Fourth Sunday After Pentecost Father’s Day June 20, 2021
Redeemer United Church Of Christ ( Zuehl ) Marion, TX
“ Calming The Storm ”
( Job 38: 1-11 , II Corinthians 6: 1-13, Mark 4: 35-41 )
Rev. Peter E. Bauer
Today we are honoring Fathers, those who are currently parenting children, those who have adult children, and those fathers who have died and who are no longer with us. Fatherhood is an important institution. Social scientists will say that children thrive better when there is as father in the home ( National Institute of Fatherhood 2000 ). But the sad reality is that we have a lot of children who have fathers that are absolutely absent in their lives . Again, in some cases, this phenomena can produce problems for children, lower academic performance, conflicts with other children, conduct and behavioral problems, and struggles with self-esteem and mental health. Children in single parent families, either led by a mother or a father, can also thrive well. But a single parent will probably tell you, that there are occasions when they wish they had someone to help them with parenting.
Think about your own family. Did your Dad teach you how to fish or hunt, how to catch and throw a ball, how to repair a car or tractor engine ? All of these are very important skills to learn.
Maybe, your father wasn’t that present in your home or in your life. He might have been working hard, earning a living and in the process was barely visible within the life of the family.
The late singer-songwriter Harry Chapin noted in his song
“ Cat’s In The Cradle “
“ And the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man in the moon
"When you coming home, dad?" "I don't know when"
But we'll get together then
You know we'll have a good time then”
The song of course chronicles the story of a son and dad trying to connect but it never happens. The dad is usually too busy to engage with his son. Finally when the son becomes an adult, the dad wants to spend time with the son and you guessed it, The son now is too busy to spend time with the dad. The vicious cycle of neglect continues.
The movie “ Manchester By The Sea “ is a 2016 American independent tragedy film written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan that stars Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, Kyle Chandler, and Lucas Hedges. The plot follows a depressed man who, after his brother dies, is entrusted with the care of the latter's teenage son. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manchester_by_the_Sea_(film)
Lee Chandler, portrayed by Casey Affeck, is a handyman. He is a troubled soul having lost his own children to a tragic house fire that kills his children. Subsequently he and his wife divorce.
When he least expects it, his brother dies and he finds out that his brother has entrusted to him the care of his teenage nephew Patrick. This story creates a tumultuous storm movement of its own. Lee is suffering from Depression and Substance Abuse and Patrick is trying to make his way in the world, as a 16 year old boy, active with playing hockey and also involved with his girlfriend. Both Lee and Patrick are experiencing their own respective storms and yet it is in their connection and interaction that there begins to emerge some stability and comfort for both of them.
Mark tells the story of Jesus being in the boat with the disciples. Jesus says to the disciples:
“ Let us got over to the other side. “ ( Mark 4:35 ). So Jesus and the disciples go in the boat, along with other boats, and they go to the other side of the lake. All of a sudden, a furious squall comes up and waves are breaking over the boat so that it is nearly swamped The disciples are anxious, nervous and understandably scared. Jesus is described as being in the stern sleeping on a cushion. The disciples in turn wake Jesus up and they say, “ Teacher don’t you care if we drown ? “ It’s the fear and the danger of the situation that prompts the disciples to entreat Jesus to save them.
A young boy was once left stranded and the first responders arrived and took care of the child. The first thing that the child asked the rescuers was : “ Hey mister, do you know how to drive ? “
The disciples are uncannily asking Jesus
“ Do you know how to drive ? “ Do you know how to lead and how to provide protection ?
Jesus does respond by getting up, rebuking the wind and saying to the waves: “ Quiet, be still ! “.
The text then states “ that the wind died down and it was completely calm “ ( Mark 4: 39 ).
Jesus then says to the disciples: “ Why are you so afraid ? Do you still have no faith ?
