I’ve seen several posts/articles recently focusing on “being.” The consensus is that we have a hard time “just being” in our world of media and busyness. These people emphasize the need to find peace and contentment in the present. I can relate to their position. I yearn for a peace and calm in life in the midst of chaos, uncertainty, and struggle. The words of Jesus echo in my mind: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.” (John 14:27a)
But I also hear and read about productivity and change. The call echoes to translate the gospel message in a language that a new generation can hear and understand. I hear denominational leaders crying out for new ideas that will resonate with people who don’t believe in God or who don’t care.
And I feel torn. Do we find peace and contentment where we are in the arms of our savior, or do we find passion to move from the place where we are (and have been for years) to find a new land that God has promised us?
In recent days I’m come to understand it’s both. I am convinced that the life of a Christian is a life of constant discernment, growth, and evolution. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the same, but I am different. The world is different.
My two daughters (ages 2.5 and .5) constantly amaze me. Both of them are growing and changing every day. The oldest is developing new language skills that blow my mind. She speaks with more clarity and confidence with each passing minute. She “teaches” my wife and I new games that she creates. Questions bubble out of her like a geyser. The world is something for her to understand. The younger wants to touch, feel, taste, and see everything. She spins around to find another new item she has yet to study to her satisfaction. Now I know that I must evolve with them in order to help them in their development.
Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children you will never enter the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 18:3) What characteristic of children does Jesus wants us to emulate? I believe it is their sense of wonder. Children figure out one thing, enjoy it to the fullest, and then move along to figure out something else. That’s how they grow and learn.
Paul equated the Christian life to the human life: birth, growth, and death (with the added resurrection). He told the community that milk was only suitable for nutrition for a set time. Then you must grow up and eat solids. The Christian is growing, changing from rebirth to rebirth.
I wish consistency was part of life, but it’s not. We have two feet planted in two different worlds: one in the grace and love of God through Jesus Christ that is stable and unchanging; and one in the earthly realm that isn’t the same one moment to the next. Contentment and solace in just being is worthy of pursuit, as long as one doesn’t expect to return to the same place of rest the next day: except into the arms of Christ.
Grace and Peace
Based on John 6:35, 41-51
We continue today in our series on the bread of life. For the last two weeks, we talked about Jesus with the crowds who were seeking him – first on the mountain and then across the sea in Capernaum. Jesus fed 5,000 on the mountainside, and then walked across the water to explain to the crowd that followed that the real miracle was that he was the bread of life. If you eat of him – you will not be hungry again. These two passages have been about Jesus addressing the out crowd – those people outside of the circle of power and influence. Today we see Jesus step into the middle of the circle of power and address the people who are established in the Jewish community.
John tells us that “the Jews” began to complain about Jesus because he said that he was the bread that came down from heaven. Now when we hear John use the term “The Jews” in this gospel – we shouldn’t read it as all Jews everywhere and for always. John is referring to the temple establishment. When John was writing the gospel, the Christian community had been kicked out of the synagogues. John is referencing the leaders in his day as well as those in Jesus’ day.
These insiders were happy with the status quo. They didn’t want anything to change. They had plenty of power and influence the way it was. And here came Jesus talking about how he was the bread of heaven. Talking about how he was the bread of life. They knew where Jesus came from. He was a carpenter. He wasn’t from heaven. He was from Nazareth. So they discounted Jesus. They already knew who God is. They already knew how to access God. They knew their rules and regulations about cleanliness and holiness. They knew God’s miracles already – so this man had to be a sham.
But Jesus stayed on message. Jesus knew what was to come. Jesus was not just some hack carpenter. Jesus was Emmanuel – God with us. Jesus was the word made flesh. Jesus was an offering, a sacrifice so that we might have eternal life. Jesus was better than manna. Jesus wasn’t and still isn’t something that falls to the ground to feed a people for a day. Jesus is living bread. Jesus gives eternal life – not mortal life.
The last couple of weeks, I have said that we need to be people who feast of the gift of Jesus Christ – that we need to eat the bread of life that has been offered to us. But I haven’t given you much on how to practically do that. I’m afraid that too often we act like the Jewish leaders talked about here. We act like we know who God is. We act like we know where God is and what God is doing. We act like we have had our connection to God and so we don’t need to have anymore – that might upset our worldview or make us uncomfortable.
