Plymouth Congregational Church

God for All

Love/Hate, Win/Lose, Belt Buckles/Ties

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Pastor Bill was dressed in his typical all black attire today. A look that is hard to pull off but he does it so well. There was a slightly noticeable difference in his attire today, though. I got the impression I was in the presence of a sheriff  right off the screen of Walker, Texas Ranger, with his cowboy boots, his “rock solid” button down shirt, and belt buckle that would make most cowboys swoon, all the way down to its high luster gleam that would blind a 747 pilot.

Before you take this description as a negative I will quickly, and most definitely am off topic here, say that I really love his style and casual appearance. His style offers the presence of warmth and welcoming, comfort of talking with a good friend. I hope Bill never feels the need to change his clothes to suit the congregation. I would hate to see him change anything.

When we walked in the church to a solid attendance of 100 (+) people all talking race cars as well as looking at the weekly bulletin, you knew what was happening. Yesterday’s sermon was geared toward those who participate in the NHRA. So when he talked about winning and losing I was not surprised, but there was something amiss.

The overall feeling I walked away with, which my husband and nearly 12 year old son concurred, was a bit of a hodge-podge of messages. Personally I think Bill had so much he wanted to say, and to such a large group of diverse people, he lost his point several times until the very end. That, for all of us in my family, was the highlight of the sermon. When he spoke from his heart, his “personal message” to everyone about always being in his prayers, was where he should have started, stayed, and stopped.

Of course this blog is a parishioner’s perspective on our weekly sermon, so maybe I’ll miss the mark on this one and someone else will have walked away with a whole different perspective. For me, though, I think Bill’s message was best left with love. God’s love – a human emotion taken to a non-human level which brings peace to our hearts and helps create a path of better choices.

Bill in simplified form:

His first message was to the children about love. Then, after their departure, he turned and talked NHRA statistics for a bit showing his ample knowledge and passion for the sport. He talked about winning and why these families risked everything in each race. He talked about eternity using 1 John 5:13. He talked belt buckles and cowboy boots. He talked friendship and support system. In the end he wrapped us up with the only thing I could walk away recalling, God’s love, and his prayers.

His personal message came from a place of love, and had the most sincerity I had heard all morning, aside from his message to the children. Not that his message to the congregation was false in nature, as he is honest without doubt. Sometimes the presence of trying to send a message, trying to bring people home, can get so lost in convoluted words that it becomes confusing and overwhelming as we try to unravel the puzzle laid before us. His first message, his last message, was the ear marks of clarity and simple communication. Those were not convoluted.

Looking at love and eternity:

Human love ebbs. It flows like the waters of the ocean. It will rise high in the tide and then it can run back out to sea. Hate will replace that love in our hearts like a sea monster. It can grow big with enough negative food, or shrink away when we remember the positive, the hopefulness, the dreams and ambitions that God feeds our soul.

I think herein lies where Bill should have remained in his talk. About love. About letting hate, the Devil, ebb from our veins and replace it with love in our hearts, our minds. Life is not a race to be won or lost, nor are all of us NHRA participants.  That is the fluffy stuff of selected lives.

The race of life is less about fun and more about spiritual well being. The sports we participate in is because it is fun. It is a profession of choice. Humanly endeavor. We lose because there was another person who had the luck or skill. Again, a humanly function. Winning is not about love and losing is not about hate. In the race it is about how we handle our love for the sport, for our fellow participant, and the honor with which we participate. Honor is God’s love in human form.

Love can be so much greater than the downplayed human usage. Overly used, and under appreciated – love. God gave us the ability to love while the Devil gave our hearts the ability to hate. My Mom, God rest her soul, said to me as a child, “You use love and hate to much. It has lost all its meaning with you.” My Mother, being the good Orthodox Catholic that she was, didn’t use the words love and hate even when addressing her children. She reserved such words for her relationship with God.

Can there be a good mixture of the two? Can we, as humans, use the word “love” toward another human without abusing the deeper meaning? I believe we can. I also believe we can eradicate hate from the dictionary of our vocabulary. We can love another; we can be welcoming to one another, in a way that would make God smile (yet another human trait).

