Friday, October 03, 2008

time and calling...or, what I wish I'd written earlier.

There are things I wish I had said in my last post, but rather than edit it to make it appear as though I was more articulate than I really was, I thought I'd just add a second post on the topic.

I understand ministry as a calling.  I understand my entire life to be about proclaiming good news.  And I understand that sometimes that is uncomfortable and boundary blurring in terms of my "job" and "the rest of my life."

I also understand professional ministry to be about empowering and encouraging all followers of Christ to be ministers, to be proclaimers of good news with their whole lives, regardless of their job.

So I wonder about a standard for "professional Christians" that isn't the same as the standard we have for "laypeople", and I wonder about a model of ministry that implies that only the paid minister does the ministry.

I don't think I serve a church where I am the only one doing ministry.  I don't think I serve a church where people look to me as the one who "gets paid to do this."  but I think I do serve a church that is vibrant and growing and has a lot more people in it than I can care for on my own, and a lot more ministries and programs than I can maintain and administer on my own.  Especially since my administrative gifts are...umm, still with the Holy Spirit, waiting to be wrapped and given to me.

So if the task of a minister of Word and Sacrament is to preach and teach and celebrate, to empower and encourage others to care for one another and to share good news with The Other, etc etc etc, that sort of implies a couple of things.
1.  That the MoW&S is a whole, integrated person, one who is body mind and spirit, who loves the lord and the neighbor and even herself with all the body mind and spirit.  (secondarily, this implies that the person has the time to care for body mind and spirit, right?)
2.  That the MoW&S doesn't do everything and doesn't feel obligated to do everything, and does not have any sense of being indispensable--because at that point, the body of Christ is not healthy.

I don't think I'm in danger of number 2--I know perfectly well in my rational mind that the church will go on just fine if I take a couple of days off.  (I'm not sure about the administrator, but... ;-)  )  I know perfectly well there are people who can step up and help with things, if I'd just ask.  Which of course means that I'm in serious danger of forgetting:
3.  The MoW&S, in order to encourage and empower others in their ministries, needs to ask for help sometimes.  This also reminds people that ministers are people too, with needs and wants and a hope for balance in life.

I am, however, struggling mightily with number 1.  Where, in the midst of caring for people, preparing worship, writing sermons, building relationships, teaching classes, leading youth ministry (though I do have amazing adult leaders who are helping hugely here!), dealing with administrivia, etc etc etc is the time for nurturing my own spiritual life, caring for my body, enjoying my CSA (I have a fridge full of potatoes up here and a fridge full of onions down in the garage! I have bell peppers that need to be prepped and frozen before they get moldy.  I have a drawer full of carrots that's been accumulating for a month.  I have 3 huge bunches of basil waiting to turn into pesto.  You get the idea.), cleaning my house so my space is calming rather than stress-inducing, playing with my friends, etc?  If I can't balance this time, even if I love my calling and I love my people and I love the Lord, I hardly think I'm fulfilling my calling well.   

But time is scarce.  I tell youth they have to make choices, and their choices reveal their priorities.  I worry about ministers (and about me becoming one of these ministers) whose choices reflect a distortion toward "work" over the other areas of life (self-care, sleep, relationships, leisure, learning unrelated things, etc).  I'm afraid that might also reflect a model of ministry that is so pastor-centered as to lose sight of the fact that every Christian is called to live a life dedicated to God's glory, to working for the kingdom.  It almost presumes the pastor is the head of the body, rather than Christ being the head.  And, in many ways, I think that model may encourage compartmentalization within the pastor rather than integration of a whole person, body-mind-spirit.

Perhaps in addition to a sermon brewing on authentic community (which includes sharing the bad along with the good, rather than assuming we have to be shiny plastic people with everything pulled together when we come to church) there's a sermon about how we spend our time brewing as well.  I'm preaching this week on Isaiah 55 and am drawn to the first few verses that ask "why do you spend your money on that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?"  I wonder if that applies to my time wondering at all?

Okay, enough babbling.  early meeting tomorrow, 45 minute drive away.  must sleep...and not until 10.23 like I did today!!  I hope I am not getting sick--I've been sleeping longer and longer each day this week.  (sigh)  Send me happy thoughts away from the bacteria and viruses.  Shockingly:  I don't really have time to be sick!

PS, on fruitflies:  I took my grandmother's advice and put out a cup mostly filled with balsamic vinegar (she uses Apple Cider Vinegar but I lacked that), a spoonful of sugar, some dishsoap, and filled to the top with water.  Stir and let sit.  Fruitflies were all drowned in two days.  but my house smelled like vinegar for those two days.  The trade-off was worth it.
Now Crystal Lake seems to be in the midst of the plague of flies--there are flies everywhere (not in my house, thankfully, but everywhere else--church, restaurants, Starbucks, etc).  We don't know where they came from or when they're going away, but it's pretty crazy.  And they're big fat flies too.  Gross.


  1. It's all so true. (Sorry about the flies, though.)

  2. I look forward to your Isaiah 55 was my ordination text and I return to it regularly, esp. when pondering my call/vocation and change. I have no platitudes or magic approaches, and at approaching the double-nickle in years, have tried many approaches to caring for self so self can care for others...some work better than others at different times and for different people. I believe that you will find your way, over and over again (kind of like an infant going thru stages - just when a parent thinks they have 'it', whatever 'it' is, down, 'it' changes. Peace be with you, friend.

  3. thanks friends. isaiah 55 was my ordination text too! :-) best chapter in the entire bible.

  4. Teri:

    I'm preaching on the same passage tomorrow; I as well have been struck by the "why do you spend your money on that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?" phrase.

    How much of our scrambling is to serve other gods, when all we need is available for absolutely free? I feel like walking down Wall Street with a bullhorn, bellowing that over and over again.

    Ever heard John Michael Tablot's setting of this? No html skils, but go to and click on "All Who Are Thirsty."


  5. I haven't heard that before--I like it! Tomorrow at the 830 service during communion we have this song from the L'arche community, which I also really like (it's a little sappy sounding here, not so much when we do it--I can't explain the difference, but there you go).

    Thanks for the tip...(off to listen to more John Michael Talbot instead of writing...)