( Mark 4 : 39-40 ) The disciples, at this point, still don’t appreciate what has happened. They are terrified and they ask each other: “ Who is this ? Even the wind and the waves obey him ! “
Fathers and mothers ideally provide strength and security for their children. When this doesn’t happen, for whatever reason, it means that there is a disturbance in the attachment between the parent and the child. If the attachment disturbance continues, it can be a recipe for the child to experience possible long term challenges in being able to trust and connect with others that can long extend into adulthood. Churches can be supportive for parents who are trying to become more effective with their parenting skills. For years, congregations haver offered their space to hos classes for Systematic Effective Parenting Program ( S.T. E. P ). This program helps parents anticipates the developmental stages of development for children from toddlers to teenagers and helps fathers and mothers interact effectively with children regarding communication and appropriate discipline. Newer programs like Scream-Free Parenting are also now being offered in church settings.
Jesus calmed the storm that surrounded the disciples. What storm are you facing right now ?. What storm am I facing right now? Jesus comes to us and asks that we allow his entrance into our lives. Like the child who asked the first responder: “ Hey mister, do you know how to drive ? “ Jesus offers to us protection, nurturance and guidance as we continue our relationship with God who is Emmanuel , who is “ with us and among us. “
May our storms be stilled.
May our lives be comforted.
May all fathers and mothers be blessed and may children and adults continue to flourish.
May it be so this day and always.
In Christ’s name.
Second Sunday After Pentecost June 6 2021
Redeemer United Church Of Christ ( Zuehl ) Marion, TX
“ Who Belongs In Your Family ? “
( I Samuel 8: 4-11, II Corinthians 4:13-5:1 , Mark 3: 20-35)
Rev. Peter E. Bauer
You have probably seen the television commercials for companies like Ancestry.Com, 23 and Me etc. which promise to give people insights with regard to their genetic background and history. The rise in sales of DNA kits helped Ancestry, which also offers subscriptions to amateur and professional genealogists for access to its trove of research documents and family trees, to grow revenue to $850 million, up 25% form a year earlier. Jan 10, 2017
23 and Me also provides Genetic testing, genealogical testing and medical research. According to Forbes magazine they earned $475.1 Million ( 2019 ) and reported having 683 employees ( 2017 ). That’s as lot of forensic swabs !
The PBS show “ Finding Your Roots “ with Harvard Historian Henry Louis Gates Jr. spotlights various well-known celebrities, authors, actors, etc. and also provides a genetic blueprint for the guests regarding their particular genealogy. All of this tells me that many humans are concerned about their origin. What is their ethnic and social history ? Who were their people ? What group and with whom do we belong? These can become complicated and even perplexing questions.
A few years ago, there was an interesting discovery in my family. My wife found out that she has a cousin that she didn’t know existed. This information came to light through Ancestry.Com. After reviewing a lot of information online and having a series of telephone conversations, we were finally acquainted with cousin Billy. Indeed, his mother had suffered from a terrible mental illness and as a child, Bill had to go live with an aunt who did not treat him well. He suffered a lot of emotional and psychological abuse. He was able to join the military and had a successful military career. He is now retired and is working successfully as a civilian for the federal government. Bill is a wonderful guy and yet if it were not for the science of genetic and genealogical testing, he wouldn’t have become a part of our lives.
We usually define family as who is related to whom. Social scientists have developed the tool know as a genogram which can graphically show trends in a family over generations regarding health, illness, separations, divorces, births and deaths. I would imagine if we did genograms of families here at Redeemer United Church, we would see a lot of people related to one another over a series of families. This speaks to our interconnectedness as s community with our German, Czech and other cultural influences. Family and community are very important to us here at Redeemer, as they should be. Our Christian faith, is also asking us to look beyond family and community.
The text from II Corinthians states as follows:
“ So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. “ ( II Corinthians 4: 18 . You may have experienced moments in your life, I know I have, when the unexplainable happened. You missed the impact of an automobile accident by inches. Or you had the experience of being run off of the road by an 18 wheeler truck and you lived to tell about it. Or maybe you discovered other critical elements of information regarding your personal and family history that helped the pieces of that puzzle come together for you. When the spirit of God touches our lives, amazing things can happen. New insight, new joy and new purpose kin our lives can become ours.
