Relationships Begin in the Restroom?

From Robert’s Round Table

IntersectionsI am enjoying our Easter Season Intersections Sermon Series. The topics represent some of the most commonly stated reasons people 18-35 say they are not attending a church. This week’s theme of sexual identity and faith is one of the most sensitive reasons young people refrain from being part of the church. In short, the church’s judgmental attitude of people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity ranks high on the list for millennials who “just say no” to church. Of course, no generation is homogeneous in their beliefs and values, but overwhelmingly younger adults reject the notion that God rejects persons based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. Most young adults do not believe that a person chooses their sexual orientation or their gender identity and that even if they do, a God of love, mercy and compassion would not banish them from eternal life based on those factors alone. Most young people believe that our sexual identity is part of our genetic make-up, not a social choice. And, increasingly so do older adults.

Human sexuality has always been a “hot button” issue for communities of faith perhaps because of the socialized intimacy associated with sex or because our sexuality brings us as close as we may to being co-creators with God, the Creator of the universe. With genetic research and cloning this notion is changing somewhat, but throughout time the human reproductive miracle has stirred debate among the faithful. Humanity has evolved in our understanding of the miracle of birth from the blessings or curses of idols to the mythical stork of children’s tales to the invention of contraception and ever closer to genetic selection which allows would be parents to select the gender or other characteristics of their child. I know, the last one is a bit scary when you think about the possible consequences for society as a whole. Regardless, we are not as under informed as our ancestors were when it comes to sexuality and reproduction.

The Bible is full of stories, poems, and decrees about human sexuality. Many people believe that scripture is anti-sex, or at least anti-sexual enjoyment and that in the perception of the Bible sex is equivalent with sin. A light reading of scripture will surely point a person to the potential perils of our sexuality and to many holiness codes about sexuality, but should also reveal the blessed and joyful role of human sexuality in authentic relationships built on trust. As always we do well to remember the social and historical context from which the writers of scripture took their clues for understanding how faith and sexuality intersect. The ancients had little understanding of conception or the functions of our human anatomy without the aid of microscopes and ultrasound technology. The holiness codes of Leviticus, which go on and on for chapters about the “do’s and don’ts” of sex, were primarily designed to do two things: 1. To set apart the people of one God from the people of many gods 2. To provide healthy standards of sanitation based on the ancient understanding of the functions of the human body. A third understanding from scripture has to do with sexual morality, which often has to do with the denunciation of rape and the building of healthy, authentic relationships.

Currently, we are in a debate in our nation concerning gender identity and access to public restrooms. The Bible has nothing really to say to us directly on this issue, for the ancients had little knowledge of the privacy we demand in bath rooming today. The current debate has been the result of the broader issues of faith and sexual orientation and LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, and Transgender) human and civil rights. Truth be told, transgender folks have been using restrooms of their choosing for just about as long as restrooms have existed. And despite the fear mongering represented on cable news networks, statistics show no reason to fear the practice.  This debate has led to a local ordinance in another state not only making transgender bath rooming illegal but also punishable by jail. And, the hate-filled rhetoric of the debate has resulted in renewed fear among the LGBT community. Here is an article to help us understand the fear.

Fear is powerful and irrational fear is the worst kind of powerful. The advancements we enjoy in our homes and public places have only been around for about 150 years and continue to evolve. Before private bathrooms and stalls, humanity was a much more public affair with conversation and even relationship building in public baths and yes, toilets (the non-flushing kind). They literally had nothing to hide. Now it is considered bad etiquette to speak to someone while using the restroom. In our quest for privacy we have walled ourselves in and others out to the extent that we no longer know each other, and this of course only begins in the bathroom and now extends to every part of our lives. Perhaps this is why it is so easy for some to condemn others who are not like them in some way. Perhaps this is why we live in fear and suspicion of almost everyone these days, because we don’t know them, which means we no longer have authentic relationships based in trust. Jesus didn’t avoid those who were different in any way. He sought out the outcast and they sought out him. He built relationships of mercy and grace. He listened and didn’t cast stones. He didn’t reject or condemn. He cared. We do well when we do the same.

A Time to Speak and a Time to Refrain from Speaking

Today, I attended the Stand Against Racism Day of Action event sponsored by the YWCA of Kankakee County, IL. This was the fifth such event I have attended since returning to my hometown five years ago. At this event we viewed a TED Talk (about 18 minutes) by Verna Myers a diversity trainer and had an open conversation reflecting on what we heard in her talk.