Martin Luther once said to his congregation, “I wish I could get you to pray the way that my dog goes after meat.” It is easy for us to get excited about a lot of things. I’m very excited that football season is almost here. I’m excited everyday about the new things my daughter, Palmer, is learning. I’m excited about Les Mis coming out as a musical movie in December. But sometimes it’s hard to get excited about daily Bible reading. Sometimes it’s hard to get excited about prayer. But these things are what help us feast on the living bread of Jesus Christ. These are the disciplines that keep us full of spiritual food.
I was talking with a couple this week when I realized how many different disciplines we have to help us along our journey. We Christians are very diverse. One discipline doesn’t feed everyone. But we have lost touch with some of the disciplines that draw us close to God. Fasting is a great spiritual discipline. John Wesley generally fasted twice a week. Fasting is an intentional way of communing with God. Jesus fasted for 40 days in the wilderness to prepare himself for ministry. We should model that. The Wesleyan fast is from dinner one night to dinner the next night. I know that some of you are saying you can’t fast from food. You are a diabetic or have another health reason. Well – just because you can’t fast from food doesn’t mean you can’t fast. You can take a fast from anything that you do regularly – Television, sweets, foul language, driving over the speed limit, alcohol, computer games, texting, lattes. You fast could be for a day, or a week – or longer. Fasting is a way for us to deny ourselves something so that we can gain the bread of life.
Works of mercy are another spiritual discipline that we over look sometimes. Works of mercy are those things we do to help other people. A great way to do this is to keep a shoebox of food in your vehicle for when you pass someone who needs food. If you are like me – you are sometime reluctant to hand out money on the street corner. But food and a bottle of water – now that’s a different story. A hungry person will never turn down food. And Jesus said – whatever you have done to the least of these, my brothers and sisters, you have done it to me. This is a great discipline to help other be full – but also to fill us with the bread of life.
Conferencing is another way. Conference could also be called small groups or simple accountability. Sharing with others the trials and successes of our spiritual journey is a way to feed our own souls.
The last discipline I want to share with you this morning is a spiritual reading of the Bible called Lectio Divina. It is a way to let scripture read us as we read scripture. What you do is find a passage of scripture to read – several verses long. Then you read the passage several times. On the third time, or so, through the passage – stop and reflect on a word or phrase that speaks to you. Let the Holy Spirit guide you to that word or phrase and let her fill you.
Spiritual disciplines help us feast of the bread of life. They connect us to God and to others. They move us from our places of contentment and comfort into the places God wants and needs us to be. I’d like to invite you now into a time of discipline and feasting on the bread of life. We are going to engage in a time of Lectio Divina together as a congregation. I’m going to read this passage from John two more times. The first time listen to the whole text. The second time through, stop on a word or phrase that jumps out to you. Then meditate on that word or phrase. We will then have a minute or two of silence for your reflection. Please get in a position now that will help you be open to the work of God. If you’d like – you can come to the altar rail, stand, sit, kneel – or whatever it is that you need to do.
Listen for the word of God.
If you’d like to do some Lectio Divina – Look up John 6:35, 41-51. Read it through and follow the instructions above.
You are what you eat. This phase is part of life for parents who are trying to teach their children good eating habits. I’ve even seen a commercial recently for Pediasure sidekicks – a drink supplement for kids that illustrates this point. It has one girl – about 10 years old – in a soccer uniform drinking the Pediasure. Then we cut scene to the soccer game. Two moms are standing on the sideline. One asks the other, “Does my daughter look slow out there?” Then we see the child, dressed as French fries as the first mom says, “Well, kids are what they eat.” Then we see her daughter score a goal by kicking the ball through a girl dressed as a donut.
Alan Hirsch, the neurological director at the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago recently proved this point (somewhat). He saw that people with similar personality types chose the same snack food 95% of the time. Those who snack on tortilla chips tend to be perfectionists. Pretzel lovers are the life of the party. Nut enthusiasts even-keel, easy to get along with and highly empathetic. Sounds a little crazy, right? Well – what they found is that the part of the brain that controls the eating impulse is also where personality resides. You are what you eat!
