A Sermon Somewhere: The Grand Canyon Is So Much More Than

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There is an old preacher’s joke that goes, “I don’t know where but there is a sermon in there somewhere.”  This series builds off of that by trying to find the sermons hiding beneath our everyday experiences.  .  .and failing miserably.

This post is a follow up/sequel to my post from last week about Bliss, ID.  In that post I claimed the people who named that patch of sagebrush in southern Idaho, “Bliss” were vastly overstating things.

Well, after dropping the boxes off in Utah, I kept going and went to see the Grand Canyon.  Let’s just say that the people who named that truck stop in the middle of tumbleweed, “Eden,” were not the same people who named the Grand Canyon.

I mean, GRAND?!?!

My piano is grand.

My dad’s mom is grand.

The Budapest Hotel is grand.

Video games about stealing autos are grand.

The Grand Canyon is nothing short of spectacular!

The guy who named it “The Grand Canyon” must have been an accountant or a lawyer.  Even then, I don’t know how even the most stuffy among us manage to keep their wits about them when they stand on that cliff and stare down at Phantom Ranch which is one whole mile below you.

That is not grand.  It is something much, much more.

Because when you stand there, looking at the huge expanse below you, everything else becomes quite pointless.  When you stand there, you suddenly feel like your life has been leading up to that very point.  Everything you have ever seen was just practice for seeing this.  And there is no point to ever look at anything else.  There is no reason to ever go anywhere else or do anything other than hike down to the bottom of the thing and then hike back up just so you can feel like at least you earned this wonderful gift from the heavens.

Heck, if the sun hadn’t set and the place turned all dark I would not have been able to leave.  Although even in the dark you could feel the greatness right below your feet.  You just knew it was there and that wonderful hole in the ground threatened to swallow you whole.  That is not so much a grand thing as it is a wonderful and incredible invitation to give your life to something so breathtaking.

So in the spirit of setting things right and with all offense to whatever moron named it “Grand,” I am suggesting we revisit the name of “The Grand Canyon.”

I have a few suggestions below to get the ball rolling:

The Absurdly Large Canyon

The Awestruck Canyon

The……………………………..Speechless Canyon

The Don’t Fall Off Or You Will Die The Best Way There Is To Die Canyon

The You Will Wet Yourself Canyon

The Jaw Dropping Canyon

The “I Need To Change My Pants” Canyon

The Most Amazing Thing You Will Ever See Canyon

The Canyon That Holds All The Other Canyons

No matter what you call it, there has to be a sermon in there somewhere.  I mean, after all, the thing is a mile deep.

A Sermon Somewhere: Towns Named Bliss That Are Less Than

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*This post is the latest in an ongoing series where I try to find sermons hiding behind life’s monotony.  .  .and fail miserably.

Yesterday I drove a 26 foot long moving truck packed with the vast majority of my life’s belongings across southern Idaho to northern Utah.

There is much theological reflection that happens during life’s transitions.  The irony of moving on Ash Wednesday was not lost on me.  The words “ashes to ashes, dust to dust” seemed a fitting summary of the junk packed U-Haul.  Also, the underlying reality of why I left one ministry assignment for another seemed particularly poignant.  I heard from God and after hearing from God there was no way to not obey though I pleaded for a different message.  Still, as I pulled out of that wonderful town in Eastern Oregon, I could not help but pray, “God please give me the love for the new congregation that you gave me for the old.”  But sustained and prayerful theological reflection soon gave way to more frivolous meanderings as the miles racked up on the odometer.

Now I grew up in Idaho and absolutely love the state.  It is a wonderful state full of mountains and lakes and rivers and hot springs and trees and all kinds of good creation.  But southern Idaho, the part along I-84, is the exception that proves the rule.  You can see the mountains in the distance, little molehills popping up on the horizon with some white still on them.  But you have to squint and focus really hard to see that.  And when you are driving a massive 26 foot long truck with your life’s possessions in it, turning your head left and squinting is not a good idea.