To recap, here are Verna Myers three major points were:

  1. Uncover your own biases. Who is your default for goodness? for Evil? Who do you automatically trust? Who do you fear?
  2. Move toward young black men and not away from them. Don’t just listen to the stories we make up for ourselves before we actually know who they are.
  3. When we see/hear something (biased/racist) we have to have the courage to say something.

It was the last point that jogged this story from my memory and that I shared briefly with the diverse group of about 60 in attendance. Hear is the non-abridged version: About 20 years ago, Teri (my spouse of 25 yrs.) and I took my parents for a day visit to Chicago to visit the Mag Mile and to ascend Hancock Tower. Mom & Dad had never been to downtown Chicago even though they lived just 60 miles south of the Loop. They were fans of Chicago sports teams and we watched Chicago TV because the antenna brought them in clearly and we had no local TV stations. But, they had never ventured into the big city as adults. Why? Fear. Yes, they feared Chicago. Now I have to admit being a small town boy myself, venturing to large cities is a bit daunting with traffic and transit and all the skyscrapers that make a flat-lander lose their direction sense. In Mom and Dad’s case, the fear was more than just bumper to bumper traffic. Dad had been a truck driver after-all. The fear was more profoundly about their chances of getting mugged or murdered by a person of color.

And so as we drove through the South side of Chicago, my mother became increasingly tense in the back seat. Wondering why we had to drive through those “n—– filled neighborhoods.” For context, let me say that politically-incorrect language was more commonplace in our home than not. My parents were not supporters of the Civil Rights Movement but were not anti-Civil Rights either. They had both good and bad experiences with people of color in their young lives. Back to the story, I had a choice in that moment somewhere south of Englewood. I could just let it go, chalk it up to her generation, give her the benefit of the doubt as an under educated white person, or I could speak. I chose to speak and to ask my mom to refrain from using derogatory names for people she didn’t even know. It was tense and quiet for a few miles. And we enjoyed our trip to Chicago, even the 95th floor observatory.

What happened in that moment had a huge impact later. As my parents listened to the perspectives I was gaining through education and peer interaction, they softened their language and broadened their viewpoints. They were not “cured” of their own prejudice and neither am I. But more importantly they came to understand that we as parents of their grandchildren were not going to tolerate intolerance in language or action as example for our children. And, it worked. Our boys only learned derogatory names from school children and a few extended family, but not from their grandparents nor their parents. I think our choice to speak had a ripple effect on other family members as well. Our children did not grow up with ill-informed biases about people who have a different amount of melanin in their skin cells and when they encounter bigotry and ignorance they recognize it immediately. They are the most inclusive, non-judgmental people I know.

To be fair, I believe Mom and Dad grew in their understanding of racism over the past 20 years before their deaths eight weeks apart a year ago. I believe they had an expanded perspective on the human race and were supportive of my work in anti-racism organizing and awareness. For many of us who are white this all begins in our own homes with our own families. And may carry over to the little league ball diamond, the football field, the school concert, the office break room, the block party and yes even church on Sunday.

Have the courage to speak when it is time to speak and to refrain from repeating stereotypes. Do it with kindness and gentleness. Speak the truth. And, perhaps we may just eliminate the evil of racism from our midst.

From Full to Empty in 40 Days or 12 Hours

Ash Wednesday, 2016 February 10dust-cross-still

This holy day was full, really full. From early morning beginning at our local Panera Bread offering prayer and ashes for folks to begin a holy Lent, to organizing and leading a couple dozen college students in mission preparing Blessings in a Backpack bags for a couple hundred elementary and middle school students twelve hours later, this day was full. Every imposition of ashes across the community and in worship at Central Christian Church, was an intimate, spiritually filled moment. And, Lent is about emptying ourselves, right?

who though he was in the form of God…emptied himself          Philippians 2:6-7

Well empty is how I am feeling now as I write these reflections, but its not the emptiness of defeat or loss. I began this day full of expectation, hope, anxiousness, and energy. More than a dozen meaningful conversations later (which I call prayers even though there were no “Dear Lords” or “Amens”) with folks who were full themselves with grief, discernment, witness, worry, life, etc. and now I am empty.

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Listening, offering encouragement, holding on in grace, bringing peace and now I am empty. More than two hundred fifty lives touched through the ministries of the day and now I am empty. And empty never felt so good.

I am ready to begin this wilderness journey with Jesus. I am ready to move from full to empty in 40 days. I am ready to have a holy Lent. And, I pray you are too.

