The Pastor's Buzz

Pastor Buzz Trexler's blog for God's people in The Meadow.

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Name: Buzz Trexler
Location: Knoxville, Tennessee, United States

Journalist for 29 years; married to Donna for 28 years; parent of David, 27, and Elizabeth, 24; pastor of Green Meadow United Methodist Church in Alcoa since 2002.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Journey Through The Desert: Who Are You?


Who are you?

If you’re South Korea's Kim Yu-na, then you are also “Queen Yu-na,” and perhaps rightly so, given that Thursday night she scored 228.56 points, winning a gold medal and beating dthe previous world record by more than 18 points – a world record held by Queen Yu-na, who is a mere 19 years old.

Who are you?

If you’re Jeret “Speedy” Peterson, it’s a bit more complicated.

Part of his identity is wrapped up in a pretzel-like maneuver called the Hurricane that he does while soaring some 50 feet in the air on skis. It netted him a silver medal Thursday night.

But four years ago he was the guy who finished seventh at the Olympics in Turin, got into a street fight and was sent home.

He was also the man who watched a friend commit suicide in front of him; a victim of sexual abuse; an abuser of alcohol who fought depression and thoughts of suicide; and someone who lost his 5-year-old sister to a drunken driver.

Speedy Peterson, who prior to Thursday night was defined by triumph and tragedy, is at this point at the pinnacle of triumph for him, having won the silver medal: Peterson says he may even retire the Hurricane.

At 28, it seems he is ready to embrace a new identity: The overcomer.

Listen to what he told a reporter for The Associated Press, as tears streamed down his face:

“I know that a lot of people go through a lot of things in their life, and I just want them to realize they can overcome anything. There's light at the end of the tunnel and mine was silver and I love it.” ("Peterson lands a Hurricane, wins a silver," Eddie Pells, The Associated Press; February 26, 2010)

Who are you?

If you’re Nicodemus in today’s text (John 3:1-17) , you come into the story as a Pharisee. You’re a teacher of the law. You’re a member of the Jewish religious leadership; the Sanhedrin. The name Pharisee means “the separated one,” because Pharisees “were those who had separated themselves form all ordinary life in order to keep every detail of the law of the scribes.”

It’s believed there were never more than 6,000 of them. ("The Daily Study Bible Series: The Gospel of Vol. 1," 1975, William Barclay, Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, Ky.; pp120-124)

If your name is Nicodemus, you weave your way in and out of the Gospel according to St. John.
In the 3rd chapter of John, you come to Jesus slinking through the dark of night, but affirming Jesus by saying, “Rabbi, we all know you’re a teacher straight from God. No one could do all the God-pointing, God-revealing acts you do if God weren’t in on it.” (Most Scripture citations are from Eugene Peterson's "The Message." Exceptions are from The Revised Standard Version)
“Jesus said, ‘You’re absolutely right. Take it from me: Unless a person is born from above, it’s not possible to see what I’m pointing to — to God’s kingdom.’”

And then Nicodemus — the Pharisee, the teacher, the religious leader — engages Jesus in this wonderful discussion about childbirth, when the Rabbi is talking about something totally different.

He’s talking about spiritual rebirth, not physical rebirth.

The last words we get from Nicodemus are, “What do you mean by this? How does this happen?
Jesus replies, “You’re a respected teacher of Israel and you don’t know these basics?”

Who are you, Nicodemus?And that’s the last we hear from Nicodemus … that is, until the 7th chapter of John. Turn on over to Chapter 7, verse 45, if you like.

In between this Chapter 3 discussion about physical and spiritual rebirth with Nicodemus and Chapter 7, Jesus has fed 5,000, walked on water, and explained, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”

He tells his disciples, "no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father."

And some of them leave him.

Some in the crowds identify Jesus as a “good man.” But others are saying, “No, he is deceiving the crowd.”

“Who are you, Jesus?”

And the possibilities of his identity are thrown about:

“This is really the prophet.”

“This is the Messiah.”

“No, he’s merely a Galilean.”

And many call for his arrest.

