Thursday, April 30, 2009

Aldersgate Talk

Joseph P. Mathews, OSL
29 April 2009
Aldersgate UMC Youth
Col. 2.6-14
I speak to you in the name of God, our Father and Mother; God the Son, our Glorified Redeemer; God the Holy Spirit, our comforter and sustainer. Especially when speaking to youth audiences I am reminded of how audacious a claim that is to make, one to not be made without prayer and discernment. May I and all whose vocation it is always remember the audacity of claiming to speak in the name of God. Please forgive me for any proof-texted or eisogesis I may do this evening. It’s not intentional.
I want to talk to you this evening about my experience as a Christian in college, and want to encourage you to try to have some of the similar experiences some of which can start while you’re in high school. Maybe even help you start learning a lesson I wish I’d learned sooner -- and wish more people would take to heart. I want to talk to you about vocation. Do any of you have some ideas about what you want to do when you “grow up?” I assure you, “growing up” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be…. And if you find something you love doing, you might not ever have to. (Pause to hear answers)
Those are all good starting points for ideas, and there’s no reason not to shoot for the top… but while you’re thinking about what you’re wanting to do post high school or post college, you’ll need to remember two things, one of which you have probably just started to know so you can’t even remember it…. And that’s what I have some things to say about. The two things you need to remember are these: remember who you are and remember whose you are.
First, whose are you? “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving… For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have come to fullness in him who is the head of every ruler and authority… When you were buried with him in baptism you were also raised with him from the dead.”
By virtue of your baptisms you are God’s, and that means a lot. The historic understanding of baptism, supported by this text, is that in baptism people are joined on to Christ -- made a part of Christ’s body the Church, but also made a part of the Resurrected Christ. I am Jesus. Ashley is Jesus. All the baptized are Jesus, sons and daughters of God. And with that comes great power and great responsibility to heal the sick, release the oppressed, grant recovery of sight to the blind, raise the dead.
With that too comes great comfort, and I want you to listen to what I’m about to say. “And when you were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your faith, God made you alive together with him, when he forgave us all our trespasses, erasing the record that stood against us with its legal demands. He set this aside, nailing it to the cross.” In being joined to Christ, you are forgiven of all offenses -- past, present, and future. You are loved. Period. God loves us and wants us to love ourselves. God has forgiven us and wants us to forgive each other -- and ourselves.
That’s whose you -- we -- are, but what about who you are? I think they’re related (or should be) to the point of shaping and molding each other, especially in light of how United Methodists baptize and the promises made at Baptism or Confirmation or when joining the United Methodist Church, with the following questions being answered, “I do.” “Do you renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of your sin? Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves? Do you confess Jesus Christ as your Savior, put your whole trust in his grace, and promise to serve him as your Lord, in union with the church which Christ has opened to people of all ages, nations, and races?”
These promises -- rejecting evil, not tolerating injustice and oppression, serving Christ as Lord -- should affect day to day living as we become disciples of Christ. One of the biggest parts of my college Christian experience was coming to understand the baptismal covenant and how it affects my life. Part of that has been figuring out who I am, loving myself as I am the way God loves me, and trying to share that love with others. Part of figuring out who you are -- a process that starts where you are right now and goes on, perhaps until the end of life -- is figuring out what your vocation is. My vocation, my call in life, what I know that I am supposed to do, is be a priest in The Episcopal Church. Some people’s vocation is to teach or to garden or to play sports.
But as you figure out who you are, be honest about it even when it’s scary. Hiding who you are isn’t healthy, and it doesn’t reflect the love God has for you to yourself. As you’re figuring out who you are, being honest about who you are, stand upf or what you believe in -- but do it with an open mind. There’s an old hymn that says “There is a wideness in God’s mercy like the wideness of the sea.” There is a breadth in understandings of Christianity, too. Be honest about what you support or oppose -- from supporting a woman’s right to choose to opposing the death penalty -- but be willing to have conversations with people who disagree, hearing them and talking to them, not lecturing them.
Think as you go through high school and college, praying alone and with others, having conversations with spiritual leaders about finding your vocation and what your call in life is. As you’re doing this remember that in Baptism you are joined with Christ and have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit. As you find your vocation to live, keep these words from Marianne Williams, which you may have heard before, in mind:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous,
talented and fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other
people won't feel insecure around you.
We were born to make manifest the glory of
God that is within us.
It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine,
we unconsciously give other people
permission to do the same.