Christmas Blues

Copied from a Facebook friend’s post: “New life starts in the dark. Whether it is a seed in the ground, a baby in the womb, or Jesus in the tomb, it starts in the dark.” Barbara Brown Taylor

Lately, I have felt like a bear ready to find a den and hibernate. This is not my typical December mood, however, these past couple weeks of waning daylight and busyness have wearied me a bit more than usual. Naps sound enticing more and more each day! I suspect my tiredness is related to grieving the loss of my parents this year, continuing to transform their former home into our home, attending to the legal matters that come with a loved one’s death, and the emotional energy of living forward beyond the shadows of the grave. This past weekend I tried my very best to honor one of Dad’s gifts and yearly tradition of weaving boughs of evergreen into grave blankets for their graves and the graves of my infant brother and sister. As a novice I had to rely heavily on 20 year old memories of how Dad used to make them. The process was therapeutic in the least and brought me to tears several times.

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I share this with you, not for your pity or sympathy but because I suspect several of you know the melancholy of loss during this season. And, while this will be our first Christmas without Mom & Dad, I know that everyone following will be different without them present. I know this from observing my mother struggle with the holidays every year, reliving the loss of family members and friends. I find peace knowing she no longer battles the overwhelming grief that often stole her joy. Having watched my father over the years, I also know the stress of this season on people who want so much in their hearts to give their love in the form of gifts for family and friends and have to pay the bills instead. Without any doubt this can be the most wonderful and difficult time of the year!

On December 21st I hope to celebrate the arrival of the Winter Solstice with a bonfire and good cheer as the longest night gives way to lengthening daylight. While there is nothing Christian about a solstice, Christianity did place the Holy Day of Christmas near the Solstice, not because it accurately fixed the historical date of Christ’s birth on a calendar (more likely to have taken place in July than December, actually) but in order to claim the pagan festival of light as our own celebration of the Light of the World. There is nothing wrong with honoring the changing of seasons and the natural ways of our earth, just read through the Psalms and you will find several celebrating the earth. So, if I can hold out to Monday before Christmas, I may not need that cave for hibernating!

While human life is filled with opportunities for anxiety and sorrow, Christmas gives us an opportunity for joy, for peace, for hope and for love. Surely, the day itself may bring heightened emotions and even drudgery for some, but even so our spirits may be filled a little more deeply when we kneel at the manger, humbled and wearied, full of grief and sorrow, shaking with anxiety and fear. For God so loved the entire World, yes everything and everyone, God gave the perfect gift – Jesus, and in him was life to be light for the world, to break through the darkness dragging at our souls and demonstrate how with mercy and grace we may find abundant life even in the midst of gloom and death. Be merciful with yourself and with others in these days so claimed by images of perfection and excellence. Be grace-filled and together we may all begin to feel the hope, peace, joy and love arriving in Christ our Lord!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you and yours!

 

Dinosaurs, Spoons and the Future of the Church

11885672_10153598489124679_7406835535125101849_oThis graph appeared on my Facebook feed today and is difficult to share, however not surprising. And, since I’ve seen way too many of these posts lately, the decline has nothing to do with prayer in or out of school or force-teaching Christianity (the Bible) to students in public education. Newer generations would have to roll back a century or more of advancement in our common knowledge to be ready to swallow antique, spoon-fed versions of Christian faith. The Biblical idea of creation as a three-story universe with the sun, stars and the moon fixed in their courses is hard to even imagine for my children (never plausible for me either.) The notion that the earth is under 4 billion years old and that the best answer for understanding the Triassic, Jurassic, or Cretaceous periods (dinosaurs) is to assert that human beings co-existed with T-Rex is only fodder for fun movies. I could go on and on here. We are capable of great learning and discovery, wisdom and folly and all of it part of the collective intelligence of the universe and to expect a student today to reject their place in the cosmos is not wise.

We have failed to relevantly teach/share the gospel in our efforts to placate folks in the pews who for whatever reason are/were not ready to take the spoon out of their mouth and entertain the notion that at least some of the medicine (IE scriptural literalism) they were taking had spoiled. In the place of using our spoon to feed the hungry and strengthen the oppressed, we chose to attempt to polish the silver already in place as if the table would always refill itself, ignoring the plight of those searching for spoons in our midst to sustain their very lives. Now we may sense we are in a state of crisis as we look toward a brief bleak trajectory. Disciples of Jesus failing to understand the intended impact of the gospel in the lives of others though is nothing new, just read Matthew, Mark, Luke and John for examples.

Of course there are exceptions to the trends in this graph and many, many good people who have sounded the alarm for decades and done all they can to set corrective measures in motion. Maybe it is too late to turn the charts around, but that is not the question we need to ask today, 40+ years ago maybe. The question for today is WILL we be the DISCIPLES we are called to be WHERE we are with WHOMEVER we find ourselves? Will we let go of FEAR and embrace LOVE and GRACE as the motivation for EVERYTHING we do in the name of Jesus Christ?

