Friday, March 7, 2014

Stump the Pastor

Our church has a Midweek Miracle each week. It’s our LOGOS program, which offers a variety of activities – crafts, games, stories, dinner – for children and youth for a nominal fee. As a part of LOGOS, I have about 45 minutes with the youth every Wednesday. The previous senior pastor used this time to work on worship leadership skills and rehearse plays with them, but I’m trying a few different things to see what feels best. After all, every time you get together with 15-20 middle and high school students, it’s a different adventure.

We've gone outside to play, despite freezing temperatures, because students this age miss the time to just be, without structure or expectation, and to rejoice in the strength and abilities of their bodies. We've done a guided meditation, which was old hat for some of the senior high students, but a novel experience for many of the middle schoolers. Slowing down, getting in touch with your body, and moving your mind and spirit into an encounter with God is a healthy practice to try. I was delighted when one student showed up late that time and another said, “Ah, man, you missed the fun part!”

Most recently, we played “Stump the Pastor.” I enjoy this tremendously since I want to be open and honest with my church. Honestly, it’s probably not that hard to stump me since I would be the first to say I don’t know everything. But with my trusty friend, Google, and a week’s notice in the form of index cards that the youth wrote their questions on, I was ready to go! So, here’s a sample of the questions that were asked and my responses.

What is rat poison made of? This was definitely a question for Google, since I’m no pest control expert. According to the online expert, most rat poison is made from warfarin, an anticoagulant, or blood thinner, which is also used as a medication for some people. Cyanide is also used in some rat poisons.

Have you ever had a hamster? No to the hamster, but I could tell you a funny story about how I agreed to take care of the class pets over a school holiday break when I was in 1st grade. The pets just happened to be a pair of rats. My mom was not thrilled.

When is anything too much? As Methodists, we’re great believers in moderation. We tend to follow the via media, the middle road, which was a great trend of thought out of the Protestant Reformation, particularly in the Anglican Church, to which we can trace our denominational roots. However, we also recognize that there are times when even a little bit can be too much, such as alcohol at the Lord’s Table for those who struggle with addiction. That is why we use the unfermented juice of the grape, i.e. grape juice.

Why do I matter? You were created by God. You are precious and beloved. Even if it doesn't feel that way sometimes, if things here are rough, God loves you so much that God would die to save you. Psalm 8 says it this way, "When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor. You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet."

How are babies made? Oh, goodness. Dear parents, if you haven’t had this talk yet with your child, please do! Otherwise, send them to the theologically grounded but anatomically accurate workshop our church will be hosting soon.

Why do we need to eat? Our bodies need fuel - calories, nutrients, vitamins, etc. - to keep us healthy and strong. Do you know what a calorie is? (Something that makes you fat!) No, not necessarily. A calorie is a measure of energy - like volts. And your body needs energy, so you need a certain number of calories each day. It's when we take in a lot more energy than we use that we have trouble. 

Why do people think God is a man? Back in Bible times the most powerful people tended to be kings, so when they talked about God, it was natural to talk about God as a mighty king. But there are other was of describing God. Jesus describes himself like a mother hen who longs to gather her chicks under her wings (Matthew 23, Luke 13). I also like to read this section from Genesis 1: “Then God said, 'Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness…So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

So are all made imago Dei, as in we all look like God, whether we’re male or female, tall or short, young or old. And while, ultimately, I believe God is beyond gender, God also contains the creativity and limitless possibility to know what life is like for all of us. It may not be what we look like on the outside that’s most important, but how we love others that makes us look most like God. 

If you could live anywhere, where would you like to live? Anywhere would be fine with me as long as I was with my family and near my friends. I only have one of those right now, and it's ok, but I'd love to have both.

What are your thoughts on tattoos? Here are some very practical things to consider: 1) it's permanent - even if you get it "removed" the skin will never be the same as it was before; 2) be very careful what you choose to put on your body and where, especially considering a future career; 3) be mindful of gravity and the effects of gaining or losing weight on body art. With all that said, I think tattoos are a unique and often beautiful way of expressing yourself. And it gives others the opportunity to know or ask about your story that they may not have otherwise.

Have you ever had a bad hair day? Umm...are you looking at me? Of course! 

They had a lot more questions and I do, too. When have you been stumped? Do you have a place to ask your questions? 

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