Tag Archive | pastoring

Shoeless M.O.

I do not wear shoes when I preach.

It started out as a theological statement: that in worship we come into God’s presence, just as Moses did at the burning bush. And in recognizing this space as holy ground, we (like Moses) remove our shoes.

But removing my shoes is not an empty theological gesture that has no consequences. On the contrary! Every week, I remove my shoes and allow my feet to be visible to all who would examine them. (And my feet are not traditionally something I am excited to show off.)

Moses removed his shoes … and then, in his encounter with God, went on to demonstrate both his best and his worst natures. So, too, do I find that God’s call utilizes my best gifts, while challenging me in those areas where I need the most improvement.

In an act that is both freeing … and slightly unsettling … I remove my shoes each week and allow the less-than-polished parts to be visible. Barefootedness is no longer just a theological signpost; it has become a continual reminder and my weekly, intentional consent to allow my vulnerabilities to be apparent, rather than hiding behind a polished facade.

This week, I am thinking of Shoeless Mo (Exodus 3) and I am particularly cognizant of the unusual places in our lives that God is at work. And I am oh-so-thankful at the opportunity to remove my shoes and come into God’s presence.

PIF Thoughts (in progress) #5

I believe in one God…

who is alive and at work in the world in every time and place;

who eternally exists in three persons: with unity in diversity, with intimate community, with self- giving love.

I believe in the sovereignty, goodness, faithfulness, love and grace of the Triune God.

I believe in God, the “Abba”…

who is our loving parent and the creator of the universe;

who called the world into being by the Word and inspired us to life by the Spirit;

who claimed Jesus as “Beloved” at his baptism and transfiguration;

who cares for humankind like a hen tends to her chicks, like a nursing mother to her child.

I believe in God the Son…

who is Jesus Christ, Word and Wisdom of God, the kenotic incarnation of God;

who was conceived of God the Spirit and born into flesh by a woman;

who is eternally divine and took on the particularity of the finite world;

who lived a life of prayer;

who restored individuals to wholeness;

who preached a message of justice and reconciliation;

who, through obedience to God and faithfulness to humankind, reconciles us to God;

who is resurrected by God through the power of the Holy Spirit.

I believe in God the Spirit… 

who moved over the waters and is the breath of life for God’s creation;

who inspired the words of the prophets and prays in us with sighs too deep for words;

who effected the conception and the resurrection of Jesus;

who is the agent in justification and sanctification;

who beckons the hearts of God’s children to relationship and vocation.

I believe in one, holy, catholic, apostolic Church…

which seeks to be faithful in practice and prophetic in voice in the example of its head and Lord: Jesus Christ;

which is the gift of God and is the covenant community of the people of God;

which praises God with word, song, prayer and acts of justice and compassion.

I believe that all human beings…

are completely beloved, having their origin in the will of God;

are created in God’s image: intended to be unified in diversity, to have intimate community, to share self-giving love;

are completely broken and live in a broken world;

are too often devoted to that which is created instead of the Creator;

are redeemed through the person and work of Jesus Christ.

I believe that Scripture…

should be seriously and reverently exegeted;

contains the gospel of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ;

has been faithfully interpreted by the tradition in its creeds and confessions;

chronicles the story of God’s action with and faithfulness to God’s covenant people;

is the authoritative witness to the definitive revelation of God in Jesus Christ.

I believe that the Christian life…

begins with opening our arms, turning our face upwards and receiving God’s grace as it rains down upon us;

is living in communion with Jesus Christ as a grateful response to God’s grace;

is being part of the covenant community of the people of God;

is doing justice, loving mercy and walking humbly with God.

 

NOTE: I’m working on updating my Personal Information Form (or PIF), which is the standardized form that Presbyterian Church (USA) pastors fill out when they are looking for new ministry positions. As I do so, I am reading and writing a lot of things about the church, ministry, and myself. Since not all of these things will eventually wind up in the final version of my PIF, I thought I’d share some of it here. Thanks for letting me indulge.

Meg

PIF Thoughts (in progress) #4

In ministry with every age group, every demographic, I’m struck by the frequency with which I encounter people who don’t know who they are. I’m not speaking of people who have amnesia; I am referring to those who have never learned or who have forgotten (perhaps through the difficult or tragic circumstances of their lives) that they are the beloved children of a gracious God.

