Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Moving to Maine & A Weight Off Our Shoulders

After having moved to Maine three weeks ago now (for a one-year Intern Pastorate at New Hope Church, an eight-year-old congregation in Bangor), life has begun to settle into more of a routine. I’ll start with a few quick updates, and then a brief reflection. (Normally I'll write about once every other week.)

The initial move went well, and during the first week I was able to focus on getting settled in. Over the past weeks I have also attended various ministries connected to New Hope Church: Monday’s Celebrate Recovery (a biblically-based recovery program), Wednesday prayer meeting, Saturday praise team rehearsal and dinner, a Thursday pastors’ breakfast, the monthly church leadership meeting, a beautiful island mountain hike for church members and others, and a Sunday welcome picnic at a local park. I have enjoyed opportunities to begin getting to know church members better through these activities as well as more one-on-one get-togethers. 

I preached for the first time on the 18th (following my commissioning service on the 11th), and will be preaching every other week for the next month. Beginning in October, I will preach most Sundays, and will also soon start team teaching Sunday school--which will consist of guided discussion of our upcoming sermon series on discipleship/apprenticeship in Matthew.

In addition, in answer to prayers for additional employment (as the bi-vocational aspect of my position), I was offered (and accepted) the position of Girls’ JV Soccer Coach at John Bapst High School, a private school just a mile from my apartment. The season has already been underway for the past week and a half, and it is wonderful to be able to work with the team. I hope that this position will open up opportunities to build bridges between these families and New Hope, as opportunities allow and they raise questions. It is such a privilege to be able to work in the community in this way in addition to being at New Hope.

As I’ve been oriented to the church and church members’ lives these past three weeks, I have had to keep remembering that the weight of the church does not ultimately rest on my shoulders—or any of our shoulders. Peoples' struggles, the direction of the Church, and the growth of the Church do not ultimately depend on us. God gives each believer gifts and the calling to serve within the Church, and that is truly a responsibility that must not be taken lightly. Our actions do have eternal consequences. At the same time, we must never usurp Jesus' role as the head of the Church. I once heard of a nightly prayer by a previous pope: “God, I’ve done everything I can for Your church today. But it’s Your church, and I’m going to bed.” If being a Christian is all about our work and about trying to transform the lives of others by our own power, then we could never truly rest. But that’s not what it’s about. Being a Christian means living as an adopted child of the living God, who is alive and at work long before we arrived on the scene. We then have the calling to join Him in the work He has done, is doing, and will do in our world. And that means we can go to sleep at night, and the world will keep on turning.   

Thank you for reading,

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Two Poems

Written this past February...

Fix Your Gaze

Fix your gaze:
                Fractured and short-sighted,
                Sees only a bum on the street,
                A fault in a friend,
                A self-governed life,
                A splintery chunk of wood.
Fix your gaze:
                It’s broken, after all.
Fix your gaze:
Now see the Author
                Of the God-imaged man by the road,
                Of the fellow sinner clinging to a savior,
                Of the gifted life that must be gifted back,
                Of the cross on Calvary 
Where cataracts are replaced by eagle’s eyes—
Fix your eyes on Him.

I Prayed the Other Day

I prayed the other day:
My words tumbled over under piled high to heaven
Like hiker’s cairn with added cares one atop another
And when I couldn’t lift one more
There I stood with helpless gaze,
At the mountain I’d created.
And in the silence still
I stood,
In sweat and grime and dirt and dust.
And waited: But only saw
Slate sky above
boiling with roiling rage
Ready to consume me...

And then I felt a gentle shower—
                Cleansing dew like nectar:
     heaven’s answer