Tuesday, December 11, 2012

To Everything A Season

"For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted" -Ecclesiastes 3

Last night in Fort Worth we had our first big freeze. Temperatures dropped down into the low 20's. The freezing temps will come again tonight, signaling an end to the growing season for our garden. This morning when I arrived a church, the plants that were once so vibrant, full of life and flower, laid limp and cold. The season of their flowering had been completed, their purpose fulfilled. It is time for them to be plucked up.

Our theme this fall has been "Raising Faith: Growing Disciples." It is a theme rooted in the idea that it is God who gives us the gift of faith through the Holy Spirit. In Baptism that gift is planted in us and through the nourishment of the community, just as water and sunlight nourish the plants, faith blooms and grows in our hearts.  These plants fulfilled their purpose. They provided a physical presence and sustenance for our soup suppers (and even an occasional snack for the TLCC kiddos or Pastor G). But even more important they provided a spiritual reminder of all that God has and continues to do in our midst. Not only at Trinity but through the work of disciples of Jesus, ministering in their daily lives, in their places of vocation and in their family systems.

Now the season of these plants has come to an end. Tomorrow (Wednesday the 12th) we will hoe them under, back into the ground. They will then provide nourishment yet again for the future. In that beautiful cycle of life and death.The last month has seen a lot of that cycle of life here at Trinity. Four saints of our congregation have claimed the promises of their baptism. Each of these four lived good long lives, faithfully fulfilling God's purpose for them. 

Although we would wish to have them for another day, week, month or year. We could yet proclaim that indeed to everything a season, a purpose. They had fulfilled that purpose and we could commend them, despite our grief, to eternal rest well deserved.

On this cold morning, as I see the garden dying in the cold I reflect also on 2012 and personally lament the loss of two other saints gone too soon. These two, Tricia and Jacob, from my previous congregation in Wisconsin, lived faithful lives. Good lives. But far too short of lives. They were taken from us too soon, wilting in the height of season. Reflecting on them, I cannot so simply say that they lived their purpose, that it was their season. Because it was too soon. There was not a fullness of time.

Yet even in the tragic and untimely deaths of those saints, I believe I can proclaim that there is hope in the midst of loss. That God provides even in the midst of untimely losses. Our garden this year had a good and long growing season. But early freezes do come. Droughts strike, heat waves destroy flowering plants. Illness, accidents, strike down those we love. Not all of us will have long lives. 

Yet in the end, there is hope in the promise of Ash Wednesday. Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return. Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust. And with that reality comes the promise of life with God. The one who created us and yet claims us in our Baptism and at the end of our days.We are made from this very stuff. The same stuff that grew our garden. God's creation nurtures and feeds us. It is God who gives us the growth. We can water, provide sunshine and do our best to protect from frost. But in the end, God gives the growth. So we return the garden to God's earth. Just as we turn over those we love to God's mercy. On a cold morning in Fort Worth. We are reminded of the wisdom of Psalm 90.

"So teach us to count our days that we may gain a wise heart" -Psalm 90:12

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Why the Chiefs should have stayed home...

(Caveat: For those who don't know me, I LOVE football. Played it in high school and college. Watch and talk about it a lot! These are not the thoughts of an anti-football crusader. But the genuine critique of a friend of the game.)

Today the Kansas City Chiefs did something remarkable for their 2012 football season, they won a game. But there never should have been a game to win. Yesterday afternoon Jovan Belcher, a starting linebacker for the Chiefs, killed his girlfriend Kasandra Perkins (the mother of his 3 month old child). He then drove to the teams facilities. There he talked with teammates, coaches and staff before turning the gun on himself in front of his coach and GM.

Today, just over 24 hours after Jovan's death in the team parking lot at Arrowhead Stadium, 60,000 plus fans came to watch the team play. A moment of silence was observed, the owner talked about how hurt everyone was. But this is a game that should never have been played.

The fact that it was played further demonstrates just how far we have come in our obsession with games and money. How little concern we have as a society for each other, especially for woman and children. Even worse, how little concern we who are fans have, and frankly the NFL has, for the players and their families in this money making monstrosity called professional football.

I can formulate all the practical arguments for why it should have been played. The 60,000+ folks who were coming had made their plans, paid for their tickets. The other team had already flown into town. Rescheduling would be next to impossible. It would screw up all the standings for the Chiefs and Panthers to have one less game than everyone else, even though neither of them have any shot for the playoffs.

Then there are the positive arguments for playing on. To play on shows the spirit of the city in the midst of tragedy. We must persevere even in tragedy. Show our true grit in the midst of loss and grief. For that is what men, especially football men, do.

But this wasn't a "tragedy" this was a murder-suicide of a member of the team that was now to take the field. Yet apparently we cannot let that reality, as one tailgater said, "take too much out of our day." It is irrelevant to us that in this situation a member of the organization in which we have chosen to invest a huge amount of money (average cost for a family of four to attend an NFL game is approximately $450, although I think that is low and certainly does not include many $8 beers) has committed a monstrous crime. We will go to the game anyway. The coaches, even the head coach who witnessed his player die, will soldier on because this is what we do. We will say a prayer, have a moment of silence, but there is too much on the line to let this take much out of our day.

The Chiefs should have stayed home today. Oh, there are those who will say that the win they got was a boost for everyone emotionally. That it will help the healing process. But this isn't a team building up a community like A&M's win over Texas in 1999 after the bonfire collapsed and killed students. I was at that game and there a community stood up and honored those killed in an accident. The game, especially the Aggies win, provided some comfort and normality in the midst of this loss. But this was no accident.

In a couple weeks I doubt many of us will think much about the grandmother who is taking care of an orphaned 3 month old. Her friends may try hard, but Kasandra's name will quickly be forgotten. Maybe in a week, or a month, but we won't remember. But the games will go on.

We learned again today a valuable lesson. People are disposable, interchangeable, but games are not. The incredible money show must go on. But for Zoey, Romeo, Gary, Dianne and Scott everything radically changed yesterday. Don't know who the people are behind those names? Well, that is the problem isn't it. Maybe if the Chiefs had stayed home, we would.