This is what I think Jesus was getting at from our Gospel passage for today. Mark relates that Jesus’ mother, Mary, arrived at a house where Jesus was staying. They were standing outside and they sent someone in to call him. You can appreciate that they were probably worried about Jesus. They might have been concerned about what he might be saying and if it would cause a disturbance, particularly if it incited the Roman authorities. The crowd was sitting around Jesus and they told him, “ Your mother and brothers are outside waiting for you. “ ( Mark 3: 31-32 ) Again, we are hearing the argument that what constitutes family is belonging to a particular tribe, or clan. The message they are telling Jesus is “ Your people are waiting for you. “ But here, Jesus turns the tables on everyone. Jesus asks “ Who are my mother and my brothers ? He looks around at those who are seated on the ground around him and he says
“ Hear are my mother and my brothers. Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother. “ Jesus is redefining family here. Jesus in reimagining what the community of the faithful looks like.
This may be hard for us to hear. Those who belong to the family of faith may be different from us, may not look like us, may not think like us. I’ve talked to a lot of young people who joined the military partly to get away from home environments which were not safe, where there was abuse. These young people would say to me “ the people with whom I am serving feel more like family, feel more like people that I can trust versus the people with whom I was raised.” What kind of family can we become as the Church ? Will we be exclusive, only associating with those who believe and think as we do or will we be willing to open the doors and windows and allow for further dialogue and education and understanding regarding how the Gospel Of Jesus, the Good News, affects and transforms the lives of all people ?
Genetic and genealogical research platforms have brought new insight regarding how we understand where we have come from and what we have become as people. New family members like Billy have been discovered. How we understand our genealogical roots has also changed as well.
May we remember as The United Church Of Christ affirms; “ No matter where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here. “
May it be so for us all this day and always.
In Christ’s Name.
Trinity Sunday Memorial Day Sunday May 30 2021
Redeemer United Church Of Christ ( Zuehl ) Marion, TX
“ Busy Being Born Or Busy Dying ? “
( Isaiah 6: 1-8, Romans 8: 12-17, John 3: 1-17)
Rev. Peter E. Bauer
During July of 1969, my mother and I took a road trip from Portland, Or to Milton-Freewater, Or ( Eastern Oregon ) to visit our cousins Richard and Virginia Gullixson. We were planning on staying overnight with them and then drive on to Spokane, Wa to visit with my mother’s Uncle Herb. The drive to Milton-Freewater was long and hot. We passed a lot of wheat fields in Eastern Oregon. Richard worked for the Army Corps Of Engineers. He was involved with a lot of the maintenance projects for the hydroelectric dam system on the Columbia River. Virginia was a stay at home mother.
I remember that my mother told me that we had to be careful regarding what we discussed because Richard and Virginia had recently lost their son Richard Jr. who was killed in Vietnam. He was assigned to a parachute unit and on his first night jump he was descending into enemy territory. He had been shot by North Vietnamese forces and was found dead hanging in his parachute that got caught in a tree. Richard and Virginia had a lovely house. They were the perfect gracious host and hostess. They insisted that we stay with them for the night. Virginia told me “ You can stay in Richard’s room tonight. “ Then she added, “ You’ll be our son for tonight. “
Now this quite a lot for a 16 year old boy to absorb. I went into his room and the room was immaculate and it looked the same as when Richard Jr. ( Ritchie ) had left for the Army. There was a big world globe, a baseball bat and his catcher’s MIT. Also neatly folded on his bed were his Carolina blue pajamas which I wore that night. Yes, this was a strange and unnerving experience for me. Yet, somehow I knew, even at 16, that I had to keep it together. I had to be cool and support them because I knew that they were going through tremendous grief due to the death of their son. I’ve thought back to that night many times over the years. This event is probably one of the main reasons that I have spent so many years providing emotional and psychological support to Veterans.
On Memorial Day, we remember those who lost their lives in the service to their country. Those who died in war, those who died in the line of duty and those who have subsequently died after their military service and also for all of their family members who have been affected by this loss. How we memorialize those family members, friends, etc. that we have lost can be described as discovering how we can be born into a new life, post the death of a loved one,
due to combat and military service or it can be busy dying to unrelenting grief and sadness.
Clearly, Richard and Virginia were stuck in their grief. Who could blame them ? They lost their son who was 20 years old. Someone in the prime of his life who had the potential and promise of a long life ahead of him. Yet, this did not occur.