The institutions that support the body of Christ may cease to exist over time, and that is sad in many ways. It is also only a place on the continuum of human life; institutions including the church have a life cycle. Having asked the important questions for our present moment, we must be willing and ready to embrace an emergent spirituality and forms for Christ’s body in our midst.  Yes, that means our spoons are probably going to get dirty, tarnished, worn and may even need to be replaced. I have to admit I’m a little scared by this graph and the idea that denominations may no longer be sustainable within 20 years, after-all I’ve invested my entire adult life (26 yrs) in preparing for and participating in ordained ministry supported by the institutional church and I have more than 20 years left before I can retire. Not many other career tracks require a Master of Divinity degree.

I’m also excited by the amazing opportunities we already have to engage spirituality and culture in this new day, to be the prime witness of Christ in the lives of younger generations who have never heard of God’s unconditional love and abundant mercy! I’m hopeful as old spoonfuls of “faith supported” racism, sexism, hetero-sexism, class-ism and other forms of oppression are exposed and debunked, the health and wholeness of the body of Christ will be restored. I’m confident the gospel has never lost relevancy even if the church forgot to preach and teach the good news in relevant ways. I believe the call to ministry is clear, professionally supported or not, to do justice, to love mercy and to walk humbly with God.  Oh, and the future of the church is already here.

Peace & Joy,
Rev. Robert Bushey, Jr.

PS. Graph above is the result of the work of Jeff Gill with data from Disciples Yearbooks. With the newest edition in our hands Jeff commented: “This is projection past 2013, but here’s the actual 2014 numbers from the new yearbook: 469,212 — Participating is 290,916 (decline of 15,859, 5.2% drop) — worship 172,632 (decline 4,404, 2.5%). So the projection holds up.”

Homily for my Mom – Janet Bushey

Comfort, O Comfort my people says your God. 

The scriptures express the ever-present and everlasting love and life of God through many metaphors or word pictures. Gardens and flowers are consistently used to explore the life cycle of sowing, birth, growth, reaping, death and life beyond the grave. From the second account of creation in the garden in Eden, to the returning exiles to Jerusalem, to the resurrection of Jesus, God’s promises and ways of life have been associated with the ability of the earth, the dust to bring forth life and the reality of the span of earthbound life culminating in death. Through the hopeful words of the prophet Isaiah we are assured that while we, vulnerable human beings, like the grass may wither and the flower fade, the promise, the good news of God’s undying love and grace remain forever. Though the earth should change, shake and evolve, the desire of the Creator for our worship and our devotion never fails.
In the early weeks of spring, hope is ever abundant as new life sets forth in the beauty of nature. Cycles and seasons grant us clues to the gift of never-ending life, as earthly growth eventually bears the fruits of winter’s deathly grip.

Speaking to his new church in Corinth, the Apostle Paul, or Pastor Paul as I prefer to call him, recalls the plant life cycle to help his young converts understand the life changing nature of the good news of Jesus.
As the perishable seed must transform in the soil, change from possibility to stalk, stem and branch, bearing the flower, delicious fruit, and the shade providing leaves.

So it is with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body.

Pastor Paul says Listen, a great mystery has unfolded in Jesus for the cycle of birth, life, death has been transformed – a New Life has been given by the grace of God alone. The New Life cycle revealed in Christ is complete, birth, life, death, birth into life everlasting. It is this final birth we celebrate as the body of Christ during the season following Easter. We are reminded of the eternal nature of God’s love and grace revealed in Jesus Christ our Lord.
When this perishable body puts on imperishability, and this mortal body puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will be fulfilled:“Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”

The Corinthians knew the sting of death, they knew the cycles of sowing and reaping, they knew the struggle of loss, when death seems to win.
So, Pastor Paul encourages them to be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

Faced with the reality of our humanity, we may wonder if who we are, what we are, how we are makes any difference anyway. We may face moments when we ask, why go on living? What do I have to live for? Do I really matter? Our physical strength may be challenged, our mental resolve weakened, our spiritual passion quenched as we meet the struggles of life. Facing the loss of a dear loved one, may be for us one of those challenging moments.
Paul says be steadfast – stay the course – always excelling in the work of the Lord, for nothing we do in Christ is done in vain.

Put on imperishability, clothe yourself with the hope of New Life, the strength of abundant life, the assurance of eternal life, which is God’s great gift revealed in Jesus. Death need not be feared. Trust in the good news. And, your life will not be dominated by fear. Rather peace will guard your heart and your mind in Christ Jesus.

