Tuesday, April 30, 2013

How do you minister?

Who is your role model?

Who do you look up to?

Who has been there for you through thick and thin?

Who calls you out on the stupid things you do and is honest with you, but in that caring way, you know?

Who is your mentor?

Sometimes using that word is not the one we choose to use when we think about this stuff.  A lot of times we choose not to even really think these things.  Because these deep emotional thoughts and feelings reveal vulnerability…and that is something that is just not accepted in today’s society.

But actually think about it. 

Think of someone who you would consider a mentor…

Maybe you are thinking of one person maybe you are thinking of a couple.

I think of a lot of different people.  At various times in my life when I needed someone there, someone always seemed to be there.  More often than not, I didn’t even know it.  But looking back I am so grateful of all of them.

Can you think back to times like that, when you felt like everything was going wrong and you didn’t’t know where to turn, and out of nowhere someone is there.  It can and more often than not is just a tiny little gesture that helps in a big big way. 

I have been very very blessed and fortunate to have wonderful Youth Ministers growing up.  Paul Canady, Trone Sawyer, Beth Powell, Katie Brownyard, John Burruss, and many others that I knew through various events around the Diocese.  Many of whom I remain dear friends with to this day.  And am now colleagues with these people that I looked up for so long!

One person who has always seemed to be there and have the right thing to say, even when that thing may not have been what I wanted to hear, is Trip Gintz.  Many of you may know him from St. John’s or from Episcopal Day Camp.  As a youngster, I remember being in 6th grade and going on a rafting trip with Trip (ha, trip with Trip) with him as my leader.  About two years ago he asked me to chaperone a mission trip to the Gulf of Mexico with him.  I made the mistake of letting him know that going into Youth Ministry was something that I had been considering.  I had gone from youth, to more like a student.  We are now peers.  Colleagues.  Soon we will be planning another rafting trip…together.

That’s a pretty neat story Matthew, but what’s the point.

When I was in 6th grade, I never thought that these experiences would have such a lasting impression on me.  When I was I confused 22 year old who had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and you casually say, “Yea, I mean I’ve thought about it.” When asked about youth ministry, I seriously doubt Trip thought the simple gesture of asking me to chaperone would confirm, answer, and raise many many questions about my future.  All these things seem like such random events but in the long they all come together and make us who we are.  Everything that happens has an effect on us and slowly shapes us and molds into the people that we will become.

Now think back to those people that you said are your mentors.  Those are the people that are shaping who you are.  You may not even realize it.  Perhaps it has already happened and you don’t even know it.

Want to hear the scary part…

Somewhere out there, someone is looking up to you as a mentor.  Kind of makes you think twice about how you treat everybody, doesn’t it?

Someone out there, someone is looking up to you, as a mentor, a role model…

How are you mentoring to them?  You can be a positive influence or a negative one.   That is called ministering.

Normally we think a minister is just someone with a collar.  But you my friend, are a minister as well.  A definition for a minister is a person serving as an agent for another…

We are all ministers.  Everyone of us.  You may be a positive role model in someone’s life or may be treat someone poorly and talk about them behind their back.  Either way you are ministering to them.  Good or bad, you are ministering.

How are you ministering to others?

You never know, it may mean more to others than you would ever think.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Knock, knock

Knock, knock.

I'm guessing most of you just thought, "Who's there?"

Some of you probably even said it aloud.  I know I did as I typed it.

Also, I think this sometimes can be what our relationship with God is like, “Knock, knock…”

But is anyone even there to respond?  Do we even hear the knocking?

While I do think God has a fantastic sense of humor (if you don’t believe me just look at the platypus.  I mean…come on)

However, in this case, I don’t think it is really a joke.

This past Sunday I became upset as I was sitting in church.  I found myself becoming fidgety.  I was going through checklists in my head of what I had to do following the service.  Making plans for later that day.  Thinking of what I had to do that week.  Taking notes on my service leaflet.

I was there.  But my mind was a million other places.  I was simply going through the motions.  When I realized this, I hurt.

How often does this happen to you? 

How often are we fully present?

In our Sunday School classes, we often times use a video series by Rob Bell called NOOMA.  In one of the videos, Bell is talking about our actions and why we do things.

Why do we go to church?  Why do we do all this stuff?  Who are we doing this for?  What is the point!?

Is it to simply make our parents happy?

Is it so you don’t feel guilty because you didn’t go to church?

How many times do we sit in those pews on Sunday and simply recite from memory these sayings that come so naturally we can knock it out without even using our brain.