Isaiah, the prophet, describes this vision that he has of seeing these seraphs, each with six wings. He records that they were calling to one another “ Holy ,Holy, Holy is the Lord Almighty, the whole earth is full of his glory. “ Yet Isaiah observes: “ Woe to me, I cried. I am ruined. For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty ( Isaiah 8: 2-5 )
Oh, how I relate to Isaiah !
When you experience something traumatic, whether it be a car accident or loosing a friend to death, your brain is busy trying to figure out what happened. All the scenes of the incident are replayed and a person may find themselves playing would a, should a, could a. Meaning, I wish I had done this action and not that action. I should have done something different. I could have saved this person from dying or prevented this tragedy from occurring. Over the years, I have seen many people suffering from trauma who have been asking these same questions. It can be their attempt of trying to get the mental picture straight in their head.
John introduces us to Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. He was a Pharisee. Nicodemus wanted to see Jesus and to converse with him, but the only time that was available was to see Jesus at night. Nicodemus acknowledges Jesus as teacher. He says: “ For no one could perform the miraculous signs that you are doing if God were not with him. ( John 3: 2 )
It’s here that Jesus has this conversation with Nicodemus about “ being born again. “ Nicodemus isn’t getting what Jesus is saying. He’s thinking that he may have to be physically born again.
Instead, Jesus is telling Nicodemus and us that our new life is not a physical one but it is spiritual life that has been rejuvenated.
I felt very bad for Richard and Virginia. I wanted to do something to help them, but I didn’t know what to do. Five years later in August of 1974, my mother and I saw Richard and Virginia again. This time were invited to the wedding of their daughter Laurie. The wedding occurred outside in the Shakespeare garden of the Rose gardens in Washington Park overlooking the city of Portland. It was a picture perfect August summer afternoon in Portland. Laurie looked beautiful in her wedding gown. Richard and Virginia were both beaming with pride. I was happy to see them again. They looked much better and I didn’t sense as much pain and grief as before.
After the wedding, we were back at my cousin Duane’s house in Southwest Portland for the reception. Richard offered me my first beer and we talked about school. I thought about how they had expressed their grief regarding the death of their son. I wanted to mention Ritchie in our conversation, but I didn’t because I thought it might be too overwhelming and I didn’t want to put a damper on the wedding celebration.
Bob Dylan once observed
“ that he who is not busy being born is busy dying. “ I think the meaning here is that we are always about reinventing our lives again and again and again. We leave childhood, travel through adolescence and arrive at adulthood, perhaps feeling like we don’t have everything we need in order to survive and to grow. Our Christian faith tells us that our life continues to develop. We don’t stay the same. Who we are in our 20’s is not the same person we are in our 70’s. That’s a good thing. We want to grow and evolve.
Being busy being born is away to live out the reality of the Resurrection of Jesus in our lives. We continue to be transformed through the love of God. That transformation doesn’t just occur individually, but it also occurs in our life with others in the community of faith.
May we continue to see our continuing transformation. May we know that we are continuing to be born anew again and again. May we embrace this new life and make it our own.
May it be so.
In Jesus’ name.
Pentecost Sunday Graduation Sunday May 23 2021
Redeemer United Church Of Christ ( Zuehl ) Marion, TX
“ We’re Always Graduating From Something “
( Acts 2: 1-21, Romans 8: 22-27, John 16: 4b-15 )
Rev. Peter E. Bauer
I must have been six or seven years old. I was riding my bike and I still had training wheels on the bike. I remember I felt really self-conscious. All of the other kids were riding their bikes without training wheels and I still had mine on. One day a neighbor helped remove the training wheels from my bike. This was D-Day. Next store to our house at 1826 SE 80Th Avenue in Portland, Or was Jim Bridger Grade School and its big playground. I got on my bike and ventured forth slowly, wobbling back and forth. I managed to get to the cement playground and a voice told me peddle harder and faster and I did. Then it happened: I discovered that if you peddled fast the momentum kept you upright and you were balanced and you didn’t fall.
At that moment, I discovered the freedom of mobility ! What a liberating moment ! On a bicycle you had the ability to be mobile ! I had graduated from training wheels to a two- wheel bicycle !
