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Updating Your Profile – a Message from Rev. Dr. Philip Quanbeck, II


quanbeck_webThe following homily was given in Augsburg College Daily Chapel on September 23, 2015, by Rev. Dr. Philip Quanbeck, II, Associate Professor, Religion Department (text: Genesis 1:26-28):

As Yogi Berra said: “Listen up! I’ve got nothing to say and I am only going to say it once.”

Grace and Peace:

This past June, My wife and I went to Sweden with a touch of Norway. Inspired by the example of former campus pastor Dave Wold we picked up a new Volvo in Gothenburg and set out on a quest. We saw the Kvammbekk place near Hjartdal in Telemark and feasted with the relatives. Touched on Oslo and then went to Sweden. And especially Stockholm. Ruth, a Swede by ancestry, wanted me, a Norwegian by ancestry, to see what real Scandinavian “class” looked like. Stockholm, after all, was for a time an imperial capital. 

In my first trips to Europe as a teenager and a young adult, sharing my travels concurrently with the folks back home meant sending postcards or aerogrammes. An aerogramme was a single sheet of tissue-thin blue paper which you wrote all over and then folded it up into its own self-sealing envelope and mailed Par Avion.

Air mail was expensive and the aerogramme was feather-light and took a week or two to make it to the U.S.

But this summer things were different. We had our new iPhone 6 pluses with 64 Gigabytes of memory with Bluetooth and WiFi and international cellular service. And I had a new selfie-stick. We were tourists with a vengeance. And this gave us access to Facebook. So we updated our pages and profiles almost every day. And with the selfie-stick we didn’t have to ask people to take the picture. So there we were sailing a boat in Stockholm Harbor, in the City Hall home of the Nobel Prize ceremonies, and the folks back home knew what we were doing almost immediately. Or in 7 hours when they woke up.

And of course, the other side of Facebook, we were looking to be “liked”. So in the evening we could check back and see who had seen what we were up to.

On one of our last days in Stockholm before our return I was checking FB early in the day. And on one of the posts shared by a pastor friend I saw a short blog by Ann Lamotte. It was a nicely written but unusual update. She said she was celebrating her 29th sobriety birthday. And talked again of her past struggle with honesty and spoke with gratitude about the people who helped her and the higher power that sustained her.

I guess what struck me especially is that I was a couple weeks away from my own anniversary, my second sobriety birthday. I didn’t put post day on my FB for my updated profile in August. So I am updating my profile with you today.

As Nadia Boltz-Weber recently wrote on her sarcastic Lutheran blog and in her book Accidental Saints, there are two sides to us. There is the public face we post on FB, the smiling face, the successful face. But there are the things we don’t post. Our fears and our failures. The disappointments and the struggles.

But, writes Nadia, the pictures and video and things we want to delete from our stories and hide are precisely the pictures and stories and parts of us that God can use.

It is recovery week. Recovery has a range of meanings. And a rich variety. Now this week we think of those who are recovering from addiction, dependence, loss of hope. We see the good side of recovery, here but we also know the dark stories and depths out of which that recovery comes.

I was thinking again this summer as there were reports of the two boys sailing in the Gulf. They were lost and there was a search. But there came a day when the Coast Guard said the rescue mission of the search was now becoming a recovery mission. No longer looking for survivors they were looking for bodies.

Recovery is not just the end of a fever, or the healing of a wound. It can be that of course. But also it can be coming back from hopelessness to hope, from death to life.

I celebrated my sobriety birthday with my AA group in Rochester. I received a token. Not much you could say. But it was passed around the 50 people gathered on stackable chairs who each pressed their strength born of weakness into that coin. The image of God was shown to me in that collection of both broken and amazing people.

The image of God finally is not in perfection but in the Christ who raises us up. He is on a recovery mission for all of us. He even takes all the stuff we don’t want on our profiles and says this is great stuff. I can use all of it.