Thursday, May 29, 2008

measurable objectives

I should confess that my blog entry today is at least in part my rebellion against "strategic plans;" my colleagues here in the church office will not be shocked that I'd rebel against them. It's just that, so often, the most important stuff in life and in ministry is not measurable.

The temptation to measure is often irresistible. I give in: you may have noticed that I even put a counter on this blog to track how many folks visit it. And, when it gives us a way to hold accountable to the things we value most, measuring can be a really good thing. Sometimes, even while I'm a long way from my goal, looking at how far I've come provides critical encouragement.
The trouble comes when I get too good at measuring myself up against others. I'm tempted to excuse myself for my own short-comings--after all, at least I'm not as bad as SOME people are.

One of the biggest problems with measurable objectives is that, often, the most important stuff can't be measured at all. I think that's what Paul was talking about when he wrote his letter to the church in Rome. In this week's scripture passage, he keeps telling people how it's not how well people do the things we can measure or chart or police that saves us--we are saved by our faith in Jesus Christ, whose grace changes everything.

I get pretty depressed when I think of all the ways we, as a church, give messages (both explicit and implied) that good church people need to measure up to some standards. That they need to be certain ways or do particular things or avoid whatever behavior we name as the biggest sin. Our measuring tools never do an adequate job of making space for God's incredible, abounding, mysterious and scandalous grace.

We are all sinners, Paul says. The point isn't to measure up against each other. The hope is to be changed by a grace that defies the limitations of our little minds. And, then, be "church" together--a community that is the body of Christ in the midst of a world in need.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

worries, troubles and thoughts

This week, our scripture comes from Matthew, and it's a piece of what we've come to call Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. It has two pieces: a warning that we can't serve both God and money, and that we shouldn't worry about trivial things.

My question for today is: are there things we are SUPPOSED to worry about?

Presumably, it's so. After the bit about worries, Jesus talks about "striving" for things. And the kingdom is what we ought to strive for.

I also think it's instructive that Jesus asks us to take a lesson from the lilies. Not from great heroes or monumental things, but lilies. When I'm looking for role models of how to live in the world, I don't tend to look at flowers. But there they are, in the middle of Jesus' sermon. And they're beautiful.

May we be so, too.

This week, we get to celebrate infant baptism, too, which is a joy. We welcome new people into the family of the church. Perhaps they, like the lilies, will help us gain perspective on what mosts deserves our strivings and efforts.

See you Sunday...

p.s. I found fun cartoon commentary on the gospel here.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

it's complicated...

I apologize for my lack of recent posts. It's been a heck of a month--intense experiences at our General Conference gathering, a week of relaxation and reconnection back home in Nebraska and more. All that's from my perspective, though: in the meantime, you've been busy, too. Celebrating Pentecost, Confirmation, Mother's Day and the like. And, of course, dealing with the stuff of life: new births, illnesses, worries, hopes.

It's all quite complicated, the ways our lives get woven together with the movement and celebrations of the church year.

Which, I think, is partly what makes me so glad to be back with you all for Trinity Sunday this week. It reminds me about how complex and wondrously mysterious God is.

I confess that I tend to pray and talk more about God by picking one aspect of God's three-fold nature that I find most useful at any given moment. God our Creator when I need reminder of just how amazingly big God is and how infinitely powerful to give us new possibilities in every moment. Jesus Christ, who redeems us all, when I seek reminders of God's solidarity with us, even in all our weaknesses, pain and failures. Or when I need to remember what God's love can look like in human form, how it compells me to live like Jesus did. (Or try to, anyhow.) And then, sometimes I just treasure reminders of God as Holy Spirit--blowing new perspectives, breathing new life, emboldening with new fire. Uniting me together with all creation, calling me to a new identity.

Good stuff.

The trick is to hold all this together: all these ways of knowing and naming God are held in a unity that defies real comprehension. At best, we just get to know God in the unending dance between these ways of naming and knowing.

And, really, the point is not to figure God out. It's to find a new way of living, in partnership with God. In on the dance, ourselves.

Which is why I think it's also pretty cool that this Sunday is designated "Peace with Justice Sunday" in United Methodism. A reminder that we're called to live differently in a complicated world, as a response to our being loved by a complex God.

So, will you come give it a try with us?

See you Sunday!