Then here, in Chapter 7, Nicodemus the teacher of the Law becomes the defender:

“Does our Law decide about a man’s guilt without first listening to him and finding out what he is doing?”

And then the chief priests and Pharisees ask Nicodemus, in effect, ‘who are you’:

“Surely you’re not also from Galilee, are you?”

Who are you, Nicodemus?

Let’s move to John 19, because that’s where Nicodemus surfaces again.

Jesus has been crucified.

He’s said, “It is finished.”

And Scripture says, “Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”

The soldiers have pierced his side.

Look at verses 38-42.

It would seem that along the way, throughout this journey that we find in the Gospel According to St. John, Nicodemus moves from the seeker in the dark of night, to a disciple who dared to be seen in the daylight.

"Who am I?” Nicodemus now answers, “I’m a disciple who loved my Lord, and I’m here to pay tribute to him.”

Incidentally: We only find Nicodemus in the Gospel according to Saint John.

This man is found in no other Gospel record by name.

There’s another man in Scripture who comes to Jesus.

We find him in Mark 10:46-52.

He’s generally referred to as Blind Bartemaeus and he’s a beggar sitting by the roadside.

Jesus and his disciples are leaving Jericho and Bartemaeus heard it was Jesus who was passing.

And the blind man shouts out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

But the story says, “Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more louder.”

To the people around him, Bartemaeus’ identity lay in the fact that he was a blind beggar.
Bartemaeus was anxious, because he had heard of hope.

He wanted a different identity.

The people around him tried to hold him down by telling him to be quiet, but he shouted all the louder.

How many times do we have people in our lives — even family and friends — who pull us back when we try to get to Jesus?

If you are struggling with something, and you’re trying to overcome it — to get well, to break the bonds of some sort of addiction, some besetting sin — don’t you know that there will be people in your life who need you to continue to struggle, to be “sick.”

Maybe it’s because if you’re sick, it makes them feel better about themselves.

Amen?

Some people need you to match a negative profile — “always the bad boy, always the bad girl, the wild child.”

There are sick family systems that need someone in the family to be the “bad one.”

The bad sister; the bad brother; the bad seed.

And so they send those messages, and you’ll have to pardon me, here, but these the words some people use:

“You’re no good."

“You’re a no good husband."

'“You’re a no good friend."

“You’re a no good wife … son … daughter.”

You hear these messages … these lies … and you’re stuck …

("Tuesdays With Beebes.")

What we believe about ourselves, and what we believe about our relationship to God truly defines who we are.'

And this is one of those yes-and-no statements.

Yes, from an orthodox Christian perspective, in that our relationship to God is defined by our relationship to Jesus Christ.

This is classic atonement theology: We’re separated from God because of our sin, but Christ paid the price for that sin through His death on the cross. Our acceptance of that makes us “at one” with God.

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ gives us the certainty that he lives, and that we, too, will live in eternity with God.

When we have a healthy understanding of this theology, it has a transforming effect on our life and what we believe about our self.

Granted, there are some sick-puppy preachers, teachers and churches out there who promote some unhealthy understandings and that, too, impacts what we believe about our self if we are in such an environment.

But what we believe about ourselves may not truly define who are. The reason: We are have a relationship with God even when we have not accepted Christ. Like Nicodemus, you may ask, “How can that be?”

Well, it’s not the same two-way relationship as when we have accepted Christ, but it’s a relationship nonetheless. Because God shows God's love for us even before we “know” God.

This is a classic Wesleyan understanding of grace.

God pursues us like a smitten lover, seeking to shower us with a reckless, furious love before we even know God. God is constantly knocking on the door, desperately wanting us to open up our hearts to God’s loving grace and a transformed life.

If in our cognitive self we believe we are no good, it does not negate the truth that our identity is still a loved child of God.

We've merely let someone, or some thing, steal our understanding of the true identity.

If you’re that “bad seed,” it may well be that it’s something that has been imposed on you. It’s your activity; not your identity!

If you’re in that sort of family system, and you come to Jesus, and you get well; if you were blind, but now you see; all hell can break loose in that family because of your wellness. ("Tuesdays With Beebes.")

