11/20/2016 Preached at North Kent Presbyterian Church
One of the amazing and good things about social media is the way that it allows you to keep up with friends who no longer live near you. One of the people that I love to keep up with is my friend and college roommate, Kayme Kampenga-Bell. Kayme and I first became friends at Calvin College, mostly by staying up late watching David Letterman in the tv room together. But by talking we found out that we were both raised on farms, she on a big dairy farm from Racine, Wisconsin, and myself from my parents small hobby farm in Michigan. While we were frequently found together at Calvin, after college we lost touch for a while, but then connected again on Facebook. Kayme now lives in Reno, Nevada and is married with two sons named Bennett and Bryson. The career that she chose and is thriving in is as a Special Ed teacher for children who have severe aggression and or autism/ multiple disabilities. –The kids that hit and bite and throw chairs and try to beat up their teachers and other people are the ones that she welcomes to her classroom. Raised as a tough farm girl, Kayme had no problem physically subduing a student in the proper way when they acted out of control. But as she got older and heavier she was finding that doing the physical part of her job wasn’t as easy as it once was. So in an effort to get into shape, she went on a severe diet and joined a roller derby team. Nicknamed “Bruiser” she both gave and received quite a few bruises from both the physical contact and the mega crash pileups that commonly occur in women’s roller derby. But after years in roller derby, Kayme decided that she wanted more. She started lifting weights and got herself into body building competitions. And when the people at her gym were putting together a team to try to do the Spartan Obstacle Course Race in Sacramento, CA, this past weekend she signed up to go out there and do it with them.
The Spartan Obstacle Course races are part of a new type of sport in the United States. A sport where you need to be physically and mentally fit to be able to go through whatever obstacles the organizers surprise you with. Both the 3 mile “sprint” course and the 8 mile “super” course will typically have tasks like tire dragging, rope climbing, climbing walls, crawling under barbed wire, carrying weights up hills, crossing rope spider webs and frequently these races conclude with a fire jump obstacle at the very end. This past weekend, Kayme completed both the sprint and the super Spartan Obstacle Course races. And when people found out that she competed, everyone was asking her how she did and what her time was. –They wanted to know if she won or placed or how her completion time was compared with other women competitors and if she had won a gold medal. But this was Kayme’s response to everyone on Facebook:
WHAT WAS MY TIME? My TIME was amazing! I took TIME to help friends and fit(ness) fam(ily) and strangers over walls and through obstacles they could not have done by themselves. TIME to walk with a guy who hurt his back on the first obstacle until he was ready to stop. TIME to help a guy who was scared and frozen at the top of the spider web, asking if he was ok and holding him steady so he could swing his leg over. TIME to check on and help people who were stopped along the way with aspirin, a sip of water with PHYSX BCAAs,(nutrients) or whatever I had to share. TIME to help and encourage people with cramps and other pains to keep going and not quit. TIME to help carry a guy with a broken ankle to the next place for pick up about a mile away. TIME to cheer on and encourage people as they were tired and scared, to do things they never thought they could do. TIME to wait for my team with a lot of first timers, help them through each obstacle, and get them through to the finish line. And the look of pride and achievement on everyone’s faces was definitely worth my TIME! No, my TIME didn’t win any money in the competitive world–but the friends I met, the people I helped, the memories I made, and the inspiration I gained are WORTH MORE THAN GOLD to me!
Kayme, instead of focusing on winning, instead of focusing on beating up and destroying her competition, instead focused on something much more important. She focused on her ability to help and to build good relationships.
In our scripture passage today, there is also a bit of a competition going on. Paul is addressing the church in Philippi and the big conflict that was occurring there. The church at Philippi was having some sort of a bitter church fight. (And many of us know how bad and bitter church fights can be!) While we shouldn’t be surprised that church fights happened back in the first century as well as now, Paul did not take sides in the conflict or pick a winner. He simply said in verse 2: “I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord.” He also asked people to help them to get along.