In the movie “ Kramer Vs. Kramer “ ( 1979 ) Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep portray Ted and Joanna Kramer., They are going through a divorce. Their son Billy Kramer played by Justin Henry is emotionally torn by the reality of his parents breaking up. Billy, like me, experiences his freedom one day when his father takes him to Central Park in New York and Billy discovers that he can ride his bike for the first time ! The camera shows a great shot of Billy joyfully riding his bike into the distance while his father ( Ted ) is grinning, celebrating and waving his fists in the air. I came from a single parent family and when I saw the movie in (1979) I felt envious of Billy. He had his father with him when he discovered his moment of freedom. Billy also was able to graduate from training wheels to a two- wheeled bicycle, with the sound of the Mandolin Concerto in C Major by Antonio Vivaldi playing in the background.
Today we are celebrating Pentecost, the beginning of the church and we are also celebrating our graduates. Both Pentecost and graduation have something in common. Pentecost really is a watershed moment. The early followers of Jesus have experienced Jesus’ death by Crucifixion, they have also been transformed by the Resurrection of Jesus and have even been eye witnesses to appearances of him after the resurrection. Now a new manifestation, the Holy Spirit will emerge.
The writer of Acts tells us:
“ They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. “ ( Acts 2: 3-4 ) The gift of the Holy Spirit transformed the life of this early community of believers. They graduated into becoming a church, an “ecclesia “ also known as an assembly. The Holy Spirit, the “ comforter “ would now lead this group of followers of Jesus to become a force of compassion and reconciliation in the world of the first century. These early followers of Jesus graduated into a mobilized force with the mission of proclaiming the presence of the Kingdom Of God. They would move from meeting in homes to gathering in a meeting place to centuries later gathering in great cathedrals.
The movement of the Holy Spirit never stops and its manifestations are always new and unpredictable. You know that to be true when something happens to you which confirms your belief. “ A God Moment “ For you, it might have been that word of encouragement from a parent or from a teacher. It might have been that financial gift of generosity when you least expected it. It might have been that friend who stated with you when you were sick or when a family member died or when you life changed unexpectedly due to some other tragedy. God moments come in all sizes, shapes and manifestations.
Today, our graduates are experiencing their own “ God “ moment. The end of studies has occurred, and degrees awarded and now the road to the future is open with new possibilities.
Education gives people not only knowledge but it also provides choice, as to what to be and what to become. There are 19 colleges with full affiliation with the United Church Of Christ Council; on Higher Education and 11 historically related colleges and universities affiliated with the UCC. Theological education institutions include Harvard and Yale Divinity Schools, Union Theological Seminary in New York, Eden Theological Seminary in Webster Groves, Mo. And Pacific School Of Religion in Berkeley ,Ca. among others. Initially church related educational institutions were for the purpose of educating clergy like Harvard and Yale. Now, of course, education has become inclusive of other areas, focused on the sciences, technology, health care, human services etc.
As people and as followers of Jesus, we are constantly evolving, constantly changing. We Are graduating from period to period in life, from childhood to adolescence, from young adult hood to middle age and then to our senior years. All along the way there are births, marriages, divorce, remarriages, health, illness, death.
As Jackson Browne astutely observed:
“ With so much changing
And changing for the worst,
You got to keep your head up baby,
From the cradle to the hearse. “
( About My Imagination )
Yes, there is new life. Pentecost marked the beginning of new life for the followers of Jesus. The church was born and there was a purpose and a mission that would live long after the lives had ended for those initial believers. Today, our graduates embark upon their new lives, to new jobs, to new educational institutions, to service in the military, to continued service in our community. We’re all graduating from something. The challenge becomes are we aware of where we have come from and where we are going ?
The old saying goes:
“ When you travel, its always helpful to be with others as opposed to being alone. “ The church, make that our church, is here for you and me, but it is also here for others. That’s what we are called to be, evangelists proclaiming the Good News. Like transitioning from training wheels to two wheels, our freedom begins.
What’s your good news ?
What’s my good news ?
Hopefully, it is that God is with us in all times and in all places.
Through Jesus we graduate to all different phases in life and the grace and love of Jesus can be made manifest in our lives.
May it be so.
In Jesus Name.
Seventh Sunday Of Easter May 16, 2021
Redeemer United Church Of Christ (Zuehl) Marion, TX
( Acts 1:15-17, 21-26; Psalm 1; John 17:6-19)
Rev. Jennifer Gold