As we are liberated from our own fear,
Our presence automatically liberates others.

You are a child of God called to love others and liberate them from their fears. Alleluia! Christ is risen! Amen.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

My Easter Weekend

Easter weekend sucked....Actually the last seven days have been pretty bad. Holy Wednesday night we read all of Mark at the Wesley. At about 8:00 I felt some pain that I thought was hunger pains. When we finished I went to the kitchen to get some food. I had a few bites but it wasn't any better. A few minutes later it got worse, so I assumed it was something viral. I told people I was going to bed and left the Wesley. I went to bed and slept for 1-1.5 hrs or so and woke up in a lot of pain. I went to the ER (NOT something I normally do). They asked me what I'd eaten and the doctor did a shoddy compression examination and they said it was my food producing a lot of gas and gave me two things for abdominal cramping. I woke up Thursday morning with severe pain in my right side. I ate a Poptart and the pain spread to my entire abdomen. I went to the Wesley and lay on the couch hoping that resting would make things better. I called Ashley about going to see her doctor daddy, and he said that coming at 1:00 would be good. He had to round and do other stuff. I went at one and he did compressions and started to guess it was my appendix based on where I winced the most. He ordered blood work and my white count was 11k - high, but not high enough to say anything definitive. He made me a follow up appointment for Friday at 1:00 with a surgeon to do some re-checking. On the way out I grabbed a fun sized Three Musketeers and ate it. We took will to his grandmother's house, with my pain coming and going. As we came back into Troy I started feeling barfy. As we pulled into the Wesley I opened the door and threw up my candy in the parking lot. I immediately went into the Wesley and got under a blanket. Despite the temperature being in the upper 70s I was shivering. I stayed under said blanket until my friends Ryan and Erin came to pick me up to go to Maundy Thursday service. I took my blanket with me and went in. I stood for the processional hymn and I think the reading of the Gospel. After the homily (during foot washing) I felt sickly and went to the bathroom. Before the service I'd talked to our deacon about please serving me in my pew because walking hurt so much. When I came back from the bathroom a lady asked if I needed to leave, but I told her I could make it. I passed peace and sat back down. When Fr. Jeff and Deacon Withrock served me I got half a host hoping that a small serving would stay down. Wrong. Ten minutes later I threw up communion outside the church. I went to the Wesley and got back on my couch. I decided to sleep there as opposed to my room because the couch was closer to the ground than my bed, and I knew I'd be getting in and out of bed all night. Emily and Krista went and got my prescription and some Gatorades for me. I slept fitfully and had weird dreams that were half awake that involved the parts of my body taking into account how the rest of the objects in the room would feel about my laying a certain way on the couch (like whether the stands or the piano or Altar would like certain positions more or less). Friday came. I was miserable. I took my magic potion (Belladonna Alkaloids/Phenobarbital Elixir, which is a "green, elixir"). Mom called far more stressed than I was about it and asked I if I wanted her to come for my appointment with the surgeon and I said she could if she wanted to. She called every 15-30 minutes to see if anything had changed. Brandon and I had a good conversation and he told me some things to do to see if it might be appendix (like just coughing). Mom came and took me to the appointment..and man am I glad she did. My appointment was at 1:00. I met with the doctor for less than half an hour before he told his nurse to get me on the schedule for operation at 3:30. In our talk he told me that he figured it was acute appendicitis and I might get to go home as early as Saturday. As soon as he gave orders I was in a wheelchair across the parking lot to hospital admissions. From there I got to my room and got two bags of fluids and two bags of antibiotics (one in each arm). By the time I got to surgery my white count, rather than being 11k was 19k. I went out with the anesthesia and woke up as a tube for drainage was being shoved down my throat. I found later that my appendix had ruptured sometime Thursday night and that there was so much infection in me that it had gotten into my blood stream...and was making me crazyish. Mom said that the doctor was really puzzled that I hadn't come back to the ER in the night but I guess I just have a high pain tolerance. The surgeon said that I would get worse before I got better and he was right. Holy Saturday was HORRIBLE! People came to visit me for brief periods, but mom said it was painful to just be in the room with me. I had some good time and then a really bad down turn. I've gotten sick at least almost once each day, and sometimes it's the turning point about how the rest of the day will go. I'm sooooo much better than I was. They're transitioning me from injections to oral meds and I'm making good progress. Thoughts and prayers are much appreciated.