Jesus ran into some heavy snackers in our text for today. In our text last week, a large crowd gathered around Jesus because of all the things he was doing for the sick. They were hearing the rumors about the miracles he was performing around the countryside and in their cities. So they went out to meet him – to hear what he had to say and to witness a miracle or two. But after Jesus fed 5,000 of them with five loaves of bread and two fish – Jesus has to withdraw to the mountain because they were trying to make him king. Then, after nightfall, he walks on water to the other side of the sea. Some of the crowd follows him there, and Jesus says, “You are not looking for me because you saw the signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.” In other words – you want a snack!
This crowd was looking for Jesus because they ate the loaves that Jesus offered the day before. They were seeking the food that perishes – loaves of bread – not the everlasting food that was being offered in Jesus Christ himself. The gospel according to St. John portrays Jesus as being reluctant to perform miracles – or signs as John calls them. The problem for Jesus is that no miracle lasts forever. “Any loaves that he multiplies are going to be eaten, and then the people will still be hungry the next day. Any water that he turns into wine is going to be consumed, and then the wedding guests will still want more. Any paralytic that he heals is going to become old and then become crippled again. Any dead child that he raises to new life is going to grow up and then die of natural causes.”
Miracles are not the only thing on a diet that can sustain a healthy spiritual life. They make a big impression, and then they fade. Miracle alone won’t turn a Jesus hater into a Jesus lover. Just look at Jesus’ opponents in the gospel. Jesus asks them why they want to stone him with all the works (miracles) he has done. They claim that it’s not because of the miracles – but because of what the miracle represent – blasphemy against God.
Jesus says work for the food that is everlasting – not the food that perishes. Belief in Jesus Christ is the start of that work. Jesus is the bread of God, the bread of life, and living bread. Now that’s a good meal.
The problem is that Jesus can sometimes be difficult to swallow. It’s hard to chew up some of his teachings: bless those who curse you; Love your enemies, and do good to those who hate you; help the outcast; touch the untouchables. That Jesus can get caught in our throats sometimes. It would be easier if Jesus said – bless those who bless you; love those who love you, do good to those who help you…But that would be a life of spiritual candy bars and cake – food that isn’t bad in moderation – but that provides very little for the long haul.
In the film Super Size Me (2004), Morgan Spurlock does an experiment to see what would happen to his health if he ate three meals a day for one solid month at McDonald’s. Thirty days later, he was 24 pounds heavier, and his cholesterol had shot up 65 points. McDonald’s isn’t a bad choice on occasion, but they aren’t in business to get you healthy. They are in business to make money.
We have bought in to a gospel of fast food. We believe that the gospel is a feel good, how can we serve you offering. We are just wanting to eat the parts of the teaching of Jesus that are easy to swallow – leaving us with a high calorie, low nutrient spiritual diet. We invite people into the community of faith for all the wrong reasons: the right kind of worship, political engagement, for the sake of Christian America, a strong youth or children’s ministry, etc. But the food we have to offer in Christ is so much more that that. It is the food that is unchanging, lasting soul food that fills our spirits long after our bellies are empty.
After their encounter with Jesus, the people begin to get what he is saying. They ask him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” They are starting their turn from spiritual junk food to the nutritious food that gives eternal life. This food is made with love, peace, and grace – that flows directly from our Father in heaven.
We come today to receive this food. We come to the table of our Lord Jesus Christ asking him, “Sir, give us this food always.” Are you ready to be filled with a meal that is filled with love and grace? Then get ready – because this meal is the bread of life – given to us so that we may never be hungry again.
Most Sundays after Church my mom and I exchange a series of text messages. The conversation goes something like this: “Do you have plans for lunch? / Nope. Where do you want to meet? / I don’t know. Do you have any ideas?” Eventually one of us will reply with a restaurant – usually one around the mall, and we will meet and have lunch. How many of you have had that conversation before? Whether it is with a parent, child, spouse, girlfriend, boyfriend, or coworker – I think we have all had a conversation like this or close to it.