And so, Blind Bartemaeus shouts all the louder, and Jesus heard him.

Why?

Because God always hears the cry.

And so, Jesus called him, asking, “What do you want me to do for you?”

Blind Bartemaeus says, “My teacher, let me see again.”

“Go; your faith has made you well.”

Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.

Who are you?

“I am no longer blind Bartemaeus; I am now the seeing disciple.

Who are you?

“I am no longer just Nicodemus the Pharisee; I am now a learned disciple.
Which raises the question, “Who are you?”

Come forward and pick up a promise in the desert.

Maybe you’ll find a new identity in Christ.

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Sunday, November 22, 2009

How would you introduce Jesus Christ as King?

With today being Christ the King Sunday, the question placed before us is this: How can we have any understanding of what it means to claim Christ is King in our lives when we live in a Western democracy without any idea of what it means to live under a monarchy?

In some ancient cultures, kings were seen as divine, or at least serving as agents of the divine. You lived with the understanding that you were in complete surrender to the king. In Western democracies, we do not serve our elected leadership; in fact, quite the contrary. Our elected leaders serve at our will, and if they do not serve us well, we vote them out.

Perhaps the closest thing we have to royalty today are celebrities, which could explain the following introduction of Jesus by Steve Harvey, one of "The Original Kings of Comedy." Harvey is a professed Christian and appears to close his show with the following:


video

Certainly there will be some who claim Harvey's introduction is irreverant, but the crowd appears to "get it": The One who is coming up next is worthy of far greater exaltation and praise than is given to the various "kings" in the cult of celebrity; for instance, "The King of Pop," "The King of Rock," "King of the Hill" and "The King of Queens." But given our lack of understanding, it may be that this is the closest some of us can get to introducing the King of Kings and Lord of Lords to a hurting and wanting world.

So, let us seek a more perfect direction. Let us seek to introduce Jesus as King through our participation in building the Kingdom of God -- through acts of mercy, compassion, grace and love.


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Monday, June 29, 2009

I was doing daily offices at Mission St. Clare and noted that today is the day when the Church commemorates the martyrdom of Peter and Paul.

Peter confessed "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God!" and is believed to have been crucified upside down.

Paul reached a point in his ministry where he proclaimed "To live is Christ, to die is gain." He is said to have been beheaded.

Are we ready and able to count the cost of following Christ? It is not likely that we in the Western Church face crucifixion or beheading; in fact, the road is generally pretty smooth. Most of the time it costs us nothing to follow Christ.

Perhaps there is power in costly discipleship ...

Grace and peace.

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Friday, June 26, 2009

The end of a tough week for celebrities ...

The superstition in the cult of celebrity is that death comes in threes. This week, it seemed to play out with the deaths of Ed McMahon, Farah Fawcett and Michael Jackson.

As a Boomer, I'm still trying to get my head around the news. As a Christian, I stopped for daily offices at Mission St. Clare and was presented with these words from a 17th century poet, Baron Friedrich R. L. von Canitz:

Wake my soul with all things living
thanks be giving to the Source of life and day
Sunlight comes and gone confusion,
night's illusion, like the starlight
fades away.

All your hopeful plans confessing
ask for blessing on that good which you would do
but if you should need correction, ask direction
pray for purpose
clear and new.

Cry for help, when griefs assail you,
good friends fail you, life seems hopeless, death appears.
One whose child knew deep affliction,
crucifixion,
ever waits to dry your tears.

Wake my soul with all things living
thanks be giving to the Source of life and day
Sunlight comes and gone confusion,
night's illusion, like the starlight
fades away.

Thank you, God, for this day in which to serve you. I thank you that I know I am yours, and you know what this day holds for me. Cleanse me of any thing that would hinder the work of your Holy Spirit in my life. Use me to touch someone in your name today. Through Christ, our Lord. Amen.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Gecko Judgment




One thing you’ve got to say about Hollywood: It never misses a moment to capitalize on a current event -- even if that current event is the result of Americans paying the price of capitalism running amuck.