Celebration of the Life of Janet E. Bushey (April 15,1939 – May 3, 2015)momthroughyears

Today, in the face of our loss, we also have the joy of celebrating Janet’s life as well as her victory of eternal life attained. We remember her as sister, mother, mother-in-law, grandmother, great-grandmother, aunt, great-aunt, congregant, neighbor, co-worker and friend.

Ginger Rogers was on the cover of Time Magazine with Janet Evelyn was born, in Gridley, IL on April 15, 1939 to Carl Frederick and LaVera Benedict Pfeffinger. She was the second Scan0013dchild joining her older brother Kaywin, with us today and eventually her younger siblings Carol & Dwayne, both of whom preceded her in death and her youngest brother George, also with us today. Mom was my grandparents’ miracle baby weighing just under 3lbs when she was born at home, small enough to fit in one of her daddy’s shoe boxes. In 1939, she grew in her white wicker bassinet without aid of the amazing medical equipment for low birth weight babies we have today. Nearly 60 years later doctors would discover that her heart had a hole between chambers, probably from birth.

Some of Mom’s earliest memories were of spending time with her Grandma Pfeffinger on the farm. Childhood was marked by sorrow for my mother when just as she was beginning to move from childhood to adolescence and womanhood, at 11 years old her father died from complications related to Diabetes. Mom revered her dad and mourned his death her entire life. She was Daddy’s little girl and she wasn’t afraid to tell anyone her status or how hard it is to lose a parent at a young age.

Without the social support systems we often take for granted today, Grandma was faced with raising five children on her own and to provide for her children had to give them to the care of others for some time. Mom and her siblings were split between four different homes in different towns and on Gridley area farms. Being separated from her brothers and sister only enhanced the immense grief she bore for her father.

Eventually her siblings were reunited and they moved to Bradley where her mother tended bar, waitressed and operated Vera’s Rendezvous, while Mom attended Bradley-Bourbonnais Community High School on North Street. While in High School, Mom worked for Walley’s Drive In and a Root Beer Stand on Broadway as a Car Hop Roller-skating Waitress.

She was just 16 when a young soldier back from the Korean War began stealing her spoons from the silverware rack at the Car Hop to gain her attention. It was a sly move – you see Mom was more interested in the James Dean kind of guy – fast cars, fast moves on the dance floor – fast. Her attention wasn’t easily gained by a laid back, scrawny, gentleman soldier. So the spoon trick was a good one – Mom was forced to pay attention to the practical, sensitive and annoying older brother of one of her regular dancing partners. You’ve seen this picture – there is no doubt why Robert Bushey was attracted to Janet Pfeffinger. I know I’m my father’s son, lol. momdadwed

Mom paid attention and found her soul mate whom she married over 59 years ago on September 28, 1955 at the Kankakee County Courthouse because they couldn’t afford a big ole blowout wedding. They corrected that with a renewal of their vows in Central Christian Church on Oak St in Kankakee and a 25th Anniversary Reception and Dance at the American Legion. I believe their marriage license hung in every bedroom they ever shared every year of their marriage.

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You don’t find marriages like Mom and Dad’s much anymore – devoted, tried and true through every disaster, challenge, defeat, argument, and sorrow – of which there were many. Still deeply in love through everyone, never more evident than when they were separated by work or illness and eventually by death. Two hearts that beat to a different drum in many ways, but always created a melody for the ages.

Mom was just 17 when she gave Dad his first-born son Laurence Joseph, named for his paternal grandfather and the savior of Israel in Egypt when famine threatened to wipe out God’s people. That’s why you preserve and stock so much food to this day Larry – I’m telling you! Mom had a gift for names, giving and remembering them.
Just after her 20th birthday Mom’s life was rocked with unbearable grief when our brother John Wayne was stillborn in the tiny bungalow on East Broadway. Mom and Dad’s blood-types were incompatible for pregnancy and each one was a risk.

At 22 Mom was expecting her third child and welcomed another baby boy, James Alan named after the Biblical author who said “Faith without works is dead” – and the Postman who was really his father – relax its an old family joke because Jim didn’t have red hair – it’s better than the fence post story – no doubt whose kid he was and is! And, again Mom was spot on with the name – that’s why you’ve always worked so hard, bro.

