Down the Rabbit Hole

Life Notes—October 25, 2012 

“But where shall wisdom be found?  And where is the place of understanding?  Mortals do not know the way to it, and it is not found in the land of the living.”  Job 28:12-13

As a teen my daughter, Grace, had a black and white, Dutch bunny that her brother, Reid, named Oreo.  Oreo had a cage in our garage with her food bowl, her water bottle, a heat lamp and a blanket.  She could go outside from her cage through a little doorway into her fenced ‘yard,’ complete with a wooden sundeck and plenty of dirt in which to dig.  She managed to construct a rather elaborate and deep series of tunnels in her yard, where she preferred to spend much of her days and nights.  One day Oreo became very ill.  She had been lethargic for a few days until, finally, she failed to come running at mealtime.  In fact, she didn’t exit her rabbit hole all day.  Since she wouldn’t come out, I had to go after her.  I stuck my arm down as far as I could reach, but felt no bunny.  I had to begin digging into the rabbit hole, through many tree roots (also through the telephone and cable lines), until I finally found her three or four feet below the surface.  She was still alive and made an emergency visit to the vet.

The wisdom proverb from Job, above, ponders where we will find wisdom, and concludes it is not found in the land of the living.  To me this means wisdom must be sought.  As in finding Oreo, it will not often be obvious or easily attained.  And there are no guarantees that venturing into the unknown—going into a rabbit hole—will yield wisdom.  When I put my arm into Oreo’s rabbit hole I did so reluctantly.  We were aware of a fairly large rat snake that we thought might share the underworld with Oreo at times.  I think the lesson for Job, as for us, was that to find wisdom we must seek it in places beyond the familiar.  Fortunately, in my trip down the rabbit hole, I found a live bunny, not an angry snake.  And after a few days with the vet, Oreo was able to enjoy several more years of life on earth.  And we were able to enjoy several more years of Oreo.

And what wisdom did I gain?  Well, I learned that telephone and cable lines look a lot like tree roots.  I learned that telephone lines that have been cut by a shovel will give a shock to bare skin.  I learned that it’s expensive to have the telephone and cable companies come out to repair lines cut in a dive down a rabbit hole.  And I learned that our health insurance does not cover emergency veterinary services for sick bunnies. Finally, I learned that a happy healthy bunny, like wisdom, is worth the price of an occasional dive down a rabbit hole.

Tom is preaching downtown where Life worship is at 10:00 AM in Brady Hall and traditional worship is at 8:30 and 11:00 in the sanctuary.  Mitch will preach at the west campus where worship is at 9:00 and 11:00.

Come home to church this Sunday.  If you’re going into a rabbit hole, go with a friend.

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator

Exponential Commitment

Life Notes—October 18, 2012 

“Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” Matthew 16:24

There are no guarantees that becoming a follower of Jesus Christ will be easy.  In fact, many claim contemporary churches let their members off too easily regarding the commitment of time and treasure required to be a faithful follower of Christ.  Certainly my chosen denomination, the United Methodist Church, is not immune to those criticisms. 

In John 15:12, Jesus says we are to lay down our lives for our friends.  That is our single, if somewhat vague, command.  John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, summed up the charge of the Gospel as follows:

            “Do all the good you can, By all the means you can, In all the ways you can,

            At all the times you can, To all the people you can,    As long as ever you can.

Talk about a commitment!  That seems to imply that everything we have and everything we are is to be given to others.  Talk about laying down one’s life for one’s friends!  Near the end of the Gospel of John, Jesus asks Peter if he loves him.  Peter says, “Yes, Lord, you know I love you.”  Jesus responds, “Then feed my sheep.”  Jesus did NOT tell Peter to show his love by living his chosen life, but making sure to attend church on Sundays. 

Certainly, it is easier and safer and more popular in modern churches to ignore the type of sacrifice that is seemingly required of Christians, particularly in our world, where we have SO much. Where do we even begin?  Surely the sacrifice would be easier in a third world country where everyone has so little to begin with, wouldn’t it?  Then I remember Jesus’ words in Matthew 19:24, “…it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”  Ouch! 

Unfortunately, I have no easy or comfortable resolution to this conundrum.  Except that (1) God loves and seeks us and (2) scripture and our relationship with God and our fellow humans is to be wrestled with daily.  What does this type of commitment mean in my life?  In yours?  Following Christ, by its very nature, is not a single act, but a journey and a way of life.  Perhaps we were never asked nor intended to arrive quickly—maybe not even in this lifetime.  But we are called to take a step, and then another, and then another.  And where will we end up?  We will never know if we do not begin the journey. 

