A Pep Talk

23 July, 2014 Posted by liascholl

A sermon based on Colossians 3:12-17

As I mentioned, I was recently in Bali, Indonesia for six months. While I was there, I learned to surf. Everyone who has known me for more than two weeks has exclaimed, “What? You?” These are comments I heard when I told people I was going to learn.

Better be careful. You know how clumsy you are.

Is your insurance paid up?

Be careful of the sand, waves, water, and salt. 

OMG. You’re going to die!

Because it’s true. I’m clumsy. And in the past, when I’ve done things that were pretty risky (jumping off cliffs, snorkeling, and stuff like that) I’ve ended up hurting myself. I gashed my ankle getting in the boat snorkeling in Belize. I hit the bottom of a very deep river jumping off cliffs in Arkansas. I tore up both my knees diving off of different cliffs in Tennessee. Really, ya’ll. I fell while I was in Bali, not trekking in the woods, not doing anything at all dangerous… I fell walking down stairs in a tile pavilion at the Botanical Gardens.

And the antidote for being clumsy? It’s “Don’t do risky things.” I tried that. But not doing risky things means having a boring life. It means not going to Indonesia. It means not learning to surf. It means not welcoming new people into my life. Because loving people in life involves risk.

How many of you know Kid President? Kid President is a young African American named Robby who has osteogenesis imperfecta, which has resulted in over 70 bone breaks. Robby says brilliant things. If you haven’t looked him up, please, go home today and google Kid President, and watch his pep talk video. 

In one Pep Talk, Kid President says:

A poem: “Two road diverged in the woods…” “… and I took the road less traveled.” “AND IT HURT, MAN!” Really bad. ROCKS! THORNS! And GLASS! … NOT COOL ROBERT FROST. But what if there really were two paths? I want the one that leads to awesome.”

Rocks, thorns, glass! It’s promised. 

The recipients of our letter this morning, the Colossians and the Laodocians understood rocks, thorns and glass. Colossians was written by Paul or another follower of Jesus somewhere between in 60 CE and 80 CE. This 20 year era was full of rocks, thorns and glass. 

The government of Rome gave the illusion that they let the people worship and live how they wanted to live and worship. The reality was that you could do what you wanted, as long as Rome didn’t get upset with you. And they got upset with you if you didn’t worship the emperor. 

Christians and Jews wouldn’t worship the Emperor. In about 64 CE, Christians in Rome were accused of starting a horrific fire, which was probably set by Nero, and Nero murdered Christians brutally, just to prove that he could.

And in 70 CE, the Destruction of the Temple is coming. So the Christians are constantly being confronted with violence.

But it isn’t just state sanctioned violence. Remember that medical services weren’t available, and that children probably die at a high rate, and people just don’t live as long. The life expectancy in the Roman Empire went something like this: If you lived to be 10 years old, you’d probably make it to 45 or 47. But the actual life expectancy of this time was between 20 and 30.

These folks dealt with the same stresses we deal with. And on top of that, they had among them false teachers. Can you imagine what the false teachers might have said? They might have said, “These things are happening because of gay marriage.” They might have said, “That volcano erupted because you are all sinners.” Or they might have said, “Your children die because you don’t have enough faith.”

So Paul (or whoever) writes them a letter to refute those false teachers. It’s sort of a pep talk to the churches.

He writes:

As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

It’s Paul’s pep talk. My paraphrase would sound like this:

“Life is short. Be kind. Forgive each other. Love each other. Be people of peace. Give thanks to God for everything.” Or, as Kid President so eloquently put it, “You were made to be awesome.”

Let’s break it down:

Clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience.

Carlos Santana said, “The most valuable possession you can own is an open heart. The most powerful weapon you can be is an instrument of peace.”

Paul goes on to say: Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other. I was talking with someone this week about forgiveness, and he said, “Why should I forgive? She hasn’t apologized.” 

Miroslav Volf wrote:

Forgiveness flounders because I exclude the enemy from the community of humans even as I exclude myself from the community of sinners. But no one can be in the presence of the God of the crucified Messiah for long without overcoming this double exclusion — without transposing the enemy from the sphere of the monstrous… into the sphere of shared humanity and herself from the sphere of proud innocence into the sphere of common sinfulness. When one knows [as the cross demonstrates] that the torturer will not eternally triumph over the victim, one is free to rediscover that person’s humanity and imitate God’s love for him.

Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. 

You know, Psalm 51 says, “Create in me a clean heart.” But I always wonder why we don’t ask for a new heart, one that hasn’t been broken. Clothing ourselves with love is tough. Because it’s hard to love when we know it’s going to hurt. 

Like the band Nazareth sang, “Some fools think of happiness, Blissfulness, togetherness, Some fools fool themselves I guess. They’re not foolin’ me.”

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. 

I just finished reading a book called Think Like a Freak, written by the two fellows who wrote Freakonomics… They did an experiment—

They asked people to let them (the writers) make decisions for them, small or large, by flipping a coin. People allowed them to do it, and they found that the decisions (whether yes or no) did not significantly change how happy the deciders were.