No other day, besides her father’s death and her wedding anniversary carried more weight in her life than March 31, 1967. The joy filled words “It’s a girl” turned upside down when her long hoped for daughter Susan Marie was born too soon with underdeveloped lungs and could not survive this world. Living just four hours after birth, Mom’s little girl was carried into heaven. Mom’s heart was broken again. Loss piled upon loss – it would be just a year before her own mother joined Susan, John and Carl on heaven’s shore.

But, Mom survived and in 1971 chose another girl’s name as she prepared to welcome her fifth child into the world. Trena LaVera to carry on her mother’s memory. Except, I was born. Her third living son, whom at the advice of her brother George, I was named for my father and the Apostle Paul, missionary, minister and servant of the church. I’m telling you its eerie!
She was so disappointed I was not a girl she told my father I was his to raise. Mom was a serious disciplinarian. My brothers have always said I was lucky. I really think it was because Mom was already in her 30’s when I was born. Just so you know, I was always a Mama’s boy.
FamilyMom became a grandmother just after her 41st birthday and she treasured her new role in the family. She loved her grandchildren and great-grandchildren and was proud of you. Your grandma, granny and meema loved watching each one of you grow and enjoyed being with you whenever possible. She loved to attend your school and sporting events, was proud of graduations and achievements, encouraged you to work hard at whatever you chose to pursue and gave you advice whether you wanted it or not.

You colored eggs with her, planted flowers with her, made cookies with her, played Flinch and Dominoes with her, went to church with her, took vacations with her, and shared your dreams and fears with her. She loved all of you from the bottom of her heart.
All of us will remember Mom for her delicious cooking – Dad would claim it wasn’t always that way – but no one in our family will ever make the same potato salad as Mom, roll out the most flakey pie crusts, or make the gravy turn out just the way she did. We never went hungry with Mom.

Mom was always talented with four wheels under her – whether under each foot dancing to that Rock’n Roll music of the early 50’s at the Skating Rink of her youth or attached to a 8 cylinder Buick or Chrysler engine. Yes, our mom never said no to a challenge from some sexist co-worker who thought Mom’s petite frame couldn’t begin to out muscle him – Rt 50 was her drag strip of choice.
With two wheels it wasn’t quite the same – we will never forget the day Mom mounted our late Grandpa Bushey’s Mo-Ped in the front yard which she hastily stuffed into the large bushes in front of the house. She wasn’t afraid to get on and try.

Mom enjoyed several hobbies throughout her life. We were kept warm by beautifully crocheted scarves and blankets. She enjoyed Tri-Chem painting and made several holiday decorations with them. She loved doing ceramics and made many gifts and home décor pieces. She loved playing Bingo whether at the American Legion or online. She worked every crossword in every edition of the Daily Journal and wore out several million word dictionaries.

Mom was a Racing Fan from the County Speedway to NASCAR. She was a Jim O’Connor fan locally, she cheered for Buddy Baker until he retired and she became a fan of the Busch Brothers, Kurt first and Kyle more recently. And so, it was fitting that the last race Mom watched, on April 26th, Kurt Busch broke a 130 something race losing streak to win. She was happy as long as Jeff Gordon didn’t win.
She loved music especially Country Music and most especially, Willie Nelson.willie


Mom enjoyed watching the Chicago Cubs on WGN, she was a devoted fan of daytime Soap Operas, Days of Our Lives and Another World. She watched Let’s Make a Deal, the Price is Right, Jeopardy & Wheel of Fortune nearly everyday, especially later in life.

She always claimed Dad hogged the remote control, but we all knew it didn’t matter whose hand the remote was in, Mom was in control – most of the time.

One of Mom’s favorite characters in print and on TV was Laura Ingalls Wilder. The author whose autobiographical stories were made into the Little House on the Prairie series about the frontier life of her family, may have reminded Mom a little of herself. Famously known as Half-pint, Laura was filled with the same spit-fire, spunkiness, stubbornness and strength Mom mustered to make it through each day. You may recall that Laura was never afraid to express herself when she felt wronged or that someone she loved was wronged – that was Mom. Laura didn’t always see eye to eye with her own mother, but loved her dearly – that was Mom. Laura didn’t always play well with others like stuffed ole Nellie – that was Mom. Laura was committed to her sister Mary through her challenges with blindness – that was Mom, when her sister fought Cancer before she joined our family eternal 23yrs ago. Laura loved her Manly, Almonzo with a devoted dedication – that was Mom. While no one ever wanted to be an enemy of Laura Ingalls Wilder – she always sought to reconcile with her adversaries – that was Mom, most of the time.LauraIngallsWilder

Like Laura, Mom was never afraid of hard work either. Whether she was ironing laundry for others, cleaning at Armour Pharmaceutical Company, maintaining the smorgasbord line at the Redwood Inn or care taking for this church – Mom put her all into her employment. But nothing compared to her care for her home.

