The Questions that Matter

A great sermon preached by an even better friend and mentor.

Test Driving Theology

3d man“The Questions that Matter”
Matthew 16:13-20
Pastor Todd Buegler
Trinity Lutheran Church
August 23-24, 2014

 

Grace and peace to you, from God our Creator and from Jesus, who brings life. Amen.

 “What do I want to be when I grow up?”

 That was the question. That’s what I was wondering. I was 21 years old and it was fall of my senior year at Gustavus Adolphus College and I wasn’t exactly sure what was going to happen next for me after graduation. I wasn’t really all that stressed about it…not nearly as stressed as my Father thought I should be. But I did know that at some point, I was going to need to figure out a plan.

Throughout my life, the question of what I would do “when I grew up” had been largely answered by the most recent TV show that I’d been watching. I’d wanted to…

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101

What is it like to be 101 years old? Today I got a glimpse of that. I got to experience it and I got to learn from it. To be 101 is to love with everything you have in you, laugh until the point of tears, cry because of the history you have, but mostly importantly.. you dance like no one is watching.

Today I met a man who is 101 years old. I sat with him for two hours hearing him talk about his life. One of his favorite activities is sitting on his patio and drinking martinis with his friends on Thursdays. He has life figured out. At one point he looked at me with a huge grin, made a remark about having all of his real teeth, and then said, “You’re 23, right? You need a proper dance lesson. Someday you’re going to have to dance at your wedding and a girl like you deserves to know how to properly dance. Can I teach you a few moves?” I looked at him and couldn’t tell if he was serious, but then he stood up, he grabbed his walker, introduced himself, and asked if he could have the honor of dancing we with me. So there we were, in a hospital room, dancing like no one was watching. He was attempting to teach me a few moves but was laughing so hard that he couldn’t. He hummed a short song and then we sat down and he said, “You have sat here with me and shared part of your story and passion, so I thought I would do the same. It has been 5 years since I have danced, thank you..I needed to feel alive again. I needed to live again.”

I didn’t know what he meant when he said I shared my passions with him. I sat there and listened to him tell me his incredible story. I laughed with him, cried with him, prayed with him, danced with him, and for a moment I lived with him. Maybe that’s what this life is about. Maybe it’s about living with people and doing those things with them that make them come alive. It’s doing those things that might make you look like a fool. It’s about doing things with and for other people to make their day a little bit brighter when the clouds don’t seem to be clearing.

As I was leaving his room he said, “Hey Kate..don’t hurry off now. 101-23=78. Today, you made me feel like I was 78 again. Don’t let your age get to you, you just made someone who is 101 come alive. You lived with me and I lived with you. We can dance again tomorrow.”

Walk with people, live with people, and love those people. We all need those people who make us come alive again, who make us continue to dance even when it’s hard to hear the music. We all need to live like we are 101. We might not have 101 years to figure it out, but we do have the ability to change our perspective. We have the ability to live with people who make us come alive.

Shoutout to the big guy upstairs for not only providing me with a dance lesson but reminding me of what living looks like.

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What is love?

“People say I love you all the time. When they say, ‘take an umbrella, it’s raining,’ or ‘hurry back,’ or even ‘watch out, you’ll break your neck,’ or the simple ‘wear your seatbelt and text me when you get there.’ There are hundreds of ways of wording it-you just have to listen for it, my dear.”

I don’t think anyone can ever have the right answer to the question, “What does love actually look like?” Love can be all of the things in the quote above, love can be hard to hear, love can be heard to see, love can be hard to believe in, and sometimes love can be hard to accept. This past week I’ve been forced to see love in a way that I have never seen before. I’ve been able to witness unconditional love. You know, the kind of love that Jesus’ shows us every, single day. It’s the love we are often blind to because we are too busy moving on to the next best thing or planning our days. It is the obvious kind of love, and we are so oblivious to it.

My grandpa took a tumble down the stairs last Friday, and everything kind of changed. My family has never been the family that says “I love you” all the time. It’s one of those things that goes unsaid because we know the love we have for each other is stronger than most things in life. But this past weekend I’ve seen it in my grandma in a different way. I’ve realized that my grandma is a lover, a fighter, and pretty much a superhero to my grandpa and the rest of my family.

My grandpa is basically an infant right now. He can’t really walk, doesn’t want to talk, doesn’t want to eat or do much of anything besides laugh at the nurses and doctors. On Friday the nurses asked him how he fell down the stairs, his response was, “Well, it wasn’t me. Bev grabbed my legs, tripped me, and off I went sliding down on my butt with the white garbage can. It definitely wasn’t MY fault.” This, is love. Love is being able to blame each other when we feel we have made fools out of ourselves. Love is knowing that someone will have your back when you don’t want to admit that you did make a mistake.  Love, is being 100% comfortable with the person who is right by your side. Love is trusting that someone will help you answer all the dumb questions that you are asked throughout life and knowing that if you get the answer wrong, they will laugh with you. Love is knowing that someone is always going to be there strapped in tight, right next to you, on this roller coaster that we call life.

