Tuesday, July 31, 2018

An Open and Ready Spirit

I devote a pretty massive part of my life to my work at the church—my official ‘ministry’—but I also have a life outside the church. There’s family events, kid activities, and my own hobbies. There’s parenting groups and soccer teams, basketball friends and school functions, softball teams and work colleagues. We keep pretty busy with non-church events.

It’s crazy how often, however, that these activities turn into opportunities for ministry.

Yesterday, for instance, our kids’ swimming lessons became an opportunity to talk with another pastor family about ministry, connect with a different family that is new to Bozeman and looking for a church, and meet another family that lives in our neighborhood and attends school with Zoe. All in the hour spent at the pool. And today, a quick lunch at Costco before stocking up for our church picnic, unexpectedly led to sharing a picnic table with a student who recognized me from The Rock. I couldn’t find a place to sit and he graciously invited me to share his table. We had a great conversation about his impending senior year, his plans after graduation, and the church he attends. All while just grabbing a slice of pizza.

But these encounters rarely happen unless we are ready, willing, and open to sharing our lives with others.

For each of my fun, encouraging, and unexpected encounters, I’m sure I miss dozens of opportunities. I’m not always ready and open to engaging with others—especially when I’m ‘off the clock.’ My eyes are not always open and my heart is not usually tender enough to recognize the potential for ministry and engagement right in front of me. Or even if I do see them, I’m not always courageous enough to act on those opportunities.

So, here’s to having an open and ready spirit for community and connection as we enter the world. Here’s to always being ‘on-call’ when it comes to engaging our world. Here’s to eagerly putting ourselves ‘out there’ and welcoming the dozens of opportunities to befriend, encourage, and bless others that greet us each day. May we have eyes to see, hearts to care, and the courage to act on those communal possibilities.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

A Heart of Compassion

I've been thinking about compassion today...or more accurately, my lack of compassion.

This morning, in Bible Study, we read about Jesus feeding 4,000 people in Mark 8. The way the story goes, Jesus and his disciples had been with these people for three days in some unspecified, rural location -- and now, they're hungry. And there's no McDonald's Big Macs to run and grab, no freaky-fast Jimmy John's delivery service, or grocery store to get bread and peanut butter for sandwiches. They're stuck and starving.

Then, as Mark tells the story, Jesus had compassion on them. He felt sorry for them. He was with them in their suffering. He cared.

And I'm quite convinced that Jesus cared about EACH and EVERY one of those 4,000. In Mark's telling of Jesus feeding the 5,000 (a few chapters earlier in the gospel), after feeding the masses, Jesus sent his disciples away in a boat while he dismissed the crowd. He cared about EVERY person in that massive group, and he continues the same spirit of compassion in Mark 8.

Which is just incredible! I don't think I would have felt the same. 

The scene would have been loud and chaotic, and you couldn't blame him had he quickly slipped away without feeding his followers. But Jesus, like always, chooses to be present in people's lives and care for their needs with a spirit of compassion. I'm sure he was exhausted after three days of ministry. I'm sure this massive meal was an administrative nightmare. But, regardless, Jesus shows up in people's lives in a substantial way. 

May we be challenged and encouraged by the compassion of Jesus, may his compassionate heart beat strongly within us, and may we be people who daily display the love, care, and compassion of Jesus to all in our path.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Fine With Failure

This past Sunday I tried something a little different with my sermon—a bit theatric. For those who weren’t present, it was a bit risqué!! I preached on a passage in Colossians where Paul invites us to strip off the harmful, sinful ways of life we too often wear and to clothe ourselves with the values of Jesus’ new kingdom. So, to make my point, I literally stripped off about 8 layers of bulky, sweltering clothing and replaced them with new clothes, labeled with the values of God’s new way.

I don’t normally do stuff like that, though. I don’t consider myself overly creative and my sermons are normally pretty straight forward. There’s nothing terribly cool about our church, my ministry, or my preaching.

Sometimes, however, a passage of scripture is just begging to be proclaimed in a different, more creative manner. Some passages feel more visual or tactile than academic and cerebral, and demand a more visual and tactile presentation.

And when those passages arise, I’m so pleased to be pastoring a church that allows me the freedom to be playful with scripture. I think my sermon from Sunday went well, but my point is, even had it not, you all would have extended massive amounts of grace and understanding. I love the liberty you have afforded me to try some unusual things from time to time, even if they crash and burn.

The freedom to fail is an important element of success in all forms of life, including ministry. So, let’s continue to try new things, work hard to make them successful, pray that God would use our efforts mightily. But then, if failure results, let’s shake it off and keep trying to minister to and bless our church and our community.