“Home is the nicest word there is.” ― Laura Ingalls Wilder

Mom was a homemaker to the extreme. Trying to imitate her mother it was nothing to find Mom on her hands and knees scrubbing the floors, hanging laundry to dry after hauling it to the basement to was and back out, with a perfectly fine dryer right next to the washer, cooking a balanced meal nearly every night for 5:30 sharp, moving around furniture serval times a year, maintaining flowerbeds with precision and skill, she just never stopped moving. Her home was her pride and joy, her therapy to cope with every disappointment and sorrow she had experienced.

Like the energizer bunny, Mom’s energy seemed endless, even when that hole in her heart was finally discovered in 1998 and she endured open heart surgery and an oblation procedure to fix it. While Mom was in the hospital in Joliet, her aunt Dottie Benedict was too. Dottie died and so did Mom. She told the story many times of walking up to the realm of heaven where she encountered her sister and her mother who told her to go back, her work was not done. And it wasn’t.

For the next 20 years, Mom and Dad took turns battling illnesses and aging. Ever faithful to one another they switched hats and nursed each other back to health. They enjoyed good days, weeks months and even a few sunset years together. Mom suffered through a bout of the Shingles virus on her face while on an Anniversary trip to Branson, developed adult onset diabetes and eventually osteoporosis, further heart problems, renal failure and finally cirrhosis of the liver. All of this in the petite low birth weight miracle child of Carl & LaVera.

She planned her funeral 20years and one month ago, knowing full well that the journey ahead would be full of health challenges for both she and Dad. When Dad’s body finally wore out just eight weeks ago, Mom’s health was already severely challenged, and most of all her heart was broken beyond repair.

Our parents taught us that when you commit to someone or something you make good on that commitment. A lesson we put back into play as we did our best to give them the dignity and love they deserved as they walked through these last several years and into the valley of the shadow of death. Some have told me we have a beautiful family and they are correct – for beauty beholds imperfection and celebrates it without constraint. We are beautiful!

momquote
And, on the same day of the week at the same hour as Dad, after 76 years of life, Mom died unto the grace and abundant love of God who raised Jesus from the dead to life everlasting. A precious gift to us, she has been transformed by God’s undying love and has been given a life in the spirit beyond our imagining.

For Mom, life has come full circle, her body tired from several years of health challenges is at rest. None of her struggles remain; she has found peace in the arms of God.
The foundation of our hope knows that today and tomorrow belongs to God. Whatever present sorrows and struggles we bear, God’s victory over death revealed to us in Jesus’ resurrection empowers us to live with strength and hope into the future.

And, when we live in hope, our present sorrows are transformed into joy as we no longer fear death, we no longer struggle with disbelief or confusion. For God has made it clear, that death no longer has power over our tomorrows. Jesus said,
I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, 26and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.

Mom loved and was loved by her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. She was an active member and Diaconate Emeritus of this congregation where she served in many capacities. She placed her faith in the unfailing promises of God and joined Central over 50 years ago. Mom was and is a child of God, forgiven, loved and free.

She believed in the Good news: that God incarnate in Jesus Christ, rose from the dead and in so doing granted through God’s grace and love the victory of eternal life in the spirit to each and to all.
This is our hope as we live on after this day and as we too realize that we will not walk on this old earth forever ourselves.

May it be that as we continue on with our lives, that our faith is strengthened and our hope increased as we remember God’s promise to each one of us. The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand forever. Amen.

Come Out! And Be Free to be You – Mother’s Day Sermon

Come Out! And Be Free to be You

I John 5:1-5

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the parent loves the child.  By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.  For the love of God is this, that we obey his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome,  for whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith.  Who is it that conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

Have you ever owned a dog? If you have then you may understand the importance of Obedience training. Many breeds of dogs are eager to please their human companions – eager for the reward for their obedience – rub on the head or belly, scratch behind the ears, a treat, sometime at the dog park to play with other dogs, or simply just the words “good girl” or “good boy.” Cats on the other hand I am told will do their best to train you to obey them.

Obedience is often one of the first life lessons we learn from our parents – it begins in small ways at first when we are tiny – a gentle nudge away of a hand grabbing for our eyeglasses or our hair with the word “No” often “No No No” No touch.

