February 3, 2011
I was at a seminar on prayer last week. I reluctantly went. The last thing I wanted to do was spend my Friday learning about 5 glorified steps to spiritual clarity and enlightenment…which is kind of weird (my reluctance, that is) because if there is anything that I really long for it is spiritual clarity and enlightenment. I know that I am not alone in my unfulfilled desire. Most people I run into admit to having lackluster spiritual lives marked by uninspired dialog with God. So how does the blind (or deaf) lead the blind (and deaf)?
Turns out I don’t have to. God will. God does. We receive eyes to see and ears to hear. I think it’s time I stopped assuming these were metaphors. This is the actual promise of our actual savior who lives with the Father in constant prayer on our behalf and thanks to the Holy Spirit, we get to listen in on the conversation. It’s right there in the Bible -pretty much everywhere (Check out this Sunday’s Epistle reading: 1 Cor. 2: 1-16). How could I have possibly been so thick as to have to attend a seminar to discover it. God actually speaks and guides…me…us. (Does this make me a Lutheran renewal guy?)
Did you know that the word “Behold!” occurs in the Bible 1400 times and “Lo” shows up another 200 times. What if… God actually means it? – “Pay Attention! Look! I’m going to show you something!”
I will admit that as I have pondered the daunting task of church renewal among the cloudy ambiguity that is our perceived future I have felt discouraged by the seeming impossibility of it all. I will also admit that I’m an idiot. GOD IS SPEAKING TO US. GOD IS ACTUALLY SPEAKING TO US. GOD IS TELLING US WHAT TO DO.
This Sunday’s O.T. Reading (Isa: 58:1-12) dampens my embarrassment as it reminds me that as pastor, moping around like a deaf and blind guy I’m in good company. The dialog is between God, a prophet and a group of religous folk. Turns out they couldn’t hear God speaking to them either…and then God did. God actually spoke! God told them what to do and promised that their obedience would impact the world.
Why don’t we talk about this more?
Why don’t we expect God to speak to our church?
Speak Lord and give us an education in “saltiness”.
January 27, 2011
I was handed the latest United Church of Canada periodical, “Touchstone: theology shaping witness” and told it might speak to me. The issue is titled, “Ministry, why bother?”
An article written by Hugh D. Reid struck me as I read it this morning. He tells of the ministry experience of a man named Christian.
“He met hostility and suspicion from the people to whom he was sent, people who could believe more easily in their rejection by the world and their insignificance to the world than they could believe in a God who loved them, but Christian was equipped with joy. He said, “in the face of their antagonism,” he was sustained, “by the truth about them that they did not know.” His task was not to coerce or to manipulate them into recieving this truth for he was more than a conqueror; he had only to patiently be for them until they could own for themselves the love and significance that was theirs. He has seen many lives transformed from the street to stability, from violence to community, from death to life as the redemption that has been accomplished took hold.”
Do I have the eyes (and the patience!)to see in others the truth about them that they do not know?
Lord, you have given me the desire, give me also the grace to complete this task.
November 17, 2009
Last week I had a dream. A real, true blue, “while I was sleeping” dream. I welcome your interpretations.
The dream begins with me packing a bunch of stuff into a big back pack. Heavy stuff like books, boxes, I think there was even a candelabra that I had to fit in there. I didn’t like that all this stuff was being jammed into the back pack but I felt strongly that I had to fit it all in. I didn’t even like most of the stuff but I was moving from one place to another and I felt a great pressure to bring it all with me.
Once I had loaded the back pack I struggled to lift it onto my back. My legs quivered under the weight. Eventually I secured the big back pack to my body with several straps and such and put a few last things that I didn’t want getting squished into a smaller bag that I carried in my hands. I then began to walk.
After I had walked a bit I ran into somebody on the street. While we visited the weight of the pack was ever present on my mind and body. Finishing the conversation we parted ways. I walked a little farther only to realize that at some point during my conversation on the street I had put down my small bag of valuable goods . Still quivering under the weight of the heavy pack I retraced my steps and luckily found my small valuable bag where I had left it. Turning around again I marched towards my destination.
The same pattern repeats itself two more times (distraction, put down the important bag, realize later what I’ve done, retrace my steps, all the while struggling to support the weight of this big heavy back pack of books and candles).
The final part of my dream takes place on this epic stair case that I struggle to reach the top of…only to realize that I had forgotten that little bag again!
I woke up from the dream walking back down those stairs. I never did take that heavy back pack off.
So tell me, WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
“Come to me you who are weary, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Jesus Christ)
October 20, 2009
This year the global population swung from being predominately rural to having an urban majority. Until this year MOST people have lived in rural areas. Still to this date MOST ELCIC Lutherans live and worship in rural settings…and yet we are captive to urban literature, programs, politics, and the list could go on. If you do not beleive me, stir up an image from your imagination of what a successful congregation looks like? Did you imagine a part time pastor? Were people parking on the lawn on Sunday morning? Were members $10,000 poorer than the average Canadian? Was the neighborhood sparsly populated – like one house every mile or so? Was the building 100 years old and just big enough to squeeze in 65 people comfortably (as comfortable as creeky wooden pews can be)?
Likely not. We are captive to an urban idea of success that MOST ELCIC congregations simply can not fit. And yet…
What if we stopped long enough to take a drive in country and see what is going on in rural churches? We would see the grassroots in action!
You won’t find a study group gathered to talk about the latest study released from Winnipeg. As good as the study might be the people are simply too busy fixing up the local playground, running the local 4-H club, setting up for tonights A.A. meeting, visiting a neighbor in hospital and meeting with the mayor (who just so happens to be on church council) to discuss pressing matters of the community – like the price of gas, public school policies, environmental degredation of water ways and the part time pastor’s salary. Sure it doesn’t look flashy, but it’s what the mobolized grassroots looks like. Its chaotic. Its interwoven. Its unmanagable by even the most sophisticated governance board. And it’s happening everyday across the country side of Canada.
For inspiration, hope and a good dose of what really works, I invite city Lutherans to take a drive in the country. You will what grass roots looks like.
p.s. Take a moment at your next council meeting and ask your leadership to identify those in your church who came from rural communities. Urban congregations might be surprised to realize that rural churches have gifted them with some of their brightest and committed leaders. This is no coincedence. Rural churches have become less, that urban missions might become more. Didn’t Jesus say something about this being God’s chosen model for minstry?