It wasn’t up until now that I realized that the love and positivity that my grandma has in her heart, not only for my grandpa, but for everyone, is unlike anything else. A pastor from Mount Olivet visited us on Friday at the hospital and I was talking to her and told her that my grandma is the “Saint of the Street” and needs to just sit still sometimes. She feeds her neighbors cats that she hates, watches peoples houses when they are out of town, makes sure her sidewalk is always shoveled so people can walk the dog, knows everything about everyone, and gets the mail for everyone when they aren’t home for an extended period of time. She may not even like the person, but she drops everything to help them. She’s a saint. She doesn’t stop loving because she knows it’s what we are called as Christians to do. She knows that love can change someone. She knows because she has witnessed this first hand through my grandpa. She’s not only the “Saint of the Street” but she’s the saint of the family.

Every time I see her I’m pounded with questions, from the normal “Kate, hows it going?!” to the not so normal, “Well, why do you go to Target 3 times a week?” or the “Hey dear, hows you’re roommate doing, does she like her job, is she home, where is she?” This woman needs to know everything about every aspect of my life, of my friends’ lives, of my cousins life, of my moms life, literally everyone. It’s quite annoying, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Every time anyone sees her they need to mentally prepare themselves to play 50 questions, and she doesn’t see a problem with it because this is her way of loving, of caring, of living. She lives her life in love, even if that love can be overwhelming and frustrating for the people around her. The questions are constant, but the intention is always good.

So, after spending hours with her at the hospital this week I’ve been forced to look at my opinion of love, and it has changed. I cant even count the number of random questions she has asked me. There hasn’t been one day of my life where I have ever worried about my grandma not caring about what I’m doing or how I’m doing. There hasn’t been a day when I have seen her actually get mad at someone for more than 5 minutes. I haven’t seen her break, I haven’t seen her give up, and I haven’t seen her lose hope even when her husband has lost all of his. She loves him when he can’t find the words to tell her, when he’s frustrated with his current state, and when he is smiling and laughing like the guy we used to know. She also loves me when I’m crabby, frustrated, annoyed, dont respond, and tell her to stop asking me questions. She loves me when I give her attitude, and let me tell you that woman has received more attitude from me than my mom has in my entire life. She most certainly has tested my patience, knows it, and is proud of it. We could all learn something about love from her, and I think we all should.

She tries to love everyone like Jesus does, and isn’t that what this life is about? It’s making everyone around us feel loved even when they are being a pain. It’s asking those annoying questions that everyone gets tired of answering. It’s doing something for someone even when it is the last thing we want to be doing. It’s sitting next to someones hospital bed, feeding them, explaining the doctor lingo, and laughing when they don’t understand a word you are saying. Love is telling someone to hurry back, that you are thankful for them, to watch out, to wear their seatbelt, to eat their meals, to wash their hands, to keep on smiling, and that you miss them. Love is found in laughter, in hope, in smiles, in faith, and in every single conversation.

This weekend my grandma went from being one the most annoying people ever to one of the most inspiring, most loving, and most influential people I have in my life. She’s not only the “Saint of the Street,” but she’s someone I want to be like (my family will seriously never stop giving me crap for that statement.) I probably won’t ask as many questions or worry about what everyone is doing, but I will do my best to love everyone. My grandma tries to love like Jesus does, and not a day goes by where my grandpa doesn’t thank her for her love and hope.

We are called to live our lives in love. Isn’t that the golden rule? Treat others how you want to be treated? Love is seen in many different ways, don’t be so blind that you are closed off to it. Without love we are nothing, and without family we wouldn’t be here.

So what is love? It’s answering the never easy, never ending, and always rewarding call of being a Christian. It’s knowing that someone will be there during every aspect of life, calming the storms, causing the laughter, and never, ever letting you go.

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us.” John 4:16-19

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Jesus Naps Too

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Let me cover a few bases before I start off…

1. I’d like to apologize to my parents…yes I did get another tattoo back in October. No, grandma and grandpa won’t find out.

2. To the rest of my family reading this..don’t tell Bev and Frank otherwise I will be grounded from every gathering and I would miss you all

3. Sitting still to take this picture was more difficult than my work out today, which made me realize I should try harder.

4. Sitting still in class while I thought of this blog was also extremely challenging, which made me realize I should pay attention more.

