Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Groundhog Day Wisdom

I’ve always liked Groundhog Day.  I am sure a lot has to do with the movie.  When I was 14 and 15 years old, I was beginning to develop a relationship with my new family.  My dad got remarried quickly after the divorce, and I met Danny and David. They were my step mom’s nephews.  I was barely starting high school and they were close to finishing it.  Everything about them was cool.  I was like a little dude following them around, soaking up everything they did.  At that point Groundhog Day had come out and David and Danny loved it.  And since I did whatever they thought was cool, I fell in love with this movie.
            Groundhog Day--the movie in itself embraced an odd concept.  It was a story where Bill Murray gets opportunity after opportunity to fix his arrogant and selfish ways.  If you haven’t seen the movie, the time frame involves the same day being repeated over and over again.  Bill’s character wakes up time and time again to the same day--a day he didn’t really like.  Immediately he begins to be angry, and to continue his selfish and rude behavior to the people around him.  But after that behavior gets him nowhere, he decides to care for people, believing that tomorrow they will not remember it.  An unusual piece of wisdom:  “Love those even though they will never remember it.”
            This is odd because we tend to thrive in our sinful natures of doing what is good for us.  We look for opportunities to make ourselves look good.  We rely on the fact that what we did yesterday will be remembered.  If we were to just Love 1, not expecting anything back, what would that look like?  Honestly, I cared for David and Danny, but it was completely selfish; it was about learning how to be cool like them.  Do I know where they are today?  No, of course not.  Was I annoying to them at some points?  Yes, absolutely!  Did I worry about their opinions?  Yes, I was completely consumed with their opinions of me.  This is the wisdom of the world.  We function in this self-consumed nature that looks out and often Loves 1 based upon what we receive back.
            Since 2000, the groundhog has seen his shadow every year but two.  (Here’s hoping for an early spring!) And honestly, most times it has nothing to do with what really happens.  It seems like a silly holiday, and it seems odd that we celebrate it. But maybe it is more like how God operates.  Human wisdom becomes obsolete, but His way of leading His people is unique.  He is more into the celebration of life and how He revives His people, as opposed to something we can get from groundhogs or people.  Hear me out; in human logic the goal of Groundhog Day is to have less winter.  But in the world of Christ all life and seasons are to be celebrated.  It is the reason He would take such a cruel punishment to rescue us.  Maybe the groundhog is onto something.  It may be less about his prediction and more about the fact that the sun sometimes shows him his shadow on February 2nd and sometimes it doesn’t. But that’s neither here nor there.  God has come to rescue us and give us life that is not dependent on animal or human predictions.  That is against our human wisdom, and we thank the Lord, because all too often, we are driven by our selfish natures.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Readjusting Our Eyes

I remember the quotes he wrote on the chalkboard; they seemed to mean nothing.  Mr. Michael, my math teacher in 8th grade, wrote sayings on the board that always seemed so random, and yet he had intent behind all of them.  Tuesday I was reminded of one, “I hate scraping my windshield.”  It was simple and to the point, and yet to an 8th grader, it had little or no meaning unless you were your parents’ slave scraping their windshield for them.  I left my boys in the house on Tuesday morning as I headed out to use my Number 1 Dad Scraper to scrape my windshield.  It honestly works surprisingly well for the 50 cents Gavin spent on it.  Trust me, I don’t like scraping my windshield, but I understand what is necessary to fulfill my duty as husband, father, and pastor.
            Mr. Michael’s sayings may have been odd, but I certainly remember them.  I also remember some of his specific examples about math.  I am not sure if he was the one who was responsible for my love of math.  But even with no driving experience, I understood that driving over the speed limit only got you to your destination a little bit faster unless you were going a crazy amount over the limit, and maintaining that speed for a long distance.  His examples were clear-cut and to the point, which helped me to learn some great concepts about math.  These are the things I like about math:  the exact nature of it, and the expectation that there would be a solution.
            The world had been waiting for a solution for the problem with sin for a long time.  Certainly, like us, people thought they had found the solution in just doing things better.  The problem, of course, is that eventually there is failure.  All too often I have examined my life with my failures and mistakes, and was disappointed.  The solution was not something I could find in myself.  Unlike math, this problem is unsolvable by our own human nature.
            This weekend we start talking about the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.  Through His fulfillment of the prophecy, He came to accomplish some challenging things.  Some “scrapping the windshield” - like activities that would lead Him to the end result of fulfilling His role as our Savior and our God.  I am not going to say Jesus hated doing these things, but I am sure that because He was also true man, they were still challenging to Him.  Every piece of Jesus’ ministry was an integral part of the plan God had for us to be rescued.  The Isaiah passage connects with the Matthew passage, and they illustrate how the prophecy came before, and was fulfilled in Jesus.  No longer do we just talk about Jesus being a baby and coming here, but we also discuss what it means that He is truly here doing the work of salvation.  This weekend we begin that discussion, and dig into some of the first pieces of Jesus’ ministry as we discover what they meant for the whole picture of salvation, and what they mean for us today.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

CCLS Sunday

During my elementary school career, I was the testing mark for my family as far as teachers go.  Naturally I was always the one who had the first experience, since I was the first-born.  At the completion of each school year, my mom would decide whether or not to request that particular teacher for the next child.  Now my mom is a nice lady, but that was an intense amount of scrutiny for a teacher to go through to see if she was an appropriate fit for the next child.  Yes, I said she because I did not have a single male teacher until middle school.  Honestly, it still is amazing to me that I made it through all those grades without having a male teacher.

