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August 25th, 2008
The Keys

We are never really ready for much of what we are handed in life, are we?People ask us How are you doing since Daniel has left home? How are you doing with the empty nest?

I am doing great. Friday I baked a Double Chocolate Fudge two-layer cake and iced it with Cream Cheese Icing. I did not have to share it with anyone. No Daniel around to eat most of it before I could. I am getting to eat the entire cake. I like the new situation.

We are never really ready for empty nests, are we? Never really ready for the jobs we get in life, are we? I heard of one man in dental school who is about to work on real people for the first time. I heard he said that he does not feel ready to work on people. I did not want to hear that.

We never feel ready to be parents, are we? I kept wanting to wait to have kids — waiting until we had enough money to have kids. After 7 years, Pam said, “We are never going to have enough money to have kids.” She was right. We would have never had enough money. Good thing we did not wait longer to start.

We are handed keys to different parts of life and we most often are not really ready.

Five years ago last month Ed Milhakanin, who was on the city council at the time, presented the Key to the City to Leslie Kenne of the Air Force. Leslie had never been given the keys to a city and she still cherishes that key.

I have heard more than one of you say, “I do not want the keys to this church building because I do not want the responsibility.”

If you have the keys they you have the responsibility. You will get phone calls from the security company when the alarm goes off. You will be questioned. You will have to respond in the middle of the night to such calls.

I had the keys to a 1953 Chevy when I was 15. I could not drive for another year but I had the car in the driveway and the keys. The four-door ’53 Chevy had a 6-cylinder engine, 235-cubic inch engine that would top out at 72 miles per hour. It was the first year that Chevy offered power steering. I would take the keys out each day after returning from school and from delivering papers, start the Chevy up, and sit in the car and rev up the engine and turn the power steering wheel around and dream of the day when I could actually drive. I would fill up the gas tank with gas from a one-gallon tank when it needed refueling. Gas was only 15 cents a gallon or so.

At Austin State Hospital in 1981 where I was interning as a clinical counselor for that year through Austin Presbyterian Seminary and its Pastoral Counseling program, five of us were handed the keys to our respective wards that first day. We were warned that patients will latch onto the ones with keys and will try to steal your keys at any moment. Keys were powerful symbols in Austin Hospital. Whoever had the keys could either keep the patients in the wards or the same keys could mean release and freedom.

One intern counselor quit the program on the second day. He tried to share the Good News about Christ to one patient in his ward and the patient told him, “I am Christ.” The intern said, “No, I mean the Christ who died on the cross for your sins.” The patient replied, “I am that Christ. You would not believe how painful it was to die that way. But I came back from the dead and here I am.”

The intern counselor handed back his keys to our supervisor and quit the intern program and quit seminary that day.

This wooden carving statue was given to me on May 6th, 1984 here in town on the day of my Ordination into Ministry down on San Antonio Street. Pam’s father gave it to me. He told me it was difficult to give it away but he wanted me to have it.

It has been with me and sat in every ministerial location I have been assigned by God in which to work.

I like to ask deeply religious people to identify the person.

This bearded guy is holding keys in one hand and a rooster in the other. I was given this wooden carving statue and it reminds me that we can hold such responsibility at one moment and then very quickly we can fail to be who we should be.

Peter was given the keys to the Kingdom of God. The same Peter was told the night before the crucifixion, “You will deny me three times before the rooster crows.” “No, not me, Lord. I will never deny you.”

Early the next morning, after watching his friend die on the cross, a shocked and scared Peter who used to be named Simon, denied being a friend to or even knowing Jesus. Peter was scared for his own life. Never met the man, Peter said.

Then he heard the rooster crow three times at sunrise. I hate it when the rooster crows. Keys in one hand and rooster in the other.

One commander in the Air Force used to list each month publicly how many buildings were left unlocked and insecure on base. He would list the buildings by name, not by number. I hated it when the word Chapel appeared on the list.

All others on base did not have to give keys out to the public. Only the building custodian had keys to the building. But the chaplain had to give out keys to many, many Protestant, Catholic, and other religious leaders on base.

So every time a person left the building unlocked I would get called in the middle of the night and my name and the word Chapel would appear on the commander’s Do Not Promote Next Time list.

God gives us the Keys to life while knowing we will fail and while knowing the rooster will crow at our failures. We will not handle our keys properly sometimes but God wants us to keep trying. Hence, we hold both the keys and the rooster. We are human.

A young man in this church told me this past week that he was not sure what he was going to do with his life because every possible plan just did not seem like the perfect plan.

I told him there will never be a perfect plan. Or at least there will never be a plan that looks perfect to us. I told him the best you can do is pick a direction and go with it. We can not wait until all is perfect or all seems perfect. Life is not that clean, is it?

Amity called this week last one night. By the tone in her voice, we could tell something was up. She said, “Mom and Dad, I signed up today to teach Sunday School this year at Auburn United Methodist Church. I have never done anything like that before. I am so excited.”

Life has handed her a mess in the past year but she is still willing to do something worthwhile with the Keys in life that she has been handed. I am so proud of her.

What are you going to do with your own Key this coming week? Amen.

Reverend – Christ the Redeemer Church

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0 thoughts on “The Keys

  1. I liked this column.

    I feel challenged.

    And as a bivocational pastor, I plan to borrow from it freely–with credits, of course.

    Keep up the good work.

    Bob Garringer

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