Vacation was awesome! I saw lots of friends, ate my mom’s cooking, and drank many beers. And I only gained 3 pounds!
But it’s great to be back.
I often spend my vacation time thinking about my work; where the church needs to be going and who it has to be. I get thinking about my own role as pastor and what that looks like.
I picked up a book by Kim L. Beckmann called Prepare a Road; Preaching Vocation, Community Voice, Marketplace vision. Wow! Great stuff. This woman has the heart of a shepherd and the soul of a poet. She’s a preacher after this preacher’s own heart: gracious, earthy, joyous, and real. She finds God in the craziest places. On a logging truck. Channel surfing. In a Casino.
That’s part of my struggle in preaching; finding real life examples of God active and alive, examples I can point to. I’ve stopped telling stories of the superheroes of the faith. You won’t get any stories from me about Martin Luther King Jr, St. Francis of Assisi, or Oscar Romero. People seemingly so holy as to be irrelevant to ordinary Christians.
No, I’d rather tell stories of no-name Christians. People with dirt under their finger nails, mud on their shoes, and wine on their breath. People just like those listening to me.
People who don’t know they’re doing God’s work until someone tells them. Even then they’re not sure.
“Certainly there must be more to this God thing then delivering a casserole dish to the old man next door, whose wife died six years ago and he still can’t figure out the microwave,” they might say.
“Certainly, Jesus wants more from us than sitting in the corner with a new kid in Sunday school because she doesn’t know anyone in her class,” another might protest.
“Certainly, there’s more to this church thing than taping the church service for the shut-ins to listen to at home,” says yet other, shaking his head.
What about Paul and Silas turning the world upside down? What about the early Christians who were martyred for the faith? What about the saints of old whose lives breathed the message of Jesus?
To that I answer: virtuoso Christians aren’t the point. In fact, super-duper faithful Christians end up pointing to themselves rather than to the one they proclaim.
God wants US - frail, limited, petty, small, human beings - to do God’s work. God doesn’t want heroics. God wants simple faithfulness and gentle love for neighbour.
Anonymous Christians (to bastardize Karl Rahner’s excellent phrase) do God’s work without worrying how it will look. Their toil is its own reward. Their love – God’s love shining through them – is their message.
They’re often hard to spot because, on the surface, it doesn’t look like they’re doing anything special.
But if you look underneath you’ll see the kingdom of God active and alive.
That’s what I learned on my vacation.