Saturday, June 23, 2012

RECALLING OUR TRANSFORMATIONS: Sermon for Senior Day Chambersburg, IL June 19, 2012

Related Texts:
Rom 12:2, II Cor 3:18....Transforming  and Changing
Deut 32:7, Judges 9:2, Numbers 11:5.... Remembering

Lam 3:22-23    Thanks for inviting me and thanks for each one who is here today to consider the topic, Not  Home Yet.

You can't bring a 68 year old semi retired man 200 yards from his first real adult job and expect him to not reminisce. I was 23 years old. Just consider all the life that you have experienced since you were 23. The eating, resting, awaking, hugging, crying, kissing, eating, plowing, harvesting, cooking, playing … all the people...friends,  marrying, children, grand children. Could I have ever had the mind to look across at this church and think to myself, 'One day as a senior citizen I'm going to be talking to a group of my peers in that very church?'

Chambersburg-Meredosia  Jr. High..My First Teaching Job
Story: Missionary Rev jack was captured by a clan of vicious man-eating baboons. The head baboon stood right in front of him and the clan in a circle surrounding him. He said under his breath,” O Lord, I'm done for.” Suddenly a voice came to him clearly that said, 'Rev Jack, When the head baboon glances over to the side pick up that rock by your left foot. Hit the leader in the head.' He did that, disabled the leader and was feeling pretty good. He saw the other baboons all take a step toward him and again the voice spoke clearly. “Rev Jack , Now you are done for.”... So we are not 'done for' in this amazing experience of life until we are 'really done for.' Until then we have important stuff to be doing and learning. We are Not Yet Home and this part of our lives is ever  much as important as any younger years in our preparations for whatever is on the other side . I suggest that each day and hour you walk down from the top of life's hill is just as important for the purpose of your life as when you were 23 or 33.

There are some life skills that you can only get good at as you get to this part of life. Stuff that a 23 year old could not begin to do well. I want to read a few scriptures of describing two of them and  by reminiscing give you some personal examples of how I try to apply these skills. I think it will remind you that you too use these skills. And perhaps we can all improve our skill at doing these two amazing  spiritual activities  which are so important as we get nearer home and 'done for.'

  1. To remember or to recall. All those moments of time you have experienced. Many of them are still right there in your mind and heart. Millions of them. Way more than when you were 23. A scripture about remembering: It may seem I'm taking this out of context but I'm only taking it deeper into context. Numbers 11:5-6 The Hebrews were not at fault for remembering but  needed to improve their remembering skills and not use their memory to complain, but as a deep abiding source of thanksgiving, as a strong tool for surviving difficult times. They needed to remember with their full range of senses. Eg eating water 'melon.' The smell, the feel of its coolness and texture, the sound of the crunch when you bite into it. the sweet taste as you chew it. The feel of the juice streaming down your chin. That is what real remembering involves. When you do that the effect on all your body's systems is very near the same thing as being there. Such remembering strengthens the mind and body. It is powerful. We know there can be difficult days ahead as we get closer to home. Memory can be a primary resource for keeping a lighter and thankful heart.
  2. To observe how you have been transformed. Rom 12:2. The Bible teaches the purpose of religion in life is to transform the human being and we can't get fully transformed till we get nearer being home, being 'done for.' The goal of this whole life experience is to be changed in significant ways, to ripen, to be well 'done for' , to be transformed. II Cor 3:18.

Recalling and Observing our own transformations go hand in hand. Identifying our times of transformation assures us we are on the right track. We are a part of the goal that God has in mind for all human beings.

Chambersburg Christian Church
Do you think that 23 year old boy really knew what he was doing? I'm not sure we ever get close to knowing what we are doing and how we are affecting ourselves , others, the earth and the animals about us. But we sure don't at 23, even more if you are an AL kid who talks funny and is totally our of your element. That first year I was around some really good teachers. I remember Mrs Blake and Mrs Karnes. I  also remember our custodian Doc. I didn't know then that the person who knows more about the school and what goes on is the custodian. He would bring beautiful fresh tomatoes from his garden in the first weeks of school in the fall. My first yellow tomatoes were form Doc garden. Oh and those school lunches. MMMM that Mac and Cheese with dark crisp cheese on the top. My cardiologist would tell me now to run away as fast as possible. But it was so delicious. I may never eat such a dish again but I'm likely to remember it many times and be grateful.

1. Roland Ransom.....I put at the bottom of his paper, “ I can't grade what I can't read.” He gave it back somberly asking, “ Mr Hibbett , what does this say at the bottom of my paper?” Kids can teach us as much as we teach them.. Not as often about the subject matter but they teach a teacher how they learn and what opens them to important transformations. And in this remembered incident I think I was taught a little bit about the meaning of 'don't just focus on the gnat in another's eye without taking notice of the log that is in your own eye.' That was a transformation that became a part of my concept of teaching.

2. The big boy I paddled for no good reason and how bad I felt as I left school that day. He had tears well up and I don't think they were from the physical pain as much as tears that asked me, ' Mr Hibbett, why did you have to turn against me like this even if I wasn't behaving just right.?” I finally began to asked myself, “How can we teach non violence to our kids by hitting them?” That was a transformation.

