Take and Seal It: Acts 1

make a difference in the world now

ActsThe last few hours of Triennium in West Lafayette, IN meant packing. After breakfast, the adults check on the teenagers’ rooms. Then we store ALL our stuff in one room as we go to the final worship.

The Scripture was about the Ascension of Jesus, in Acts 1:6-11. The intent of the sermon, which was quite inspirational, is how do we make a difference in the world now. The subtext is that you don’t worry about that “heaven” stuff; it’ll take care of itself.

You know how you go to a meeting or conference and come back with all sorts of great ideas that fall to the side in fairly short order? I know it’s quite possible that could happen here too for some people. Yet the building blocks of most of the days gives me some hope that the some of the lessons learned will stick for a while.

At bare minimum, the kids from the Albany Presbytery made some new friends from other churches. I know my daughter is still texting a number of them a couple months later.

We depart, but we don’t go far, as we eat in town at some sandwich shop. Then on the road. We stop at Napoleon, OH for a bathroom break. I step off the bus and get blasted by a scirocco, a hot wind that was not at all refreshing, but rather, oppressive.

It becomes apparent that we’re going to get back to Albany far earlier than the promised 8 a.m. arrival. We stop for dinner in Ashtabula County, OH, recalibrate our trip, and determine we’re going to get home about four hours earlier. Time to call our rides with the news. Ah, the lightning strikes in front of us do not bring rain for us.

I knew this before, but it was reconfirmed: seeing four episodes of Scooby-Doo in a row will rot your brain, even if you’re not actively watching it.

We stop at Amsterdam c. 3 a.m., about 45 minutes from Albany, so two families don’t have travel as far. Then onto Albany. When we got back to the church parking lot, there was a lot of goodbye hugs. My wife took us home. My daughter and I blew off church that morning. In addition to the fact we were dead tired – I didn’t sleep at all that night – we had attended church five times since the previous Sunday, so we figured we had a little worship latitude.

The I states: IA, IL, IN, oh, and ID

The Second City is now third

I map
Created / Published: New York, Published by G. Woolworth Colton; agent, Chicago, Rufus Blanchard, 1858. From the Library of Congress.
An interesting thing to me: of the four of them, three of the I states, Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa, are in a line, east to west. I had been to NONE of them in the 20th century. OK, I rode a train through Indiana in 1998, and I had been to Chicago, Illinois’ O’Hare airport a few times. But I never counted those.

Then in 2008, I made it to Chicago, for real, which I wrote about HERE. That was state #30 I visited. And in 2019, I made it to West Lafayette, IN, making the tally 31. At this rate, I’ll have visited every state by the year 2228.

ID Idaho Abbreviation is first two letters The usual traditional shorter version was Ida. My great aunt’s sister was named Ida. Capital and largest city: Boise. It’s in two time zones, Mountain (primarily) and Pacific.
That B-52’s song Private Idaho is irrationally stuck in my head.

IL Illinois Abbreviation is first two letters, traditional version is Ill., which is kind of sick.
Capital: Springfield, home of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library.
Largest city: Chicago, which used to be referred to as Second City – thus SCTV – because it was the second-largest city in the US, but now it’s third, after New York City and Los Angeles.
Arthur pointed out recently that this season was the centennial of the Red Summer, a painful picture of America’s racist past.
Here’s Chicago by Frank Sinatra.

