Church Redevelopment Part 2: Letting the legacy live

The first part of this blog contained a case study that was developed for the Leadership for Church Redevelopment workshop led by the Rev. Professor Michael J. Christensen.   In class, which was en…

Source: Church Redevelopment Part 2: Letting the legacy live

Click on the source link above for the full posting on the School for Ministry Student’s Blog Site.

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Church Redevelopment Part 1: The Case Study

Last weekend we had our second session with the Rev. Professor Michael J. Christensen.  This time on Leadership for Church Redevelopment.   In preparation for the class he asked us to develop a cas…

Source: Church Redevelopment Part 1: The Case Study

Click on the source link above for the full posting on the School for Ministry Student’s Blog Site.

The seekers found their own way to make sense of the lesson.

The Rev. Monica Mainwaring recently led an afternoon workshop on spiritual formation for children and youth. We discussed our own experiences and some of the resources that we use including the won…

Source: The seekers found their own way to make sense of the lesson.

Click on the source link above for the full posting on the School for Ministry Student’s Blog Site.

The Little Things

under-the-door

Our time at St. Paul’s Senior Services was over for Pam and myself.  We had said our goodbyes, completed our evaluations, met with our supervisor and the field education director.   We were doing quite a good job at detachment and moving on but there were one or two residents that we wanted to keep in touch with.   One of them was Stan.

Stan is his real name! I know that he would not mind me using his story as an example.  I had become friends with Stan over our time at St. Paul’s and we had shared some highs and some lows together.   One day Pam and I had popped up to his room to see if he was about.  When he didn’t answer his door, Pam wrote him a little note to say that we had come by to visit.  Last week I arranged with Pam to visit Stan after work one evening.   We went up to his room and there he was very pleased to see us.   As we were talking he went to his bedside cabinet and pulled out a stack of papers.  He had kept every handout that we had made, every service book produced and there on the top of the stack of papers was Pam’s handwritten note.    It was clear that even the smallest thing to us was a significant memory for Stan.

In ministry we often think about the big things.  How a program or ministry will achieve its goals and improve on what we did last year.   Whilst it is important to keep moving forward, to continually strive to find new ways on how we can make the gospel relevant to today’s and tomorrow’s generations, we should never lose sight of the fact that God’s kingdom is here in the present, in our everyday lives and in the routine and even mundane things that we do each and every day.

Sometimes it is our small gestures, the basic building blocks of our pastoral care that makes a difference.   Nothing is too small to be insignificant and each and every one of our actions has the potential to be transformative and renewing.

My interaction with Stan reminds me that staying those extra ten minutes at coffee hour, making that phone call that otherwise would be easy to put off or not forgetting to ask about a sick relative are all just as important as delivering a powerful sermon or launching a new cycle of bible study.  For in Christ the last shall be first, the weakest will be the strongest, the smallest of children will be the inheritors of the kingdom of God.

Solomon’s Wisdom Helps Us Find God In Our Modern World

A sermon preached on Pentecost 12 at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Del Mar

RCL /Proper 15 / Year B

1 Kings 2:10-12, 3:3-14

(Audio of Sermon)

hands texting with mobile phones in cafe

 A couple of months ago, Antonio and I were invited to a birthday celebration of one of our friends at a popular restaurant.  When we arrived we realized that someone had forgotten to make a reservation and we were facing a ninety minutes wait before our group could be seated.  Ivan, whose birthday we were celebrating, was not happy with this and made the decision that we should celebrate somewhere else.  None of us had a problem with this as there were lots of nice restaurants in the area.  So off we went wandering up the street to find a restaurant.   A familiar pattern began to emerge.  We would arrive at the front of a restaurant and everyone would get their smartphones out.  Some of us read the yelp reviews, some went to the restaurant’s Facebook page or website.   With so much information coming into us you would have thought that we would find the perfect restaurant.  Not so.   The information paralyzed us.  We could not get group consensus.   In the end we ended up an old favorite, a place that we had eaten at many times before.   It is a pity that we didn’t have the wisdom to simply look inside the restaurant, look at the diners, were they happy? Was any food that we could see nicely presented?  Was there a line?  What was the ambience like?  Information overload dampened our wisdom.

King Solomon, who we have just read about in our reading from the Old Testament seemed to have a desire for wisdom.   We read that soon after coming to the throne, God came to Solomon in a dream and offered him anything that he wanted.   I am sure that there were many things that Solomon could have asked for but he does something quite surprising.   First he offers God his praise and thanksgiving

You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant my father David, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you; and you have kept for him this great and steadfast love, and have given him a son to sit on his throne today. And now, O LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David.

Then he humbles himself and recognizes that God is the creator and organizer of all things in the world

I am only a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. And your servant is in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a great people, so numerous they cannot be numbered or counted.

Then finally he goes in for the ask!

Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people?

An understanding mind, the ability to discern.  Surely that is a very good description of what is at the heart of Wisdom.

Of course in theological and academic debate there are some people who question the motives of Solomon.  The royal court in Israel was a hotbed of political maneuvering, indeed even his own ascension to the throne is a political drama in itself.  When we read the first two chapters of 1 Kings we are told the story of how his mother went to King David’s deathbed with the prophet Nathan to convince King David into making Solomon his heir and successor over the king’s older son Adonijah.   Some people have argued that Solomon, even at a young age was a ruthless, calculating, vengeful leader, in many ways not unlike his father.  That his request was far from a humbled, God fearing and heartfelt plea but more of a calculated strategic and power driven play.

