Monday, February 28, 2011
The story of the transfiguration is found in three of the four gospels. We read it every year, and every year the three disciples who witness the moment tremble and stare. Each year Peter volunteers to make the glory permanent, to keep it high up on the mountain, as it were, by building three booths or tents for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah, even though he is so overcome with fear, he doesn't know what he is saying. Where is our mountain top? Were do we see the transfiguration of Christ light in our darkness of pain, suffering, confusion, and despair?
Sometime ago I heard an interview with an amazing man-a man who makes me believe that what this text says about what is real and what is not is true and that what is real is the power we have for love and reconciliation and healing. His name is Father Greg Boyle, and he works with gangs in the neighborhoods of Los Angeles. He has worked there for well over twenty years. In his work he has seen things that might make anyone give up hope. He has buried many teenagers who were victims of gang warfare. He has watched mothers bury not one but all their sons. He has sat by beds of shooting victims and beating victims in hospitals, some of whom never recover. He says mass in 25 jails, but he has also started a business that employs ex-gang members, since kids coming out of prison who are tattooed from head-to-toe are not exactly what employers have in mind when looking for people to man their counter or their cash register. So he started a silk-screen t-shirt factory, and he employs kids there. In the factory, kids from rival gangs work side-by-side. "Usually," says Father Boyle, "when a kid begins and is told there will be former members of rival gangs at work beside him, the kid will say, 'Well, I just won't talk to them.' But after a time and a short time at that, they do begin to talk, and they get to know each other. And the old label of enemy or rival gives way to the name co-worker and sometimes friend." The interviewer asked Boyle if he had met kids who he knew would be hopeless to try and help, and he said every time he thought he'd met a kid he could never reach, they, too, turned out to be people who wanted regular lives and homes and families and freedom from what they had known in gangs. She asked him if he talked about the gospel with these kids. "Not really," he answered. "It's more important," he said, "to live as if the truth were true, to go where love has not yet arrived, choose to stand with the folks that God chooses to stand with." Then he told the story of the desert monks centuries ago who, whenever they were greatly distressed or despondent, would repeat just one word over and over and over. "A mantra," he said, "that keeps you facing the person who's facing you; it keeps you present to God revealed magnificently in front of you. The word wasn't Jesus," said Boyle. “It wasn't love. The word was today." No matter how dark it gets, God can transform us if we live as if the truth were true, go where love has not yet arrived, and stand with folks that God chooses to stand with today.
See ya in church but until then take care of yourself and one another.
Dance in the light,
Monday, February 21, 2011
Is it something that can only be had in the next life, so we must patiently suffer in this life to earn it? It is our reward that we receive after what we suffer in our lives here on earth. Is the Kingdom of God any better than the latest gadget advertised on an infomercial? Do we feel we are any closer to God’s kingdom whenever the Supreme Court decides that the Ten Commandments can be displayed in marble on the side of the court building, when kids can pray in school, or if we observe the separation of church and state? Are we closer to God’s kingdom if we double our weekly worship attendance? Of courses these are rhetorical questions.
We have spent the last few weeks listen to the stories or riddles Jesus told about the Kingdom of God. When I listen to the words of Jesus, I must admit my perception of God’s Kingdom is far from Jesus’ description. I daily fall into the bad habit of measuring my vision of God’s Kingdom as only a correlation of how things are going on in the world around me. When I loose someone I love to death, in the pain of the separation, I feel God’s Kingdom is a thousand miles away. When money is tight and bills are due, God’s Kingdom doesn’t seem like a valuable procession. When my body is weak, hurting, and tired, I don’t necessarily feel God’s presences in near. When only a few people show up for worship on Sunday mornings, yes, I too feel like God’s Kingdom is located somewhere in a foreign universe. What is wrong is my perception.
