Monday, January 23, 2012

Joe Pa and Legacies

Working with children changes your perspective on just about everything. I am not a parent, so I am just now discovering this. For you who already are, I know you are nodding your head in agreement.

Late last week, Joe Paterno, the legendary head football coach of Penn State passed away after a long battle with lung cancer.  To be honest, if you had asked me in early 2011 who Joe Paterno was, I would've had to Google it.  I am a sports enthusiast, but I do not memorize facts or keep up with who is coaching at which school at any given time. However, his name and legacy was brought to even my attention late in 2011 with the firing of several members of his staff and the resignation of himself once everything had come to light.  I remember hearing how the Penn State students on campus were picketing, protesting, and even rioting.  I recall how disappointed I was that the protesting didn't start at the news of what the staff had done, but rather of the firing and resignation of  the people who were responsible for it. 

Today, many are posting on Facebook and Twitter what a legend Joe Pa was. How, no matter what happened recently, he'll always be remembered for his leadership and football coaching.

I'm not so sure.

Stories like this hit me closer than they ever have before.  Joe Pa wasn't the one who committed the abuse of young boys, but he knew about it. He told school authorities but he never told police. So the abuse continued.  I didn't know Joe Pa personally.  I had never met him.  I cannot judge his personhood. But I can tell you how his actions affect me.  They make my job really hard. And it's not that I am lazy and do not like hard work. I don't. By hard I mean, harder to win trust. Harder to love people whose hearts have become stone cold at the hands of men like Joe Paterno and his staff.  Harder to convince people that there is God that is bigger than anything that could have ever happened to them in their past who loves them immensely. 

Unfortunately for Joe Paterno, his legacy is now forever etched as the man who didn't do enough to help children he knew were in danger.  Who for whatever reason, chose to believe that he had done the right thing to clear his conscious by only taking one step.  He may have had coaching skills. He may have been ethical on the field.  But I do not believe that life can be compartamentalized and that you can be a good person at your job but a lousy person out in the world.  To make this example, let's use a pastor and trade him for Joe Paterno.  Let's allow this pastor to have the largest church in the U.S.  He has great skill in the pulpit and in the staff meetings.  He speaks with conviction and constantly has people coming through the doors of his church to come to know the Lord.  And then, a member on his staff is found guilty of child abuse.  And the Pastor knew about it, but he only told another pastor friend he had.  I doubt he would be heralded as a great pastor at his death.

You are one whole person.  Who you are, the decisions you make, the things you speak, everything you do, EVERYTHING is a reflection of the relationship you have with Christ and who He has transformed you to be. 

I am a children's pastor. I work with children and their families day in and day out. You cannot help but get all tied up in people's lives when you're a minister. One of my greatest fears is not that something bad might happen to one of the families at my church, or that they may do something stupid that would change their whole life forever, or even that one of them may pass away leaving a great hole in our hearts and lives.  No, it is that I might do something that would turn them away from Jesus.  Because that is my life's work, making Jesus look good and making Him famous. It would be the worst thing that could happen. Everything else bad that I could think of, I know that with God's help, a family could overcome. But there is no overcoming the finality of a life ending without Jesus.  I pray my legacy remains always to be about the love of Jesus.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

An Inagural Explanation

Ahhhh. The inagural post. This one has to be one of the best I think. Capture the audience. I'm new to this blog thing. So, maybe it's time to post the weeny posts while the only follower I have is myself. That way, I'll at least know who the anonymous hate e-mail comes from! I suppose I will start with explaining the title of my blog. Hupogrammos. It's not a made up word. Really. It's not. Go look it up in the dictionary if you don't believe me!

Couldn't find it?

Try the Greek dictionary!

Yup, there ya go.

For those of you without a Greek dictionary, I will expound. A hupogrammos is a "tablet that contained the entire Greek alphabet. Students would use this to trace the alphabet, learning each letter from alpha to omega."

I began learning cursive in second grade. I'm glad they made those little papers that had the letters in grayscale so you could trace them a few times before trying it on your own. Had my teacher just told me to start writing cursive without ever having something to trace, I have a feeling my paper would've just included a lot of my own scribble that only I could read. But now, I have mastered cursive. I am an adult. I can do it all by myself. You know, I bet those Greek kids from back in Peter's day were certainly happy to have a hupogrammos to help them out while first learning to write.

Jesus often mentioned having faith like a child. No wonder His example is found in something so common to school-children, a tracing tablet.
Hupogrammos is the original word for "example" that Peter used in chapter 2 verse 21 of his first epistle.

"For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example that you should follow His steps..." (NKJV).

When I first learned of the beautiful analogy at play in these words of Peter's, I remember getting goosebumps. What a word picture. That Christ's life is our own hupogrammos. That we are so often bumbling about, wondering what Christ would have us do with our lives when it's already been carved out in a tablet waiting for us to simply trace.
Maybe its time to go back to school.