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Death, Grief, Sports, and the Company of Heaven

Devotional Thought of the Day:

Featured image2  This truth gives them confidence that they have eternal life, which God—who does not lie—promised them before the world began. Titus 1:2 (NLT)

1  Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. 2  We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Hebrews 12:1-2 (NLT)

“with angels, and archangels, and all the company of heaven, we praise Your gloriously name”  (words of our liturgy, prior to singing the Sanctus (Holy, Holy, Holy)

It was October 28th, 2004 about 8 o’clock in the morning. I was listening to Jim Rhome’s show on the radio, driving up Palms to Pines Highway, heading to a meeting at my church in Anza.  I had to call into the show, but even as I wanted to tell the story about my grandfather playing catch with me and telling me stories of the red sox greats…. I was overwhelmed, and missed my grandfather.  The grief was hard to bear… even now remembering the grief that flooded….

Friday, two of my friends  and I went to see the move Sniper.  Watching the PTSD build up in Chris Kyle made me think of my dad.  No movies were made about him, but he too saw things, did things, that would haunt him.

Sunday, after an incredible morning in church, my son and I watched our family’s favorite football team, the New England Patriots, come from behind to win a superbowl.  I put on facebook my feelings a few moments after, as I walked through the bedroom and saw the flag presented to me at my dad’s service.  How he would have loved the game.  How he would have loved watching my son throwing a ball back and forth with me during it.  Flashbacks to our driveway in New Hampshire, and my dad and playing catch.  More and more emotions… more and more grief….

Being raised in a Irish/Italian home, I tend to sentimentality.  Even more though, I was raised not to bury grief, but rather to embrace it.  As I say the words in blue above, as I look out over my congregation, faces comes to mind.  I can almost hear their voices as well, part of the great company of heaven.  Those we’ve lost for the moment, those we’ve said good by to over the years.  Guys like Dale, and Richard, my first vicar Clyde and his buddy Armando, Rich B, who helped me define a vision for my present church, and Warren, who helped that vision become reality.  Others who’ve placed great faith in me, like my wife’s grandmother, or Joseph, a dignified retired pastor from Guyana, who pastored “his pastor” with encouragement.  Or Harley, a man who proved I could be his friend as well as his pastor. And yes, my dad…

Grief upon grief, we face a lot of it in life.

Some is quite poignant, the bitterness of not being able to play catch anymore, or watch a game together, arguing about referees calls, or trying to break the record for the most consecutive throws and catches.  (football with my dad was 232 – don’t know why I remember – with my son yesterday… it was 33)

The experience as we get a sense of the great cloud of witnesses, the whole company of heaven is different.  Yeah, I wish I could commune my dad one more time, or either of my grandfathers just once.  Or have a service with all those guys mentioned above…..and yet I know there will be a communion, that lasts eternally, that lasts forever.  And this celebration here, is a small sense of the one there.

For all who believe in God, who trust Him for what He promises will be gathered together again.  We can have confidence in that, because it was promised, this plan of God that even preceded creation.  This promise is the joy that Christ focused upon, even as He was crucified by us, for us.

We will all share eternity with God, our Father, ou Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit.  I can’t tell you what that will look like, because it will beyond anything we’ve ever seen, heard, even thought of, but it will be with Him.

As we hear those words, grief becomes… blessed… it transforms into yearning, and hope.  Not just to see them again, but to be together in the incredible presence of God. He’s promised it, this family gathering that will be forever.  We take that hope into the world, an share it with those who need it as much as we do.   we share it with those who know it, as we celebrate it together, and with those who do not…as we minister to them, where ever we encounter them in life.

even as we play catch with them…. or watch a game with them… or argue about which team is the best in history….

God’s peace to you… in

Where are our Bridges? A Lesson From My Past..

Devotional thought of the day…
 18  Jesus came to them and said: I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth! 19  Go to the people of all nations and make them my disciples. Baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, 20  and teach them to treasure (do)  everything I have told you. I will be with you always, even until the end of the world.   Matthew 28:18-20 (CEV) adapted

Monday, Wednesday and this mornign I returned to my undergraduate alma mater, the school were 30 years ago I started my journey towards becoming a pastor.  I had the pleasure of working with some senior students, talking to them about sacramental views of the Lord’s Supper.  It’s been a great experience, and provoked not only much thought about what I beleive and why I trust in God, but many memories.

As I walked across campus, I saw where the escalators were, and even though they never ran, it still seemed odd that they weren’t there.