And then immediately following that recommendation, here in verse 4, Paul begins his important admonition for today. “Rejoice!” again I say, “Rejoice” and to bring all of your requests to God with Thanksgiving. And then Paul gives his reader a litany of things that we should strive to keep in the forefront of our minds. “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (This is really good advice and probably the reason why lovely cat videos are still so popular on the internet. ) But this is not the way that the majority of our 24 hour news cycle is presented to us. For news, the admonition of, “If it bleeds, it leads” and the more horrifying and terrible the news, the more time it seems to get. And for many of us, including myself, it is a good reminder that a steady of diet of election scandals and hyperbole is not something that is good for us. And the way that our computers and search engines now learn what it is that we are looking for, even though the election is over, I am still getting every little mention of Trump or Hillary broadcasted into my newsfeed. And so this week, I decided to purposely look for a story in the news that was actually lovely and admirable ways of living together on this planet that we need to lift up and emulate.
One story that was trending in the news this week that you may have missed was oddly enough, about a search for a child’s sippy cup.
Marc Carter of Devon, England took to social media this week to try to locate a very specific type of “Tommee Tippee” light blue sippy cup that is no longer being manufactured. His reason for doing this was not because he is an odd collector of sippy cups. The cup is for his severely autistic 13 year old son Ben, who refuses to drink out of any other cup since he was 2 years old. And even though the parents tried to wean his son Ben to other types or colors of sippy cups, two different emergency trips to the hospital for severe dehydration underscore the severity of treating Ben Carter like any other normal child. –Like many children who are severely mentally challenged, certain objects and routines become the only way that they can tolerate interaction with the world around them. –Young Ben currently only drinks liquids when he is at home and not at school and then only out of this one particular cup which was rapidly falling apart from continual use. In an amazingly fast response to the Carter’s plea for help, the world responded in a wonderful way. –Within a couple of days of people hearing the call for this particular sippy, parents had checked their cupboards and attics and soon four almost pristine cups arrived in the mail at the Carters home. The manufacturer Tommee Tippee also got wind of the request and put an appeal out their mailing list and checked all of the corners of their warehouse for back stock. Word has it that a box with 25 of Ben’s light blue Tommie Tippee cups is on its way. Marc Carter posted his gratitude for this gift. “It’s so fantastic. I genuinely cried a few points in the past few days.” He also said that he loved it that it was making people think about autism, even if just for a few minutes.”
Because Ben will likely need these special cups to drink out of for the rest of his life, the quest for them is never over. But this week, he is very thankful for the complete strangers who rallied together to help his son. He summed it all up with this quote, “Genuinely, this is better than winning the lottery.”
This week is Thanksgiving, and many of you will be spending time with your extended families. I don’t think that I will be alone in saying that there around your table there may very well be some very strained conversations about the election results and the state of things and the future leadership in our country. –And just like the fight between church members that Paul is addressing with his words today, it is important to remember that the people who are gathered around your table are often your family members who you actually do love, and so it is important to find things to agree about. Give thanks to God for the many things that we all are grateful for. While Christians can and do disagree about many important things and mysteries of the faith that we can’t even begin to describe, as followers of Christ we are committed to a few basics that are all things that we can rejoice about.
–As followers of Christ we can all rejoice that the God of the universe made us and loved us so much that God would come to this earth and die for us. We can celebrate the life and the resurrection of Jesus and how that relationship with Christ changes lives and gives people a new hope and new peace of mind. Together we can celebrate how lives are turned around, and how when we love God, others and ourselves, we can work together to create a world of peace and justice. We can together celebrate the good things that we have, the relationships that we have with one another and the way that we all can continue to learn and shape and grow. And as we settle down and tuck into our share of the turkey, the stuffing and the pumpkin pie, it is so important to truly stop our all of our arguing and our bickering and our hate for just a few minutes with the people who have shaped us most and for us to give our thanks to God for all of the uncountable blessings that we together enjoy in this world. So be it. Amen.