5. Sitting still in any situation is complicated..but they struggled with it in the Bible so that makes me feel better.

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Psalm 46 says, “Be still and know that I am God.” 

Mark 4:35-41 says, “Quiet! Be still!”

Exodus 14:14 reads, “The Lord will fight for you, and you only have to be still.”

Right now I’m taking a class that focuses on the Pentateuch, which is the first 5 books of the Bible. I’m also taking a class that is focused on the book of Mark, which is one of the Gospels. Both of these classes have discussed the concept of being still. The concept of being still parallels with many different parts in the Bible, but I won’t get into that because you would all be sleeping by the end of this sentence.

Anyways, in the book of Mark Jesus seems like this really cool, humanistic, down to earth, and angry human. This picture of Jesus can be quite unsettling unless you are a seminary student and learning about this kind of stuff every day, hence why I think it’s cool. While Jesus is in the boat with his Disciples a storm hits, the Disciples freak out, they wake Jesus up from what seems to be a nap, and beg him to calm the storm. Jesus responds with, “Quiet! Be still! Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” Then the storm calms, the Disciples’ jaws most likely dropped, and Jesus continued healing individuals and creating miracles. Jesus knew the storm was happening, but was testing the disciples to see if they would trust that he would calm that storm without them disturbing his “nap.” Well at least this is how I envision it. Normal, right? Apparently Jesus needs naps like all of us, and we need to respect that and know that Jesus will wake up and calm our storms when the time is right. Or maybe, Jesus will wake us up and help us realize that we need to be still and know that the storm will cease. Jesus knows, and sometimes we need to be still and trust that Jesus truly does know. Maybe instead of waking Jesus up, we should wake ourselves up.

It seems kind of simple when someone puts it that way. We all get tired, we all get weary, we are all human, and we all need naps. When we are tired or exhausted from our days we tend to put our faith on the back burner and just assume that Jesus will take care of us, which he will. But sometimes, we need that wake up call. We need someone to say, “Quiet! Be Still! Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” The disciples were lucky because Jesus physically spoke to them and told them this. Jesus told them to have faith, to trust, to be still because he knows what he is doing even if it seems as though he is taking a nap. Jesus is not going to walk through your door right now and say “WAAH WAKE UP!” but he might send someone that is in your life to wake you up if that’s what needs to happen. (Yes I did say that in class last week, hand motions and “WAAAAH’ included.)

For me, the words “be still” have never been more relevant. I rush through things and usually forget to slow down, take a break, and listen for that still, small voice. It is easy to get caught up in every day tasks, jobs, classes, shortcomings, achievements, and relationships. I get caught up in studying, working, and everything else in between those two parts of my life. There are so many distractions in our lives that we have an extremely difficult time putting an expectation on ourselves to sit down and take time to refocus. We become afraid of certain situations and forget that Jesus will take away our fears. When we are afraid of certain situations, no matter how big or small they are, we assume that Jesus is taking a nap or ignoring our requests. That isn’t the case at all. We are probably the ones who are taking a nap and ignoring Jesus’ requests for us. We are the ones that need to be woken up and told to be quiet, be still, and be patient. We feel like the Disciples in the boat, we want the quick fix and to know that Jesus is there. We feel as though Jesus is sleeping and want him to wake up. We become so afraid that we think cannot handle what has been given to us and we forget that our Jesus will eventually calm the storm as long as we have faith in his capabilities and plan.

So yes, I do have a tattoo that says, “Be still.” I need to be reminded to “be still” and quiet every single day. It might only be for five minutes before I go to bed, on a 20 minute run, or for two hours. I need to be reminded to stop rushing through my life, to take it all in, to trust, and to know that Jesus doesn’t take naps and forget that I’m his child during those naps.

I want to challenge you to take the time everyday to be still for a minute or for a few hours and just refocus and find your ground again. Your faith is always there, sometimes you just need a wake up call and someone to tell you to quiet down and be still. Sometimes you need to be reminded that the Lord will fight for you, the storm will be calmed, and you do know. You know that God is there; you know that your faith is there; you know that you just need to be quiet and still even if it is just for a few minutes everyday. Jesus ain’t sleepin, he’s doing things that you can’t comprehend right now so just be patient..it’s one of those God things. 

 

 

 

 

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It’s alright, it’s okay.

So, I’m sitting here, attempting to study for my Hebrew final at 9am, realizing that I’ve learned two dead languages in 6 months, remembering that I still don’t have it all figured out, and reminding myself that “it’s all going to be okay.”

It might be the test anxiety, or it might be the sheer panic that takes over when any 23 year old asks themselves that daunting question of “What am I doing with my life?” or “Why am I here?” or even better “What difference did I make today?” Sometimes the answers to these questions are never found, but sometimes they ring as loud as a church bell. Today, the bell was ringing. Maybe not loud, but it was ringing.

