Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Midlife? WTH?

Today's view from the porch is a number. I can see 47 from here.

I'm not terribly hung up on my age. I know all that stuff about age doesn't matter... In fact, I spend at least an hour every Monday morning with a room full of people who pat me on the head and smile when I mention my age because they tell me I am just a young thing. As long as I work with the senior ed program, I will always feel young.

Mostly because they show me what aging is supposed to be. Engaged. Learning. Slow down if need be, but do not stop.

So, squarely in midlife, I find myself with some interesting options. Options that have never crossed my mind...what is next for me?

While I once thought I had some notions about what I might like to do "when I grow up," there are all kinds of things coming at me. It is thrilling and terrifying all at the same time.

I wonder what comes next?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Post-rapture sermon.

This week's view from the pew is actually a view from the pulpit as I filled in for a dear friend who is on maternity leave... Here's the sermon from May 22, 2011, Acts 7:55-60; John 14:1-14.

Well...we're still here.

Maybe you saw on the news the past few weeks that a radio host, Howard Camping predicted through his bible study that Judgment Day would happen late yesterday afternoon, May 21, 2011. John and I spent a little time talking about this and what this all means. We do what other 21st century families do, we googled it. "Rapture 2011." and it laid out the very complicated mathematics that look more like numerology rather than theology. Interestingly, we also saw that if didn't go on May 21, there's another coming on October 24, 2011.

Here's what I'm wondering this morning... what are the pastors who warned their congregations about this impending rapture talking about today? What's the mood in their churches today? Are they a little peeved that they are still here?

How do they recover from this?

In some ways, Howard Camping fits a little with our story of Stephen... "But filled with the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 'Look,' he said, "I see the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God! But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him..."

I have to admit, I've thrown some verbal stones at him myself. I wonder how his followers are treating him today.

I also have to admit that until news of the rapture, I really didn't know what I would say to you today about these passages that would provide any insight.

I struggled with today's passage from John, especially. There's just so much here to unpack. There are so many themes to choose, so many ways to go. The writing is really lovely and I am a sucker for good writing. It is metaphorical for us and that's part of the challenge. I asked a lot of friends about this passage and everyone of them suggested a different theme, a different way to go.

They reminded me about the concept of Pater Familias - a term that explains the reference in the opening verses of the Gospel - I was told that during the time this gospel was written in Greece, that wealthy men had large homes and if you were chosen to live in his house, you had a true sense of security. But, this was highly selective and not everyone had the opportunity to live in a home like this. When Jesus said, "in my Father's house there are many dwelling places," he infers that there is room for all, not just those special few...

And when folks like Mr. Camping read their bibles, they know that moments like a Judgment Day are going to happen..."and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself..." It all seems to be so clear and straightforward - if it's what you want to hear.

Frankly, I find this so full of metaphor and words that can provide great comfort as well as words that can provide disappointment. I do take comfort in knowing that I am not alone in my confusion - grasping at what the writer is trying to convey...

This passage from John is part of a long farewell from Jesus to his disciples. They are confused - they know the end is coming and it is terrifying for all of them. The disciples don't know what Jesus is saying either. "Lord, we do NOT know where you are going! How can we know the way?"

Jesus says, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him." Philip jumps in and is so confused - show us, prove to us... Jesus gets exasperated with them all...

In the disciples' defense, is is hard to think clearly when faced with extreme fear, stress, worry. Our hearts are troubled, they ache. Maybe that is why this passage has been shared and read to us for generations when we are suffering, times when hope is so hard. We've all been there - times when we are so afraid, so sad, so unsure of what the future holds.

It's easy to struggle with this passage - it's easy to ask why God lets us suffer? Where is God or Jesus in the pain of life? Do we have to wait to die to feel "at home" with God? I've prayed to Jesus, just like he said to, and still my prayers go unanswered...

Today, many of us have heavy hearts as our friend, colleague, and principal Buck Laughlin passed away yesterday afternoon. Some of us have walked this journey with him when he was first diagnosed with cancer more than ten years ago.

In his book, "The Words of Gardner Taylor," I find his interpretation of this passage consoling today. Taylor interprets this passage to say that God is not apart from us through the pain and suffering of life. God is there with us through it all and that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Light through all of life's trials, loss, suffering, and disappointments. As an Easter people, we know that death does not have the last word and that none of these situations define who we are. We know through Jesus there is more to our life. And Taylor suggests that Jesus is the way, the way home... in this world and the next.

I'll close today with a quote from Gilda Radner, who also lost her life at an early age to cancer. It seems very appropriate for us today.

"I wanted a perfect ending. Now I've learned, the hard way, that some poems don't rhyme, and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next."

May you be at home with God in all the days to come.