigger, and so did my God.  I’d like to think this growing continues.

So, thoughts about communion.  What we think about during communion is such a personal thing.  It’s an opportunity for one-on-one time with God.  Ideally, it’s just me and God.  Which is kind of paradoxical because we’re all doing this together.  This new body meeting for the first time here all together.  Celebrating a move toward that prayer that Jesus prayed on the night before he was crucified.  “My prayer for all of them is that they will be one, just as you and I are one, Father–that just as you are in me and I am in you, so they will be in us, and the world will believe you sent me.”  We’ve all recently made a pretty cool step in that direction.

Anyway, one of the things I like reflect on as I take the cup and the bread, is that I’m not in this alone.  We’re on this journey together.  All of us in this room.  And our brothers and sisters here in Adrian that attend the churches across town, and our brothers and sisters in other cities or states, and our brothers and sisters in Africa, Asia, South America, and around the world, who celebrate every Sunday the same risen lord and savior Jesus Christ.  So as we remember what Jesus has done for us, as we work to demonstrate the unity that Jesus prayed for, let us continue together on a shared journey that will continue that work, so that the world will believe.

Amen.

New School

Part of being a yearbook student is collecting lots of quotes in an attempt to find three or four good ones to put on your page.  Of course you have to sort through a lot of dumb and unintelligible attempts.  Sometimes we’d keep a poster of these quotes in the yearbook room for our own amusement (after removing the person’s name of course).   A few years ago our high school moved into a new building, really a new part of the building.  Here are a couple of the wittier quotes from that year.

quote2 quote1

Neighbor’s Record

Several years ago I found a stack of record sitting on the curb outside on of the houses in my neighborhood.  The records were all the same, most of them still in shrink wrap.  It appeared that someone, maybe my neighbor’s son had cut a record in the late 70s or so in the hopes of making it big.  I took one home and listened to it.  There were parts that weren’t bad.  I present some of those to you today. (There is some skipping going on.  Sorry.)  And at the end there is Maly playing Starwars on the piano that somehow got on the recording.

Smokey Hill River Festival

smokeyhillriverfestival

When I pick these buttons, I just reach in blind, being careful not to poke my finger, taking the first thing I touch. And yet here’s a third in a row button promoting a festival I’ve never been to. I think my friend Carrie would say nice things about this one though. Salina Kansas I do know. This is the bigger town near where I grew up where we would go roller skating when we were kids or drive to see movies when we were older. Coming back from some church event in Salina one day, Todd got his car up to 100 mph. I remember Steve kind of freaking out, in a good way, and me in the back seat with no fear of what was going on. Kids are dumb. I’m never letting mine drive or ride with their friends. Ever.

Six-million Dollar Man

sixmilliondollarman

I don’t think we have the ability to rebuild him.  I think that last spaceship crash pretty much did him in.  Oh well.  He had a good run.  This is my brother’s old Bionic Man toy, Colonel Steve Austin. This cat had some adventures.  Often he teamed up with G.I. Joe, sometimes he went it alone. I wish I knew where my Maskatron (Colonel Austin’s arch nemesis) was. That dude had a suction cup arm! How are you going to fight against that?

VBS

vbs

This little vbs pin is retro enough to be cool again, or cool for the first time, I think. Here in Adrian I’ve had the chance to work with the middle school vbs. They’ve done some very cool things: picked up trash at the park, prepared and served meals for some older folks, sorted toys at a place in Joplin after the tornado, made dog toys for a no-kill shelter, made and installed a peace poll, conducted canned food drives, written letters to soldiers and sick kids. It’s really been a cool deal (if I say so myself).

I remember helping with vbs back in my Methodist church days. It was me and one of my many Methodist girls (Jeanne, Marnie, Jacque, Sharon, Cheryl, Sam and Carrie–did I miss anyone?) ; I don’t remember which one. We were basically kid wranglers, getting them from one place to another with as little hassle and as few missing children as possible. There was a pair of twins that were a hoot, but that required much attention. Basically one of us got the twins to keep an eye on, the other got all the other kids. Really, as long as we kept the twins in line, the lead teacher didn’t care what we did. It was the classic format that we still use today: sing, craft, story, snack, play, sing again, big bouncy house at the end of the week. (Ok, no bouncy house at the end of the week. I think we just sent them home and took a nap.)

Dad: You should see the twins today. Great contributors to the community, nice guys. It blows my mind every time I see them. You all must have done a good job.

Sharon: Good days Matt! Thanks for sharing so many good memories. Do you remember the cross made out of burnt match sticks? That is one craft that always stands out to me. Take Care!

Me: Yeah I do. And now, after doing so many vbs’s, I’m thinking, someone had to light and extinguish like 100 matches per kid. Jeesh.

Dumb Question

I haven’t had the bible study meet in my room for a few years.  It’s too bad.  They always brought donuts.

 

A discussion about God and the bible happens sometimes in my classroom at 7:30 on Thursday mornings.  I don’t lead it.  And sometimes I don’t even pay much attention to it as I get myself ready for the day.  But sometimes I do.  This week a girl said, “This may be a dumb question, but why did God put the tree in the garden and tell them not to eat from it if he knew they were going to eat from it anyway?”  Really dumb question, right?  One that the church has been struggling with for a couple thousand years, and the Jews for several thousand before that.

And so I began to wrestle with this question a bit.  And to think about suffering and grace, and how the two seem to be intertwined in the life and teaching of Jesus.  And while I don’t have an answer to why God lets us mess up, why he lets us hurt ourselves and others, I thought I’d share some of these thoughts, incomplete as they are.

As we prepare to remember what Christ did on that grim Easter weekend, and what was done to him, I’m not clear on the why of suffering, but I do believe that when we suffer, we have a God who enters into that suffering with us.  And somehow, in that shared hurt, grace is found.  In his life and death, Jesus showed us how God extends his grace to us.  It’s not in just a theological, theoretical, white robes after you die kind of way; but it’s in a real life, mired in poverty, ravaged by disease, and victimized by violence, right here on earth kind of way.

Our God is not like the friends of Job.  He doesn’t stand above us and say, “Well, you got yourself into this mess.  Hope you can figure out how to get out of it.”  Our God sits down with us and takes a turn at scraping our sores with broken bits of pottery.  He touches the sick and the dirty.  He socializes with sinners.  And he speaks out on behalf of the the outcast, the weak and abused.  Not only does he do all that for them, for those people.  He does it for us.  And the tough part is that he calls us to do the same.

So here’s my reminder for all of us, especially for me.  When I encounter someone in trouble, someone who smells bad, who isn’t liked, who has been treated badly,  I need to show them the love that has been extended to me by Christ.  And when I encounter someone who’s being a jerk, who’s treating others badly, who’s only focus is themselves, I need to show them the grace that has been extended to me by Christ, while continuing to love those that are  being hurt.  You begin to see the messiness and the difficulty of it all.

So as you take the bread and the cup this morning, maybe thank God for what Jesus did for the world, what he continues to do, and for role he’s given us in extending his grace and love to a suffering world.

Amen.