Do I know what I’m doing with my life? Right now, yes. I’m going to school, working at Pier One, working at Mount Olivet, living with my best friend, dog sitting my dog while my parents are in Florida, studying, and pulling an all nighter. That’s exactly what I’m doing with my life today. Eventually I will hopefully be a pastor, but right now I’m studying, working, living, hoping, and asking questions. Is there anything wrong with this? No. Do I sometimes feel like this is the wrong path? Yes. Do I forget that God’s in control of my future? Yes. Is that okay? Obviously. But right now, I know what I’m doing, I know where I am, and I know that someday I will get to my end goal of being a pastor. For now, studying and working is the answer to that question. This is okay.

Why am I here? Well, for starters, my dog can’t be left alone so here I sit, writing a blog post, staring at Hebrew, and cuddling with her while she snores and I sit in jealously. SO, that’s why I’m here, at my parents. But, why am I here? What is my purpose in life? My purpose is to live, to laugh, to love, and to enjoy the ride. I’m here to help people discover aspects of their faith. I’m here to help them seek God. I’m here to help myself do both of those things. Sounds simple, right? Those are just the basics. God puts me here for something new everyday, and I haven’t discovered more than three of those reasons. SO, right now, I’m here, at my parents, studying, and cuddling. Is this okay tonight? Yes. Sometimes, the answers are pretty dang simple. I’m here to study and dog sit. Duh. This is allowed, and guess what, it’s okay.

What difference did I make today? Well, good question. I sure hope I made one! We had a Lenten service tonight that the confirmation students were required to go to. Some of the kids came up and hugged me. I like to think that my hug gave them a sense of belonging. I was sitting in the last pew in the sanctuary during the service and not paying attention, but just praying. I hope people saw that they can be a leader from the back of the church and that standing up front in a robe isn’t the only way to lead. Sometimes you just need moments of prayer. I also participated in class and said that Jesus accepts us all no matter who we are. I would hope one of my classmates needed to hear that and felt accepted, loved, and cherished. But truthfully, you can never really know if you have made a difference in another individuals life, so we all strive to continuously make that difference. So, did I make a difference in the world today? I hope so, but I might not ever know. And this, this, is really okay.

In today’s society we get so caught up in having a plan, having a purpose, and making a difference. Oftentimes, we forget about ourselves while pondering all of these questions and goals. Tonight I realized that it’s not always about the future, it’s not always about what I’m doing next, what my purpose will be tomorrow, or what the significance of the difference I’ve made is. It might not always be about those things, but it is about living. It’s about knowing that tomorrow isn’t guaranteed, it’s about believing that where I am and who I am right now is enough. It’s not only enough for the people around me and for myself, but it’s enough for Jesus. It’s about believing that Jesus’ love is unconditional and fulfilling. It’s about believing that it’s okay to not be caught up in having a profound answer to these tough questions we ask ourselves everyday. It’s okay because God has a master plan, Jesus accepts and loves, and the Spirit is working through us in ways that we cannot see.

We always forget that we are enough and we are striving to be more. To trust more, to love more, to laugh more, to dream more, to succeed more, and to serve more. We always want more. We are taught to want more and keep going until we believe we are enough. But tonight, I hope you realize that you are enough. You don’t need more. Sometimes, sitting at your parent’s house, attempting to study, working two jobs, and cuddling with a dog is enough. It’s more than enough. Who you are and where you are right now is right where you are supposed to be. It’s enough for me, and it should be enough for you.

So, let me ask you this: What are you doing with your life? Why are you here? What difference did you make today? I have the obvious answers to the questions for myself. The obvious answers are the necessary answers. Sometimes, it’s those answers that lead you to believe that you are enough. You’re only human, if you can’t conquer everything in one day that is okay. We aren’t made that way. We are made to love, to serve, to forgive, and most importantly, live. Living means making mistakes, questioning, and learning. Living means loving, loving means means living. Live in love, live in the questions, and live because you are being called to live.

Trust me, I don’t have it all figured out yet. I don’t always believe that I am enough. I do believe one thing though and that’s this: You might be stressed, you might be carefree, you might be on vacation, you might be happy, you might be sad, you might not have all the answers, or you might have too many answers. Whatever you are or where ever you are, it’s enough. There is one really cool thing about this life though, about this faith thing, about this God thing. It might not always be easy to believe that all of these things things are true. You know, that God has a plan, Jesus loves you, and the Spirit is working with you. All of those things feel crazy at times. Here’s the cool thing though…are you ready?

Take a deep breath, hold it, let it go..and know this: Everything is going to be okay…it is all going to be okay. 

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