|Mr. Charlie Kuchenbrod, Associate Conference Minister for Endowment Ministries|
This week's author is Charlie Kuchenbrod, Associate Conference Minister for Endowment Ministries for the Connecticut Conference, UCC.
In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth...
"He already knew he could coach. All you had to do was look at each of your players and ask yourself: What story does this guy wish someone would tell him about himself? And then you told the guy that story. You told it with a hint of doom. You included his flaws. You emphasized the obstacles that could prevent him from succeeding. That was what made the story epic: the player, the hero, had to suffer mightily en route to his final triumph. Schwartz knew that people loved to suffer, as long as the suffering made sense. Everybody suffered. The key was to choose the form of your suffering. Most people couldn't do this alone. A good coach made you suffer in a way that suited you. A bad coach made everyone suffer in the same way, and so was more like a torturer."
(From The Art of Fielding: A Novel by Chad Harbach)
How do we know that God is a baseball fan? Because the Bible starts, "In the big inning..."
Chad Harbach's reflection on coaching made me think about God. Here is a short summary of my understanding of God. First, God is. Second, God loves us unconditionally. Third, God yearns for what is best for us. "Us" means all of us, indeed, all of creation.
So when God loves us, God loves all of us, no exceptions. And when God yearns for what is best for us, it is not just what is best for each of us individually; it is what is best for all of us. God doesn't yearn for anything that is best for only one of us when this would not also be best for all of us.
So, even though I do not think God is a person, it wasn't too much of a stretch for me to imagine God as a coach. I don't want to get tangled up in whether God wills us to suffer, but I don't think so. I think that in the midst of whatever suffering we encounter, God yearns for us to find the best way through the suffering and for our suffering to have meaning. I think that God is a good coach in that God yearns for each of us to find a way that suits us.
I think there are bad theological perspectives that turn God into a torturer, perspectives that force all (or all but the elect) to suffer in the same way. I can't accept this, because God loves all of us. God yearns for each of us to be the heroes of our own story.
What is the story you wish someone would tell about you? What is the story the Good Coach yearns for you to live out?
Dear God, help me to find my way, the way that suits me and suits all of creation. Amen.
the family and friends of Thomas J. "T. J." Zappulla, brother of the Rev. Jack Zappulla, pastor of the Bunker Hill Congregational Church UCC in Waterbury, who died on June 15.
the family and friends of Mercia Wilkins, mother of the Rev. Nancy Strickland, and ordained minister in this conference, who died on June 1;
the family and friends of Nancy A. Tefft, sister of Karen Ziel, Connecticut Conference Minister of Christian Education, who died on June 1;
the family and friends of Elizabeth J. Slagel, mother of Bob Slagel, chef and food services manager at Silver Lake Conference Center, who died on May 26;
the Rev. Alice L. O'Donovan, interim pastor at the Westfield Congregational Church UCC in Danielson, as she recovers at home from a stroke suffered last week;
the family and friends of Ema May Weikel, infant daughter of the Rev. Kevin Weikel, associate pastor at the First Church of Christ UCC in Simsbury, and his wife, Kelley Herstine Weikel, who died on May 19;
pastors recovering from surgery;
those grieving or injured after the airliner crash in Lagos, Nigeria, on June 3;
those grieving or injured after the suicide bombing in Baghdad, Iraq, on June 4;
Gail Joslin, former staff member of the Connecticut Conference, being treated for advanced liver cancer;
US Army Staff Sergeant Jeffrey Carroll, son of the Rev. Carla Dietz Carroll, associate pastor at the United Church of Rowayton, UCC, and her husband John Carroll, who is stationed in Afghanistan; Sgt. Carroll and his wife have a young son Charlie;
the Rev. Dr. Barry Cass, the staff, members, and friends of the Somers Congregational United Church of Christ, which lost its 170-year-old meetinghouse to a devastating fire the night of January 1-2;
the Rev. Alison Buttrick-Patton, the lay leadership, staff, members, friends, and community of the Saugatuck Congregational Church UCC, which suffered severe damage from a substantial fire on the night of November 20;
the Conference's partners in the Kyung-Ki Presbytery and their communities on the Korean peninsula;
the Conference's partners working for peace in Colombia amidst violence;
the people of Syria, Sudan, South Sudan, Libya, Bahrain, Yemen, Israel, Iran, Iraq, Algeria, Djibouti, Jordan, Kuwait, Tunisia, Egypt, and the Palestinian Territories: may they have justice and peace;
the leaders of this nation, that they may meet the challenges of the day with insight, wisdom, and compassion;
this nation, that it may continue its difficult work to end the practices of racism;
those suffering due to the ongoing financial woes of the nation, be they struggling to meet an unaffordable mortgage, confronting the loss of a job, or working to find just resolutions to the crisis; and
those serving or living in war or conflict zones around the world, or where terrorists have struck, particularly in Afghanistan, Nigeria, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Iraq, and Colombia.
To be added to the prayer list, please send an email to Rev. Eric Anderson at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
First Church of Bethlehem, UCC
P The Rev. Dr. John B. Pelletier
MM Mr. Allan Kakowski
First Cong'l Church in Bloomfield
P The Rev. Deborah J. Blood
CE Ms. Dorine DeCarli
Bolton Congregational Church UCC
P The Rev. Charles H. Ericson
CE Ms. Jane Hooper
CE Ms. Jessica Romeo
First Cong'l Church
IN The Rev. Susan J. Murtha
AP The Rev. Susan Trucksess
AP The Rev. Theresa Borchetta
MM Ms. Kathryn Nichols
CE Ms. Lisa O'Brien
First United Church of Christ
PT The Rev. Susan M. Pfeil
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The Spirit Calendar: June 18, 2012 by Mr. Charlie Kuchenbrod, Associate Conference Minister for Endowment Ministries