There probably was elements of this in the reality of what happened.  We will never know for sure as this is history and we can’t go back in time.   I prefer to think that Solomon, was a little in over his head.  He was made king unexpectedly, found himself leader of all of Israel,  living in the shadow of his father the great King David.  He was young, we do not know his exact age but scholars say anywhere from twelve to twenty.  It must have been scary being in that position.  He had withdrawn to a holy place to sacrifice a thousand burnt offerings.  I am guessing that God came to him in his dream at the very moment that the young Solomon needed him most.

And there we have the pivotal point.   God came to Solomon when he most needed it.   As king over Israel, Solomon had all the earthly desires that he needed and much more, but he was lost.  In that place of sacrifice he heard the Lord calling his name.  He heard the call and the promise of the Lord and he responded.

His request for wisdom came in three parts.   Firstly he asked “Give me an understanding mind to govern your people”.  Solomon recognized that he needed to be transformed in order to be able to understand all of the requests that were being made of him.   He asks, transform me so that I can go deeper than the facts, transform me so that I can turn facts into meaningful information.

Secondly he asks for the ability to discern between good and evil.   Discern is such an important word and concept.  To seek, to listen, to watch for – are all essential in achieving discernment.  Solomon is asking God to see more than what is in front of his eyes, he is asking to see into the places that he does not normally look, to seek the truth where many dare not go.

Finally he says “for who can govern this your great people”.  By this statement he is keeping God at the center of all he does.   He is acknowledging that anything that he achieves is by the grace of God.

And so my friends, what does this mean to us?  To you and to me?  Solomon was a complex character, full of good and not so good.  He had skeletons in his closest.  He had done things that with hindsight he was not proud of.  Does that sound like you and me?   We are not that different, and in God’s eyes we have the same status, as a child of his, that Solomon had.   God can and does come to each and every one of us.   No matter what we have done, no matter who we are.

God can come but that does not mean we will see him or acknowledge him.  Our lives are so full, full of everything, that the world can blind us to his presence.   Sometimes it is in our darkest hours when we are search of God that we are able to find him but I challenge each and every one of us to consciously look for God in our everyday lives.

If we let him God will also grant us wisdom, but to fully harness the power of wisdom we would be well served to follow Solomon’s example.

We need to be transformed by our faith into a community that is understanding.   Of course we need facts and information but facts and information alone do not build knowledge.   When we read that a victim of human trafficking was the daughter of a north county family.  We need to do more than accept this as a fact we need to develop an understanding mind that realizes that horrors like human trafficking can and do affect not only families close to the boarder, but is happening in our own communities.  We need to use the information to develop responses in our own lives here in Del Mar.

We need to be able to discern the truth.   Ask ourselves what in our lives is blocking us seeing God around us?   Are we so overloaded on facts that we fail to see and hear the story.    In my story about finding a restaurant, facts blocked us from discovering something new and we ended up back in a familiar same old place.   I pray that we can cut through the distractions in our modern day lives to see a new reality.  To discern where God is truly calling us.

Finally, let us never forget that God is front, center and all around.   You may think that that is an obvious thing to say in a sermon but wisdom has shown me that sometimes we need to be reminded that God is the creator, God is the sustainer and God is the redeemer.

 

What shall we talk about today? Grief? Death?

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A couple of weeks into our internship, Pam and I were asked by residents at the Manor to start a grief support group.   When I realized what was being asked of us I was simultaneously humbled and a little apprehensive.   We had of course covered grief and death in our pastoral classes but this would be the first time that we would be leading a group.

Leading is what we ended up not doing.   We facilitated the group and walked along side the members of the group as companions as we met each Friday afternoon for six weeks.    We had the back up of our supervisor, Fr. Jacobsen, and also a wonderful resource that he had put us onto “Companioning the Bereaved – A Soulful Guide for Caregivers” by Alan D. Wolfelt.   The book title is shared here with a very strong recommendation.

Our group of five plus Pam and I met and I would say that we all got different things from the group, everyone was at a different stage of grieving.  What was common though was that no-one had really talked about their journey of grief in a deeply meaningful way.   The act of sharing, of being accepted and of listening to others proved to be important fuel for the journey.

On another occasion I had the opportunity to talk about death with one of the residents at the Villa.      He had certain wishes, things he wanted to say and after we talked he realized that the conversation that we just had was a conversation that he also needed to have with his family.

Our culture does not encourage us to talk about death, before death occurs.  Also when we have experienced death of someone else our culture patterns the norm of what grief should look like.  But grief has no norm, has no set path.  I did an experiment on Saturday evening after I got home from an afternoon at the Villa and tried to talk to my husband about death.   He didn’t want to talk about it – clearly I have work still to do.

As a candidate for Holy Orders I find myself in situations where I can talk about death in the context of faith.    Faith transforms our view of death, from a final act to the passing into a new season.   But anyone of faith has the same Good News.    The pain and horror of Christ’s death on the cross is followed by the joy, hope and reality of the resurrection.  We must never be scared or ashamed to talk about death in the context of our faith.   Doing so, means that we can openly talk about death and the practical earthly realities that we need to talk about with loved ones and caregivers.  Then in grief at the death of others, we realize that we are never alone for in faith Jesus holds open a 24/7 grief group – we just have to rest on our faith to enter in.