Tuesday, September 10, 2019

The Call to 'Sacred Seeing'

I have a friend from my youth, Jacqui, who is an excellent photographer…I mean FANTASTIC! Her photos often inspire me, move me, and leave me speechless in their artistry and beauty. Her pictures need no commentary—they are brilliant in their creativity alone.

But Jacqui recently shared a meme on social media that included two of her photos—the two shown here—with an accompanying caption for each photo. And Jacqui’s message is an excellent and much-needed reminder of something I talk about often: the need for better vision…and more specifically, the kind of vision that can see the sacred intertwined within the ordinary.

As Jacqui explained in her post, the location of these photos is an ugly, wasted, vacant lot that is scheduled to be developed soon. There’s nothing of obvious value about this place. There’s nothing overtly beautiful to be found there. And yet she found it. Jacqui was able to see what most of us would miss. She noticed beauty in what would normally go unnoticed. She had eyes to see the sacred in the mundane.

And this skill of sacred seeing is the same thing we are invited into as followers of Jesus. We are invited to notice the beauty and goodness of God all around us. We are tasked with seeing the ways in which the light of God so subtly breaks through the darkness of our world. We are called to witness the sacredness of God’s presence in the ordinary places of God’s creation. And, most of all, we are invited to see our friends, enemies, and neighbors with fresh vision—through the eyes of God—and to offer them the same love and grace that God does.

So, I offer thanks to my friend for reminding me of the need to see differently. May we all be encouraged, invited, and challenged to better vision—to see the world through the lens of God’s kingdom. May we all be able to pick out the sometimes-subtle, yet incredibly-profound presence of God all around us. And may we have eyes to see the ways in which the normally ordinary places of our existence are actually teeming with sacredness. May we learn the art of sacred seeing.

What Are We Forming?

Any good organization is always in flux. Always moving, always changing, always growing, always becoming. And the organization I help lead, First Baptist Church of Bozeman, is no different. We’re in process. We’re in flux. We’re growing, changing, and becoming. We’re being formed into a new kind of community comprised of new kinds of people. There’s something happening there.

But there’s more than one way to be formed. And there’s more than one thing to be formed into.

As we seek to become a new kind of community, we could change forcefully and uniformly—like if you don’t agree with us, then maybe you’d be happier at another church. We could form a group where everyone looks the same, thinks the same, talks the same, and acts the same. We could form a church where there’s no room for questions, disagreement, or opposition—and everyone prefers the same style of worship. We could form a gathering of ease and comfort, where everyone gets along and no problems arise (and if they do, they get quickly squelched by the communal group-think).

Or we could become a community where, despite our biblical, theological, or political differences, we are still committed to God, scripture, each other, and the world. We could be formed into a group where everyone is equally devoted to the words and way of Jesus. We could be formed into a church where we can wrestle with hard issues, love one another in our disagreement, and show the world a new way to interact peacefully and graciously. We could be formed into a gathering that is never at ease or comfortable, but is always striving together for lives of greater faith, hope, and love in Jesus.

In short, we could form a cult or a culture.

And I most certainly prefer the latter. I’m proud to serve a church of difference and diversity—where we aren’t all mindlessly uniform. I’m proud to pastor a church where I get the occasional Monday morning email of concern or correction over something I’ve uttered from the pulpit. While I’m most-certainly interested in forming a new sort of culture around our church—a culture of discipleship, where each of us is passionate about following Jesus with every fiber of our being—I’m not interested in anyone losing their passions and personalities in this culture-making process.

So, here’s to the probably-problematic and potentially-painful process of forming a new culture at our church. May we remain committed to the good news of God, the beautiful way of Jesus, and to communally working out our salvation with fear and trembling. But may we not become disheartened by difference and disagreement, because we’re shooting for culture not cult.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

The Beauty of Unknowing

It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,
and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.
The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
The impeded stream is the one that sings.

“Our Real Work” by Wendell Berry

I stumbled upon this poem for the first time a few weeks ago. It speaks to me, and I’m not entirely sure why. I think I’ve come to know the true blessing of not-knowing. I think I’ve come to peace with the fact that we cannot know everything; or control everything; or have all of life dialed in. And in this unknowing, there’s true wisdom, guidance, and direction to be found.

(And especially when it comes to God, I find it strange that we think we can completely understand, and perfectly communicate our theology about, the One who created all this from nothing and holds all of life in the palm of His hand.)

We don’t know everything…and never will. We don’t always have a deep sense of our mission and purpose. We don’t always know which way our steps should lead. So, the sooner we can admit that, the sooner we can get on with the real work in store for us.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight.

Proverbs 3:5-6

When we come to the end of our knowing, we find ourselves trusting in the true source of all knowing. When we humble ourselves and admit our limitations, we can finally rest in the arms of the Unlimited One.

So, may we be okay with our restraints. May we simply acknowledge our lack, trust in God’s provision, search for God’s knowledge and wisdom, and be humbly guided into God’s work and will for our lives.