IN Indiana Abbreviation is the first two letters, traditionally Ind.
Capital and largest city: Indianapolis.
Here’s a Wikipedia factoid: “As of 2013 Indiana has produced more National Basketball Association (NBA) players per capita than any other state. Muncie has produced the most per capita of any American city, with two other Indiana cities in the top ten… The 1986 film Hoosiers” – which is very good – “is inspired by the story of the 1954 Indiana state champions Milan High School.”
Vice-President, and former Indiana governor Mike Pence has been feuding with South Bend, IN mayor, and Democratic Presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg (pronounced like it’s spelled).
Strange song on a Motown label: Indiana Wants Me – R. Dean Taylor

IA Iowa First and last letters in the abbreviation, which is the traditional abbreviation, if people bothered to shorten it at all.
Capital and largest city: Des Moines.
The state gets outsized attention because it holds the first presidential caucus in the country, even before the first primary, which is in New Hampshire. Gatherings of voters select delegates to the state conventions.
The Iowa State Fair claims to be the inspiration for a novel and three movies. It is home to the world-famous Butter Cow, weighing about 600 pounds and standing 5.5 feet tall.
Here are a bunch of songs about the Hawkeye State.

For ABC Wednesday

Here’s My Heart: Matthew 14

who’s got the buttons?

walk on waterThe Friday Triennium features Matthew 14: Here’s My Heart. The story was specifically about verses 22-34. After the death of John the Baptist, and the feeding of the 5000, Jesus sent the disciples off on a boat while he dismissed the crowd.

This is the section where Jesus walks on the water, freaking out his chums until they recognize him. Peter walks on water too until he doubts. “Oh ye of little faith” has been considered a put down of Peter – hey, none of the others even tried! – but in fact, the message of the day is that, to quote Pete Townshend, a little is enough.

You do not need to believe in the miraculous nature of the story. The bottom line is that stepping out into stormy waters is a difficult thing to do. We try anyway.

One of the tasks of the Albany group plus our two Connecticut friends was for each of us to write a note, ostensibly positive, to each and every other person in our group. I was touched by the comments I got from our tribe.

The most fascinating phenomenon I witnessed during the week was the exchanging of pins/buttons. Almost everyone was trying to get buttons from other locales. Some had garnered a couple hundred. Think about how fascinated five-year-olds are with stickers and multiply it twentyfold.

Our folks got about 20 pins each, the I Love NY variety that our coordinator got from the state tourism department for free. We probably should have brought far more. O the other hand, they became a desired commodity.

The intergenerational group played a trust game; no leaning backward was necessary. One had to guess how many different types of pies, Presidents, books of the Old Testament and elements the next team cold name. The second-oldest guy in the room got the OT question and nailed it; he was, we later learned, a minister.

There were tables of various entities of the church, where one could pick up their literature. One was called U Kirk, which “provides professional support, empowerment and community for those engaged in campus ministry on behalf of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)” It turns out that the woman at the table knew our pastors and even shared the first name of one of them.

Another involved becoming a Matthew 25 church. “Matthew 25:31–46 calls all of us to actively engage in the world around us, so our faith comes alive and we wake up to new possibilities. Convicted by this passage, both the 222nd and 223rd General Assemblies (2016 and 2018) exhorted the PC(USA) to act boldly and compassionately to serve people who are hungry, oppressed, imprisoned or poor.” As it turned out, only three days earlier, the Session of my congregation at home had already agreed to join the effort.

Lots of the Purdue students were riding rented bicycles and scooters this week, and a few of the Presbyterians tried the scooters as well. If I had brought my helmet, I might have rented a bike myself.

Another great sermon, I believe involving a LEGO movie. It’s been a good time, but I’m ready to go home.

Prone to Wander: Luke 15

Hot as H-E-C-K

parable of the lost coinFor the Thursday Triennium sessions, the lesson was Prone to Wander from Luke 15. It contains three parables. Our Albany group talked about two of them, the parable of the lost sheep and the parable of the lost coin.

Our collective had already been using an app called What’s App to communicate, especially on such a big campus. Cleverly, the room was split in two and we had conversations about the parables using the app, instead of talking. It was a useful attempt to have an intergenerational dialogue, and it allowed those who might not feel comfortable speaking up.

Is finding one sheep worth it when you already have 99? Sweeping the whole house was thought to be a whole lot of effort for one coin. I’m texting about metaphors to my group. What, I’m texting?

