Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Direct TV and the NFL's View of Manhood

If you are watching TV, by now you have probably seen one of Direct TV's ads for their NFL package staring Randy Moss, Peyton Manning, Tony Romo and Andrew Luck.  (If you haven't you can view them all on youtube).  They build off of their popular Rob Lowe "Don't be like this me" ads of those who have Direct TV and those who don't. Except these are about people who have the NFL Sunday ticket and those who don't.

My biggest problem with these ads is the view of manhood or masculinity that they are portraying. The opposite Randy Moss is short, the opposite Peyton Manning has a high voice, the opposite Tony Romo does art and cooks and the opposite Andrew Luck has cats.  So in other words if you don't fit the narrow, confining idea of who and what a man is in our culture than you aren't a real man, and real men, of course, watch the NFL.

As someone who is 2" shorter than the average height for white males in America, has a voice higher than I would like and owns two cats, I guess I simply don't qualify to get the NFL package.  Although the truth is it's because of the ridiculous amount of money they charge.  I get 162 games of the Yankees, and every other MLB team, for less than 1/2 the cost of the NFL package which only has 16 games.

It seems sort of surprising in the year 2015 that we would still get this idea of manhood portrayed, and yet at the same time it's not.  But you would think that with all the problems the NFL has had over the past year, as well as their marketing drive to try and get more women to watch, that they would be trying to tone down this idea of ultra-masculinity, rather than pumping it up.  But instead the opposite is being done here.

It's time for other companies, perhaps Dish Network or one of the cable companies, to come out with "Don't be like this Direct TV" and give us some positive role models of men who don't fit the "normal, acceptable" role of masculinity.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Down on the Farm: Is This a Weed?

Here is my sermon from Sunday.  The text was Matthew 13:24-30:

Before being appointed here to Mesa View, we served two rural congregations outside of Clovis.  We worshiped in House, New Mexico at 9 am, and then I quickly got into my car for a 30 minutes to drive to the larger of the two churches in Melrose, and that’s 30 minutes going much faster than the speed limit posted on the county roads because there was nothing in between except farms and ranches.  One day as I was driving out to House, I saw a man who was just standing out in one of the fields.  I thought it was a little unusual, and on the way back to Melrose he was still standing there.  Again I thought that was a little strange, but what do I know about farming?  Perhaps there was a perfectly reasonable excuse for what he was doing.  But the next week he was out there again, just standing there, and so now my curiosity got the better of me and I had to stop, and so I got out of the car and yelled over to him and he smiled and waved, and I said, “I just have to know what you’re doing?”  And he said “I’m trying to win the Nobel Prize” and I said, “The Nobel prize,” and he said, “Yeah, it’s pretty prestigious, and I heard that if you win one they give you more than a million dollars.”  I said that was true but didn’t really understand how he was going to win the Nobel prize, and he said, “we’ll what they say is that to win the Nobel prize, you have to be outstanding in your field, and since I’m the only one standing in my field, I think I’ve got a pretty good chance.”

Last week we began a new sermon series in which we are looking at what we can learn about growing our faith based on lessons from the farm, and idea I stole from Rev. Adam Hamilton, and today we continue with another agricultural parable from Jesus.  There are only two times we have Jesus talking about weeds.  The first is in today’s passage, commonly called the parable of the wheat and the tares, and the second is in the passage we heard last week in the parable of the sower.  In that passage, Jesus says that a sower went out to sow seeds and some fell on hard ground, and the birds ate it up.  Some fell on rocky ground, but the soil wasn’t deep enough for the roots to take hold, and so when the son came up the plants withered and died, other seeds were planted among the thorns, or weeds, but the weeds grew up along with the other plants and choked them out, and finally some of the seeds fell on the good soil and those seeds grew into a bountiful harvest.  Now the analogy that Jesus is making in that parable is that the soil is supposed to be our hearts, and the seed is the word of God.  And we should ask ourselves how prepared we are to receive God’s word, to have it take root in our lives.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Down on the Farm: Stuck in the Mud

Here is my sermon from Sunday.  The text was Matthew 13:1-9:

Once upon I time I worked for a non-profit group that built low income housing using environmentally sustainable building materials.  As one of our projects, we built a demonstration house out of straw bales on the Navajo reservation for an 86 year-old woman.  In order to help prepare for that, I borrowed my dad’s truck and picked up a 15 foot trailer in Gallup, along with a full load of straw bales and headed out to the building site.  I pulled the truck up to where we thought would be the easiest place to unload the bales and once I stopped, the truck and trailer promptly sank into the sand.  After we got the bales unloaded we then tried to get the truck out, and try as we might it didn’t want to go.  The tires just spun and we got more stuck. Eventually two other trucks with four-wheel-drive were able to pull me out.   I’m sure it’s an experience that many of you have had, whether it’s sand, or snow, or mud, where no matter what you do you can’t get out and you spin and spin your wheels and wait for something or someone else to help.  Being stuck in the mud could be a metaphor for the human condition.

Today we begin a new sermon series looking at how we grow our faith, based on lessons that we can learn from life on the farm, an idea I stole from Rev. Adam Hamilton, and today we begin by looking at soil and mud.  I know that some of you grew up on farms, but I did not.  Although the house I grew up in was surrounded by agriculture, there was a cotton field a half block from the house, and orange groves less than a mile away, our agriculture was limited to a small garden in the side yard, and all that I can really remember about that, besides having to pull weeds, is the big green caterpillars that loved to attack the tomato plants, and the only thing I grow now is hair, and I obviously can’t even do a very good job at that anymore.  So I’ve spent a lot of time recently trolling the extension programs of different universities around the country trying to learn a thing or two about farming, and may have learned just enough to make me dangerous.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Who Are We Going To Blame?

