Monday, January 26, 2015

Notes from Seminary (8): What of When We Are Struck Down?

Pretty little girl and her puppy in Cerro Alto, Guatemala
The past two weeks have been a refreshing reminder of both what I am doing, and the purpose behind it. Life can get busy, and certainly painful. In my reading of Trull and Carter, I wrote in the margins of the book, "Knowledge and practice, combined with responsible behavior." 
This caught my attention because of a flurry of recent discussions I have had with various individuals that seem to revolve around a theme of circumstance giving people the right to respond in a defeated manner. I reject the notion that attacks destroy followers of Jesus, or that people, happenings, and hurts can ruin our ministry. I do not believe that is biblical. 
In the scripture, we see the greatest examples of faith in the lives of the persecuted, attacked, imprisoned, wounded, harassed, and even killed. Somehow in our modern day life of comfort, convenience, and safety, we believe that painful times justifies our negative reaction or our retreat. No. 
We are given knowledge and we are expected to practice it during the tough times to produce responsible behavior. This illustrates our relationship with God, and highlights His strength in our weakness. 
I do not write these words as a naive or untested person. I have scars that remind me of those times I lost focus, and the God who lifted me up to do more than I was able to accomplish. 
What I loved about Willimon's book this week was his statement that if we desire to please God in ministry, then we will desire to acquire the skills that will make us effective. We cannot claim ignorance, and we do not have the luxury of forgetting knowledge and skills simply because the going gets tough. Rather, it is in those tough moments that we are accountable and responsible to utilize those skills that have been rendered to us by the grace of God.
Joseph Bush, Jr. wrote about societies' efforts at Justice falling short when they lack a foundation of Jesus Christ. If we open our eyes even just a squint, we see that society is lacking a sense of Justice even now. Whether you live in the U.S. or a third world nation, you will hear cries for Justice!
And yet, when those who cry out are not standing on a foundation of the covenant God who created the universe to glorify Him, the God who seeks to restore creation and reconcile humanity, the god who redeems us and ignites a fire in us to redeem others... then this cry of justice becomes a distorted scream of entitlement and self-soothing demands.
In the lecture by Dr. James Massey we were given the questions: Who are we as clergy called to be, and what are we as clergy called to do? We must answer these questions daily as we make intentional effort to live lives of integrity in a challenging, broken, and hurtful world. We are a covenant people. Our reaction is not optional. We don't get to receive a mortal wound and fade into the shadows, abandoning our calling. We must face the crow of the rooster, and when we fail, we must then face the questions of Jesus when He looks us in the eye and asks, "Do you love me?" 
Yes. Yes Lord, you know I love you. "Then feed my sheep."

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