The training promotes safety as our children test limits and abilities with toddling and childhood. “Take that out of your mouth” “put that down before you break it” “that’s mommy’s not yours” “wash your hands before you eat”

And then there are the ground rules and limits set for increasingly independent youngsters
“be home before dark”
“don’t ride your bike farther than you are able to see the house and absolutely no riding on the highway,” “do your homework first then if there’s time you may play a game,” “one cookie is enough, put the others back!”

rules

Of course the rules get more serious as the teen years approach: “no dating until your sixteen without one of your parents present,” “loud music after 9PM will Not be tolerated,” “laziness will result in forfeiture of your allowance,” “Clean your room or lose your privileges” “Clothes go in the hamper not next to it on the floor” – some of us never learn that one, “just say no to everything except your mother!”

Obedience of our parental folks is sometimes for our own good – health & safety for instance.
Other times obedience is truly about imposing our will on our children, sometimes with positive intention and sometimes with negative results.

One of the major changes in our cultural landscape recently has been the diminishing privacy people have. It seems we can’t or don’t hide much from anybody these days. You may bemoan that as a loss of freedom and perhaps that’s correct.

Privacy, however should never be used as a smoke screen for abusive behaviors against children. So to the extent that decreasing privacy helps uncover injustice against vulnerable people, then we must ask which value is most important to us our privacy or the freedom of another from abuse or exploitation?

Obedience should never be Coercive or about Manipulation of another human being. And this is even true of obedience to God.

MotherTObey
Obedience is often associated with Rewards and Punishments.
• Break the law, or the rule, or the Limit and get caught, you are subject to punishment.
• Obey the law and nobody will notice – but your reward may be a lower insurance premium or you may get a treat like DQ or Permission to go to the concert.
• Religion has said obey God and you’ll get in to heaven – ticket stamped – destination confirmed.
• Disobey God and you’ll find yourself in the throws of hell.

Obeying God is Less about Rewards & Punishments and Mostly about following God’s commandments = Love God & Love Every Neighbor
Obeying God is:
• to submit yourself to the Awesome Abundant Amazing Love God has for you and for everyone else
• to subject yourself to the Healing Mercy and Powerful Grace of God
• to Accept yourself as a Fully Adopted & Affirmed Child of God and to Treat Others as Sisters and Brothers in that same Grace

Obedience to God Frees us to be Who we are Created to Be – Children of an Awesome God!

For the love of God is this, that we obey his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, for whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith.

Obeying God – Not Burdensome? All those laws, 600something in OT alone? In this world with all the opportunities to take advantage of invisible privileges and the exploitation of others?

GodChoseYou

What John wants to tell you is that when you fully understand that YOU are CHOSEN by God and So IS EVERY ONE ELSE – Completely Loved, Encouraged by Grace, Accepted & Free From the Need for Any Other Affirmation in the World – When YOU Understand that – When YOU Breathe and Live that in Your Life – YOU are Free to Be You!

When we think about parenting – eternal or earthly – we should ask ourselves whether our Obedience training is Teaching us a Blind Compliance in Another’s Will for our Lives or Are We Being Encouraged or Encouraging our Children to Be Who we or They Are Created to Be?
Are we Growing faith to Conquer the Exploitive Ways of the World – Trust in the Truth that we Don’t have to Try to Be Somebody else. Friends, we are Created Beautiful – for beauty beholds imperfection and celebrates it without constraint.

Beauty

Our Consumer Oriented Culture is Based on Marketing Products for Profit that Make us Feel or Think We are Beautiful – Beauty that is Defined by Fashion, Body Mass Index, Health, Abilities, Wealth, Attention, & Power.

This is especially true for the very women & girls in our society we celebrate today. The Mass Marketed Messages of the Ingredients for Beauty and Acceptance often are Received as a Brew of Shame if She doesn’t Meet up to the Impossible and Fake Standards Used to Coerce Young women to Reject themselves as they Try to be Beautiful.

Teen girls are pressured to have the perfect body, which of course doesn’t exist except in the imagination of Media. Suicide rates for teen girls trying to conform to air-brushed and computer generated images are too high – one is too many.
I found this beautiful video with a strong message for all of the women in our lives that was posted on our Facebook page earlier in the week – Song entitled Try by Colbie Callait.

God Chose YOU just as YOU are! God’s only Desire is for Your worship & Your Love. If anyone else tells You anything less or more they may be Manipulating you. God has no interest in Manipulating you. God wants you to be Free to Be You!
So Come Out! Stop hiding in the dark. Step into the Light of Christ’s love. You are beautiful just as You are and You are God’s child! Amen.

May 10, 2015 Easter VI – Year B COME OUT! Series Part 5 of 6 – Rev. Robert Bushey, Jr. Central Christian Church Bourbonnais, IL