Several years ago, the book “The Shack” caused quite a stir by its sudden and almost urgent popularity, but I was not surprised. The millions of readers who kept this book on the New York Times bestseller list testify to the fact that we are starving for the understanding that God loves us, that God comes to us, that God does not give up on us.

God loves us.
God comes to us.
God does not give up on us.
In my estimation, that is the message of the Gospel.

Certainly, my task as a Minister of Word and Sacrament is to provide opportunities for the community I serve to express their love for God and neighbor in meaningful and tangible ways. But in a culture where we‘re too often measured by what we own, what we drive or how we look, I feel strongly that preaching the gospel also means building up communities of compassion and challenging one another to remember who we are: beloved, redeemed, cherished.

NOTE: I’m working on updating my Personal Information Form (or PIF), which is the standardized form that Presbyterian Church (USA) pastors fill out when they are looking for new ministry positions. As I do so, I am reading and writing a lot of things about the church, ministry, and myself. Since not all of these things will eventually wind up in the final version of my PIF, I thought I’d share some of it here. Thanks for letting me indulge.

Meg

PIF Thoughts (in progress) #3

The stories of our faith remind us that God covenanted with a community; that we come before God as a community; that the sins, burdens and joys of any individual are borne by the whole community; and that the life-giving, liberating work of the Holy Spirit and the prophetic voice of the Wisdom of God come through the collective voice of the community.

Therefore, I choose to lead by facilitating the discernment of the community. This style is something of a “grassroots” style of leadership and consists of forming a worshipful space where all voices are included, where differences are valued and where the community may draw together around a common purpose to envision possibilities. The tasks of the leader are then to: listen, gather information, empower the group, and keep the group true to its mission. As the group begins to embody its vision, the leader both supervises and serves: setting appropriate boundaries, offering constructive criticism, gently honoring tradition, persistently supporting creativity.

While this style of leadership is a temperate and caring style, the leader must still be willing and able (when necessary) to stand up and give definite answers, share distinct opinions, or be directive in leadership. In such a leadership style, I believe it is vital to also lead by my own example: diligent self-care, active prayer life, enthusiastic response to God’s call, and willingness to get out of my comfort zone in order to meet challenges.

 

NOTE: I’m working on updating my Personal Information Form (or PIF), which is the standardized form that Presbyterian Church (USA) pastors fill out when they are looking for new ministry positions. As I do so, I am reading and writing a lot of things about the church, ministry, and myself. Since not all of these things will eventually wind up in the final version of my PIF, I thought I’d share some of it here. Thanks for letting me indulge.

Meg

PIF Thoughts (in progress) #2

I seek a community in ongoing prayerful relationship with the Triune God, that struggles to be both grounded in prayer and active in the world. This community attempts to live out a faith that is unafraid to question, grappling with both the theology and practice of discipleship. It endeavors to be creative in honoring the diverse gifts of its members and is willing to be challenged in the service of justice and compassion. It aspires to an active worship life, dynamic fellowship experiences, significant educational offerings, and meaningful ministries of compassion that both reflect and nurture its love of God and neighbor.

In striving to live out its faith, a community often finds itself wrestling with God (like Jacob) and with one another (like the early church). I seek to provide a balm to wounded places, foster peace where there is discord, facilitate meaningful discussion, and worship with those who yearn for deeper connection with God.

As Minister of Word and Sacrament, I bring deep respect for the Reformed tradition and purposeful interpretations of that tradition; expressive proclamation of the Gospel in teaching, preaching and evangelism; and meaningful administration of Baptism and The Lord’s Supper. I strive to embody Jesus’ gracious hospitality and compassion, to follow His example of attending to the wounded and weary, and to minister as He did: with both an invitation to grace and a challenge for growth.

NOTE: I’m working on updating my Personal Information Form (or PIF), which is the standardized form that Presbyterian Church (USA) pastors fill out when they are looking for new ministry positions. As I do so, I am reading and writing a lot of things about the church, ministry, and myself. Since not all of these things will eventually wind up in the final version of my PIF, I thought I’d share some of it here. Thanks for letting me indulge.

Meg

PIF Thoughts (in progress) #1

In recent years, the ministries with which I have been affiliated (including my present call) have allowed me the great privilege of ministering to people in transition. Whether those people have been college or seminary students, homeless or hospitalized persons, a congregation or a camp board that is trying to shift its focus, in accompanying them on their journey I have been reminded regularly that God is with us in the wilderness (that place of transition between Egypt and the Promised Land and that the wilderness is indeed a sacred space.

