Sorry for the dramatic headline and picture, but I bet that I got your attention! Fear not, I was not surprised to be told that my Tuberculosis skin test was positive because (1) I knew it would be (2) you did not have to be blind to miss the rather large red reaction to the test (3) I was vaccinated with the BCG vaccine when I was a teenager back in the UK (good job UK NHS for a particularly long lasting vaccine) and so I always test positive on the skin test and come back negative on the chest x-ray.
I had to have the TB test as part of my preparations for working with Episcopal Community Services (ECS) over the summer. When I got to the testing clinic I asked if I could bypass the skin test and go straight to the chest x-ray. I was told “Sorry sir, not possible, you have to take the skin test first”,”but it will come back positive – do you want to see my BCG scar on my arm?”,”no sir, I know you know it will come back positive but we still need to do the test”. This conversation could have gone on for some time but I gave in and accepted the inevitable. One injection and two day’s later I got my chest x-ray and all was good. Talk about slow progress.
I’m learning that ministry can also be a slow process at times as well. In a world where we constantly strive to achieve the next goal, to meet the tough deadline, to prove that we have achieved positive results the work of ministry, lay or ordained, can feel totally opposite to what we are used to. This leads me to think, how do we measure success in our Christian life? Surely it is more than ASA (Average Sunday Attendance), program statistics or even results of a parish survey (although all three of the former can provide very good pointer to how the church as an institution is doing).
I love the passage from Paul’s letter to the Romans (chaper 12, verse 2, NRSV):
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.
I also like the same verse but translated in the New Century Version bible:
Do not be shaped by this world; instead be changed within by a new way of thinking. Then you will be able to decide what God wants for you; you will know what is good and pleasing to him and what is perfect.
Do not be shaped by this world, be changed from within.
As I travel down my formation path I am reminded that I must be open to a new way of thinking.
As all Christian’s prepare to enter Jerusalem on Sunday and walk with Jesus in the steps of Holy Week I pray that we are open to a new way of thinking, a new way of discovering what God is calling us to do today.
Sometimes that path with be straight and the journey fast. Sometimes the path will be bendy and the journey slow. Sometimes we may need to do the obvious to spread the Good News. Sometimes we need reminding of what we are sure we already know.
Often, it will be hard to judge how well the journey is going but in the end, if we end up where God wants us to be then a little pain and redness is nothing to get too excited about.