The last few weeks as we listened to Jesus’ description of the Kingdom of God, it is clear that every story illustrated it is more than we ever could imagine. Our life with God is better than anything we could ever imagine. The Kingdom of God is not a far off reward but something that is happening now, around me, if I dare to notice. I must first move my attention off the things of this world and notice God’s Kingdom breaking in around me. Jesus reminds us that the Kingdom comes in, in inches not grand leaps and bounds. I can begin to find the Kingdom in every unemployed person that found a job, every addict who got sober, and every poor child who stayed in school and got an education. I can see the Kingdom braking around me when I see a prayer shawl draped around a grieving woman at her brother’s funeral, a teenage daughter crying as she feels God calling her back to Honduras, and a faith community lifting up their pastor in his time of pain. These are the mustard seeds of hope that surround us. The Kingdom is here, God’s Kingdom is now, if we dare to notice.
Still looking for God's Kingdom,
Monday, February 14, 2011
Today is Valentines Day, the day for lovers. Many guys will be rushing to Walgreen's on their lunch hour to grab a card, some chocolates, and a stuff bear. This day, as we as a society focus on love I have realized that love should not be celebrated one day a year but a way of life. Love is more than a romantic emotion, it is something deeper. It affects not only my soul but who I am as a person. It shapes my behavior, it controls my vocabulary, and it allows me to experience the highest essence of life. I love not because I have to but because I have the ability too.
I have failed miserably at love if I have waited for today to tell Kellie how much I love her, to hold her hand, to wipe away her tears, to hold her tight at night, or to pray with her. I have failed at love if I have waited for today to laugh with her, feel the pure joy when I see her when she walks through the door, or experience that tingling feeling in my stomach when she looks deep into my eyes. I have failed miserably if I have waited for today to plan a romantic experience to show her how much I still desire her.
I am a total failure if I need someone else to find the words on a $5 card to tell her “I love you” or share my inner more self with her. I can not imagine my day without her in it so how sad it would be if I only express my love for her on one day. One day is just not enough to encompass the love I have for her because she was there for me when I needed her the most. When I was sick, down, depressed and hurting, she was there by my side. Love for my wife comes with years of memories, too many memories that can be compressed into a card, one day, or a box of chocolates. Love comes with gifts; gift of forgiveness, compassion, and understanding.
If I waited for this day to exhibit my love for Kellie, I have diminished my parental love for my children. How will Abby know how she should expect to be loved by a man if I am not her example? How will Will know how to express his love for a woman if I am not his role model. Those lessons, those values, those daily expressions of love, shape their lives as well. My love for Kellie does actually transcend on to further generations. As much as I try, as great as I am, as big the task, it cannot be accomplished in one day.
Love is not a holiday but a way of life everyday. Like all days, I have good days and bad days, but perfection is not my end destination. Love is something that I must nurture, care for, work on, and never take for granted. It is my expedition to grow deeper in my relationship with the one person who brings me so much joy. Love is a long journey to death separates us in this life, so not knowing when that will be; I must not wait for one day a year.
Happy Valentines Day
I love you Kellie E. Henegar
and NO this blog is NOT your gift.
Tuesday, February 8, 2011
Monday, February 7, 2011
Now I get it and I would like to share with you what I discovered. Flying in the shape of a "v" allows geese to have an equal field of vision while conserving energy, using wingtip vortices to decrease any drag in flight. The bird in the front is working the hardest, but when the leader grows weary it rotates to a position farther back and allows another feathered pilot to take its place. This formation is so successful in conserving energy that birds who fly in "v" formations have been recorded to have lower heart rates than those who do not. If one of the birds flies out of formation, they will feel the increase in drag nudging them back into position. Perhaps most impressive, if a bird in the formation falls ill or is shot, two other birds will accompany it on the descent, aiding and protecting the injured bird until it either recovers or dies. The two helpful geese will then rejoin the formation. Another benefit to the V formation is that it is easy to keep track of every bird in the group. Flying in formation may assist with the communication and coordination within the group. Fighter pilots often use this formation for the same reason.
