About Me

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

Sunday, January 07, 2024

Start! The Rodeo

"Start: This Ain't Our First Rodeo"  January 7, 2024

Do you ever get one of those feelings of deja vu?
I do. I'm not even French.
This place looks familiar.
Some of you look familiar. Have we met?
It's as if I was here, but in another dimension.
Long ago, and in a different galaxy, far, far away.

There's a picture of some kid in the hallway. With my name.
Surely, that can't be me.
MY hair's white.
These spots on my face and hands.
Everything hurts.
And nothing digests.
I'm nothing like that little, green guy.

Have you experienced this deja vu bugaboo?
Are you right now?
I think it's proof that the more things change: [?]
The more they stay the same.
What goes around comes around in the great Ross Clark Circle of Life.

Today's first scripture is from Ecclesiastes.
AKA, "The Preacher."
To me, The Preacher sounds like a wise old cowboy.
The one in the movie who spits in the dirt, looks you in the eye, and says, "It ain't my first rodeo."
This ain't OUR first rodeo.
But I hope it's our NEW rodeo.
A brand-new Rodeo Grande for 2024.

In the Second Scripture today, Jesus undergoes a baptism of repentance and everybody always asks, "What for?"
The Son of God was a good boy who never got in trouble.
He hasn't even done anything yet, but God still says, "I'm well-pleased."
What's up with that?
Baptism is the sign of new life, but what's new? What's different about Jesus now?
Surely, he must have changed from his pre-baptism photo in the hall.
Is this just another circuit in the going around, coming around rodeo of life?
Or is something new being done with the same-old, same old?

Let's talk about this.
Saddle up.

One of the biggest differences between the guy in hall and me is that he and his wife now have two grown daughters.
Suddenly there's all these women in the house.
The dog and I spend a lot of time together.

When our girls were little, like, three or four, and they'd be having fun, maybe a birthday party, and they'd proclaim, "This is the best day in my whole life!"
Probably was.
They hadn't had that many yet.
But you get some years on you, say, 15 or 62 years of the deja vu rodeoooo,  and you start to feel like you're just chasing the same old bull.
People say things like,  
"Dad's at it again."
Or, "That's exactly what my first husband used to say."
Or, "Church is always the same."
I get cha, pardner.
This ain't our first rodeo.

Ecclesiastes, The Preacher writes:

The sun rises and the sun goes down,
   and hurries to the place where it rises.
The wind blows to the south,
   and goes round to the north;
round and round goes the wind,
   and on its circuits the wind returns.
All streams run to the sea,
   but the sea is not full;
to the place where the streams flow,
   there they continue to flow.

That's a rodeo.

Rodeo, no surprise, comes from the Spanish.
Do any of you speak Spanish?
I mean, more than "mas cerveza, por favor"?
I speak Google Translate, because it's a Brave New World.

If you took Spanish in school you might remember
The Spanish word 'rodear' means what?
It means, 'Surround.' Or, 'go round.'
From the Latin, 'rotare' where we get 'rotate.'

Ecclesiastes says:

What has been is what will be,
   and what has been done is what will be done;
   there is nothing new under the sun.
Is there a thing of which it is said,
   'See, this is new'?
It has already been,
   in the ages before us.

LIFE is a rodeo.
If Ecclesiastes were Spanish he might have said, 'la vida es un rodeo.'
The sun goes round and so does everything under it.
Again and again and again.

But why, then, does God keep at it?
Why do we?
If nothing ever changes, why bother?

In the book of the prophet Isaiah (43:19), God sticks a head up above the crowd and makes a proclamation to those people stuck in the cycle of the same old, same old.
God says in Isaiah 43:19:
Hey! Everybody! Behold! I am doing a new thing. Can you see it?
Well, of course God is.
In the Bible, God's always doing a new thing. That's God's thing.
The kicker, the part that knocks us off our high horse, is that last part.
That last part, where Isaiah asks, "Can you see it?"

Because it doesn't make a hill of beans difference what things God's doing if we don't stop running in circles.
And SEE it.
Sometimes you have to look hard.
It takes time.
It takes us shutting our mouths and turning off the gall-darned phones.
It takes listening to each other. Over, and over, and over.
That's what John the Baptist was trying to get people to see and to bathe themselves in.
The knowledge, the faith, that God's doing a new thing.
AND, like Jesus, if we pause and look up,
we can see it.
Like Jesus, old and grumpy us, WE can be made new.

Mark 4:1 says,

John the baptist appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

Funny thing, repentance.
We always think it means saying I'm sorry.
"I'm sorry, I repent, I'll never do that again."

But in the Bible it always means more.
Literally, to repent in Bible talk is to start a new rodeo, to physically, mentally, spiritually, "turn around."
To do a real life 180. To change and to be changed.
Good news: God can help us do that.

That's what Jesus did. The Bible tells us how.

Just as he was coming up out of the water, [see what it's saying? rising up. looking up] Jesus saw the heavens torn apart.
And a voice came from heaven, "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased."

Have you ever felt like your same old world needs to be torn apart?
Like you wish God would snatch you out of your hamster wheel rodeo?
That your tired soul would hear GOD saying to YOU,
"Enough! Enough of this infinite loop!
"Become unstuck!  
"You are my beloved son. You are my beloved daughter.
"And there's not a doggone thing you can do about it."
Except see it. And accept it. And start living like it. New.
By the way, doesn't a "hamster wheel rodeo" sound like the cutest thing ever?
Somebody make a TicTok of that.

We may look familiar to each other, but this ain't your same old rodeo.
This is 20 heckin' 24.
This is new! Behold. Can you see it?
I do hope so.
For all our sakes. For Christ's sake.

This day, this moment.
It may not be our first rodeo.
And you know what? It's better if it's not.
Because then you can look back and see God was there with you the whole time.
And then you can ask, "Where's God leading me – where's God leading US – this time around?"

I've been doing this preacher thing a long time.
It doesn't feel like it.
Maybe 8 seconds in the saddle.
The ride goes fast.

I'm ready to try some new things.
I had to come all the way to Dothan, Alabama to get this fresh start.
But I'm ready.
I'm ready to repent, to turn myself a new direction.
How about you, Evergreen Presbyterian Church (USA)?
Are you ready to ride this new year into a new sun-RISE?
Let's try. Together.
You ready?
Saddle up. Let's ride.

Let's pray: Lord Jesus Christ, Father, and Holy Spirit, we make our prayer to you. In our hearts and minds, refresh us, empower us, awaken us to the new things you are doing. Within us, around us, open our eyes to see you working through us, to know that your will be done, on earth, until we join you in heaven. For yours is the glory forever and ever. Amen.


Rev. Dr. James McTyre
Transitional Pastor, Evergreen Presbyterian Church (USA), Dothan, AL