Saturday, June 25, 2016


Sermon Summary, “Life of Meaning: Chimp(s)” June 19, 2016

Ever been to the zoo?  You may find clues to a life of meaning at the Chimp cage.  Picture a cage with a single chimp, then another with two or more.  An observer might day, “One chimpanzee is no chimpanzee.”  Chimps need one another to be chimps.

I have to admit to choosing lonely professions.  The military is highly competitive and frequent moves make it difficult to make close friends.  My Uncle chose an Air Force career and to this day his trusted friends are the ones he made 65 years ago at Annapolis.  I can say that my best friend remains by college best friend.  We need to cultivate friends.

We need friends to talk to confide in to work things out.  And different friends give us  a different perspective.  I have an acquaintance, Greg,  who in testimony tells that it was his Christian small group that saved his marriage.  Another who was head over heels in love and told his Dad, his best friend, that he was leaving his wife.  It was the only way he could be happy.  His Dad told him “You have no right to be happy.  Now get your butt back home and put your marriage back together.”  Guess what?  He did and he was happy.  Intimate friends can enrich your lives and yes, they can also change the direction of your lives.

John Wesley knew that we needed others, friends, to share with and to keep us accountable.  If you were a Methodist, you were part of a small group.  For young people, by gender.  Young men and woman have different problems.  Would my friend Greg above have mentions marriage issues in mixed company? 

As we age, our circle of friends diminishes.  On other fried we can rely on is Jesus.  We can share everything with Jesus.  And why not, he knows everything already!  The Bible has much to say about friends.  Jesus had friends, twelve, and an inner circle of close friends, Peter, James and John.  “Jesus wept” as he approached the tomb of his friend Lazarus. The overarching theme of the Bible is love. Love requires friends.

Who do you have a cup of coffee with?  Are you cultivating your friendships?  Be intentional.  How about with Jesus?  Schedule a coffee time with him, ask him about his life events, baptism, temptations.  Have him ask you about your thoughts, too.

What does it take to be truly human?  The first thig is to Belong to People, a few people that are intimately and permanent part of your lives.  A life without such people might be rich in other terms, but in human terms it is no life at all.  Belong to people.

Saturday, June 18, 2016


Sermon Summary, “Legacy or Life of Meaning?” June 12, 2016

Too often we equate a life of meaning with legacy or greatness: Monumental achievements, writing great books, winning great prizes, scaling mountains.  Great achievements, winning medals may be fine, but do they provide a life of meaning?  Thirty years ago I read a book by Rabbi Harold Kushner which he based on the Ecclesiastes, written by Solomon, who had accumulated more wealth than anyone else, built greater buildings, owned more horses, had more wives and concubines than anyone else, ever, yet in the final analysis he found it all vain, “vanity and chasing after the wind.”  Not treasure, not pleasure, not wisdom, not great works, not sexual conquest, “there was nothing to be gained under the sun.”  (Ecc 2:11b)

Kushner concluded that “it was not immortal deeds that give life meaning, but a lot of little ones, what we do every day.  The challenge is not to rise above the level of everyday life by superhuman effort.  The challenge is to find something truly human to do every day of our lives.”Jesus taught his disciples (and us) something similar: “whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” (Mk 9:35)

So our task the next three weeks is to search out those truly human things that can give our lives meaning. 

Dorothy and Family.  And Yes, That's "Dorothy Beer"
First a story:  Two weeks ago Rosemary and I attended a surprise 80th birthday party.  It was a surprise on serval levels.  It was not her birthday, and it was not her party.  It was her grandson’s high school graduation party.  Her family was there, and friends, and the town.  The big party was really for Dorothy, a farm wife who had never gone to college, had never written a book, or a poem, had seen the Black Hills but never had climbed them, had never done any of the things that we associate with greatness, but I would suggest she has done all the things Jesus said provided meaning.  She had been married our of high school and had given herself to the family and community since.  After her last child was in school, she got a job in the Soil Conservation office.  If she hadn’t known everyone in the entire county before, she did now.  But that wasn’t all.  After retiring at the age of 65, she got a job cooking at the Senior Center, standing in the serving line conversing with all that came through.  Every day was a day of service.  Every conversation was a truly human conversation.  Everyone knew, really knew Dorothy.

As the party discussions went on, I reflected on church that morning, the front two pews filled with her family, her daughter playing, her grandchildren around her.  She had attended that little church from the time she was a toddler.  This is where she had learned that doing great things didn’t matter, that loving and caring and serving mattered, and that it was truly human things that gave life meaning.  This church is where she learned it, and she lives it. So may we learn it and live it too.