We simply regurgitate these prayers…

One that was written by over 300 Bishops and priests at the First Council of Nicaea that outlines our faith!

Another prayer that’s beginning comes directly from Jesus breaking bread with his disciples before being given up for crucifixion.

Another one taught to us by Jesus himself over 2,000 years ago…

Yet, just about every Sunday we can just recite it from memory as if it were the Alphabet Song or Mary had a Little Lamb.

That is not what it is all about!  There has to be more to into than that!

Matthew 15:8 says, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”

I did not like this feeling.  I needed to make a change. 

We always seem to be moving through life way to fast, never truly being in the moment.  We do things and say things, but how much of that do we actually mean.  How much of ourselves are actually behind these things we say. 

N.T. Wright has a book called The Lord and his Prayer.  In it he says there are theologians that say that the reason we start the Lord’s Prayer with “we are bold to say” is because the prayer is so perfect that if we say it and truly mean it with our whole heart, then we are completely converted and completed Christian.  Meaning that the Holy Spirit has finished the work that God began.

Of course, this is not true, therefore we are bold to say it.  To come together in the celebration of the grace of God and say this prayer!

But should we so bold to say it emotionless…heartless…

God does not want the empty ritual, God wants our hearts.

Knock, knock…

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Feed My Lambs...Tend My Sheep

This past Sunday the Gospel reading came to us from John.   John 21:1-19.  A very very interesting story.

Here we have 7 of the disciples, who have gathered in Galilee, just sitting around, hanging out, probably just doing dude stuff.  They find themselves by the sea of Tiberious.  What are they doing?

“Sitting by the dock of the bay…wasting time.”

Preach it Otis!

So we have 7 of the disciples doing nothing and finally Peter is like, “I am going fishing.”  (Yes, that is a direct quote from the Bible.
For anyone who has not gone fishing, it is truly one of the greatest ways of killing time and having a good time.
Well, the other 6 disciples don’t want to be left out so naturally they say, “We will go with you.” (another quote).

Now they were fishing for a long time.  Like all night.  This is not the fishing as we know it today.  They did not simply cast their line, sit back in a comfy chair and nap until they catch something. 

Nope.  This fishing was hard work.  This style of fishing was called cast net fishing.  They would take a net about 20 feet in diameter that had lead weights attached to the borders.  They would then fling this whole weighted net contraption off the side of the boat, very skillfully mind you, because you have to throw it in a way that the whole net spreads out and lands flat on the water.  As the net sinks, the weighted edges come together and trap the fish in the middle.  Then, more often than not, someone had to jump in to catch the net and help lift it back up and into the boat.

That is a lot of work!  Imagine how tied you would be if you did this for an entire night!

Now imagine you did that and you caught nothing!

No fish.  None. Zero. Zilch.

Can you imagine?!  So then, at daybreak, this man is standing on the shore and tells them cast their nets on the other side of the boat.  Naturally, when someone 100 yards off in distance and you’re not sure who it is, you listen to them.  Good thing too, cause that was no ordinary man.  It was the Risen Lord!  This is the third time that Jesus appears to them!  Remarkable!

So skip ahead in the story a little bit, Jesus and the disciples cook the fish and eat breakfast together.  Then Jesus looks to Peter and asks, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
This is a special, very intimate conversation.  If you remember, Simon Peter is his name, however, Jesus called him Peter.  Peter was his nickname.  If you actually go back and look at the origins of the name, it comes from the Greek Petros, which means stone.  Remember when Jesus told Peter that he would the “rock” on which he built his church?  Well, hence his nickname, which is pretty much like calling him “Rocky”.

So in this dialogue, it is the first and only time that Jesus refers to Peter by his full, formal name.  And he asks him, “Do you love me more than these?”

More than what, more than the other disciples?  I don’t think that is what he was referring to.  They had just returned from fishing, the job he left when he began to follow Jesus.  That was his old life.  That was a certain life that he grew up and understood.  After the crucifixion of Jesus, what was he suppose to do? 

He responds, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.”

“Feed my lambs.”

Jesus asks again, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Again he responds, “Yes Lord; you know that I love you.”

“Tend my sheep.”

A third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Hurt, Peter replies, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”

“Feed my sheep….”

Three times he is asked…and it was three times that Peter denied him.

But did you know that the Greek words for “love” that are used in the passage are two different words?