As a kid I just learned from each teacher, and expected them to be there every day.  I was frustrated on the days they missed.  That just might have been my systematic way of thinking, and when you messed with my system I didn’t like it.  Yes, I am still like that today; maybe it wasn’t only my mom who had expectations!  When you marry a teacher, you get a whole new understanding of her role as you listen to the stories about each kid day in and day out.  It made me aware that even though I had had a lot of exposure with teachers, I never realized that they had a life too.  Teachers are so sacrificial and loving; it is amazing to watch them learn about all the children and care for them.

This weekend we celebrate our association with Christ Community Lutheran School.  We rejoice that these teachers take time to learn from Jesus, and then portray that love to each student.  Christ set that sacrificial example, and the teachers certainly follow His lead as they care for their students.  We also celebrate the installation of Samuel Fishburn, 3rd grade teacher at CCLS.  What an amazing blessing to have a male teacher loving those little people.  I certainly loved my teachers but it would have been a nice change of pace to have a cool male role model in the midst of all of my remarkable female teachers.

Today our lessons naturally lead us to focus on the love of God, but also on the sacrifice He made as the Lamb of God.  John explains that in our lesson because the world at that time was beginning to prepare for the greatest teacher ever.  Jesus set a great example of how to love others.  CCLS teachers, as well as our CECE teachers, have a great way of modeling the love of Jesus.  We celebrate His love, and pray that we also can demonstrate that deep level of sacrifice and love for God’s people.

Thursday, January 9, 2014


There is a picture that exists with all four of the Karl William Hankes.  I was just a baby at the time, and I think it was my great grandpa who was holding me.  My dad was always proud of that picture.  I was wearing some ridiculous velour baby outfit.  While I understand the family value of the picture, I felt like we treasured it a little too much.   After all three of them had passed on, leaving only me, someone brought me that picture.  I think it was my aunt or my uncle.  Honestly, I don’t see any more importance in my name versus my brother’s and sisters’.  Karl, to me, just becomes the annoyance of having to clarify at doctor offices, billing companies and other places that I go by Will.  What’s the value of an unused name?
            As we began to name our kids, I was praying that God would give me a girl first so I would not even have to debate having to choose Karl William Hanke V.  And knowing that my dad wanted to jump ahead to five because he thought there was something cool about it, put a unique pressure on me.  Yet, it forced Mindy and me to really evaluate the naming process.   Jacob Karl’s naming came with such a deep thought process that involved my love for the scriptural Jacob, while still keeping a legacy of Karls with a K.  Abigail Miriam beautifully combines the names of both our mothers into one little lady’s name.  One day I can imagine the conversations that will happen since girls seem to care about things like the reason behind the choice of a name.  I am sure Abby will want to understand the uniqueness of how she was named after both of her grandmas.  I have to admit Miriam was never a name I called anyone—obviously, because it belonged to my mom.  So I never imagined naming my daughter that, but it’s amazing how you process things differently when you try to choose a name for your child.  One of the intriguing parts of this week’s lesson is the fact that the name Jesus is never spoken until His baptism.  The angel’s instruction was to call him Jesus, but Matthew constantly refers to him as the child.  Honestly, I am not sure what to make of that.  These are the times I wish Matthew were around to ask him why he chose to do that.  This does not seem to be coincidental; this had to be his full intention.  So what is Scripture trying to teach us?
            During the massive snow this past week, we found Abby singing into one of our baptismal candles.  Her personality begins to take on new elements every day.  I can’t stop but think about all the things to tell Abby about her baptism.  It was the day her dad was installed at Mt. Calvary, and a day when God brought us into a new part of His people and His family.
            The thing about names is, they originate outside of our own family.  Often they are from a place that brings us back to our beginnings.  Jesus defines us as a part of His family.  It was God’s plan to bring His family back together from the darkness in which they found themselves.  It was continually being destroyed by fights, selfishness, and sin.  The process of restoring God’s family began at Jesus’ baptism.  It revealed what it was going to take to give us back the family name.  It was going to take Jesus humbling himself.  John was right!  Jesus shouldn’t baptize him, but what it was going to take to get us in God’s family was this humble act of Jesus, which illustrated the power of God’s Son coming to rescue us.
             My favorite part of a baptism ceremony is when I get to hold the baby up and let people praise God for His work, and to celebrate that baby coming into God’s family.  Jesus came to be with us.  He came to restore us and to bring his family back together.  That is the power of His name and that is what we will discuss this weekend!