3.Think of the most relaxing secure place calm place you experienced as a child. Mine was Lying on the boat dock in the summer sun. One of my most important memories. I've used it to calm myself down a million times. Use it every time I take my blood pressure.  Memories are powerful. We can have a goal that when we get immobile we be able to close our eyes and have a the absolute most perfect entertainment in the world... by remembering. Why we will be laughing and they will think we are crazy but we'll be literally having the times of our lives. By remembering.
church of Christ ...meets here. Meredosia, IL  

I     I ask , if needed,  the kind forbearance of my Church of Christ  brethren here. Please know I am not implying that any of you need to make the same transformation that I describe here. No one can tell another what their transformations must be. That is the work of the Holy Spirit and we are each unique in the changes of perception we will have. I was not only the boy teacher but I was also the boy preacher at the Church of Christ in Meredosia. You know the Christian Church and the non instrumental Church of Christ  are first cousins on the family tree of Christian denominations. All you would notice different is that in the Church of Christ there is no piano or organ. We sang only A Capella . It can be quite moving and beautiful with its four part harmony of human voices. But the downside is that it has been historically emphasized that anyone who used instrumental music was doing  something spiritually wrong.  I consider it a very special kind of music and potentially  a  gift of worship experience that the Church of Christ has historically developed and can now offer as as a gift to the larger Christian Community. Here is an example of Church of Christ style of worship singing.

Congregational A' Capella Singing
     People in the church of Christ take this teaching seriously to varying degrees. Some reason that it can't be that important  so for unity's sake go along with it. Most members come to genuinely prefer this style of worship music.  And  the preacher is expected to take a stand on it. And that 23 year old preacher took it very seriously and had a whole list of scripture arguments to prove his positions. There were some very strong friendships between our two churches that built up through the decades long before I showed up. I'm remembering: I attended an evangelistic meeting at this very church. We came over here at your invitation and you had a whole family of preachers and they all played different instruments. I was overwhelmed with the amount of ' wrong'  going on. And when the singing started I was not free within myself to sing so I sat like a toad on a log through the hymns. But after that experience as I walked back to my car to go home I thought, “Jim, what is going on here? Why were you not free to enthusiastically join these people in their kind of sincere music worship? Didn't Jesus say he sets you free, even free indeed?” And didn't he accept the hospitality  and the gifts of all who offered it? ... Transformation on this had begun. I did not go back and preach that our Church of Christ should purchase a piano and I still wouldn't. If that is meant to change it will change in time within the Church of Christ.  I was personally  learning it is fine for a any of us to have our religious preferences but we risk getting off track when we value our religious style and doctrine as if it is the 'one and only way' God receives people or that people praise God. This is, I think, a rather common fundamental transformation that hopefully we all experience in our own way. I bet you each have had similar kinds of transformation. I've been pastor for churches the past 25 years who love their instrumental music And I gladly join in. But only a non-instrumental Church of Christ  person can understand there will always be something about A' Capella music that touches my deepest emotions. I listened to that sound while my head was on my mother's lap at Poplar St. Church of Christ in Florence, AL.  We lose nothing  by claiming our own unique  preferences while also understanding that the other person has his cherished worship experiences also. We can then benefit, learn from and even enjoy each other.

     Memory and Transformation. So as you get nearer and nearer home which we are all doing -be generous with yourself. Remember and Recall your Transformations.

I'll close with the words of a song that was written by a well know gospel singer Iris DeMent .  Though Iris sings primarily all the old time Christian Hymns she apparently wanted to also make it clear: that though many religions speak of spiritual certainties the most healthy religions are ones that also teach us that what is most important remains very much a mystery. Two realities that we never become experts at nor can ever expect to fully comprehend are the full nature of Love or the exact meaning of God. As much as the Bible speaks and gives impressions of Love and God, I think it leaves any final descriptions as a mystery, a divine mystery. So Iris says she thinks she'll 'Let the mystery be.” I believe this song speaks of a Transformation that many experience as they come to being 'Not Home Yet.'(too bad I can't play the guitar and sing it for you.)

Everybody's wonderin' what and where they all came from.
Everybody's worryin' 'bout where they're gonna go when the whole thing's done.
But no one knows for certain and so it's all the same to me.
I think I'll just let the mystery be.

Some say once you're gone you're gone forever, and some say you're gonna come back.
Some say you rest in the arms of the Savior if in sinful ways you lack.
Some say that they're comin' back in a garden, bunch of carrots and little sweet peas.
I think I'll just let the mystery be.

Some say they're goin' to a place called Glory and I ain't saying it ain't a fact.
But I've heard that I'm on the road to purgatory and I don't like the sound of that.
Well, I believe in love and I live life accordingly.
But I choose to let the mystery be.

Everybody's wonderin' what and where they all came from.
Everybody's worryin' 'bout where they're gonna go when the whole thing's done.
But no one knows for certain and so it's all the same to me.
I think I'll just let the mystery be.

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