Sunday, September 28, 2014

Gideon, Minecraft, and One Bad Summer

I was asked to preach at the Bishop's Retreat last week. Here is the text of that sermon.

Gideon, Minecraft, and One Bad Summer
Judges 6:11-14

We have all been where Gideon was: confronted with God's messenger with the word we were called to do a great thing. We are here today because we have all shared in this experience. There is comfort in knowing that we have this miraculous moment in common. Then why did the idea of standing up here this morning weigh so heavily on me?

I had a bad summer. I had a couple of events  in Spring that made me wonder if I was any good at what I do. I was in a funk when Annual Conference rolled around. At Annual Conference, we were confronted with the need to change direction if we wanted to be strong in the near future.

I hear the burden of doing something to change direction in order to continue our rich heritage and tradition. But in the emotional place I was, I heard, "you aren't doing enough and what you are doing isn't good enough."  Before the end of Annual Conference, my funk was even deeper. I was feeling even  more inadequate. I felt I was being sent back to my appointment not knowing if I could do any good. And my state did not improve over the summer.

I love doing camp and had a great year. I had a longer than usual vacation. But by the end of summer, I was not in a better place. Emotionally, mentally, spiritually, I was asking myself - have I wasted the last 20 years of my life doing something I will never be effective doing? Am I adequate enough to continue being a pastor?

Gideon asked this same thing of God. How can I, someone farm boy from a backwater clan in a backwater tribe.

It had taken a lot of struggle with the ideas of failure, expectations, and how much the opinions of others matters. I am still having to work through issues of pride, success, and comparing myself to others. I discovered by accident at the right time the book Fail by J.R. Briggs. The book touches on many of the same issues I was dealing with. I also had to work through some baggage with friends and colleagues. And then I read about Microsoft buying Minecraft.

I am a nerd. A geek. One of those people some of you laugh at on Big Bang Theory when you have no idea what they are talking about. One aspect of my nerdiness is that I’m a computer gamer. I have been a gamer since computers could fit on a desk. Minecraft is one of the biggest upsets in the computer gaming world since it began. It was a simple project that became an international and cultural giant. The person behind the creation of Minecraft is Marcus Persson, a Swedish nerd and game designer. He became a multi-millionaire almost over-night. Last week, Microsoft bought Minecraft for 2.5 billion dollars.

Marcus Persson, or Notch as he is known in the gamer culture, put out a statement about the purchase of his company and the game he designed. In it, he talks about how he is just a game designer. He just likes to make games. He never set out to make a world-changing, cultural icon. He never wanted to become a symbol of something, which he has. He said something else, about failure:

I wanted to try to do new things. At first, I failed by trying to make something big again, but since I decided to just stick to small prototypes and interesting challenges, I’ve had so much fun with work.

In those words I realized something: I wasn’t having fun anymore. I had been put in a position where people who don’t know me were making judgments about what I am capable of and it hurt me. I felt that expectations had been thrust toward me that do not reflect my nature, gifts, talents, or passions. I was overburdened by the symbol I perceived people had made me out to be.

And then there’s Gideon. The farm boy from a little backwater town. One day God says to Gideon, “I want you to do something great. I want you to deliver my people. I think you have what it takes to do this. Get it done.” Twice, in fact, God’s servant calls Gideon a mighty man. Here is the picture of this mighty man: he was fearful, wishy-washy, indecisive, and had a problem with commitment. He isn’t our picture of a mighty person with the might to deliver God’s people. God reminds Gideon of this. God says, “I will take care of the victory, you take care of what you can.” If you really know the story, the only thing Gideon had to do was break a pot. God took care of the rest.

Colleagues, my bad summer is over. I’m better, but I’m not good yet. I still have wounds and sore spots in my spirit. But I realized something through all of this. I’m not adequate to be a symbol of something. I’m not adequate to achieve the task of transforming the United Methodist Church. I’m not adequate to achieve the task of turning the course of the Oklahoma Annual Conference. I’m not sure if I’m adequate to do a great thing in a local congregation. But I wasn’t called to do those things.

God called me to be mighty in the might that I have been given. My gifts, talents, and personality make me uniquely equipped to do ministry in the way God prepared me to do. I am only adequate to do what God has purposed me for and gifted me to do. My might is made known in the lives that I touch individually. My might is displayed in the affirmations and encouragements that I can give, usually one life at a time. I’m called to help build disciples one person at a time. Maybe 4 or 5 at a time.

But it’s assuring to know that Jesus did it that way. Jesus didn't look at saving the world when he looked into the eyes of the people he changed. He didnt think about saving the world until he climbed onto a cross and accomplished that once for all.

Friends, brothers and sisters, we are not called to be more than what God has made us to be and become. It is so easy for us to get caught up in the idea that im not doing enough, im not good enough. The might you have been given by our God and our Lord and the Spirit is what you can do. To do more than that is to step into a role that you may not have been called to. Go, do mighty things in the might you have been given. Let God take care of the rest.
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