Sunday, January 11, 2009

And they’re off…

It’s hard to live in Lexington, KY without gaining some appreciation for horse racing. Perhaps you know already that Kentucky’s nickname, “The Bluegrass State,” refers to a very green species of grass native to the region (their springtime buds are bluish, but not the shoots), which is particularly useful for thoroughbred horses. The secret is calcium; that the high-calcium bluegrass diet of Kentucky-bred horses fortifies their bodies for the vigors of competitive racing, all because of rich limestone deposits upon which the bluegrass grows. Geologists think that has something to do with an ancient ocean in that part of the country. In any event, it’s helped create a unique culture of horse owners, breeders, vets, jockeys, enthusiasts and casual fans like myself, all of whom wait for those glorious two minutes every first Saturday of May, Derby Day, when Churchill Downs is resplendent in sartorial panache (surely you’ve seen the ladies’ hats…). The horses take a warm-up jaunt about the track, slowly to show off, gather into the gate, the bell rings, the doors open and a caller calls those famous words, a phrase we’ve waited for all year, “And they’re off!”

Phew, I need to calm down just thinking about it! But there’s good reason, I tell you, they call The Kentucky Derby the most exciting two minutes in sports. Once the starting gates open, every person in attendance or watching on TV is breathless until the race ends, either because they’re holding out, anxious to see who emerges victorious, or because they’re screaming their lungs raspy with every passion available (or because they’re in the infield, which is another matter entirely…). Now I don’t want to over-exaggerate and create false expectations, but a similar sense of anticipation is what I feel for this new year. “And they’re off!”
That, of course, has something to do with my soon-to-happen marriage (six months and counting…), and it has much to do with the idea of a whole year here in MN at Plymouth Creek. But most relevant for us this morning is the eagerness I feel for this second Sunday of January, our kick-off Sunday for the 2009 Congregational Theme- A Table Before Me: God’s Open-Armed Adventure. You’ve probably heard me talk of this already, but Kimberly reminds me that folk need to hear something five times or more, in five or so different places, before it finally sticks. So consider this number 4 (the pulpit will be 5, unsurprisingly).
Through conversation with the Board, the Servant Leaders and other teams and members of this church, we’ve decided to focus our church life this year around the particular image and idea found in the theme above. Today will be the first of four Sundays when I’ll preach about God’s Open-Armed Adventure, using four different adventure flicks to make my point. We’re kicking off new Sunday School material, focused on the Basic Adventure of Christian Faith: The Life of Christ. We’ll study a book called God’s Holy Adventure together during once-a-week weekday night classes in Lent. Our Mission Team has called for a 2009 Mission Adventure: Table Hospitality (I considered using the acronym, MATH, but figured that wouldn’t help much). And that’s just what’s cooking so far…

Maybe it seems like a little gimmicky, and perhaps it is. But more than that, we hope, is a basic truth of spiritual development: good stuff happens when people focus and make discerning choices. So because we’re committed to growing together in Christian discipleship, we’ve made a choice- to plumb the depths of Christ’s open-armed Table, and to ready ourselves for continued adventure with the God of all who calls us forth.

And so we’re off! I’m thrilled, nervous, ready and unsure all at once. But, as I keep telling myself over and over, it wouldn’t be an adventure if it felt comfortable and familiar. Fortunately, as Psalm 23:5 points out, “You (God) set a table before me” even, “in the presence of mine enemies.” And once that happens, “You (God) anoint my head with oil,” and pour out life to all, so that we each may say, “My cup runneth over.” How’s that for an adventure story?!? I’m glad you’ve joined in…

On this journey, and in all things, I wish you,

Grace and Peace,