Monday, April 30, 2012

becoming pastoral

This week I wrote an article for Eston College’s “Life Express!” news and blog website.  I’m glad I did.  I’ve found that through writing I’m able to better process and reflect on what’s going on in my life. 

Click the picture below to read: “Becoming Pastoral”


Last week I also had the opportunity to sit down with a few people and hear their stories.  It’s an honour to be invited to walk alongside you, and I don’t take the role lightly!  It’s also been very encouraging to see how many of you are growing and able to articulate how you see God at work in your faith and your life.  As a pastor, that’s a great comfort… it shows me that you’re learning to be attentive to the ways God moves—recognizing the nuance and beauty with which He weaves our life stories together.  It’s my prayer for all of us that we continue to learn how to pay attention.  Often this means slowing down.  In this day and age we’ve become experts at filling our time, at staying busy, at always being connected.  Sometimes we can even adopt a strange sort of guilt when it comes to taking time for ourselves, for rest. That’s not quite right!  It’s also the reason I don’t carry a cell phone.

But part of maturing in our faith means cutting through that busyness (even busyness for God or for ministry) and finding rest and learning to listen to God’s voice in stillness.  My hope is, at some point, to teach on spiritual disciplines: one of which is solitude. 

So let’s be faithful to the good work, that God calls us to…but let’s not become so consumed that we are incapable of also taking the time for stillness and rest.

"Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly." 
 - Matthew 11:28-30 The Message (MSG)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Easter Life

Though the holiday itself has passed my mind has been filled this week with Easter. We're in a season of newness (at least we're supposed to be--it is spring after all!); this has really struck home for Sarah and I as we entered into this week: a new job, a new office, a new world of thoughts and questions and possibility. I'm typing this out to you from the Pastor's Office, wondering at how I came to be sitting here: thankful for the opportunity and gift it is, and also, to be honest, somewhat anxious at all the responsibility and expectation that comes along for the ride.  Transitions are like that: even the good ones, the best sought ones, bring both excitement and nervousness, joy and apprehension.  Such is change.  Such is newness.

And such is Easter.

I've been preparing my first real message as a pastor for Sunday morning: focusing again on the significance of Easter Life, and integrating some of my hopes and dreams for us as a Church.  John 20 is also about transition, and it brings these two places of startling contrast together: the fear and despair of Mary and disciples is embraced and dissolved in the encounter with the Risen Lord.  They had believed this was transition without tomorrow: hope lost, death victorious.  Yet not so.  The Saturday Dark gives way to Sunday Glory.  Newness, life, renewal spring forth--spring forth with and in and through Jesus and his Resurrection.  

This changes how we approach life, rewrites the rules on how we interpret pain and suffering.  Christ invites us live as whole, renewed, redeemed people.  His people.  We don't always.  We still suffer and sway between fear and joy--but we're not without hope.  Easter Life means finding that hope in the midst of grief; life in the midst of death: knowing Christ and the power of his Resurrection (Phil 3:10).

This song has captured this for me today as I write and pray for you.
Be blessed, my friends.


Friday, April 06, 2012

letting God go first

My first blog post as a pastor--feels very strange to write that!

If this is your first time reading this blog then let me welcome you!  This is a place where I hope to ponder faith and life—exploring the creating, saving, and blessing movement of God which encompasses and permeates all of our being and doing as we walk out our lives in this world.  It’s a place for reflection and interaction.  And it’s my hope now more than ever that as a pastor we can explore together what it means to be participating in this life together.

I want to return and look at Joshua 3, the passage that I shared back in March: 
Early the next morning Joshua and all the Israelites left Acacia Grove and arrived at the banks of the Jordan River, where they camped before crossing.
Three days later the Israelite officers went through the camp, giving these instructions to the people: “When you see the Levitical priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord your God, move out from your positions and follow them. Since you have never traveled this way before, they will guide you. Stay about a half mile behind them, keeping a clear distance between you and the Ark. Make sure you don’t come any closer.”
Then Joshua told the people, “Purify yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do great wonders among you.” 
In the morning Joshua said to the priests, “Lift up the Ark of the Covenant and lead the people across the river.” 

And so they started out and went ahead of the people. (Joshua 3:1-6, NLT)
Notice how God calls for the priests bearing the Ark, the place of God’s presence and power, to move first into the new territory.  They’ve never been here before.  This is all new to them!  They’ll have to trust in the One who has brought them this far.  This moving ahead into the unknown is framed by trust, by waiting, by watching.

Now clearly this is a new chapter in the story of Israel, but this is also so true of our own journeys through life.  How often we find ourselves on the brink of the unknown.  This can range from major life transitions to our day by day decisions.  For all our planning and preparation we can never really know what’s coming, can we?  Our reactions to that unknown can range from worry and stress to carefree abandon—often to our detriment.

So what do we do with all this unknown?  Joshua gets us pointed in the right direction.  Are we learning to cultivate an awareness of God’s leading?  This might seem like something only some wise sage might be able to do: some expert or professional.  Yet this is simply not the case.  There is no primary prerequisite for the listening life—it’s not reserved for the spiritually elite, or the highly educated, or the religiously dogmatic—because this attitude is not something we conjure up for ourselves based on good behaviour.  Israel keeps us from thinking that we’re not good enough—they miss the mark time and time again!  Just like us.  Ordinary people, ordinary sinners.  In the Joshua passage I recall my own weaknesses, and somehow find myself still loved and accepted and restored by a God who loves.  The requirement for this listening life is relationship with the one who is speaking.  It’s a willing resolve to stop, to wait, to attend to the Other.

There is another reminder here for us: the Lord will lead you into that unexplored territory.  This is a part of the story he is writing with your life.  You are not abandoned or forsaken, he will lead through it.  Take hope in that. That he is weaving your life as a testimony to his name.

Are you learning to listen for his voice, to see him in your day to day life? There is no step-by-step guide to this; it’s not a list of moral characteristics that we can cross off as we master them. Our spiritual growth happens as we live into our relationships: both God and with one another. Learning how to trust another, like learning how to love another, can’t be taught overnight.  It’s learned over time in the living.

Be blessed this Easter, my friends.