When Jesus asks the first two times, “Do you love me”, he uses the word agape.  A word that means unconditional love.  A love that we don’t fully understand and a concept that we struggle to grasp.  The third time Jesus asks, “Do you love me”, he uses the Greek word filee.  Each time Jesus asks this question, the intensity grows, he use of the word “love” is stronger and stronger.  In his responses Peter says “You know that I love you.”  However, he is using the word fileo.  Also a Greek word for love, but more of a friendship love, more of a loyalty.

Each time Jesus responds.  Feed my lambs.  Tend my sheep.  Feed my sheep.  But what does that mean?
Feed-tend-feed, lambs-sheep-sheep.

That was the order given.  Many people interpret these in different ways.  Some claim this a call of the importance of youth.  Lambs are young sheep.  Feed my lambs.  The first thing we are to do is to look to the young.  Many call Jesus one of the first youth ministers.  He hung out with and preached a lot about youth.  And he, he calls us to feed his lambs.  Tend his sheep.  Feed his sheep.

He ends with this invitation.  An invitation that is still offered to us today.  An invitation we may still struggle with accepting.  But no matter what, it’s there. 

“Feed my lambs. 

Tend my sheep.

Feed my sheep…

Follow me.” 

Worship on Wednesday

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Safety first. Then teamwork

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Thursday, April 11, 2013

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Be Yourself... You are Perfect!

This past Wednesday night, we had an open floor discussion about whatever the youth wanted to talk about.  I was a little nervous about this at first because you never know where it can lead or if it will ever get past the blank stares, crickets, and “I dunno…” stage. 

But I was curious, what is on your mind, what you want to talk about…I am leaving it up to you.  Right away, my question was answered with another question.

“What is wrong with the youth in the world today?”

Wow, that is a heavy question.  Coming from a youth too, I wanted to hear more.

Our conversation quickly became about drugs and alcohol.  Which sadly and yet not surprising at all, everyone in the room had been exposed to one or the other, or even both.

I was surprised that when given a chance to talk about anything, this was what they chose.  And everyone opened up and shared something.  About their thoughts on it, how it made them feel.

Peer pressure, parenting, low self-esteem, a strong desire for attention…many reasons and excuses were given as to why.

In life we wear many masks.  We want to fit in wherever we are, whoever we are with, we want to matter.  At school, we want to fit in with a certain crowd, so we wear that mask that makes us appear that we belong.

We go to practice, rehearsal, or whatever extra-curricular activities we are involved in and put on another mask.  We go home to our parents and put on another mask.  We go to work and put on another mask.  Go to church and we put on our God mask.  A different mask for every occasion.  Are we ever really truly being ourselves or merely a version of it that is being covered and hidden by our masks?

Do we ever really take off our mask?  Which version of is the “real” version?  Do we even know?

Is it really that hard for us to just be ourselves?  We are made in the image of God!  We are perfect in every way!  That weird birthmark you may be self-conscious about, maybe you think you are a little over weight, not smart enough, clumsy, nerdy, whatever you think your flaw is…remember this, you are made in God’s image!  Why put a mask on that?!  Why would we take something made and created by God, loved by God, cared for by God, and cover it up with a mask.

What if instead of trying to do everything so we fit in with a crowd, we did everything as if we were children of God and treated everyone else as if they too were a child of God.

What if we stopped hiding who we are and succumbing to peer- pressure that more often than not is misguided and self imposed.

In the Lectionary for today, the Old Testament reading seems to fit perfectly with this message.

So I pose a new question, not what is wrong with the youth today...is it really just the youth?  Or is this something we all struggle with?

This week, I challenge you to remove your mask.  Be yourself, just the way you were made to be.  Because you are perfect.

Proverbs 3:1-7
My child, do not forget my teaching,
but let your heart keep my commandments;
for length of days and years of life and abundant welfare they will give you.
Do not let loyalty and faithfulness forsake you;
bind them around your neck,
write them on the tablet of your heart.
So you will find favor and good repute
in the sight of God and of people.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
and do not rely on your own insight.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
Do not be wise in your own eyes;
fear the LORD, and turn away from evil.