It seems as if there are endless options when it comes to restaurants today. There are places that serve only one thing – and others that serve everything under the sun. Statistics show us, that even with so many options, we are most likely to choose the place that is quick and easy on the pocketbook. Despite what we know about how fast food is bad for our bodies – many of us still crave that Big Mac, Whopper, Baconator, and the like. Fast food is a major industry in this country. According to Eric Schlosser, in his book, Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal, we spend more money in the US on fast food than we do on higher education, computers, computer software, or new cars. In fact, we spend more on fast food than we do on movies, books, magazines, newspapers and recorded music — combined.
So – what are you hungry for? This is a question that goes beyond the physical food that fuels your body. It also gets at deeper wants and desires. What activity do you feast on – hoping that one day it will make you whole? What accomplishment do you devour, hoping it will give you a sense of fulfillment? What ideology do you fill up on, praying that is can answer all of life’s mysteries?
Jesus knew about hungry people. And this story about Jesus feeding the crowd was a very important story to the early church. It is the only miracle story that is found in all four gospels! In fact, just last week we talked about Mark’s version of the miracle. But John recounts it a little differently than Mark. Firstly, John says that Jesus asked Phillip about feeding the people. Here, Jesus knew the people were hungry. He didn’t have to wait for the disciples to bring it up to him. Jesus knew the need. Secondly, Jesus was the one who distributed the food. He didn’t delegate that responsibility to the disciples. In John – Jesus walked through the crowd and fed them. You see friends, John understand Jesus to be the word of God – the logos. Jesus was not just distributing food – but he was offering himself as well.
Karen Marie Yust imagines what this miracle might look like in a contemporary church. Can you hear the finance committee echoing Phillip’s words? We don’t take in enough money to take on a project like this! The outreach and mission committees might reinforce Andrew’s position. We have some money allocated for this – but only a small amount! The worship committee might not even way in because they are too busy getting ready for the Easter or Christmas seasons. The trustees might help with getting everyone seated – but I’m sure many would be worried about what this many people would mean for our bathrooms and maintenance! It is unlikely that anyone of these groups would be expecting to be part of a miracle. Most of the work of our committees is not viewed as a venue for the work and grace God to break forth – but more about the survival of the organization.
This world is starving for the Bread of Life. We, at times, are starving right along with them. What would our ministry look like if we expected God’s power to revel itself through every act of our ministry? What are the expectations we have for Jesus Christ in our midst?
One temptation I have with this story is to make Jesus a savior who is simple there to meet my needs. We crave a “short-order savior” who can satisfy all our earthly cravings. We pray for financial and job security. Perhaps we ask for physical well-being or peaceful relationships.
I recently heard about a “Husband Shopping Center” where women could go to choose a husband from among many men. It was laid out with five floors, with the men increasing in positive attributes as you ascended up the floors. The only rules: Once you opened the door to any floor, you must choose a man from that floor, and if you went up a floor, you couldn’t go back down except to leave the place, never to return.
A couple of girlfriends went to the place to find men. On the first floor, the door had a sign saying, “These men have jobs and love kids.” The women read the sign and said, “Well, that’s better than not having jobs or not loving kids, but I wonder what’s farther up?” So up they went.
The second floor said, “These men have high-paying jobs, love kids and are extremely good-looking.” “Hmm,” said the girls. “But I wonder what’s farther up?”
The third floor: “These men have high-paying jobs, are extremely good-looking, love kids and help with the housework.”
“Wow!” said the women. “Very tempting, BUT there’s more farther up!” And up they went.
Fourth floor: “These men have high-paying jobs, love kids, are extremely good-looking, help with the housework and have a strong romantic streak.”
“Oh, mercy! But just think what must be awaiting us farther on!” So up to the fifth floor they went. The sign on that floor said, “This floor is empty and exists only to prove that women are impossible to please.”
When we look to Jesus to be our personal genie – we will be disappointed. Jesus didn’t come into the world to protect your life. Jesus came to lay down his life and take it up again so that we might truly live. If you’re looking to Jesus to fatten your 401k, guarantee a cure for cancer, give you 10 steps to perfect relationships, land you a great job, and fix all your family problems – then you’ve got the wrong Jesus. The life of discipleship is about being fed by Jesus. We will still go through times of hardship, illness, unemployment, or even lack of food – but we will never be empty.