Even odder was that the walking bridge that cross Nutwood Avenue is no longer there.  Though never an “official” symbol of the school, it was a valued object lesson in missions, and in going to “all nations”.  For across that bridge was the world, or at least the 28,000  students of California State University at Fullerton.  A veritable mission field, and one of the reasons my alma mater, Pacific Christian College (now Hope International University), was re-located from Long Beach to Fullerton.  28,000 students, their faculty and staff, and our little school of 400 students had a mission field.

That bridge was our access point.  Sure, you could cross at crosswalks – crosswalks that were still there.

Doug Dickey was one of my professors, as in his retirement he served as a professor of homilatics (preaching) and as the pastor of Campus Christian Fellowship.  He led the students who did outreach over the CSUF.  He constantly encouraged and molded us to keep our sermons and our ministry focused on Jesus, on Christ crucified.   When i would write a sermon about some great theological truth, the question asked was, “where is Christ-crucified in your sermon Dustin?  How will it save anyone, how will it give them hope?”

The Bridge….. was a way to share Christ… it was a way into others lives… it was a way to get to the what Peter called, “the words of life!”  The words that were the reason Peter and others stayed with Christ.  Words that made even more sense after the cross.  A Bridge Doug would cross – leading us in prayer, zealous to engage our peers and friends in conversation, conversations that would eventually focus them on the cross, and on the love of God, and the presence of God in thieir lives.   That bridge, it was the way to get the message out to the world, to people of every ethnicity, of every imaginable type.

It leaves me think ing….

Where are my bridges today?  Where are yours?  Were are the places we can go – to teach people of all nations about a Lord who loves them enough to die for them?

Dove of the Holy Spirit (ca. 1660, alabaster, ...

Dove of the Holy Spirit (ca. 1660, alabaster, Throne of St. Peter, St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The local coffee shop?  A Doctor’s office?

Where are our bridges, where we can teach everyone to treasure what Jesus has taught us…

To teach us His love…

May we never forget those people – or how to get to them….

 

 

 

Graveyard Shift @ Denny’s, Memories, and Ministry now…

Devotion of the Day:

1 Corinthians 1:26-31 (TEV) 26 Now remember what you were, my friends, when God called you. From the human point of view few of you were wise or powerful or of high social standing. 27 God purposely chose what the world considers nonsense in order to shame the wise, and he chose what the world considers weak in order to shame the powerful. 28 He chose what the world looks down on and despises and thinks is nothing, in order to destroy what the world thinks is important. 29 This means that no one can boast in God’s presence. 30 But God has brought you into union with Christ Jesus, and God has made Christ to be our wisdom. By him we are put right with God; we become God’s holy people and are set free. 31 So then, as the scripture says, “Whoever wants to boast must boast of what the Lord has done.” 

This morning, after a very early dental appt, (Awesome Dentist is Dr. Grammas) I went to breakfast at a place I spent all to much time in college.

You see, I worked graveyard shift – both in High School and College, and I went to the Denny’s that was up the street from my dentist – the very one I worked at.

Memories of the kids from Chapman College – regular Friday night customers, and the staff from a local night club called Oscar’s, and the 3 couples that came in every night, ordered 3 bottles of wine and a plate of nachos.  Sam the Limo driver (a great tipper btw) and them Lisa and Vicky – my coworkers, and John and Miguel the cooks.  My senior pastor’s mom – who always left me very encouraging comment cards (they still sit in my file cabinet – one rubber banded handful fo them)  – I was taken back there…even thought the restaurant has been radically remodeled.  It’s been over 25 years since I worked there, yet the memories still are powerful….

The thoughts also made me think of this unique journey I’ve been on, and where I am now, of what I’ve done – of what I do.

It is a unique life, that of being a pastor – that of serving people when life it at its hardest, when it is at its most complicated, when they realize that they need God to come to them.  It is often then, that people finally listen a bit (there are some that always listen – but the bulk of people we minister too… get to distracted by life.)  they finally realize what it means to know God is with you.  When all else falls away, when our culture is seen to be worthless, when money or prestige, or possessions can not make a difference.  What has been set aside, what is considered not worth the time, becomes such, that which is passively rejected – now means something.  And pastors and priests are there to provide it.

What would life look like, if we didn’t ignore our faith?  What would it look like if we didn’t neglect our salvation?  How different would our lives look, and how would we spend our time?   Would we stress out as much, when the world seems to collapse?

What would it look like if we daily realized,  30 But God has brought you into union with Christ Jesus, and God has made Christ to be our wisdom. By him we are put right with God; we become God’s holy people and are set free.”

To be honest I am not sure – but I know today – we can realize this… and may our lives reflect it to others…

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