Incidentally, that day, I got a notification from my phone carrier that I’d used 85% percent of my high-speed data, which had never happened before. The next day, they clearly had reduced my data speeds through the following Monday.

The sermon that day also referenced the third parable, about the prodigal son who was welcomed back.

One important thing I had not mentioned was that, by Tuesday, it was hot as H-E-double hockey sticks, as some friends used to say when I was a kid. The temperatures were in the mid-90s, at least, and it was dreadfully humid. It felt like 104F (40C) or so every day.

I just couldn’t walk nearly a mile for dinner Wednesday night. By Thursday, I surrendered and got rides from one of the golf carts that were driving around after I would walk to breakfast.

The problem is that they had six or seven carts that could carry five people each. They anticipated about 40 people using the carts, but they were moving about 140. So that day, I got to dinner very early – it was better than walking.

I went up to the lounge of Earhart Hall, yes, named for Amelia, above the dining area. I’d see the Purdue students come out of the hallway, only to see this massive line of Presbyterians. No one had told them about the invasion: “they never tell us anything.”

Back at our dorm, I played 8-ball (billiards) with some kids. I loved playing in college, though I was quite terrible. Good to know these things hadn’t changed.

One last nightly task: a bunch of the chaperones had to check rooms between 10:30 and 11 p.m. to make sure they were present. They weren’t kids from the Albany delegation but were randomly assigned. By 11:30 lights out, I was ready for sleep.

Jesus Sought Me: Luke 19

Come down from that tree!

Zacchaeus tree.Palestine_Jericho
Zacchaeus tree in Jericho, Palestine
Now it’s the second day of Triennium, so it’s Tuesday. No, wait, it’s Wednesday. We left on Monday, got here on Tuesday. It WAS Wednesday.

The scripture of the day was Luke 19, specifically the first ten verses, and the theme of the day is Jesus Sought Me. After breakfast, there are discussions with our group of 18. We were joined by a couple of women from Connecticut, who were their entire delegation.

Jerry, the pastor, led the discussion about Zacchaeus, the tax collector. It was a despised profession because they only made a real profit when they overcharged those who owed money. And he was the chief tax collector in the area, so he was particularly loathed

Verse 3: He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. The first “he” was Zacchaeus. But Jerry opined that the second he was NOT Zaccheus but Jesus and that Jesus was short.

Ha! That dovetails with my working theory that Jesus was not only height-challenged but homely as well, which I shared with one of our visitors afterward.

The broader message was that Jesus picked that unlikely guy, deciding he needed to stay at Zacchaeus’ house that night. The crowd grumbled, “Why is Jesus hanging out with THAT dude?” Zacchaeus declared he’d give up half of his possessions to the poor, and if he cheated anybody, he’d pay them back four times the amount.

The message continued later that morning in the small group discussions. I was probably older than the instructor and there was only one other person over 40. The rest appeared to be older teens or in their early twenties. I enjoyed the intergenerational interaction.

I should explain the worship services. It’s in a hall that holds most of the 5000 people attending the conference.

The session started, always, with what they called “The Energizer”, doing various exercises to pop music from a variety of artists, including Taylor Swift and BTS, the latter which thrilled my daughter. I thought it was, in the words of Frank Zappa, “enforced recreation,” but I was clearly in the minority.

Our group showed up closer to the start time of the worship services, but the Energizers started slightly before the scheduled time. The kids in our group would try to get there early.

There was a band who sang and played a folk/gospel/rock amalgam. They were quite good. The lyrics to the songs, all but one of which were unfamiliar to me, were shown on a couple of screens. It’s usually not my cuppa, but most of the songs were pretty good.

The sermons during the week, from five diverse speakers, were good across the board. They spoke of an inclusive, rather than exclusionary God, a God that would welcome even a tax collector.

While no specific political statements were made, it was clear that the speakers were cognizant of a certain rhetorical disconnect out of the District of Columbia.

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