Wednesday, September 30, 2009
When I answered the phone yesterday and the person on the other end identified herself simply as "Beth," something deep down told me it was Jane's daughter. And if it really was, then there could only be one reason the daughter was calling instead of her mother. I knew she was calling me to tell me Jane had died. Jane died last Sunday up in Covington, but when I first met Jane and her late husband, Shep, they were living in Talbotton where I had been assigned as pastor. One of the interesting things about moving about in ministry is the way some folks from the past seem to disappear, but others stay connected. Now that Jane is gone, there is only one other connection that remains with that pastorate in Talbot County. Folks from former pastorates who stay connected with me become very special as the years slip along.
What makes it all the more a relationship of value is the fact that going back where we have been appointed as pastor is never a thing that is encouraged. I have always said to congregations when I leave that I can no longer be a pastor in that place for someone else will have that role, but that a different kind of relationship can be forged. Those who have chosen to stay connected have found a way to do this very thing and it is always such a pleasure to hear their voices or to have time again with them.
I will miss talking to Jane once or twice a year and catching up on family and the twists and turns of life. We are still on the journey she has completed. Her reaching the end of the journey makes me think of others like her in my life and in these days I have been calling their names before the Father with thanksgiving.
Monday, September 28, 2009
After worship yesterday, I got a call from Gary. He wanted to make sure it was in my office that he had left his Bible. As I looked across the room to the cabinet top, I assured him his Bible was in a safe place. It would be available for pick-up from the secretary's desk. Late this afternoon as I walked through the office, I noticed his Bible was still where I placed it yesterday. Since he very likely has more than one Bible in his house, I will not be too concerned over the fact that he is in one place and his Bible is in another.
Seeing his Bible on the desk reminded me of a time when I intentionally kept my Bible in one place even though I was in another. I was somewhere around nine or ten years old. While I do not remember her name, I do remember that my Sunday School teacher thought it important that we learn to bring our Bibles to Sunday School and worship each Sunday. To help us along, she created this chart on the wall. Each Sunday a star went up beside our name if we brought our Bible to class. I liked stars by my name. To make sure I had my Bible in Sunday School, I decided to leave it there during the week. The way I figured it, Sunday School was the only place I needed it anyway!
As is the case with many of you, I have learned a better way. I have learned that it is a good thing not to be separated from my Bible. While I could not have seen the reason at age ten, today when I pack a bag for a trip, one thing which surely goes in is a Bible. I do still keep one at the church (actually several) in my office, but I also have one in a convenient place at home. At this point in the journey, I wouldn't want to take a step forward without one.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
My sister is now a blogger. I have listed her blog here on my page as a "Blog to Visit." HealthySoutions is the name of the new thing now listed on my blog. We both grew up in a Methodist parsonage, but are obviously slow learners as we both have ended up in a parsonage all our adult lives. Me? I am the Methodist clergy. Her? She married one! While I guess you could say I have always been into "Soul fitness," she has been into physical fitness all our life. Her blog is about treating your body right.
As you visit her blog, you will find some additional motivation to do the right thing. Perhaps, it will serve as a reminder to me and you that self-care has both a spiritual and a physical dimension. Some of us struggle more with one than the other. While self-care is not always as high on our list of priorities as it should be, it is an important concern. Jesus did say to love your neighbor as yourself. Taking care of ourself is an important part of loving ourself which is actually necessary if we understand completely this one commandment of Jesus. If we do not see our life as something of value, it is not likely that we will see value in the lives of those around us.
I am pleased to be able to offer a link to Annita's blog. I pray it will help provide encouragment for a more disciplined and balanced life.
Sunday, September 6, 2009
I opened my sermon today with a remembrance of a class at Asbury Theological Seminary. While I graduated from Candler School of Theology, I did a couple of quarters at ATS. I remember three courses. The Greek I took during the two summer sessions and a course taught by the Seminary President on "The Life and Work of the Minister." But, the course I remembered in the sermon was taught by Dean Robert Traina and was entitled "Methodical Bible Study."
In the sermon which focused on the great question posed in Acts 16:30, I said, "It was a course which I continue to find useful even today. It was a course that introduced us to an inductive style of Bible study which centered around asking questions. Dr. Traina taught us to ask questions about a text. He taught us to ask questions not for the sake of finding answers, but for the sake of asking questions. 'Ask questions and don't worry about the answers,' he would say. For example he would take a text like John 3:16 and he would ask such questions as: 'What is the significance of the word 'for" at the beginning of the verse? What other word might have been used? What does it mean to be loved? What does it mean to be loved by God? Why did John use the word, 'world'?' While I no longer write pages and pages of questions about a text, I still find myself approaching Biblical passages asking such questions at a subconscious level. The questions become like windows helping me to see a single text, but from different perspectives."
It is interesting how the mind works. I had not thought about that class in many years. I still have the textbook, but it has been forever since I opened it. And then suddenly, in the midst of a moment of sermon writing, I remembered this man and his influence in my ministry and my spiritual journey. In that moment it became important for me to call his name again. Perhaps, it is in the act of remembering and calling his name that my heart says a very belated "Thank you." Even though the word of appreciation may be unheard by him, it is still important to say it!
It looked like it was planned. She was in the choir and came down from the choir loft with the others to kneel at the rail for communion. Suddenly, her daughter was kneeling beside her and before there was time for them to get settled, this young guy shows up on the other side, and say, "Hey!" like it was the first time he had spoken to his Mom that morning. Maybe it was. Mom came early to rehearse and son may have slept in past the sound of the alarm clock ringing. It is not likely that one of the three of them said, "I'll meet you at the Table of the Lord," but there they were, nonetheless. When I heard the "Hey!" I could not help but think, "What a great meeting place for a family on Sunday morning!"
Lately, there has been a little something extra happening at the Table Gatherings. Last month it was the young boy with the take out in his hands as he left the altar. This time it was a family reunion at the altar! Indeed, it was a real blessing to see these two all but grown children making the effort to be there with their Mom.
It caused me to think about our Host at the Holy Meal. While I officiate and serve, I am always aware it is a meal to which we are invited by Jesus. It is His Table. It is His meal. So often we share in acts of worship thinking about what we get from it. This morning I found myself thinking about the joy it must give our Lord to see His children meeting at the Table with love and appreciation for each other. Think about it. It surely gives our Lord great joy to see us at one with each other and with Him!