Tag Archives: call

Resigning from Resurrection

Monday I resigned as Lead Pastor of Resurrection Lutheran Church.  My last Sunday will be October 25, 2015.  You can see my letter of resignation here.

The path to the decision was a long and winding one.  (The twisting path was also a partial reason I have not posted on this blog for six months.)  It was not made suddenly or without prayer and conversation.    Though there have been many contributing factors,  three key events shaped my decision.

Retreat CenterThe first was an eight-day silent centering prayer retreat in June.   Though it was held at a non-descript  wooded camp, the experience was life transforming.  The silence time of prayer and reflection helped solidify my longing for contemplation and deep prayer.   I had a couple of profound experiences that I need to write about in future posts.  I want to go back.

18395_10153362640945266_2272565119671433986_nThe second was the five-day ELCA youth gathering in Detroit in July.   Thirty thousand youth packed into Ford Field, praising, dancing, singing in the joyous, raucous Spirit of Christ.  There were times when I felt like I was 17 years old again, swept up in the celebration.   It was a powerful trip for me, the three adults, and ten youth from Resurrection.

Taken together, the silent prayer retreat and the youth gathering, could be seen as two ends of a spiritual spectrum.  One end  is the quiet, contemplative Spirit of God, “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him.” (Psalm 37:7) The other is the joyous noisy  Spirit of God, “You will take up your tambourines and go out to dance with the joyful.” (Jeremiah 31:4)

Both are good and healthy, but they rarely live together in the same tent.

Still Dance SpectrumThe two are significant in that I see my own spirituality moving towards the quiet, contemplative end of the spectrum, while I see the needs of Resurrection’s spirituality is for the joyful dance.  Neither is better than the other, but they were not working together within me, especially since I am called to be the leader.   Thus for months my own spirit has been restless.

The third event was a private conversation with two trusted leaders of the congregation.  They initiated the conversation in a caring environment.  During the conversation they asked me was a simple, yet profound question, “Do you feel like you still fit at Resurrection?”

praatgroepenLike a skillful politician I hemmed and hawed and dodged the question that evening.  But as I drove home from the conversation, I realized in my heart-of-hearts that I no longer fit.   It was a blow to my ego.  I wanted to be in control, yet I was not.  I wrestled with the question all through that night and several afterwards.  Yet I woke up each morning realizing that the answer was the same.  It is time for me to leave Resurrection.

In the next couple of days, I will post on what my plans are for the future.   For now it is sufficient to say that I am both sad to leave a fantastic congregation like Resurrection and at peace with listening to the call of God’s Spirit.

I have been reflecting on these words from Parker Palmer’s Let Your Life Speak.

Before you tell your life what you intend to do with it, listen for what it intends to do with you.  Before you tell your life what truths and values you have decided to live up to, let your life tell you what truths you embody, what values you represent. (page 3)

Go Where I Send You

Why would Jesus turn someone away? Someone who begs to follow him?

In Mark 5, Jesus casted out the demon named Legion from a man who lived in Gerasenes, a Gentile region of northern Palestine. When he was restored to his right mind, he sat with Jesus. His neighbors were in an uproar and begged Jesus to leave. As Jesus entered his boat, the man begged to be with Jesus, to be a disciple. Jesus refused.

But his refusal had a purpose. This man was given a very special mission. Jesus said to him,

Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and what mercy he has shown you (Mark 5:19).

This is quite similar to the mission that the apostles are given in the next chapter of Mark. I find it both ironic and hopeful that this Gentile, recently-possessed man is given the mission of proclamation prior to the carefully selected twelve. I also find it highly instructive that he would be given this task to go to his friends and neighbors, not some distant land or foreign culture. Also as one who has recently experienced mercy of Jesus, he is a passionate advocate for Jesus. New converts are often the most passionate and assertive regarding their faith in Christ.

As a Lutheran pastor, I know that some people are specifically called to be pastors and teachers of Jesus’ message. I am thankful for those who answer that specific call. Yet, as this story bears witness, we can all bear witness to what Jesus has done for us, how we have experienced the Lord’s mercy and joy. God may send us to a new location, but the more probable is that he will send us to our friends and neighbors to give witness.

The Gospel of Mark never mentions this man’s name nor reports on his mission, except that all are amazed at the man’s testimony. Let us together rejoice in God’s mercy and amazing grace towards us.

Lord Jesus, help me to be attentive to your voice and to be willing to use my voice to speak of your mercy.

“Come and See” Invitation or Command?

Jesus said, "Come and See"

After Jesus’ baptism, two of JB’s disciples began to tag after Jesus (John 1:35-39).  Jesus spotted these secretive observers and asked a deep question, “What are you looking for?”  I could write my whole Sunday sermon on Jesus’ question. What are we looking for when we come to prayer, Bible study, or worship? 

The two responded with their own question, “Rabbi, where are you staying?”  Again, one could dwell with that question for a long time; where is Jesus staying today?  Where do we find him?  Is he in the obvious or in the hidden? 

Then came Jesus’ response, “Come and see.”   I have often thought of these words as a gracious invitation to explore a relationship with Jesus Christ.  As if Jesus were giving the two followers the choice on whether to stay with him or go someplace else.  In our American culture, we like to have choices, options, possiblities.  We want to decide what we do or don’t do.   And so we see this word of Jesus as a choice.  A choice that seems to ebb and flow in our lives among the many choices.  Some days we respond with joy; some days with hesitation or fear. 

But could “come and see” be more like a command or declaration?   Like when Jesus commands the sea to be calm or when Lazarus is raised from the dead (John 11)?   Later Jesus declared, “No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me” (John 6:44).  The two disciples responded as if it was a command. “They came and saw where he was staying” (John 1:39).  

Could it be that our faith is more a gift of God than a heroic choice by us?  I find comfort and hope in the promise that the Father draws me to Jesus.  Some called it “irrestible grace.” Jesus pulls me along, rather than me running to catch up.  The more I think about it the more I am looking forward to preaching on Sunday!

How have you experienced the pull of God in your spiritual life?

Microwave or Crockpot?

This Sunday the gospel text will center on Jesus’ call of his first disciples (John 1:35-42). I am amazed at how quickly the first disciples responded to the call to follow Jesus.  They expressed no hesitation or reluctance.  In all four gospel  they immediately dropped everything and followed Jesus.  Their instant faith surprises me.

Are you like a microwave?

Several  years ago Pastor John Hogenson introduced me to the concept that some people are like microwaves, others are like crock pots.   He was not referring to their taste in foods, but to their speed in making decisions.   Some people are quick to process information and make decisions.  They see the opportunity and take it right away.   People may see the microwavers as courageous and decisive while others see them as brash and reckless.  I think many of Jesus’ disciples were like microwaves.  The best example may be Peter when later he asked to join Jesus in walking on the water (Matt 14:28-29).

Or like a crock pot?

Other people may be more like a crock pot.  They need time to process information before they make a decision. They want to “sleep on it” before they discern the proper couse of action. They may appear methodical or sluggish to others.  Over the years, I have learned that I am more like a crock pot (not to be confused with crackpot!) than a microwave.   I do eventually decide, just not immediately.  I struggle with the quickness of the disciple’s embrace.   I identify more with Moses and his hesitation at the burning bush (Exodus 3).  

Whether you are a microwaver or a crockpotter, all of us are called to respond to Jesus’ call eventually.   To push the analogy, we need to “get plugged in” to the true source of power so that we can “serve the meal.”  We need to trust in Jesus and discover our specific call in God’s kingdom.   All of us have a role to play, whether in a hurry or in time.

What image or analogy would you use to creatively describe your spirituality?