Ask the Pastor, Really

AskA while back we set up a box for your questions…anonymous or not as you choose. As we grow and develop together, some things will surely change, and it is always healthier to keep the lines of communication open than to whisper in the parking lot! I promised to answer every question respectfully. And guess what?? The box finally produced, not one, but two questions!

The first question: How many licks to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll, Tootsie Pop? Tootsie Pops are a lot like Oreos. Everyone has their own style and method of consumption. I like to take my Oreos apart, scrape all the cream onto one side and pile it up in a corner. Then I eat the ‘naked’ side in one bite. Next, I eat the uncovered chocolate of the second side. Lastly, I savor (it’s my favorite bite) the bit of chocolate with all the cream. I never claimed to not be at least a little strange. I call it unique. I’ve never met anyone who ate an Oreo quite like I do. But Oreos were not the question.

Many people have tried to lick their way to the center of a Tootsie Pop. If you have been successful, please include this extraordinary piece of information in all future introductions. This is something that we all want to know about you! You are very unique and very special since most of the rest of humankind bite into the candy to reach the Tootsie Roll about 5-10 licks into the experience. So I did a little research.

A group of Purdue engineering students built a licking machine to resemble a human tongue. Using their licking machine, it takes 364 licks to reach the center of a Tootsie Pop. However, 20 volunteers were actually successful in reaching the center using only the human tongue for licking! Who knows how many students were involved in creating the machine! But only 20 volunteers were able to accomplish the human tongue lick to the center! Now I didn’t read the actual research, so I don’t know how tightly the experiment was controlled. Was each volunteer watched continuously by 2 researchers to make sure there was not biting if one researcher blinked? Did the volunteer provide the count or did researchers count observing the protruding tongue for each counted lick? I just don’t know! But reportedly, using an actual human tongue for licking, 20 successful volunteers averaged 252 licks to get to the center. So I presume that the researchers concluded not only an average of 252 licks, but that the human tongue licking is more effective than a machine mimicking a human tongue licking.

As for me, I have successfully reached the center of a Tootsie Pop without biting. The trick? Stick it in the corner of your cheek and let it dissolve! It’s faster than licking and your mouth is filled with the flavor of the candy. Except…the moment that I reach that Tootsie Roll…the rest of the candy must be chewed up with the Tootsie Roll. I just can’t help myself!

I may be having a little fun with this column, but it is important for us to remember that we each bring our own uniqueness to our life together as church. We don’t all eat our Oreos or consume our Tootsie Pops the same way. Each one of us is uniquely created by God and no one else can take your place or my place in the work that God lays out for us as a church. Some of us eat our Oreos in one bite while others twist it apart and eat one particular side first. Some have a ritual that others might think a bit strange. And when confronted with a Tootsie Pop…most of us seriously lack impulse control while others are very meticulous.

There is no one way to eat an Oreo or a Tootsie Pop. So why do we seem to think that we have a lock on the one “right” way? Why are we so quick to judge and devalue those who don’t do everything just like we do? God’s kingdom is made for all the ways that we eat our Oreos and Tootsie Pops. God’s kingdom is made for all people…and most of these are not just like you or just like me. We are simply all unique. As church, we are not only called…God expects us to move over and make space for those who are not just like us. We are expected to make room for new people who want to do different things and do old things in different ways. The United Methodist Church has come to a time in our history where we must have new people, new and creative ideas, and new ways of doing church. New Covenant is at the same crossroad as the rest of the UMC. The old ways comfort those of us who have been around a long time. But if we are to fulfill our mission and share God through love and service, then we must let go and trust God to take us to a new place. We must be open and embrace new people, new ideas, new ways.

Church, we really have two choices and each has a consequence. We can hold on tight to our place. We can refuse to move over to make room for someone or something new. And, no, we can’t stay where we are, holding onto our special place, and still make room for someone new. We can nurture and cherish our fear of the unknown all in the name of being responsible. And when we finish our bag of Oreos or the Tootsie Pop that we’ve been given, there will be nothing left. OR we can trust God. We can eagerly step aside to make room for what is new, creative, vital, alive. It doesn’t even take that much faith. The evidence is all around us. God has been working. The Holy Spirit is moving. God has been meeting our needs and preparing us for what is just ahead. God has a glorious plan for us…if we will only embrace it. We stand at the crossroad. The well-worn path has served us well. But in the world we now live in, it leads to nowhere. The other path is over grown and needs work. The soil needs to be tilled. But the fruit…the glorious ripe, wild, delicious fruit…. Which path, church? Which path?

Remember, there were two questions…. The second question: Why do you want to be a pastor? From the very first time a pastor says, “I’m called to this,” we encounter a strange disconnect of encouragement for the journey and being repeatedly told, “if you can do anything else, if God doesn’t pester you to the point that you absolutely HAVE to do this, then do something else. This life is too hard for anyone to choose if God hasn’t chosen you…and may break you even then.” So why do I want to be a pastor? Watch for next month’s newsletter/blog when I’ll share a bit of my own journey.


Pastor Dana

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