About Me

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Knoxville, TN, United States
Interim Pastor of Evergreen Presbyterian Church (USA), Dothan, AL.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Are You a Mutant?

2014-04-27 Are You a Mutant?
1 Corinthians 1:25-31, Matthew 18:1-7, 10-14

Middle School is Confirmation time. Remember Middle School, or Junior High?  Remember how those were the best years of your life? Neither do I. Sixth, seventh, eighth grades… Maybe you didn't feel worried, self-conscious and awkward. Weirdo. You're not a little kid anymore but you're not one of the High Schoolers yet, with their cars and coolness.

I love working with Middle Schoolers. That's where my sense of humor got stuck. There's nothing funnier to me than physical humor and rude noises. The movie, "Airplane!" still makes me laugh. You're thinking, "Surely you can't be serious." I am serious; and don't call me Shirley. Middle School is the great in-between age. You're discovering there's a you to discover, but you're not sure how. You're not sure where you fit in. You're worried if there IS a place you fit in.

If ever there was a scripture that should speak to Middle Schoolers, it's the one we read and the choir sang. About that one little sheep who wandered away,  didn't fit in, who stood alone, feeling odd, feeling outcast, feeling ready to roam free, but not sure how to do it without getting lost. Sounds like Middle School to me.

But here's something adults don't tell you when you're in Middle School. That feeling, that worry of being the outsider, the oddball, the lost sheep? It never goes away. The fear never goes away. We spend the rest of our lives trying to hide the fear. We spend years trying to outrun it. We spend money to tranquilize it, to distract ourselves from it. But the truth you should be told in Middle School is that every grownup has the exact same fears as you. We've just had time to cultivate better ways to hide it.

I don't care how old you get, one of our greatest fears is that we're going to be that lone, lost sheep, and no one's going to come find us.

The name of our Confirmation Class is "Mutant Invasion." (www.whoarethemutants.com) It's a thing I wrote as part of my doctoral program. The kids take on the role of secret agents solving a mystery. Mutants have infiltrated our church and it's their job to investigate, to interrogate church members, to learn about what Presbyterians believe and do in order to figure out which of you people are the mutants. We study the church, the Bible, and what it means to have a new quality of life proclaimed in Baptism. After all, Confirmation means confirming your baptismal vows, or for some, taking them for the first time. In the service of Confirmation, we ask the kids the same questions we asked their parents on their behalf when they were baptized as babies. No matter the age, Baptism is about being "reborn" as a new, spiritual being.

The idea behind "Mutant Invasion" is that something about church changes us, mutates us. We church people are supposed to be different, somehow. But it's more than just turning over a new leaf. We believe GOD changes us, or, in other words, mutates us at our core, so we're different when we leave church than when we came in.

The Bible is FILLED with scriptures about new life, about being changed, about becoming spiritual beings, about being IN the world but not OF the world. In Christ, in Easter, every day we're remade into NEW creations. Being a Christian is about being WEIRD. Being a Christian is about being ODD, about being CHANGED. Being a Christian is about being a spiritual MUTANT because what we think and do and believe is somehow altered by God and sent down a new path.

Paul wrote: "But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are NOT, to reduce to nothing things that ARE."

And that's exactly what the hero mutants in movies like "X-Men" do. They're the outcasts. They're strange. They're the ones that the world sees as outsiders, and yet they're the ones who save the world. But while X-Men boast in their own strength, God calls US to strangeness in order that we might - as Paul says - "boast in the Lord" - getting strength from God's power.

"The disciples came to Jesus and asked, 'Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?' He called a child, whom he put among them, and said, 'Truly I tell you, unless you CHANGE (get it? change? fundamentally change) and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."

Which brings us back to Middle School. Is there a point in life where CHANGE is more present? Physically, mentally, emotionally, it's when life spins at dizzying RPMs. It's exciting. It's scary. It's awful and it's miraculous — often at the same time.

Jesus is saying is that you grownups would do well to take a lesson from these kids. We adults could take a lesson on putting away our sophisticated defense systems. We adults would do well to stop being all cool and cultured. Cultured. Interesting word. It means knowing how to fit in. Or, it means to be grown, like a fungus. We adults would do well to stop trying so hard to be cultured, and confess - as in "The Prayer of" - confession that the only thing separating us from the anxieties of Middle School, is a few years.


So after six weeks of Confirmation, the big reveal finally comes. The secret agency steps out of the shadows and proclaims what the kids probably figured out the first day but were too kind to shout out. The  secret is, WE'RE ALL MUTANTS. You, me, every single one of us, is here because in some way, we've been called by God to this place. In some way, we've all been changed by God, had our spirits mutated by the Holy Spirit and the person of Jesus Christ. We've been reborn by the waters of baptism and remade by God who,  "is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption...." Every single one of us is that wandering, bumbling, stumbling little sheep who goes astray. And Christ is the Good Shepherd, who searches us out, and changes us, by bringing us home.

Are we weird? Are we strange? Of course we are. Some of us more than others. On our own, we'd all be wandering astray, lost in woods of what passes for normal. God always chooses the foolish, the weak, the low and despised, the mutant. Or at least, God chooses people who are brave enough to confess they've felt that way, and often do. We're joined by our need to be changed, to be mutations in Christ.


So the question is, are YOU a mutant? Do you feel, or have you ever felt like that one little sheep who doesn't fit in and goes astray?

I wonder. After the shepherd carried that one little lamb home, did he wake up the next morning and go...?

"Ninety-eight, ninety-nine. Oh, come on. Shaggy's wondered off AGAIN???" Or maybe this day it was Freddie, or Velma. Hey, those are fine sheep names. Maybe he spent his mornings hiking up the hill and carrying home whichever had gone off in the dark. Today it's Dolly the clone. Tomorrow it's Rogue, Wolverine, or Magneto, also fine names. Maybe the shepherd felt like he spent all his time chasing the little sweaters-to-be.

I wonder if that's how Jesus felt.

If only there was a way to make them stay saved, for good, in spite of their wandering, isolating, persistently awkward ways. If only.

You are here, maybe because you want to be changed in ways that stick. Maybe you're not sure why you're here, but here you are. In Christ, we're all mutants, in one way or another. Even if you can't or don't want to claim yourself, claim who Christ is, and let him make something new out of you.