I met my brother, James, for lunch this week. James is a doctor – a surgeon at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital. I told him what I was planning to preach about today – and he shared something very interesting with me. It was full of doctor talk – but here is the gist. It doesn’t matter how much a person weighs they can still be malnourished. You see – the measurements of nourishment aren’t on the outside – they are protein levels and the like. A 500-pound person can still be malnourished. It’s about how much you eat – but what you eat that matters.
So what are you hungry for? Over the next month, we will be talking about how Jesus is the bread of life. A life filled with Jesus Christ reflects a change inside. The life of discipleship is a life of discipline and communing with the divine. Let us eat what is good – and our lives will never be empty.
Here is the text from my sermon from Sunday, July 22, 2012. The text for the week was Mark 6:30-44.
The great African American writer, author, educator, and orator, Booker T. Washington was fond of telling this story:
A ship, lost at sea in the Atlantic Ocean along the northern coast of South America for many days, suddenly sighted a friendly vessel. From the mast of the unfortunate vessel came the signals: “Water, water. We die of thirst.” The answer from the friendly vessel came back at once: “Cast down your bucket where you are.” A second time, the signal: “Water, send us water!” from the distressed vessel. And was answered again: “Cast down your bucket where you are.” A third and fourth signal for water was again answered: “Cast down your bucket where you are.” The captain of the distressed vessel, at last heeding the injunction, cast down his bucket. It came up full of fresh, sparkling water from the mouth of the Amazon River, which extends miles out into the ocean in what is called the “River Sea.”
In this story, the people on the ship are in desperate need of water. In our text from today, the people are in desperate need of several things: rest, food, and leadership.
The disciples and Jesus were in need of rest. Verse 31 tells us that so many people were coming and going that they didn’t have time to eat. The disciples had just returned from their two by two missions of healing and casting out demons, and Jesus had just found out about the death of his cousin, John. They needed time to rest and (for Jesus) grieve. We have set up by Holy Scripture and tradition the weekly requirement of rest. Sabbath is a day set aside to rest from your labors. The word Sabbath is derived from the Hebrew word meaning “desist from exertion” – essentially “rest” or “cease.”
In recent years, rest has become a larger part of the professional athlete’s training program. Studies have now shown that rest and recovery are a very important part of getting stronger and faster. Our bodies need time to recover – from physical exertion and from mental overuse. When athletes train, micro-fractures appear in the muscles from pushing them (from lifting weights or running faster or longer). In order for these micro-fractures to heal, they must rest. And when they heal – the muscle is reformed stronger than before. Rest is part of what we all need to do – for our physical, emotional, and spiritual health. Even Jesus went away from the crowd to rest. We all need to cast down our buckets from time to time to drink the refreshing water of renewal.
These people also needed food. The disciples notice it’s getting late – so they ask Jesus to send the crowd packing before dinnertime. But Jesus is a compassionate guy. The crowd that’s gathered didn’t have the money to go out and buy food. The disciples are trying to send them away so that the crowd wouldn’t be their responsibility. But Jesus knows that these are the people who need food all the time. These are the day workers who are struggling from day to day to have enough to put on their tables for their families. His words ring true in my ears today – “you give them something to eat.” The disciples gather what little they have together and give it to Jesus. The people sit down – and Jesus blesses and breaks the food for it to be distributed among the people.
There are differing explanations about what happened that day. Some people say that once the food started going around, that other people pulled out what they had to share. Some say it was strictly a miracle – that those loaves and fish just kept multiplying. That doesn’t really matter to me. This is a story about the grace of God. What little was offered that day turned into MORE than enough to satisfy that crowd. This is how I know that Jesus was a Methodist. This is the first Methodist potluck. I don’t know how it happens – but it always seems like I take home more food from the potluck than I bring to the dinner. Somehow – when we all offer what we have – God uses that to be a blessing to everyone. We have what we need and so do those around us. Cast down your buckets where you are – you have what you need already.
The last thing these people need is leadership. Jesus was moved with compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So even in his tired, grieving state – he began to teach them. In English, compassion means to “suffer with” – com – passion. The Greek carries a sense of becoming “sick in the stomach.” When Jesus saw the state they were in, he was sick to his stomach.
When I look at the state of our world and our country – I am sick to my stomach with our need for leadership. We have political parties who are more interested in getting power than in using the power they have for the good of the people. We have failing schools, subpar infrastructure, and a combative attitude toward one another. I am moved with compassion. And I am sick when I think about the people in Aurora, Colorado, who are now in mourning and shock because of another senseless shooting in our country.