Finally, the writer admonishes us to give thanks. Maya Angelou said “Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer.” Give thanks for it all. Because at the root of all our sorrows, at the root of all our pain, is good stuff. 

Rocks, thorns, land glass, yes. But also, strength, love, peace. 

In case you’re wondering, even though I laid awake all night worrying about the sand, waves, water, and salt, and the healthcare in Bali, and sharks, stingrays, shrimp, and anything else I could worry about. I did surf. The sand, waves, water and salt were fine. And so were all the other things I was worried about. And you know what? It was hard! But there were a few moments of pure amazement. A couple of minutes (in the hours that I surfed) of pure heaven, of catching a wave and riding it, and standing up and feeling like I was the ruler of the world.

Risk it. You can’t go wrong.

Kid President follows the Robert Frost quote with this: 

What will you create to make the world awesome? Nothing if you keep sitting there. That’s why I’m talking to you today. This is your time. This is my time. It’s our time, if we can make everyday better for each other, if we’re all in the same team lets start acting like it. We got work to do. We can cry about it or dance about it. We were made to be awesome. Lets get out there. I don’t know everything, I’m just a kid. But I know this, its everybody’s duty to give the world a reason to dance. So get to it. You’ve just been pep talked. Create something that will make the world awesome.

You’ve all been pep talked.

Palm Sunday Expectation: a sermon

13 April, 2014 Posted by liascholl

A sermon based on Luke 22.

Carly Simon sings a song about anticipation. The song starts like this:

We can never know about the days to come
But we think about them anyway
And I wonder if I’m really with you now
Or just chasing after some finer day.

and it ends like this:

And tomorrow we might not be together
I’m no prophet, I don’t know natures way
So I’ll try to see into your eyes right now
And stay right here, ’cause these are the good old days.

This is where we find our disciples today. Chasing after some finer day. Heading into Jerusalem with Jesus, their Rabbi and teacher, a prophet and king. They’re chasing after the idea that he is about to ascend to the throne of Israel. They welcome the pageantry. They see the donkey as a sign. They hear his words of warning about the future, and they think he’s talking about the future of his reign as king of Israel. They talk about being seated at his right hand, and they think they’re talking about in the palace in Jerusalem. 

Expectation makes us blind. In fact, it makes us deaf and dumb, too.

What the disciples were experiencing was hope. And Hope has an angry sister, Fear. Hope and Fear are two sides of the same coin. It’s a coin that will be spent in the future. It’s all about what is coming, the future, not in the moment.

Pema Chödrön writes:

Hope and fear come from feeling that we lack something; they come from a sense of poverty. We can’t simply relax with ourselves. We hold on to hope, and hope robs us of the present moment. We feel that someone else knows what is going on, but that there is something missing in us, and therefore something is lacking in our world.

It makes us blind to all the good stuff around us. It makes us think about what’s coming instead of enjoying what’s right in front of us. It makes us think that the time we’re in is not important, but is, instead, just a warm up, just preparation.

But let me tell you something folks… this is not a warm up. This is not preparation. This is your life. Whatever is coming around the bend (and let me assure you that it will not be what you expect) is not your real life. Your real life is right now.

I mean, look at the disciples! They have the love of their lives with them. They have a friend, teacher, buddy, guide, and example walking with them day in and day out. And yet, they’re not thinking about that. They’re thinking about what’s next…

The last line of Carly Simon’s song is “And stay right here, ’cause these are the good old days.”

Little did the disciples know that these were the good old days. They were too busy looking to the future with hope to see all the love, care, and tenderness that was present in their present.

What’s next for this congregation is a lot about hope and fear here. I have heard it many times here, it’s a common refrain, “When we get our new pastor.” And it’s followed with whatever hope or fear each of you feel. It’s as if you’re waiting to be a church until the pastor gets here.

But here’s the thing… You’re already a church. You’re already a body of people worshiping God. Pastor or no pastor, you’re already the church. And you’re already having the successes and failures that mark you as a congregation.

So abandon hope. Quit looking for the next pastor to be the king. Quit looking for the next big thing that’s going to make you an amazing church. Quit looking to the future, and look to the present. Because you are already an amazing church… I see it in the love you share with one another. I see it in the love you share with your families. I see it in the love you share with the folks in the prisons. I see it in the love each of you take into your professions. So many of you take this love into classrooms and factories and restaurants and spas. You are church, and you are, right now, sharing Jesus love.

When we look at the present we see two things. First, that God is present, right here and right now. Second, that we are present—look around you. There are people who love you sitting next to you, and sitting two rows down, and sitting across the aisle from you. We’re all here…

But we also see that the present in the present. It’s a present. A gift. This moment, right here, this second, and the one that follows it: it’s a gift. It’s a gift to be able to love one another right now. It’s a gift to be able to hug one another, to tell each other our burdens, to be with one another in this moment.

Lent Day 29

7 April, 2014 Posted by liascholl

Lent Day 29. #LentenDeepThoughts

Lent Day 28

7 April, 2014 Posted by liascholl

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Lent Day 27

7 April, 2014 Posted by liascholl

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Lent Day 26

7 April, 2014 Posted by liascholl

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Lent Day 25

7 April, 2014 Posted by liascholl

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