In September, we saw several large U.S.-based financial institutions fail, merge, and otherwise instill a lack of confidence. It wasn’t as if business journal prophets had not warned of these things to come, mostly pointing to sub-prime mortgage issues.

But they were like Old Testament prophets standing on the wall, shouting, “Woe! Woe! Woe!” Or, maybe it was “Whoah, Whoah, Whoah!” as in “Stop! Stop! Stop! You’re heading for a train wreck!”

But then, the train wreck came: Large financial institutions began to fall, and the wave rolled across the ocean, and moved around the world. Governments have now stepped in to help lay a little track, hoping to get the global economy back on track.

In the midst of all of this misery, Hollywood is moving forward on a sequel to the 1987 film, “Wall Street,” the 1987 film directed by Oliver Stone.

In that movie, Charlie Sheen plays an ambitious young stockbroker named Bud Fox. His idol is an unscrupulous corporate raider, played by Michael Douglas, whose character is given the unlikely name of Gordon Gekko.

Gekko is idolized by Bud Fox, whose father, Carl, is played by Martin Sheen. Carl is a maintenance worker at a small struggling airline, Bluestar. Bud gives Gekko some inside information on Bluestar that can make a stock trade profitable, while saving the company in the process. Gekko uses Bud to get more inside information, including concessions from the labor unions, and then decides to cannibalize the company -- selling off its assets and leaving the employees out of work.

The iconic line that Gekko offers in the film is this: “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good.” (These days it's difficult to tell whether life imitates art, or whether art imitates life.)

It's beautifully ironic that the greedy bloodsucker in the film “Wall Street” is named “Gekko.” While spelled differently, a "gecko" is a lizard found in warm climates around the world. There are about 2,000 species worldwide, with some unique characeristics:
  • All but one of the species lacks eyelids.
  • As a defense mechanism, they expel a foul-smelling material and feces.
  • Some species change color to blend in with their environment.
Gecko is seems an appropriate mascot for the lizards of Wall Street.

"Greed," the Gecko says, "is good."

Chameleons that excrete foul-smelling substances.

I think Amos knew something about Geckos.

Amos was an 8th century layman prophet -- not one of those professional preachers -- from the southern kingdom of Judah. He was a sheep and fruit farmer of sorts who had the audacity to go into the northern kingdom of Israel and preach.

He starts out with a roar, proclaiming words of judgment against Israel's enemies for atrocities committed in war. You can just hear the crowds yelling, “Right on! Preach it brother! Don’t hold back! Let ’em have it with both barrels.”

But then, Amos turns to his own homeland, Judah, the southern kingdom, and proclaims God's judgment -- not because of war crimes, but because of idolatry and a failure to follow the Lord.

And he turns turns to Israel, the northern kingdom, citing crimes of violence -- not the violence of wars against nations, but violence against the poor:

"Thus says the LORD: 'For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment, because they sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals — those who trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth and turn aside the way of the afflicted; a man and his father go in to the same maiden, so that my holy name is profaned; they lay themselves down beside every altar on garments taken in pledge, and in the house of their God they drink the wine of those who have been fined.'” (Amos 2:6-8)

Amos is taking aim at the Geckos of Jerusalem, for systematically ripping off the poor.

Are not the Geckos of Wall Street doing the same today?

I wonder how God will judge us?

What we see today is that Gecko CEOS have left homebuyers, many of whom were led astray through suspect loan instruments, out on the street. Their hope for living the American Dream blinded their eyes to the fact that they simply could not afford that dream, and seeking it would actually lead them into a nightmare.

The Geckos have taken the sandals and cloaks of the poor and middle class to some golden temple of an offshore bank account, sitting on island sands while they drink!

In the Old Testament, God set His people apart to be salt and light for the world, not vinegar and bitter herbs.

I believe God had a similar plan for this nation.

Somewhere along the way, I believe we have forgotten the missio dei -- the mission of God -- given to USAmerica, or maybe we never fully embraced that mission to begin with.

Maybe, like Columbus, who considered himself God’s light-bearer of the Gospel to the New World, the prospect of getting rich got in our way.