So you stare at the road ahead and try not to think about how brown and flat the terrain is and how straight the road ahead lies.  If John the Baptist was sent to make the paths straight, he did a fine good job in southern Idaho.

There are a few towns out there to break up the monotony, though not many.  By some historical joke people named these towns things like, “Bliss” and “Paradise” and “Eden.”

Like most devout Christians, I have a picture in my head of what Eden looks like and that picture does not include a gas station in the middle of sagebrush.  Yet there Eden, ID is, a truckstop and some sagebrush with a few singlewide trailers around it.  Bliss and Paradise are not much better off.

To be fair, I have read Well`s “The Jungle” and I know how bad city life was at the time people were immigrating out west.  I also know my fair deal about the Oregon Trail (mostly from the awesome video game) and about how bad the journey was.  So I can totally understand that after Grandma starved to death in a Chicago slum and Timmy died of cholera in southern Wyoming how a wonderful family arrived in the sagebrush of southern Idaho and were fooled into thinking, “we just found Paradise.”  Still, you think future generations would have changed the name.

Yet I suppose there is a larger statement here about the human capactity for love.  After all somewhere in the not to distant past there was a person or a family who saw that sagebrush in that desert and fell in love with it.  Nobody anywhere else would love that sagebrush so much to call it bliss, but to that family, it was.

It kind of reminds me of a wonderful verse in Job.  It is towards the end, when God is having God`s say and it is not a pleasant conversation.  God is asking Job a series of questions meant to humiliate Job and in the middle of the questioning God suddenly blurts out, “I make it rain in the desert!”  Nothing grows in the desert.  It is an absolute waste to water it.  Yet our God loves deserts and waters them anyway.

Perhaps there is a God given capacity in us humans to love deserts as well and maybe Bliss and Eden are a testimony to that.

Or maybe I just drove way too many miles yesterday and am not caffeinated enough today.  Either way, there is probably a sermon in there somewhere.

A Sermon Somewhere: Hymns for A Dead Church

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There is an old preacher’s joke that goes, “I don’t know where but there is a sermon in there somewhere.”  This series builds off of that by trying to find the sermons hiding beneath our everyday experiences.  .  .and failing miserably.

Before I begin with today’s search for a sermon, I want to let you all know that I intend to eventually start writing posts of substance again.  However, I am swamped with the stresses and pressures of this season and I assume all of you are as well.  So it is my joy to bring you what humor I have to lighten the load of the season.

Speaking of the season, I was at another church’s Christmas celebration last night and noticed in their pew racks a hymnal entitled, “Hymns for the Living Church.”

I assume its publishers came up with that title in reaction to a hymnal full of dead church songs that is out there somewhere.  Of course my mind could only imagine what songs the, “Hymnal for a Dead Church” might contain.

I assume that instead of “Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel” it might be:

Oh Come, Oh Come Grim Reaper,

And put us out of our misery

who mourn that no new people come

Until the day of foreclosure.

Or maybe one of those songs is:

Take our hope and let it be

Finished off by grumbling.  

Take our members and our tithes,

Let them flow to the church next door.  

Let them flow to the church next door.

Or maybe another would go,

On a hill far away

Stood our old rugged church,

The emblem of suffering and shame.

And I loved that old church where the angriest and sad

For a world of lost sinners complained.  

So I will cherish that old, rugged church

Until a hipster coffee shop buys it.  

I will cling to the old rugged church

And exchange it someday for a latte.

I have one more but then I really have to get some work done.

We bring the sacrifice of anger

Out of the house of our Lord.  

We bring the sacrifice of grief

Into the world Jesus died for.  

And we offer up to them,

Our empty sanctuaries of gray haired grumblers.  

And we offer up to Jesus, the power games of greed.

If you feel so inspired to write a hymn for the dead church, please share it on Twitter, Facebook or in the comments below.

And you never know but there might be a sermon in them somewhere!