Now reread the results of my deep investigation on geese and instead of a flock of geese replace it in your mind with people and a church. It is a beautiful analogy of how we should function together as Christ body. We are stronger, healthier, and more productive as a solid cohesive group than we are as individuals. We take turn leading God’s people to Jesus Christ, we descend with those who are in distress and need, we all hold an equal field of vision, take turns pulling the heavy load, keep track of everyone, and have better communication. Together we can travel farther, accomplish more, and stay healthier if we are conscious of our formation. Next time you look up high in the sky and see a flock of geese flying overhead, remember we as the church can learn something from God’s creation.
Maybe we shouldn’t restrict the geese to only the church. What if we all sought out groups of people who will support us in our time of need? The storms of life that have hit me over the past few weeks have reiterated my need for others. While out in front, I have exhausted all my resources. Others have held me, prayed for me, cried with me, and surrounded me with comfort, care, understanding, and forgiveness. While I grieve and deal with my pain, God has placed me in a wonderful flock of family and friends. Maybe I can learn something both about myself and about the strength that comes in unity. I pray you too may never have to fly solo.
Hope to see you soon but until then take care of yourself and one another,
Tuesday, February 1, 2011
The hardest thing I have every done in ministry by far was to preach the funeral on January 31, 2011 of my best friend David Tucker. I can not imagine my life without him in it. I held on only because so many people who knew David and didn't know David were surrounding me in prayer, I was able to somehow with God's strength make it through it. In reflection, it was my gift to my best friend, whom I love, and will miss. Some friends who loved David could not make it to his service I posted it at their request. I pray they too can find some sort of healing.
I, like you, do not want to be here this afternoon, what I just recalled are some of the facts that surround the life of David Tucker but they do not reflect the impact David had on the lives of us who have gathered here this morning. Each of us who know David, come from many different walks of life. The common thread that weaves us together here in the place is the love we held for David and the pain that is left from his passing. What we feel now; the pain, the shock, at the loss of David only represent 2% of the totality of exactly who Kenneth David Tucker.
Because it is fresh, because it is painful, because our love for David runs so deep, our human nature is to gravitate towards the two percent. We tend to focus only what is fresh in our minds. Our human nature is to fill the 2% with our own interjections. In the 2% we ask why, in the 2% we get angry; in the 2% we tend to interject blame, guilt, and frustration. In the 2% we begin to play the “what if” game? We replay our last conversation, the last time we shared a meal with him, the last time we saw that smile of his that light up the room. Filled with emotions, filled with pain, filled with fear of not knowing what it will be like without him in our life, we get stuck on the 2% of David that does not represent the totality of a man who touched our lives like no other. Because we are hyper focused on the raw emotion of the small amount we overlook the larger portion. Who we are, what we’ve accomplished in live, what David means to us cannot be overshadowed be the last 2% of his life. Our death does not define who we are or the impact we have left on others people’s lives.
All of us feel that deep void that is left as David has left us. 98% of who David was, what he meant to us, is represented in the memories and the time we spent with him. David was not a member of my congregation, or a guy I worked with or a casual acquaintance he was my best friend. When I focus on the 98% of David’s life I have to smile. David brought joy to everyone around him. When in a crowd people were always drawn to him. He had natural ability to make everyone feel at ease and to laugh. When I first met David it was my first day of second grade at Woodland Presbyterian Day School. I was the fat new kid and David was the first person to introduce himself to me. From that moment on we were somehow connected. I was the muscle and he was the brains as we ruled the playground. I knew I had made the right choice as David was far more mature for his age. He was our leader, the one we all looked up to, he was a natural leader, or it might be the fact that he was the only guy in fifth grade that could grow a full beard. He always had smile, always made me laugh and always accepted me for me.