This past weekend I was at a retreat, and during some free time there was horseback riding offered, which my family and I decided to do.  As we headed out, there was a wrangler at the head of the line, and then there was one person between her and me in the third spot.  As we were riding, the person in front of me was very concerned with her horse getting too close the wrangler's horse and kept pulling back on her reigns rather unnecessarily.  Rather than letting her horse do what he wanted to do as a trained trail horse, she wanted to keep a tight reign on him.

As we kept going and started climbing up a hill, the wrangler's horse either got spooked, or just acted up, and turned and jumped.  This caused the person in front of me, who was already too tight, to start pulling back on her horse to try and get away, but then rather than stopping, she kept pulling back on the reigns, and pulling back, and pulling back.

If you are familiar with horses, you know that pulling back forces them to go backward, and so the more she pulled, the more the horse went backward and the faster he started going.  Even though the other wrangler who was riding next to us was yelling at her to stop and let go of the reigns, she didn't stop.  This then caused the horse to get into a position he couldn't sustain and to fall over backwards, which then threw her out of the saddle, and fortunately to be able to get out of the way as the horse then rolled over the same way she had fallen.  She was a little dirty and sore, but escaped what could have been a series accident.

As this was happening, I quickly pulled back and to the right on my horse to get him out of the way, but then let up and he settled down and we stopped and stood where we were.  This is not to praise the way I handled it, because if I had been where she was perhaps things would have gone differently, and I would have reacted differently.  It's always really easy to say "If I would have been there, I would have done X" because you don't know.  I did trust my horse to do what it needed to do once we were clear of the immediate danger.

But, it's what happened afterwards that is the point of this story, because rather than taking any blame on herself for pulling back on the reigns forcing the horse into the situation she got into, instead she blamed the horse.  It was the horse that acted up, it was the horse that bolted, and she said she's had horses act up before but she doesn't put up with it (she told a story of a horse biting her to which she slapped it on the head and it never did it again).

After the next group to ride came back, everyone else wanted to know who rode that horse and if they had any problems.  Of course they didn't because what happened was first of all a fluke, and secondly it was never the horse's fault.  The horse did what the rider was telling him to do, and never should have been blamed in the first place.  But isn't that our nature?

Rather than taking responsibility, we look for who else might be responsible, who else can we blame. And I am just as guilty of this as anyone else.  After my first year in my current church, I said that I could no longer lay responsibility for things at the feet of the former pastor because now it was getting to be all my responsibility. There are still lots of things I want to blame others for, but the truth is I am just as culpable now.

But even worse, the blame game not only shifts responsibility, it also shifts, or stops, the ability to try and do something different or to learn from our mistakes.  Until we learn to admit our mistakes, and not blame others, then we can never learn from what we did wrong, and use that to make us better at whatever it is that we want to do.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

NCAA Math and Language

This weekend the NCAA football season kicked off.  It featured Saturday Night Football, except it was played on Monday.  And that game featured Ohio State from the Big 10, except there are actually 12 teams in the conference, and the Big 12 conference has only 10 teams.

With logic like this, is it any wonder that the "student-athlete" idea is totally out of wack?

Monday, September 7, 2015

Shhh... It's a Secret

Here is my sermon from Sunday.  The text was Mark 7:24-37:

The Spork is a model of American ingenuity, or perhaps we should say of American cheapness.  Patented in 1970 by the Van Brode Milling Company of Clinton, Massachusetts, it also one of the most worthless of tools.  The version of the spork with which most of us are so familiar is the one we get at fast food restaurants, where the plastic tongues snap off if you ever actually had to try and use it as a fork, for which it was designed, and yet it’s worthless as a spoon as well, because the liquid wants to exit through the slits that represent the sporks tines.  While it’s been said that you cannot be “kind of” or “sort of” pregnant, that you are either pregnant or not, the spork truly represents the kind of or sort of aspects of our life, neither quite one nor the other, neither quite spoon nor fork.  In their ode to the spork at (and yes there is such a site, although it says it hasn’t been updated since 1996) the writers claim “the spork is a perfect metaphor for human existence.  It tries to function as both a spoon and a fork, and because of this dual nature, it fails miserably at both.  You cannot have soup with a spork; it is far too shallow.  You cannot eat meat with a fork; the prongs are too small.”  I don’t know what really got me thinking about the spork, but it occurred to me on Friday morning as I was thinking about how I was going to start today’s message, that perhaps the spork also represents how some of us try and live out our Christian life, especially when it comes to the dreaded “e” word, evangelism.

In today’s passage, Jesus is out wandering around in gentile, that is non-Jewish areas.  It’s not exactly clear where Jesus actually is because we are told that he was coming from the region of Tyre, which is north of the Sea of Galilee on the coast in modern day Lebanon.  That much is clear and in the beginning of the passage that was assigned for today, which you will find in your scripture insert, but which we didn’t read, Jesus encounters a woman who is described as being syrophonecian, which makes total sense because Tyre was part of the area known as Phoenicia, but was part of the roman province of Syria.  So we know where he was when he started, but then we are told that he makes his way back to the Sea of Galilee by way of Sidon, which is twelve miles to the north of the city of Tyre, sort of like saying we went from Albuquerque to Las Cruces by way of Bernalillo, and then to confuse even more, it says in the region of the Decapolis, which was a region made up of ten cities on the eastern side of the Sea of Galilee, sort of across from the area known as Galilee.  But somewhere in there, a group of people bring to Jesus a man who is deaf and has an impediment in his speech and they beg Jesus to lay hands on the man and heal him.