Not Yet Christians: Pentecost/Confirmation Sunday

So here we are. Josh, Greg, Steph, the three of you are about to affirm the promises that were made on your behalf at your baptisms.  After you make those promises for yourself, in the eyes of this congregation you will no longer children.  You are about to become adult members of this congregation. In just a few moments, I am going to ask you these really big questions, questions that concern your future and how you intend to live your life

  “Do you intend to continue in the covenant GOD made with you in Holy Baptism:

         to live among GOD’s faithful people,

         to hear GOD’s WORD and share in GOD’s supper,

         to proclaim the good news of GOD in CHRIST through word and deed,

         to serve all people, following the example of JESUS the CHRIST, and to strive for justice and peace in all the earth?”

         Now, I know that we have gone over this a few times, but the magnitude of what is being asked of you is intense, especially the part that says,

         “to serve all people, following the example of JESUS the CHRIST, and to strive for justice and peace in all the earth?”

         To serve “all people”

To follow the example of Jesus.  To strive for justice and peace in all the earth? WOW, this being a Christian is really intense.  Now just in case those of you who aren’t being confirmed today, are wondering if you yourselves are up to the task, let me remind you of something I hope you’ve heard me say often. You see, when someone asks me if I’m a Christian, I always answer, “No. I am not a Christian, not yet. I aspire to be a Christian.       I aspire to follow the teachings of Jesus, but I have a lot to learn.”

One thing I have learned along the way, is that those people who are confident that they are Christian, who believe that they have somehow arrived as fully formed followers of the Way, well those folks make me very, very nervous and I usually back away whenever I sense the super-christians are on the prowl.

I think most of us have more in common with the very first followers of Jesus than we do with the folks who think they are already Christian.  “When the day of Pentecost arrived” that’s bible-talk for “not long after the resurrection” Or not long after people began to realize that Rome couldn’t actually kill Jesus way of being in the world, that death could not destroy Jesus dream of the kin-dom, the dream of justice for all, the dream of the kind of peace where everyone has enough. Not long after the Romans thought they’d killed Jesus Way of being, those who followed the Way met in one room. Continue reading

Butterfly Effect: Small But Not Insignificant!

butterfly effectReturning to work after a week’s vacation and I am inundated by a slew of emails urging me to do something/anything about this or that disaster/dilemma/outrage. Do the authors of these electronic pleas really believe that I can make a difference? Will anyone really notice if I delete a week’s worth of urgent requests for my attention? Will anything really change if I lend my attention to one or two of the more compelling pleas? Paralyzed by the enormity of need, I fixed myself a cup of coffee and went outside to think. I was joined by a butterfly; a red admiral to be precise. Remembering that the ancient Greeks called butterflies “psyche” which was also their word for “soul”, I could help wondering how far this brief little life would take this little soul. Had she travelled here from South America? How far north would she go? I used to have a little six-year-old friend who called them “flutter-bys” and his backwards utterances of delight at their presence brought a smile to my lips that came to me from a time long ago. My reverie was interrupted by what I gather an entomologist would call a “rabble” as more and more butterflies fluttered by. It was then that I remembered the “butterfly effect”. 

It seems that back in the sixties there was this mathematician named Edward Lorenz who worked at MIT as a meteorologist. Lorenz was trying to use complicated mathematical formulas to develop models to predict the weather. During the course of his research, Lorenz discovered that his precise mathematical formulas could not process the weather data in a rational way. No matter how many times he ran his models, he could not predict the weather. Apparently, small differences along the way could have huge implications down the road. Lorenz coined the phrase:  “Butterfly Effect” to describe the phenomena that he was observing in his laboratory. Nowadays, quantum physicists use the same term in chaos theory to describe what happens when a small change in one place in a system can result in large difference to a later state.  Apparently, when a butterfly flaps its wings in Brazil it can create a storm in Central Park. The mere flapping of a butterfly wing has a ripple effect that multiplies over time and changes weather patterns thousand of miles away.

Small though our responses may appear when compared to the colossal need in the world, they are not in and of themselves insignificant! Remembering the Christian use of butterflies as a symbol of resurrection, I returned to my office to give those electronic pleas my utmost attention.