Sermon of the Week:
Fourth Sunday of Easter
Keywords: The Good Shepherd, Psalm 23, Afflict the Comfortable, Comfort the Afflicted, Charlie Brown. #pcusa
Permission to podcast / stream the music in this service obtained from ONE LICENSE with license #A-733469. All rights reserved.
I was sitting around a firepit recently
talking with someone
Who was musing about
how they felt oddly between generations,
You know, a bit too old to be a Millennial, and yet too young to be Gen X.
Those generational distinctions we make aren’t really all that big a deal.
People are people, and we have so much more in common than we don’t
No matter our age.
But it is also true that we can make some generalizations, sweeping generalizations, sure,
About how a group of people who all experienced a lot of similar things
Engage the world in a similar way:
The Builders, or the Silent Generation, lived through the great depression
and the second great war, for example
and many from that era
understood their lives, lived their lives
through the sacrifice needed to survive that they experienced
living during those significant, global events.
Their children, the Boomers, came of age during the significant enthusiasm that followed
When the US emerged from that world war
as the world’s only remaining economic super power
While at the same time tied up in a cold war with the Soviet Union.
Then came my generation, Gen X:
We were born and raised during the civil rights era,
the post-Vietnam and Watergate years.
There used to be a tiny group called Gen Y,
that’s the window my friend was born in,
Though now she’s technically considered a Millennial,
The first group to experience the full power of computers and information technology,
Though the next group, Gen Z, which means almost everyone else who remains,
Don’t remember a time when cell phones weren’t everywhere,
Not to mention Facebook and Google and Spotify and Netflix.
Just describing these generations succinctly, like this,
Is almost breathtaking.
There’s so much change that’s happened in the last hundred years,
when you stop to think about it.
My friend, around the firepit,
Felt a bit adrift,
A touch too old to join her fellow millennials,
Insofar as she remembered actually using fax machines,
Not just fax machines, but that thermal paper that they used to use,
And a touch too young to join Gen X,
Because she didn’t remember a time before AOL.
Again, I’m not sure that the distinctions between the generations means too much.
While some point out various tendencies and dispositions
among the Builders or the Boomers or Gen X or what have you,
there are always exceptions in every group,
so you have to take it all with a grain of salt.
But I had reason this week to think about how I also felt
a bit sandwiched between generations, so to speak, from time to time.
I gave this sermon the title ‘Good Grief’ almost a month ago,
before I had written a word,
when I read through the post Easter stories in John and in Luke
and started seeing a few common threads in these Eastertide narratives.
I could have called these Easter sermons ‘Good’ Sermons,
Because each of them have Good in their title.
Last week’s sermon was: Good Food,
when we talked about the story in Luke
where Jesus shared a meal with the disciples
after he was once quite dead and then just showed up, alive and ready to get about living,
ready to start serving and loving and teaching again.
Next week, incidentally, the sermon is called ‘Good Company,’
And we’ll talk about how Jesus, the true vine, the one in whom we abide,
Knits us together into something bigger than any of us, individually.
It just so happens to be a communion Sunday,
And it is around the table, Jesus’ table, that we are all welcome,
that we’re all in good company.
But this week, the sermon title is Good Grief
And that led me to Charlie Brown.
I grew up in the generation that still read the comic section of the newspaper.
Oh I loved the comic section.
I remember running to grab the Sunday Des Moines Register when it arrived.
The Sunday paper was massive, all wrapped up in a plastic sleeve thicker than a football
And I pulled out the paper, tossing everything aside
Front page, sports section, all the weekly ads, to get to the comic section.
It was full color, and it was spectacular!
During the week, it would be at the back of the life section
or whatever it was called back then,
and every day I’d go look for Calvin and Hobbes, The Far Side, Dilbert maybe.
And, of course, Peanuts,
Which by the time of my childhood was a far bigger deal than any of those others,
The stuff of Christmas specials on TV and little snoopy lunchboxes with their own thermos.
I think I got the tail end of the Charlie Brown phenomenon, and maybe comics in general.
Later they would move to the web, and I don’t think they’re much of a thing these days at all.
Charlie was responsible for establishing so many pop culture references
for Boomers and us Gen Xers: security blankets, Joe Cool,
Hang on Snoopy, The Great Pumpkin.
And then there was the one thing that I particularly remember,
Charlie’s exasperated sigh: Good Grief!
He’d say it all the time:
When the red-headed girl caused him to get all stressed out and flummoxed
When Lucy yanked the football away from him after PROMISING
that this time would be different.
It became a summary, of sorts, for how Charlie worked his way through life.
Everything was a bit of a struggle.
This resonated for me, and I think a lot of kids, from any era:
Childhood is so full of vulnerabilities and challenges,
but it also provides an opportunity to learn the joy of friendship and relationship and purpose.
Sometimes, when I get annoyed by things, I’ll let out a ‘Good Grief!’ of my own.
And then I might think
about how Charlie Brown taught me to get in touch with those feelings of mine,
feelings of fatigue and exasperation and annoyance.
Getting in touch with our feelings is a good thing,
An essential thing. A healthy thing. [Read more…]