Friday, June 22, 2012

For all who are waiting...

Patient Trust
by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.

We are quite naturally impatient in everything
   to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
   unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of progress
   that it is made by passing through
   some states of instability--
   and that it may take a very long time.

And so I think it is with you.
   Your ideas mature gradually--let them grow,
   let them shape themselves, without undue haste.

Don't try to force them on,
   as though you could be today what time
   (that is to say, grace and circumstances
   acting on your own good will)
   will make of you tomorrow.

Only God could say what this new spirit
   gradually forming within you will be.
Give our Lord the benefit of believing
   that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
   in suspense and incomplete.

This is the daily (and nightly) struggle of faith.  We are always incomplete.   We are constantly waiting.  It is often difficult to trust that God is working on our behalf, especially when we can't see it.  This can lead us to despair, to doubt, to an aching melancholia dependent on our outward circumstances.

This is what prayer is for; not to relate to the divine as though he/she/it was Santa Claus but to place ourselves in the presence of patient trust.  Like a seed that is placed in the ground and then seemingly forgotten, a mystery unfolds beyond our sight.

These words are not comforting but growth-inducing.  They confront us with the reality that we live in the in-between, that we are addicted to haste, that for some of us, instant gratification takes too long.  And even when we get what we think we want, it is still not over.  There is more.  With God, there is always more.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Believe it or not, I miss this...

from the blog Dirty Sexy Ministry:

(It's not easy for me to write when I'm not pastoring a church.  But there are still other things very much worth reading.  This is one of them.)

What Priests Want You to Know 
A few posts have popped up this week on our radar about what pastors/priests/ministers and the like want their parishioners to know about what goes on between Sundays and, for that matter, what goes on during Sundays.  We figured this looked like a prime place for us to wade into the water, so here we go.

1.  Your minister has a personal life.  Just like your teachers in school and your doctor, ministers and priests have a life that existed long before they were ordained.  So, just like you, they have family issues and car trouble and dishes that sit in the sink far too long and children who were up sick all night before the Easter Day services.  Just like regular people, life can be joyous and overwhelming.  And we often are not able to share that with parishioners.  A quote I saw on a bumper sticker said, "Be kind, because everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."  Yes, indeed. 

2.  Sundays are long days for us.  We are on, and I mean Beyonce at a concert on, from the time we step into the church until the last person leaves.  We are responsible for the liturgy, the sermon, and the climate control (because no one in the church agrees on temperature).  People tell us things, from random comments about the football game to significant news about their lives.  We often are teaching a class, as well.  A retired priest I knew said every hour clergy work on Sundays is the equivalent of working 2.5 hours any other day. 

3.  Clergy have to flip switches in ways that are not good.  Every priest I know has many stories of going from a parishioner's hospital room where the family has gathered to say goodbye to a finance committee meeting.  It is the nature of what we do.  Remember when your minister takes a morning off, s/he may be giving herself or himself time to reflect on all that has happened because that's the only time she has.

4.  We miss the parishioners we bury.  Just because we're preaching the sermon and celebrating the liturgy like we're totally together doesn't mean we aren't crying on the inside.  Clergy do not live day to day, week to week, month to month, and year to year with the people they serve and not grieve when those beloved people die.  Again, grief needs her space and time, so allow your minister to take that time (or remind them to take that time.)

5.  We are not particularly good at disappointment.     Perhaps it's a personality type, but most clergy I know will work until their fingers fall off for the community they love and serve.  Just a note - this is not good.  God jerked my attention to this fact a week before Palm Sunday, when I just hit a wall.  We cannot do everything we want to do.  We only have a certain amount of energy, which means we, like the rest of the humanity, have to make choices about where and how our energy can be shared.  This will always mean something that someone really, really wants to see done in the church will not be done.  And we hate that, but there you go.

6. Life happens at the church every day of the week.  A few things that happen when the flock is not at the church:  planning liturgies, writing sermons, taking phone calls, meeting with people who need to be heard, visiting those who are sick, working with community groups, dealing with the physical plant, reading emails, and rearranging schedules when the unexpected happens, as it often does.  Churches are busy, busy places every day of the week.  Which also means it's always better to make an appointment rather than just stop by if you really need to talk. 

7.  Many clergy only get one day off a week.  For many of us, things happen on Saturday, so our Saturdays are not always a day off.  And it's also a day for sermon-writing because often the week gets too busy for quiet time to write. 

8.  Church life is often feast or famine.  Just like regular life, life in the church either seems to run at 100 mph or quite slow.  There are weeks that 80 hours is not unusual for me, and I am quite thankful for the ones that require about 20.  And when the slow weeks come, having a parish that empowers their clergy to take that time and relax is a gift.  We really love what we do, but need down time to re-energize and reflect.

9.  We don't remember what you tell us on Sunday.  Please, email us or write it down.

10. We make mistakes.  Yes, indeed.  Forgive us when we do.  Love us anyway. 

And from the comments for this post:  "All clergy are in the business of disappointing the unrealistic expectations of others."
Revd Dr John Maxwell Kerr, SOSc,
Episcopal Chaplain to the Faculty, Staff and Students,
The College of William and Mary

Monday, June 04, 2012

A modern day John the Baptist

"Rebellion--which is different from revolution because it is perpetual alienation from power rather than the replacement of one power system with another--should be our natural state. And faith, for me, is a belief that rebellion is always worth it, even if all outward signs point to our lives and struggles as penultimate failures. We are saved not by what we can do or accomplish but by our fealty to revolt, our steadfastness to the weak, the poor, the marginalized, and those who endure oppression. We must stand with them against the powerful. If we remain true to these moral imperatives, we win. I am enough of an idealist to believe that the struggle to lead the moral life is worth it."

--Chris Hedges, from The World As It Is: Dispatches on the Myth of Human Progress