An Open Letter to the Church from My Generation

An Open Letter to the Church from My Generation

I got to go to the Macklemore concert on Friday night. If you want to hear about how that went, ask me, seriously, I want to talk about it until I die. The whole thing was great; but the best part was when Macklemore sang “Same Love.” Augustana’s gym was filled to the ceiling with 5,000 people, mostly aged 18-25, and decked out in thrift store gear (American flag bro-tanks, neon Nikes, MC Hammer pants. My Cowboy boyfriend wore Cowboy boots…not ironically….). The arena was brimming with excitement and adrenaline during every song, but when he started to play “Same Love,” the place about collapsed. Why? While the song is popular everywhere, no one, maybe not even Macklemore, feels its true tension like we do in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. If you’re not familiar, here’s the song:
Stop–did you watch it? Watch it.
Before the song, Macklemore spoke really simple words along the lines of: “Hey, you can all have your own opinions on how we treat gay people in this country, but this is mine.” And I held my breath in anticipation of some kind of uproar or walk-out…but the crowd cheered louder than they had yet. In our red state, in our conservative little city, the 5,000 young people in that arena wanted to hear about marriage equality.
During the song, almost every person at the concert had their hands up and their eyes closed…it reminded me of church. The whole crowd spoke every word with Macklemore. We were thirsty for those words. We want to hear about equality and love in a gentle way. We’re sick of the harsh words of both sides. Say what you want about my generation, but we can smell fake from a mile away. This rapper from Seattle had brought us truth in song form, and we all knew it. I live in such a conservative bubble that I couldn’t believe the crowd’s positive, thankful reaction. But I shouldn’t have been surprised. No oneknows the tension of that song like my generation in South Dakota does. So many of us were brought up in churches and Christian homes, and even if we weren’t, we’ve experienced the traditional Christian culture that just resonates from South Dakota’s prairie land. We knowconservatism; we know tradition. But we also have Twitter, we watch SNL, we listen to Macklemore, and we read Tina Fey. We’re more in touch with the rest of the country than the Midwest has ever been. Some of us love the church and some of us hate it, but there aren’t too many people for whom it’s irrelevant. So when Macklemore takes on that tension with his poetry, his South Dakota audience listened. We practically yelled with him when he spoke the lyrics:
“When I was at church, they taught me something else: if you preach hate at the service, those words aren’t anointed. That holy water that you soak in has been poisoned.”
We yelled because we knew that holy water too well. We knew that hateful preaching too well. We had all been hurt by it in one way or another.
My point in writing this isn’t to protect gay people. Things are changing—the world is becoming a safer place for my gay friends. They’re going to get equal rights. I’m writing this because I’m worried about the safety of the Church. The Church keeps scratching its head, wondering why 70% of 23-30 year-olds who were brought up in church leave. I’m going to offer a pretty candid answer, and it’s going to make some people upset, but I care about the Church too much to be quiet. We’re scared of change. We always have been. When scientists proposed that the Earth could be moving through space, church bishops condemned the teaching, citing Psalm 104:5 to say that God “set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved.” But the scientific theory continued, and the Church still exists. I’m saying this: we cannot keep pitting the church against humanity, or progress. DON’T hear me saying that we can’t fight culture on anything. Lots of things in culture are absolutely contradictory to love and equality, and we should be battling those things. The way culture treats women, or pornography? Get AT that, church. I’ll be right there with you. But my generation, the generation that can smell bullshit, especially holy bullshit, from a mile away, will not stick around to see the church fight gay marriage against our better judgment. It’s my generation who is overwhelmingly supporting marriage equality, and Church, as a young person and as a theologian, it is not in your best interest to give them that ultimatum.
My whole life, I’ve been told again and again that Christianity is not conducive with homosexuality. It just doesn’t work out. I was forced to choose between the love I had for my gay friends and so-called biblical authority. I chose gay people, and I’m willing to wager I’m not the only one. I said, “If the Bible really says this about gay people, I’m not too keen on trusting what it says about God.” And I left my church. It has only been lately that I have seen evidence that the Bible could be saying something completely different about love and equality.
So, my advice to you, the Church: if you’re looking for some intelligent biblical liberal opinions on the subject, have a little coffee chat with your local Methodist or Episcopal pastor. Christians can be all aboutgay people, it’s possible. People do it every day with a clear biblical conscience. Find out if you think there’s truth in that view before you sweep us under the rug. You CAN have a conservative view on gay marriage, or gay ordination. You can. But I want you to have some serious conversations with God, your friends that disagree with you, and maybe even some gay people, Christians or not, before you decide that this one view is worth marginalizing my generation. Weigh those politics against what you’re giving up: us. We want to stay in your churches, we want to hear about your Jesus, but it’s hard to hear about love from a God who doesn’t love our gay friends (and we all have gay friends). Help us find love in the church before we look for it outside.
Oh, and can we please please PLEASE stop changing our Facebook profile pictures to crosses in a protest against gay marriage? You are taking a symbol of hope and redemption and using it to make a political point. No matter what you think, that has to stop. It’s a misrepresentation of what that symbol means.
A College Kid Who Misses You