Defining Moments A Graduation Sermon The mission for Space Shuttle Columbia started off well on January 16, 2003. This was a multi- disciplinary microgravity and Earth science research mission with a multitude of international scientific investigations conducted continuously during 16 days in orbit. Approximately 82 seconds after launch, a suitcase-size piece of thermal insulation foam broke off the External Tank (ET), striking Columbia's left wing Reinforced Carbon-Carbon (RCC) panels. As demonstrated by ground experiments conducted by the Columbia Accident Investigation Board, this likely created a 6-to-10-inch (15 to 25 cm) diameter hole, allowing hot gases to enter the wing when Columbia later reentered the atmosphere. At the time of the foam strike, the orbiter was at an altitude of about 66,000 feet (20 km; 12.5 mi), traveling at Mach 2.46 (1,870 miles per hour or 840 meters per second). The foam fragment was about 1.2 pounds (0.54 kg) in mass and impacted the wing at roughly 800 feet per second (240 m/s). The problem was that NASA knew this occurred and thought that it was not a big issue. They had a DEFINING MOMENT to make…not worry about it or find some way to rescue the passengers in a mid-space maneuver from another shuttle. No…surely it was ok. As Space Shuttle Columbia entered the Earth’s atmosphere that hole, where a thermal protection layer would have been, became the vulnerable part and as the heat became more and more fierce, it burned the shuttle from the inside out. All the crew perished that day. There was a wreckage trail from eastern Texas to parts of Arkansas and Louisiana and people found debris scattered all over the place. A sad situation and it was this defining moment that characterized NASA in both this incident and the 1986 Challenger disaster. But since most of us will never experience space travel we struggle to find what we mean by a moment that defines you. So let me ask you, “What moment or moments could you say were defining moments in your lives?” This question is especially pertinent to our discussion today for we have people who are graduating and we could easily argue that graduation is a defining moment. But what are some other examples? Paying off that mortgage… Getting baptized… What about marrying that gorgeous wife of yours…(Amen husbands?) Having your kids make it to college… But wait….it’s not all positive is it? If we parse “defining moments” moments as moments that identify who you are and who you have become then not all defining moments are, in fact, positive. Maybe it was a wreck you had that changed your life. Maybe you lost a loved one who was really close to you. Maybe you lost a job. Maybe you got a divorce. Maybe that secret finally became disclosed. So here we are in the season anticipating what is commonly called Pentecost which is itself a new beginnings. We look backwards at moments that have already defined us but also we look forward, to new beginnings and with great anticipation something stirring in us that will REDEFINE who we are and who God has changes us into being. I am reminded of Philippians 3:12-14. This is a defining moment for Paul as he is in prison writing this letter to his “joy-givers” in Philippi. And he writes these words to them: Philippians 3:12-14 12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. That verse has brought comfort to me over the years and many of us live by it. One small problem I have is an apparent contradiction from what was just said. Philippians 3:1-7 Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you. 2 Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. 3 For we are the real circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh - 4 though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness, under the law blameless. 7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Do you notice the problem here? By the time we get to verse 12-14 Paul is telling us to forget the past but in verses 4-7 he has told us the specific things in his past. What is Paul up to? Let me say it a different way? If he is forgetting his past then how come the whole section leading up to it is about his…past? Look at what he says closely…It may mean something more… Paul said he was circumcised on the 8th day….did he do that or did his parents? He was among the people of Israel….of the right nation. He was a Benjaminite…the kingly people. Benjamin was the one son of Israel who was born in Israel. So of the one true people of God, he was of the high class tribe from the one true people of God. He was so tied into it he was in fact the Hebrew of Hebrews. So he is labeling himself as the center of all ethnics or ethnocentrism. Then he said he was a Pharisee…when it comes to the rules of his tribe he could say, “I did it better than nobody.” Ego-centric. He was so devoted to his tribe that he went around persecuted people who were not a part of his tribe. What is he saying? When Stephen was being killed Paul is saying that he was responsible. I was the one holding the cloak…I was responsible! Is this what you say to Christians when you are trying to encourage them? Yet Paul just lays it out there. He says he is forgetting what lies behind but he just let us know the deepest, darkest most intimate sins he has committed. His version of forgetting is slightly different then our version of forgetting. What he is saying is simple: he is looking at his past with a different lens. He does not see his past as good or bad but simply he sees his past through the lens of Christ where Christ has radically changed his life to press on towards something that is even more radical. Our deepest, darkest secrets come in new light when they are seen in the light of Christ! This is counter-intuitive to our culture for when we look at the past we move on from it and to illustrate this I want us to look at some of these slides. Go through slides… We laugh at those why? Because we have moved on from them…we use the language of Paul and we say we are pressing on! But that’s not what Paul is saying. He presses on but with the notion that he is not moved on from his past but has embraced it with the understanding that Christ has redeemed him using the past events to define him at where he is right now. Friends…it is only through the lens of Christ at which we can look at our past events and embrace them. So what are your defining moments in life? Maybe your defining moment has yet to come. Maybe you are stuck in a search to find out some meaning and purpose in your life. Maybe a bunch of junk has happened to you and you are questioning whether things are really worth it. Maybe you are a lot like the character of Job and you feel like people are judging you too much and really deep down they don’t have a clue what’s going on! Maybe you are like Joshua and the future is so uncertain…you have graduated and things look so unclear right now. We are a lot like Paul aren’t we…we press on…with our baggage in the past…with our uncertainty of the present to be reconciled to God for the future. You know what you have? Right now! Each present moment is a defining moment to change and to do the right thing. Colossians 1:15-21 15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities - all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. 21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, We once were fornicators, greedy, prideful, idolatrous, selfish, lying, angry, hypocritical and hateful people. And we look at that with shame. Instead…put the lens of Christ on and see how he has redeemed you to embrace those old things and see how Christ has reconciled them! Colossians 1:22-23 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister. Did you catch that? The hope of the gospel. So we press on…not looking back but looking forward having already embraced our past. What defines you?