A New Day

It has been way too long since I’ve done anything with this blog. I’ve had lots to say, but life was just moving so fast I didn’t see a good time to pause and write. However, I think this is about to change. I am sitting in the airport in Washington, D.C. right now, returning home from Ecumenical Advocacy Days 2011. It was a great event that really changed my motivation for ministry, but energized me to move forward.

The conference was opened and closed by amazing plenary sessions. I’ll go into more detail about each of them in later posts, but this quote was shared during the first session. It is from Sally McFague’s book, A New Climate Theology. In it, McFague says:

“If God is always incarnate– if God is always in us and we are in God– then Christians should attend to the model of the word as God’s body. The model of the world as God’s body helps us understand the doctrine of creation is not about God’s power, but about God’s love.”

A new understanding of creation leads us to a new understanding of our life and our purpose within creation. Everything around us is part of God’s body, created by God’s love. It was from this perspective I began my time at Ecumenical Advocacy Days. We were there to seek peace and justice through God’s love, for God’s creation.

In the closing session, Jack Jezreel of JustFaith Ministries shared great insight into why we do the work of justice and peace. Jezreel left little room for us to stay silent in our collective witness for God. His goal for the night was to make us uncomfortable with our current place in our mission. He was very successful, but it made me uncomfortable in a way to motivates. I feel bad that I’ve been complacent in what I’ve done and haven’t done. Jezreel shared this insight with us later in the evening:

“Churches are not losing members because they are wrong…it’s because they aren’t courageous.”

We in the church like to blame each other for the failings of the church. In the United Methodist Church, in which I serve, it usually comes down to a conservative/liberal type argument. After thinking about it, both sides are correct. We are all to blame. I don’t think we do enough when it comes to justice. We don’t work for the rights of each and every person in the global community. This causes people to avoid the church, to find alternative ways of expressing their spirituality, and to work for justice wherever the opportunity arrises. It’s time for the church to be courageous, to take major risks, to be heroic in the struggle for God’s love to be realized by all.

I’ll share more in the coming days, as well as some pictures. I just wanted to get the first post up so that I started the process again. Who knows, if my plane gets delayed any more, maybe the next post will come sooner than I think!

Grace and Peace,

Here We Go Again…

Well, this is going to be what seems like my 100th attempt at blogging regularly. I always get going well in the beginning, and then let it slip away. I figured it was time to get going moving on it again. So many things have changed over the last year that I’m not going to even attempt to catch up on everything on this blog. I’ll highlight a few things, and set the tone for future blogs.

I am in the third month of my third year as a pastor. I began my third year in the Conestoga Parish on July 1, 2010. It’s both exciting and scary knowing that I’ve been in the same place for that long. Most of my employment up to this point has been seasonal or temporary at best. The other thing about starting my third year is that I know it will be my last with these three churches. Starting July 1, 2011, I will be a full time pastor and will move to a new church, and most likely a new town. I’ll share more about that in the future, because I don’t know anything about that yet and won’t until I get the phone call next spring.

Along with starting my final year at the churches, I begin my final year of seminary. I won’t mince words here, I’m extremely excited to be finishing up school. I started school at 5 1/2 years old, and now I’m 25 1/2 years old. That’s been a lot of time in school thus far in my life, and I’m ready for a break. People tell me that I’ll miss it, but I just want the opportunity to miss it. Right now I miss being home for more than 3 days a week. I miss being able to spend time with my family and friends on a regular basis. Many of my friends are getting married, having kids, and I want to be more free to experience those things with them. I fell rushed all the time, like I can’t give my all to any thing, only part of me to a million different things. Anyway, I’m ready for May to come around and to have completed my Master’s degree. It’s been a long few years here, and I’ll be glad to have that degree in my hand.

This last summer I had some exciting times. At Annual Conference (if you don’t know what that is, think of it as a large corporate meeting with all of its stockholders) I was commissioned as a Provisional Elder in the Nebraska Conference of the United Methodist Church. Now, what does that mean? Well, in short, I’m a step away from full ordination. The Board of Ordained Ministry felt that I was prepared enough to take on the work of an Elder, with some accountability and supervision, and after a couple years, I will be eligible for ordination. If all goes well, I’m looking at summer of 2013 for ordination. Here’s a picture from that event.

Well, I think I’ve spent enough time tonight tinkering with the design and layout of the blog and writing this post, I better get back to the homework. I’ve already started the list of things to blog about, so look forward to more posts coming soon. It feels good to be back.

Grace and Peace,

What’s Love Got To Do With It?

Over the last two weeks I have had more than adequate time to think about life, ministry, and the world. I also had the opportunity to worship as a member of a congregation for the last two Sundays. This was probably the good thing that came out of my recent health problems (which are still ongoing at this point), as I was able to sit and just relax to experience worship. This last semester was one of great challenge and reflection, and is still continuing at this point. I’ve been evaluating my place in the church, my role as a pastor, and how I can use my gifts to improve the people and churches I work with. This has been a process that has left me tired and weary on many days.

This last Sunday I heard a very thought provoking sermon, well at least for me, on Love. I always enjoy David’s sermons, but this one really spoke to me at this point in time. His title was “Love Builds Up.” Immediately I began to think about my life and how I operate, but I also thought about ministry and my direction in it. Love is so much a part of my personal theology, in fact, in may THE essential part of it. I believe in love, and hope for love, and want to spread love to others. While I believe all this, I often wonder how I do this or if I really do?

Love guides me to social justice, to being inclusive, and to being in ministry. Hope for each and every person feeling loved is what drives me to continue on in my career path. The most powerful part of the sermon that caught me was the thought that Love crosses boundaries. The Love of God, as experienced through Jesus, crosses the boundaries we put up as humans. Love should always be our focus, our goal, and our guiding principle. Likewise, Love needs to be MY focus, MY goal, and My guiding principle. I think that it may not be the case most of the time. I regret that I too often just function and maintain the status quo, and that I don’t push the idea of opening ourselves up to Love each and every person we interact with.

I did not realize the power of Love until much later in my life. In fact, probably did not totally until very recently. Unconditional Love is a concept that is difficult to comprehend and accept. Thankfully I have people in my life to remind me of this fact, and love me unconditionally. I owe these people more for my recent development and growth than I can ever truly convey. The feeling of someone loving you should be the way we feel about God, church, and the people at church. This needs to be my focus and the model I give to my ministry. I’m still struggling with how I can do this in the most effective way, and in what form of ministry I can do this the best. This is something I will be contemplating and working on here in the near future.

I hope that each and every person in the world can feel loved at some point in her or his life. Feeling alone and without Love is a horrible thing, and the church should do more to show people compassion and comfort. This is my hope and dream for the church, and my goal to work on!

Grace, Peace, and Love,
Z