We are in need of leadership from people of faith. We need to cast down our buckets into the waters of life and salvation because the world out there is like sheep without a shepherd. Our world is filled with so much violence – person against person. Our world needs the message of peace that comes from a God who cares for us so deeply that he is moved in the deepest parts of himself when he sees what we choose to do.
Jesus tells the disciples – you give them something to eat. After he was raised from the dead, when he met Peter and the others on the seashore – he told them then – “feed my sheep.” We are called to be feeders – people who have the bread of life in our hearts and minds ready to feed the hungry people of the world when they are hungry and seeking leadership.
Cast down your buckets. We have what we need to be a feeding people. We might not have a buffet with every kind of food and ministry – but we are equipped to be who God has called us to be. Let us cast down our buckets where we are – in our hearts, in our pews, in our souls – and discover the power and presence of God that can be food and water for a hungry and thirsty world.
In the coming months, we will both be posting more on how our lives are changing and transitioning. In the past 7 months, we have experienced so much change. We found out that Jared would be appointed at a church where he would be the solo pastor; we completed our first 10K; we packed up all our stuff and moved to a suburb of Baton Rouge (this involves many changes in and of itself: a new commute, a new wonderful congregation, a new parsonage with its own issues, and the list goes on). We went on two vacations, and Alina went on a mission trip over the summer; we lost Jared’s dad just weeks ago; we just found out that Alina will be ordained as a transitional deacon in the Episcopal Church sometime in the near future; and we found out that we will most likely be moving again, but this time to a house of our choosing.
OH, and we also got pregnant!!!
That’s right, friends, we are expecting a baby in April of 2012! This actually happened over the summer, as well, but we were very cautious about waiting until the first trimester was over to “go public.” But we have completed 14 weeks of pregnancy and are ready to share our good news with everyone. But please don’t worry; Jared’s dad knew that we were expecting a baby before he died. He was probably the most excited of anyone!
So, you can see how our lives will be continuing to change and transition over the next several… well, years, I’m sure. Our blogs will reflect all of these changes, as they have already. Alina will most likely continue to share bowling scores and experiences, with added updates on pregnancy and maybe some photos, as soon as she starts showing. Jared will continue to reflect on the “light stuff” of life and ministry; he’ll also be sharing some goals and looking for accountability from those who love him.
Again, we are so excited to share this wonderful news with all of you. We are extremely excited about becoming parents of human children, not just furry ones. We are really looking forward to Alina starting to show, both of us feeling the baby kick, and, of course, meeting sweet little “Spare,” (in utero name) whose sex will remain a secret to all of us until s/he is born.
We ask for your prayers and your support during this exciting time!
Twilight is a beautiful time of day. I love to watch the colors of twilight – the reds, oranges, and yellows that fill the western horizon. Twilight also marks the transition from day to night. On Friday evening I watched two twilight moments occurring. The first was a beautiful sunset from my parents’ window in their den. The colors were amazing. But I also was watching the twilight of my dad’s life. Every time I see him, he is a little more gone – a little more darkness has crept into the sky and the sun has set a little bit more.
It saddens me to see such a wonderful man slowly slip away. My dad always had a working mind. He was always looking at the world through the eyes of a pastor, parent, and friend. He was always willing and ready to listen to anyone who was in need of a caring ear. He was full of sound advice, and was always ready for a theological conversation. He was a great storyteller – whether they were stories he created, ones he retelling, or stories from other people.
Over the last few weeks I have seen that man slip away. The twilight has come upon the life of my dad. I will never be ready for my dad to die. But I am ready for his suffering to be over. I am ready for him to be reunited with the God he has served faithfully his entire life.
In the Jewish tradition the new day always starts at sundown. My dad always told me that with every ending there is a new beginning. One ending is coming as a new beginning approaches. I give thanks for the day but welcome the night – a time for rest. I pray that my days can be as filled as my fathers with joy, laughter, and humble service.
Discipline has become the word of my life in the last few weeks – mainly because I’m lacking it right now. Dictionary.com defines disciplines as: 1) training to act in accordance with rules; drill, and 2) activity, exercise, or a regimen that develops or improves a skill; training (among some other definitions). Five months ago, I was being very disciplined. I was running five times a week – about 18 miles total per week. Alina and I were turning off the TV at 9:00 and reading for 30 min to an hour at night before bed. I was tracking and controlling my eating (had lost almost 50 pounds). And because of all that, I felt in control of my life, habits, and desires.
Then – life happened. Not all of my disciplines have gone by the wayside. In fact, I’ve added my daily Bible reading since June (although at the moment I am about 10 days behind. Thanks Labor Day holiday). I have also added the weekly discipline of writing a sermon (although I still having gotten my weekly timing consistently right just yet). It seems as if many of my personal, physical disciplines have been the ones that have suffered in the move/transition.
I’m thinking about writing out a weekly schedule for myself. Included in the schedule will be time to sleep, eat, work-out, read (personal and professional), work, and play. I think I will even write out my tasks for the work days (leaving some room for “drop-ins”, of course). I have considered myself a very unstructured person, but in light of the changes, I think I need to regiment a little bit to get myself back on track. I need to be more intentional about training myself for the transitional moments, to be able to be flexible – but within a schedule.
In the next couple of days, I will post my schedule so that I can be publically accountable to my hundreds of loyal readers (lol).
Today has been a hard day. I found out this afternoon that my dad, after 4 and ½ years of receiving treatment, will not be aggressively fighting his cancer anymore. He has been through chemo and hormone therapies as well as surgery, but his body has lost it’s ability to keep fighting the cancer. Today, hospice will be visiting my parents house and setting up a schedule for visiting dad to make sure he is comfortable in the coming time he has.
I originally set up this blog primarily as a way to reflect on the transitions in life and ministry that come with a change in pastoral appointment, but I find that the current circumstances aside from pastoral duties are more of an opportunity for reflections about transitions. I’m the youngest child in my family of origin. And I share a special connection with my dad – I was born on his 34th birthday. Every year for the past 28 years, I have not only celebrated my birthday – but my dad’s – on the same day. When I was younger, we would add our ages together to get a composite age for the cake. Our age was always even (I think this explains why I like even numbers more than odd numbers).
My dad was always a strong man. I know that most people believe this about their dads – so I don’t think I’m special in that sense – but my dad has always been strong spiritually and mentally as well as physically. Over the last 6 weeks, I have seen his body start to quit on him to the point that he could no long do many of the things he loved.
I think I may be facing the toughest transition have ever had to face. My dad has always been a confidant, wise counsel, and fierce lover of friends and family. I pray that my children might think the same of me someday.
Alina and I went to the ordination of a friend to the Priesthood on Saturday in Mandeville. They also had an instillation of her as the new Priest in Charge as part of the service. In the service was this prayer given by the newly ordained and installed:
O Lord my God, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; yet you have called your servant to stand in your house, and to serve at your altar. To you and to your service I devote myself, body, soul, and spirit. Fill my memory with the record of your mighty works; enlighten my understanding with the light of your Holy Spirit; and may all the desires of my heart and will center in what you would have me do. Make me an instrument of your salvation for the people entrusted to my care, and grant that I may faithfully administer your holy Sacraments, and by my life and teaching set forth your true and living Word. Be always with me in carrying out the duties of my ministry. In prayer, quicken my devotion; in praises, heighten my love and gratitude; in preaching, give me readiness of thought and expression; and grant that, by the clearness and brightness of your holy Word, all the world may be drawn into your blessed kingdom. All this I ask for the sake of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. (Book of Common Prayer, pg 562-3)
It reminded me of the Wesley Covenant prayer. I don’t know why. It might be the similarities of the cadence of the prayers – but I also feel as if the content is similar. I love the ritual of the United Methodist Church, but I believe we tend to under-utilize the liturgy we have. But this prayer paled the UMC prayer. I have been contemplating putting up in my office in some way. I think it is my new prayer for my ministry – everyday. It would be a daily reminder of my servanthood. It is also a reminder of the nature of God’s forgiveness and mercy. It is a call for devotion and the abilities needed to serve in faithful ministry. I find it acts like a binding of God and self to the people I am called to serve.
So thank you again Episcopalians/Anglicans. You have inspired me once again.