When I was driving from Tampa, FL home to Atlanta at the end of last month, I passed the first billboard just south of the Georgia border on I-75 for “Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland” in Frankenmuth. I don’t know why this surprised me. Being from Missouri I know that the signage for Meramac Caverns starts long before one arrives in the Midwest. And who hasn’t seen the billboards for Wall Drug in South Dakota? Anyone? I think those start somewhere in Maine.
Nevertheless the sign for Bronner’s delighted me. Because—believe it or not—I was headed in just that direction. How many people go straight from Florida to Frankenmuth? Well, apparently more than I was aware of! I’ve enjoyed a lovely past week with catechists about 30 minutes south of the famed 2.2 acre Christmas store. No snow, but the weather has been refreshingly cooler. (My glasses no longer fog up when I go outside.) No Santa, but Bronner’s would like you to know that Christmas is only four months away now. And that they have cauliflower and carrot ornaments in stock… just in case that was what your tree was missing. Or llama ornaments. They have a whole section of those.
Okay, I hope you are still with me here because I am about to share something you might actually be interested in. More than cauliflower ornaments? you say. Yes. It is my preaching for this coming Sunday (August 7) on Chapter 11 from the book of Hebrews. As far as I can remember, I have never preached on a passage from Hebrews before but this week’s second reading was mesmerizing and got me thinking a great deal about faith—what it is; what it isn’t; why it still makes sense to believe even when sometimes we have our doubts. One of my favorite professors in graduate school described faith as the willingness to continue to “lean into life.” Having watched the Joni Mitchell video of “Both Sides Now” that went viral in the last week or so, it strikes me how as we age we come to greater awareness of the complexity of things and how little we really know, but at the same time a greater awareness that the lens through which we decide to look at things matters. We can’t wait for certainty before sticking our necks out there and reveling in the wonder of life… hoping for a different future… laughing at the small delights already present. Like cauliflower ornaments.
In a couple days, I’ll be heading out to California to see family and meet with a whole bunch of teachers/administrators on the edge of a new school year. Many educators, I think, are pretty tired right now. Summer does not feel like it has been long enough. They are still recovering from the past year which was very hard on people in schools and it is difficult to garner the energy to begin a new one. So please pray for this gathering and for all educators warming up for the next school year. May we all find the energy needed to lean into life with hope.