Tom is preaching downtown where Life worship is at 10:00 AM in Brady Hall and traditional worship is at 8:30 and 11:00 in the sanctuary.  Mitch will preach at the west campus where worship is at 9:00 and 11:00. 

Come home to church this Sunday.  Take a step with your like-minded travelers.

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator

Righteous Boredom

Life Notes—October 11, 2012 

“The effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever.  My people will abide in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.”  Isaiah 32:16-18 

Sometimes I act like a stimulation junkie.  It’s not enough to have the television on; often I am surfing the internet or playing games on my iPad at the same time.  When I take an evening walk, I check my email on my phone, usually several times.  I regularly read the newspaper and watch the news on television while I eat breakfast.  You get the picture—look up multitasking in the dictionary and you may find a picture of me, doing several things (poorly) at once.  It’s not that I am particularly good at focusing my attention on several things at once—I am not.  It is that I am easily bored and distracted.  Perhaps the most irritating and disrespectful manifestation of this is when I try to answer a question before the speaker has finished asking.  Sometimes I am simply intolerant of silence or too much space between words or images or other forms of stimulation or entertainment.

But the best comedians master the use of the pause.  The best public speakers know how to space their words and vary their cadence to lead the audience where they want them to go, intellectually and emotionally.  I admire writers who can artfully tell a story that keeps the reader hanging on, offering just enough information to hold intrigue, yet skillfully, steadily and often slowly building to a climax that ties everything together.  In art, as in life, there is inestimable beauty and depth in space.

I have difficulty staying in the moment because there is seemingly too much space in most moments.  Focusing on the “space” in my life is an on-going challenge.  Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still, and know that I am God!”  Quietness.  Solitude.  Stillness.  These are the conditions in which we are most likely to encounter the Spirit.  When we clear our mind and focus on the space remaining we open ourselves to new insights and clearer perspectives, while also lowering our blood pressure and strengthening our immune system.  We open the door to other worlds; worlds where we can more clearly know a Savior stands beside us, whispering words of love and wisdom in our ear. Sometimes when I am distracted it seems I am literally trying to kill time, that precious and limited gift given each of us for our earthly journey.  Killing time, rather than immersing in it.

Tom is preaching downtown where Life worship is at 10:00 AM in Brady Hall and traditional worship is at 8:30 and 11:00 in the sanctuary.  Mitch will preach at the west campus where worship is at 9:00 and 11:00.  His sermon title is “Baggage,” based on Mark 10:23-31.

Come home to church this Sunday.  Journey into space with us…

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator

A Finger Pointing at the Moon

Life Notes—October 4, 2012 

“All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.”  2 Timothy 3:16-17 

There are several old wisdom tales from various traditions that make reference to a finger pointing at the moon.  The story goes something like this: I have experienced the moon and you wish to have that experience, too.  So I point to the moon to help you find it and, thus, experience it.  The finger I use to point to the moon for you is not the moon, nor are any words I use to describe the moon.  To experience the moon you must find and experience it for yourself.  The most I can do is try to point you in the right direction.

Many of us for many centuries have sought our Creator.  We have believed in and experienced a power and a life that transcends what we see, hear, taste, touch and feel on earth.  We have experienced things that are inexplicable by the laws of science as we know them, and we call them miracles and want to know their source.  We long for assurance that this life is not all there is—that when we breathe our last breath on earth that, somehow, our essence will live on.  We see the chronically ill and downtrodden, the social misfits, the impoverished and the hungry and we want to believe there is hope for a better life for them, if not here and now, then somewhere and sometime.

In our Christian tradition, scripture is like a finger pointing to God.  It was written by human beings who were inspired by God from their own experience, to help lead us to our own experience of God.  God is not the scripture, nor was scripture dictated by God and transcribed by unthinking scribes.  Scripture is intended to make us think, to help us contemplate our life experiences in light of the experiences of others.  It helps provide context for the ups and downs of life, and helps us understand that which has permanence and that which is transitory.  It tells the story of others’ experiences of God.

In the Methodist tradition, the message of scripture is given context by reason, experience and tradition, each serving as another finger pointing to God, each with a unique and vital perspective—informing us, inviting us, calling to us.  God is not the finger, nor is God scripture, reason, experience or tradition.  But when we hungrily consider where they point, with prayerful contemplation, we are led to experience the One Living God, the Source of our being, the One in whom we live and move and have our being.

Communion will be served at all services this Sunday. Mitch is preaching downtown where Life worship is at 10:00 AM in Brady Hall and traditional worship is at 8:30 and 11:00.  Tom will be preaching at the west campus where worship is at 9:00 and 11:00.

Come home to church this Sunday.  Come see where the finger leads you.

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator