It seems that writing is becoming the natural response to my ever lengthening ritual of morning devotions. I can hardly awake early enough to get it all in. I trust that it is not just a factor of aging and the inability to sleep. Rather, my desire to do something with all the data and anticipation, which long life provides. It does keeps me excited!
This morning, with a quick glimpse of Phil 1:6, the verse noted in the autographed book I am now reading by Jan Harrison, I was compelled once more toward my keyboard. Paul writes, “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
When did Christ first begin working in me? The Psalmist suggests perhaps my mothers’ womb:
“For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.” Ps 139:13-14. (NIV).
I first recall The Voice, when I was 9 years of age, “One day you will preach the gospel.” I certainly struggled, first of all with hearing an audible voice! Secondly, given the context of my upbringing, standing behind a pulpit in a small church, just never rang true or attractive!
The vision I had at age 11 may have deepened that sense of call, awakening in the night to the sound of “high church” music, a visible opening in the sky, a window of sorts into heaven! Still nurture and nature rebelled and by 16, I had sworn off all religious ambition.
However, just as Paul predicted, I would be gloriously high jacked at age 25. All along, the Spirit was at work, completing what had begun in my mother’s womb! Unexectedly it happened, first with a life event that crushed my stubborn heart, and then that gaping hole was filled with the love of The Father. Sought out it would seem, for little did I suspect when I walked off the street, unaware and into the living room of a praying Dad!
Of course, my natural conclusion was to surrender to my former small church pulpit orientation. Within one year, I was doing exactly that, at least bi-vocationally, by virtue of the needs of the small church to which my wife and I had seemed led.
My experience now seems to imply that the leading of the Lord is not as much toward a particular destination or place, but perhaps more for the sake of the journey, one’s engagement with the Spirit; observation and personal learning; and all that for the sake of impending change. I am perhaps now more change agent than pastor!
I have found great joy in playing second fiddle to numerous pastors, both of small and large congregations. My life has certainly added value from strategic planning to construction of facilities. Yet, all that now seems more like a platform from which I have learned the significance of community.
Was community the essence of what God was after, after all? Is church as we know it, a microcosm of God’s plan which we have somehow allowed to silo the followers of Christ?
I often share a thought that even the intent behind the sacrament of communion may have been somewhat lost. What Christ did the night of His betrayal, was gather with His community of followers and intensely share life. Howbeit, they had gathered in the setting of a religious feast that all had done every year of their life, as followers of Moses and children of Abraham. Jesus, at the height of the Seder moment, reaches for the cup and instructs them. “As often as you drink this cup and eat this bread do this, in remembrance of me.” Was He instructing them to continue their religious tradition, perhaps so? Was He connecting those traditions with what was ahead for both Him and them? Definitely!
Could we though somehow have missed a critical part of his message: that community, “the this” that he had intentionally set up in the room, was never to be lost? Certainly from that night forward, through the day of Pentecost, the Church was being forged. Yet, was building churches as we know it His objective? I think not, for the Spirit has obviously disrupted that many times both locally and globally! In many cases, friendships have been severely fractured and even bloodshed, in some instances at large!
My attempts at a blog began, as many of you know, when that same voice that has carried me for a lifetime spoke to me on December 28, 2008, “My church is in foreclosure!” Certainly, it seems that minimally some process of reconfiguration, if not repossession is in process. In some cases, literally!
So what does the future look like, what will completion be in the story that God is writing in my life and in His Church? I am staying open, vulnerable and sharing transparently my learnings. I only wish men my age had shared more often in my younger years, the things scripture was speaking to them, beyond what was necessary to build the many religious facilities that dot the landscape of our struggling America.
“Can I go anywhere apart from Your Spirit?
Is there anywhere I can go to escape Your watchful presence?
If I go up into heaven, You are there.
If I make my bed in the realm of the dead, You are there.
If I ride on the wings of morning,
if I make my home in the most isolated part of the ocean,
Even then You will be there to guide me;
Your right hand will embrace me, for You are always there.”
Psalm 139:8-10 (The Voice).