In that we can show love by being gracious losers and humble winners in all that we do. Share our glory with those that supported us, those that won against us or lost. Celebrate your victory while remembering that your victory could have been something more dramatic. Say your thanks to God by showing him your love and appreciation, and in return accept his love in your time of joy, as well as your time of sorrow. Instead of casting anger and doubt when in time of loss, say thank you to God for allowing a safe passage through the race.

Does this apply only to NHRA drivers? No. Love and humbleness can be seen in a daily life. I can take these actions when I put my son on the school bus – he made it to school and home safely an opportunity to celebrate in the graciousness of God’s love. My husband had a successful business trip and he made it home without harm – praise to God for his love. To see Joyce, Jan, Pastor Bill each week in our communal home (with everyone else) – we’ve won the race from Sunday to Sunday while carrying the graciousness of God’s love in our footsteps.

What happens when the race is over? When we have humanly lost? We will carry God’s love and Bill’s belt buckle with us to our eternal resting place. It’s about love, not winning or losing and really not about belt buckles and cowboy boots. It’s all about the glory of eternal love.

Eternity (1 John 5:13):

13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. 14 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.

His excerpt and interpretation about eternal life, eternal love, and our eternal home was poignant when looking in our audience and wondering who will be the next to visit such a place. I know he selected this because of the high risk nature for the NHRA drivers, but it is fitting for everyone in the congregation, from the young to the elderly. In our prayer requests we hear about the struggles of the world, those ailing and then we discuss the wonderful miracles in the praise reports.

We must ask ourselves about when the time comes will we be prepared to leave? Will we have done enough in our lives to let go easily? Will we be secure enough in our foundation to know what we are leaving will be okay? Will we have done enough to survive being left?

The ambition to win or detesting of loss; the glory in loving words and the spitefulness of hateful words are the icing on the cake, the whip cream on the strawberries of our life. Through the glory of God we can eat sweetly everyday.


One thought on “Love/Hate, Win/Lose, Belt Buckles/Ties

  1. Hello, Beth!

    When I worked for TGIFridays in the late 80’s, early 90’s, we had a culture, I think a lot different than the current one. Our
    business came from word of mouth, & we had a lot of “theories” that guided our success. One of them was the “beach ball” theory: imagine that several people are holding a beach ball. Each person is holding the same ball, but sees a different color, because that’s how beach balls are put together. I would like to add to your post with my “color”.

    Yes, this was the 3rd annual Rte 66 car, racer, & season blessing, & so the service was geared (pun intended) toward all the visitors that were in our House. Yes, Bill talked about things that didn’t seem to have much importance to the “regulars”, & yes, by his own admissions, he will stray down alleys on his road to his message. I will always appreciate that about him because he does have a lot to say, but he tries to keep to a time schedule that will get us out of there before the coffee turns to sludge (a topic reserved for another time), but I think that he wants us to leave with enough spiritual fortitude to last the week, & enough wonder in God’s word to spread it to others. I took away several different things from Sunday, maybe it’s because it was my 3rd NHRA blessing.

    I heard, & agree with you, about the messages that you commented on. One point that you didn’t touch on is the sense of family. Bill is the Chaplin at Rte 66, & apparently well liked based on the attendance Sunday. He has his own family, his Church family, & his racer family. I have a feeling that he would consider all humanity his family, because of his beliefs, but he is confined to this geographical area. 3 times, he has invited his racing family to our Church to let them know that his family is their family, to bless their season, & to give us the opportunity to experience the melding of families. Bill Lueck & his wife are racers & are regulars at our Church because of this event & because of Bill. I expect that we will see some of the other racers during the year but certainly next March.

    Regarding the “race”, we are all running a race that we cannot lose; the race to Heaven. Bill has said (& I paraphrase), “When I slide into Heaven dirty, skinned, & exhausted, I’ll ask Peter if I can go again”, meaning that life should be lived with all the gusto that we can muster, as long as it is lived with the Glory of God & the spreading of His message as a way of life. We’re here, so let’s make the best of it. Try a hotter hot sauce. Stop to help someone broken down on the side of the road. Take the box that we all live in & break it down every day. I try to live this everyday. Not always successful, but I keep trying.

    Thanks for giving us something “to chew on”, & thanks for reading this. BTW, next Sunday, I’ll show you the belt buckle Bill DIDN’T wear.

    Have a great week!


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