May 19th, 2008 by Rainey

I am not really sure what to write today. But I think that if I begin to write maybe I will be able to process all the stuff that is floating around in my brain. That is the beauty of writing. I feel like it helps me organize and process my thoughts and feelings and just sort of gives me a chance to reflect.

I am working on a sermon right now for next Sunday. I am preaching at my dad’s church, which will be a lot of fun, since it was the church in which I was raised. There is something special about preaching to a community that you have been a part of and known intimately for years. There is a generosity there and a warmth.

I have been thinking a lot these days about the importance of place. As Conan and I continue to live our lives in Wchester, our roots seem to be planted deeper and deeper here. Our friendships are strengthening and growing. We feel loved and cared for here. We talk about our next house–whether it should be in town or out in the county. We talk about the schools Zeke will attend. It feels like we are building a future here. Yet I realize that in many ways ministry is fickle. You can be living out your call in one place one day and then turn around and realize that God needs to use you somewhere else. I am cautious about committing to a place so readily, unsure that I can really do that.

The sermon I am writing for this week is on Matthew 6:24-34 from the sermon on the mount:

Matthew 6:24-34

24“No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.

25“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? 28And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, 29yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 30But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34“So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

So often, in applying for jobs, we are asked where we see ourselves in five or ten years. For me, that is a really sticky question. As a minister, I just don’t know that I can answer that with any real certainty. And in a way, I don’t really think anyone can if they are honest. We can say what we hope to be doing. We can talk about the things that we know will continue to feed us and nurture us wherever we go and whatever we do. But I truly don’t think that I can say where I will be in the next few years. My life has not ever worked like that. At least when I have let God have a say in it.

My father has been at his church for over thirty years now. That is, I am certain, where God has needed him for all this time. He has taught me about all the good and the not so good things about staying in one place. He knows the community. He cares about it. It has shaped him, just as he has shaped it. He has ministered to generations of families. When he preaches, he preaches prophetically. But gently and carefully and with ears well-tuned to the way his words will sound to those who listen from the pews. What a gift!

If I am honest with myself, that is what I truly long for in my own ministry. The longer I am here in Wchester, the more I see that still needs to be done. The more I learn about the community, the more I recognize how much more deeply I should be involved in its life.

I think there are very good things about recognizing that you don’t really know where you will be in five years and taking the leap of faith and love that it takes to commit to a community despite all of that. I don’t know how long we will stay…but I am going to live as if I were going to stay forever. As if these were my people for all time. How else can you really minister if you have one eye on the congregation and one foot out the door towards the next big thing?

At the end of the scripture for Sunday Jesus says, “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” There is work enough to be done today. I will let the next five years take care of themselves.

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