It's been a long weekend. I willingly gave up both of my days off--which I guard with my life. And though I'm tired, I'm grateful.
I spent the weekend with our Presbytery's candidates and inquirers as I lead my inaugural Annual Consultation as the Committee on Preparation for Ministry's chair. I've been to two other such events, and every year I dread the long days of talking (which is really hard for this introvert). But every year, I walk away, again surprised by the ways that the Holy Spirit is still at work within the church, despite some folks' ardent protests.
The Holy Spirit is still setting souls ablaze with the need to preach God's word-- a word which has never yet been silenced. The Holy Spirit is still shaping what the church will yet become through people, young and old, who believe that God is still active in the world, and are willing to give up their lives as they know it to make sure that God's presence is still seen in the community.
I'm grateful for the passion I saw in these ministers-to-be, passion that reminded me of my once urgent, unquenchable need to be a pastor. These days, I'm more world-weary, I'm a little more skeptical, and most days, I'm happy if I've managed to get one thing checked off my list. I no longer feel like I have to conquer the world right now. I no longer slave over every single word in a sermon, because I know that whether or not I "hit a home run" this week, there will be another chance next week. Oh, in a lot of ways, I'm more seasoned. There are less things that I view as an emergency. I breathe in, and breathe out, and most days believe that I have done my best to be faithful to my calling. In some ways, I'm in a lovely, complacenet sort of groove.
And so I'm deeply grateful for the opportunity to spend a few hours being reminded of what that passion and urgency was like. I loved the ways they lovingly challenged "the way things have always been" as they dared to imagine a new(er) future for the Church, while still having a deep appreciation for the places from which the denomination has come. My favorite quote says "Some people see the world as it is and ask 'why?' Some people see the world as it could be, and ask 'why not?'" These folks helped reopen my eyes to the fact that if you take out "world" and replace it with "church" that it would make a rather profound mission statement indeed. The people with whom I sat and fellowshiped and prayed and (hopefully) imparted wisdom to relit a fire within my own soul.
No, the church has not yet become all that it is intended to be, but today, I am reminded that the Church is not a dying institution as some would suggest. The Holy Spirit is alive, well... and dare I hope it, active. (Even amongst the "frozen chosen".)
Thanks be to God for the reminder...
"Graceland" is the name of my favorite song and album. It's by Paul Simon, but more importantly, it's what "home" sounds and feels like to me. We always listened to this album as we traveled from my home in Tennessee to my parents' childhood homes in Florida. But today, it's also a pretty good snapshot of my theology. Somewhere I really believe that the Christian journey is all about a wild trip to Grace-land. As I see it, Grace-land is the place where God is waiting to meet even us–with all the baggage and brokeness that we tote with us. Grace-land is the place where we will be received with open arms, even though our attempts at “getting it right” have been miserable failures at best. But, I think, every step we take is a step on the journey to Graceland.