Monthly Archives: January 2015

Showing My Faith

As a pastor I feel a special burden and opportunity to share my faith with other people. The question is how?

On Sunday mornings I wear an academic robe and a stole to remind me who I am and whose I am, that I speak not for myself but for the whole church, and that the whole church is present with me.

But what about Monday through Saturday? How should I show my faith then?

“Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them;
for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.

Matthew 6:1 (NRSV)

When people find out I am a pastor for the first time conversations tend shift to either deep theological questions should my new acquaintance have a relationship with a church or, when they don’t go to church, our conversation shuts down as if I had announced that I had a communicable disease. Hence I do not usually wear a cross pendant or lapel pin. I want people to get to know me before they find out I am a pastor. Especially people who do not attend church.

License Plate with caption Wearing one’s faith where everyone can see it —bumper sticker, pin, pendants, earrings— has other burdens as well as opportunities. To some extent I wear the stain of pastors who have been caught in various scandals. When a car bearing a special license plate or bumper sticker speeds around me then cuts me off, they send a message about all of Christianity. On one hand by wearing such external emblems I hope I would show the best of what the church has taught me. On the other hand I wonder how my actions will tell my faith story on my worst day; when I am caught up in some urgent crisis or distracted by unrelated issues. I fear that person who does not go to church thinking: “l don’t want to associate with people like that.”

Necklass with crosses either side of a stone.
Creative Commons license http://art.thewalters.org/license/

I wonder about using the cross as an ornament.  Does that cheapen God’s sacrificial love? Use it in vain? What does this say about my faith? Would I seem overly pious or mocking of those who sincerely believe?

Should I pray aloud in public, or quietly pause and listen for God in silence?

Instead I hope my faith shows through my actions, taking time to know those with whom I speak and present myself.

Nothing

“What will you do in the coming year to be more Christ-like?” we were asked.

“Nothing,” I replied.

Every where I look people are busy rushing and doing. Parents tell us their children are involved in a myriad of after-school activities.

He said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord,
for the Lord is about to pass by.”
Now there was a great wind,
so strong that it was splitting mountains
and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord,

but the Lord was not in the wind;
and after the wind an earthquake,
but the Lord was not in the earthquake;
and after the earthquake a fire,
but the Lord was not in the fire;
and after the fire a sound of sheer silence.
— 1 Kings 19:11-12 (NRSV)

So this year I plan to set aside time to do nothing but listen sit and listen for God, to practice emptying myself so I can be fully present with God, to be aware of what happens around me without reacting to what I see, hear, feel, smell, or taste, and to allow distracting thoughts to float through my conscious.

So this year I intend to set aside at least 15 minutes each day to do nothing but listen for the still small voice of God.

Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down;
and if he calls you, you shall say,
‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’”
So Samuel went and lay down in his place.
— 1 Samuel 3:9 (NRSV)

My hope is to be able to listen in the midst of the noise and busyness of life. A spirituality instructor had prepared my classmates and I for a period of meditation after lunch. He had lit a candle and dimmed the lights. Then as we sat quietly waiting he turned on a loud raucous radio station. My hope is to learn to allow each thought, each interruption to slide through my conscious, without breaking focus on the one who is directly before me, the one true God, or even a person made in God’s image.

How do you practice releasing distractions and staying focused?

Fluffy Wheat and Rye

This recipe shows my process toward creating bread that captures both the flaky texture of challah and the taste of rye bread. I blended two recipes, challah and rye breads, considering the fat and protein content in a typical large egg.

100_1975

Life, I suppose, is a work in progress. Each day we take steps. Some go forward. Some go backwards. Most depend on the work of others. Some find something delicious to share.

Loaf Size: 1 1/2 lb

Variations December 20, 2014 January 5, 2015
Beat together:
Eggs 3 2
Honey 3 Tbl 3 Tbl
Olive Oil 1 Tbl
Warm water 1/2 cup 2/3 cup
Salt 1 tsp 1 tsp
Pour liquid into bread machine, and then add in the order listed:
Whole wheat flour 1 cup 1 cup
Dark rye flour 1 cup 1 cup
Bread Flour 1 cup 1 cup
Active dry yeast 1 1/2 tsp 1 1/2 tsp
Start bread machine. Avoid delayed start, as warm water and eggs spoil quickly.

A String Theory

English: Steel wire rope of the the German col...
Steel wire rope (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Church is merely a string connecting heaven and earth. I might have designed it as a stout steel cable or a strong chain for its task is urgent and many would seek to cut it or stretch to breaking.

Yet, the Church needs to be a light string so the breath of heaven can lift it from the earth, where God’s people might dance with angels. But it must also remain connected firmly to the earth, reminding people of God’s constancy in the midst of struggle and strife.

A man and a woman performing a modern dance.
A man and a woman performing a modern dance. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Church links people together so some might grasp firmly on to the past with long-held beliefs anchoring it deeply and solidly in tradition. The Church also links people who dare to dance among the angels, inspiring others to ascend to new heights. But mostly the Church needs people to connect with others for we cannot both dance upon the winds and hold firmly to the rock.

Throughout history those who dance upon the wind have teased those who cling to tradition. While those who keep the string firmly anchored warn dancers of dangers should they stray to far from where the Church has always believed.

Mostly the Church needs people in the middle, holding hand with dancers and with anchors. People more solidly grounded and people daring to venture into the winds of culture where they might connect with those who have ventured too far and been blown away.

Fortunately, the Church has many strands, connecting people in many ways, so individuals might dance in one dimension, yet remain near to those who solidly anchored in another. Interconnections within the Church forms a web connecting dancers with anchors, connecting those who dare with those who warn. So that should a strand stretch too thin and snap, another keeps the dancers from floating away until a new strand can form new connections.

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; whereas our more respectable members do not need this.
— 1 Corinthians 12:21-24 (NRSV)

Where are you in the web that we call Church?