David was loyal as he stood beside me as my best man when I married the love of my life. He broke into labor and delivery in a tux at 2:30 in the morning to hold my daughter for the first time. Throughout ever major event in my life David was present. He showed up at my Dad’s funeral although it made him so uncomfortable. It meant so much for me because I knew exactly how much David despised funerals. Whenever I needed him he was there, no questions, no judgment, and no expectations. David is legendary for the originator of the David Tucker Rule which has changed bachelor parties for many generations to come.
When we focus on the 98% percent we know David was generous, caring, and loving. He enjoyed life to the fullest and made do with what he had. When he didn’t have a sister, he adopted his cousin Brandy as his sister. Brandy that is why none of David’s friends would ever look you in the eye are ran off if you got within forty feet if us. David had threatened and warned us.When we look at the 98% percent we see a son who loved his parents, took care of his grandmother, loved two women in his life beside his mother, and more than anything loved being a father to Brennan. Every conversation contained somewhere the subject of Brennan. David loved everyone intensely, he was always there for you, and he always put others first and his only enemy was himself. I will now ask his cousin Brandy to come forward to say a few words from the family..
I ask you now to pause a moment, close your eyes, and reflect on your greatest memory of David.
David Tucker had many of you who he called friends. Friendships he cherished. I was not David only best friend, David was very proud of his best friend Mark Sledge who he loved dearly and would speak all the time of how he was jealous Marks career path. When I choose the path of minister later in life David was present when I preached my first sermon. From that moment on, I became David’s unauthorized theologian. Many of late night calls from his garage David would ask me questions of faith. David loved Christ and I shared with him my favorite scripture which quickly became his.
“There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law and of death.” This is a scripture we talked about a lot. The word of God says there is NO condemnation. I told David if you find the real meaning of this scripture you had to look at the original Greek word for No. I told him to Google it and call me back. He called me back realizing what I did. If you look up the Greek word for No, it can be translated.. NO! There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. No condemnation, no blame, no disapproval, no criticism, no attach by God for those who are in Christ Jesus. As much as I love David Tucker I can say that David Tucker was not a perfect man. He had his faults, his weaknesses, and mistakes just like each and every one of us. But when we read this scripture we are reminded that through it all God grace is bigger than that. God’s love for David, God’s love for us, added to the graces of our Savior is bigger than the 2% of his death.
I Thessalonians 4:13
“But we do not what you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so you do not grieve as others do who have no hope.” I love this scripture as it does not tell us to get over the pain of losing our loved one. It tells us to grieve. It allows us to feel the pain, the anger, the confusion, the bargaining, and all the stages of grieving death. We are not to forget David or just get over it. We are to mourn but not mourn as those who have no hope.
We find that hope in the love and grace of our Savior. We mourn knowing that the promises of Christ transcend death with hope and assurance that we will be reunited with David once again.
Brennan there will be days you will miss you Dad, when you feel you are overwhelmed look around to all of us whose life was touched by your father. We will remind you of the 98%. Carol and Ken there will be days when you will miss you son, Jennifer, Laura, and Mark there will be days that you will miss David presence and company, and all who are here will have avoid that is left. But that is not the end. While David’s body is no longer useful, as his soul rejoices in heaven, his spirit remains in our hearts and minds, we hold on to the day by the promise of our Creator, we will be reunited once more. For me, my life has gotten a whole lot darker at losing my friend, but heaven has gotten brighter as I know my friend David Tucker is waiting there to greet me, the new fat kid. Amen.
In closing I would like to share a story David shared with many of us about when he was little. David would tell us a story many of you have heard when he was a little toddler. He and his parents had been shopping in a larger department store. David wanted a toy whistle. His parents told David no. David threw a tantrum, begged, asked nicely but still did not get a whistle. When David realized he was not getting a whistle we walked to the car without a word. He rode all the way home in the car without a word. The very moment his parents turned off the car, smile from the back seat, said… TWEEEEETTTTTTT!!!!.. David parents called the store, turned around, and drove back and made him confess to stealing the whistle. In this life David Tucker searched and desperately wanted something more than that whistle, that one thing was peace; he now has found it, in the arms of his Savior…