I wonder how God will judge us?

Maybe He already is ...

Almighty God, in our desire for comfort and security, we often trample over others as we dash for the train that we believe will carry us to the American dream.

As we run for that train, O Lord, slow us down so that we might see others who have likewise fallen along the way.

Lead us through your Holy Spirit to not be afraid to reach down and lift someone else up ... even if it causes us to miss the train.

For in that way, we will become salt and light to your world.

In the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Grace and peace ...

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Saturday, April 19, 2008

Living stones


One of the disciplines I explored in college — I know, for someone as undisciplined as I was, that’s a strange way to put it — but one of the disciplines I explored was geology.

I chose that field for my science credits because, in high school, I always did better with earth sciences than biology … that and because I thought it cool in the ’70s to say that I enjoyed studying rock.

But rocks have always fascinated me.

I love to look at the mica found in Tennessee waterways.

Feldspar, or field rock, adds beauty to any landscape … earthen tones springing through fields of green.

River rock brings a reminder that God’s Creation will still be molding and moving things long after we are gone from this world.

Outcroppings, such as the Blowing Rock in North Carolina and the weather worn and time-chiseled features of Grandfather Mountain, are another fascination for me. Again, they remind me that God's Creation is constantly being molded into things of beauty.

In Peter's first letter we are urged, "Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God's sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." (1 Peter 2:4-5) As "living stones," we are constantly being formed into the likeness of Christ, and are thus being used to build God's Kingdom.

Michael Card weaves it this way in song ("Living Stones"):

“Living stones, living stones

We are holy, living stones

Built upon the firm foundation

That is Jesus

And as we cling to that Rock

Who became a Stumbling Block

We remember we are living stones.”

"Come to him, a living stone ..."

Grace and peace ...

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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

We need to see the world with ...



We have officially started the second year of Green Meadow's School of Hope.

A little more than a week ago, some Meadow folk gathered with former students and this year's new parents for a late Sunday afternoon meal.

I loved being with the young parents, but I really loved being with the babies and toddlers. As a former pastor of mine would say, holding a baby who has just been baptized, "This is the closest to heaven you will get on this earth."

I took a lot of pictures, one of which I posted on TheMeadow.org.

One of the things I enjoyed doing when my children were small was taking pictures as they discovered something new.

I took this photo when my son David appeared to have discovered rain puddles after a shower in Port Arthur, Texas.

Children always seem to see the world with fresh eyes.

Have you ever walked with a toddler the first time they venture outside? They stop and touch things we take for granted ... rocks, grass, bugs, leaves, you name it.

Walking from the porch to the driveway can take 30 minutes to an hour if you go at their pace.

They see the world with fresh eyes.

When we come to worship the living God, should we not come with fresh eyes?

When we move into mission, serving the least, the last and the lost, should we not come with fresh eyes?

When we journey into Creation, should we not see the world with fresh eyes?

If we truly believe in a God who "makes all things new," should we not come into all things with the expectation that each encounter will bring something new?

May we always greet his word, his presence in prayer, and those we serve in his name with "fresh eyes."

Grace and peace ...

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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Light in Seattle ...

I'm in the Seattle area for a corporate meeting, but my body still thinks I'm in Tennessee.

I enjoyed the extra sleep. I went to bed at what was the Eastern Time equivalent of midnight and awakened at the equivalent of 8:30 a.m. -- 5:30 a.m. Pacific Time.

Since I didn't have to meet the others until 7:15 it gave me plenty of time to get ready and even spend some time in devotion. What a blessing.

I chose Matthew 5:13-16a to meditate upon. I was reminded that God has placed me in a somewhat unique position as a journalist. Even though my world is "small" (the Greater Metropolitan Maryville area), He sends people my way to affirm that when I do take the opportunity to write, His light shines through.

In response to His Word this morning, I prayed that He would quicken my spirit to the opportunities to be a light unto the world.

May my life never lose the salt that is the Holy Spirit working within me.

We spoke of Lectio Divina this past Sunday. If you would like an online experience, go to The Upper Room.

Grace and peace ... from Seattle.

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