In times of transition, we often prefer to put our energies toward projects and plans that will get us into the Promised Land as quickly as possible instead of taking the time to become aware of the grace that God pours out upon us in the uncomfortable wilderness. However, the stories of Israel in the wilderness teach us not only that God is with us in these transitions, but also that the wilderness is an important time in the life of the community.

It has been my privilege to be present with communities in these most holy times and to nurture the community’s clearer vision, not only of the future but also of the good work that God is doing in them every day. To these communities in transition, the good news is this: though we may feel like we are wandering in a barren land, God is most surely at work and we are invited to see God at work where we (perhaps) least expect it.

NOTE: I’m working on updating my Personal Information Form (or PIF), which is the standardized form that Presbyterian Church (USA) pastors fill out when they are looking for new ministry positions. As I do so, I am reading and writing a lot of things about the church, ministry, and myself. Since not all of these things will eventually wind up in the final version of my PIF, I thought I’d share some of it here. Thanks for letting me indulge.

Meg

Longest Night

Advent is coming to its crescendo …

when heavenly choirs will sing …

and the stable will stir with the raw sounds of new life …

and even so,

I am still acutely aware

that Christmas has not yet come.

Advent is one of my favorite seasons on the church calendar. What can I say, I always cheer for the underdog; and Advent is sort of the underdog of the church calendar. It always seems to get shortchanged by a culture that begins selling and celebrating Christmas while I’m still answering the door to Trick-or-Treaters.

But I will not be deterred! Every year, it is almost my battle cry: I will not skip Advent! I will honor the season of waiting by, you know, WAITING! I will listen to the voices of prophets! I will pay attention to the longing and the yearning, and not simply give in to the voices crying out for instant gratification! I will not be sucked in to a consumer mentality, but will find creative ways of giving of myself and giving sacrificially.

Each year, I answer these challenges with a sliding-scale of success: some years I honor Advent better than other years.

But this year, I have no trouble entering into an Advent state-of-mind. Advent means “coming”; it signals change. It is a time of waiting and hope, of expectation and anticipation, and – sometimes – of uncertainty and anxiety.

No problem. I’m there.

This year, just before Advent began, the session of the congregation I serve finished 4 months of honest, prayerful, difficult budget conversations. And they decided that the best way to be faithful disciples of Jesus and faithful stewards of their resources was to move from full-time pastoral leadership to part-time pastoral leadership.

Their decision invites me into a time of discernment: a time of prayer and listening for God’s guidance about how I am to move forward in the ministry to which God has called me. And this time of discernment brings with it all of those things that are characteristic of the season of Advent: waiting, hope, expectation, anticipation, and (sometimes) uncertainty and anxiety.

It also calls forth the question: How do we wait?

What do we do in Advent that helps us make peace with the uncertainty … and frees us to focus on the hope?

I think the answer is: we remember.

Ancient peoples did not have the scientific knowledge that we have about our solar system. They did not know that the daylight hours grew shorter in the winter because of the earth’s position on its axis. The waning sunlight caused anxiety and uncertainty. Often, they lit huge bonfires on the longest night – the winter solstice – to remind themselves of the sun’s faithful appearance each morning and to comfort themselves with its warmth and light. Their antidote to anxiety was memory.

Isn’t that also what the Israelite prophets did? They spoke of the vision they had seen – a vision of the future that God was planning – and taught the people to trust that future by remembering God’s faithfulness in years and generations and centuries past. “How can we trust that God will save us and not abandon us?” the people ask. “Remember God’s mighty acts, God’s faithfulness throughout the generations,” reply the prophets.

From Isaiah 41: But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, the offspring of Abraham, my friend; you whom I took from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest corners, saying to you, ‘You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off ’; do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, l will uphold you with my victorious right hand. 

This Advent season, I invite all of us to remember God’s faithfulness … and I invite us to be a prophetic voice – the voice crying out in the wilderness – to those who may have trouble remembering that God is forever faithful and will never abandon us. After all, that’s what we’re celebrating on December 25: Emmanuel, God-with-us. Perhaps in surprising and unexpected ways, but always with us.

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel! Amen.

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