Monday, November 26, 2012

When You Have a Dropped Call

Serving in a church that is led by God's call can be confusing. It's difficult enough to discern whether God is calling you to a particular ministry. But how can you tell when the call has dropped?

You've been on the phone, talking with a friend, and just kept going. And going. Suddenly you realize there's a silence which grows longer. Then you know the call was dropped. You don't know how long you were talking into the silence, with no one on the other end of the line. You feel a little foolish.

It's awkward when ministry is like this. Sometimes you keep working long after the connection with God has been broken. And who knows how long it's been? It may have been habit. You may have become so absorbed on your end of things that you didn't realize the conversation was no longer two-way.

What's the solution? Well, after feeling some moments of embarrassment, and, let's face it, a little anger (we're all human after all) you hang up and wait for another call.

What happens next is really important.

You can wait for God to call you into a new ministry. In the words of the Taizé song, "Wait for the Lord whose day is near. Wait for the Lord. Keep watch. Take heart." Farmers especially understand the importance of the fallow field. It takes the land time to recover before something new can grow. Waiting is prayerful time, listening time, discerning time.

But it's equally important to know when to pick up the line and call out to God. Because, as important as listening is in prayer (waiting, too), God's call is not just a one-way dictation. There is an outgoing signal available.

"Tell me: What to do, What comes next, How long, O Lord, how long?" Scripture is full of people just like us calling out to God asking what to do, where to go, what to say, who to meet.

And sometimes the answer will not be very clear. You may have to work your way into hearing God's call. Try out a new ministry. See if it fits. Does the shovel feel right in your hand? Are you well-suited for the job? Perhaps some schooling is required. Or shaking a few trees. Or finding the right people to help.

A dropped call on the phone can be frustrating. But a dropped call to ministry can set you free. You are now free to listen, to experiment, to explore. It can be a hard thing to explain. But if the dropped call happens in a community that truly understands, then you're likely to experience some measure of grace.

I suppose that's my main prayer for you, if you've experienced a dropped call to ministry: a community well-practiced in creating safe, grace-filled space for reconnecting with God. It's also my prayer for the church: That love and grace abound and we listen for God's call together.

Blessings and peace.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Jesus, it's Election Day

I wonder what Jesus would make of us. Our representative democracy, that is.

I'm pretty sure he'd be temple-table furious at the way money is poured out, not only in the campaign but as a weapon mightier than any Roman sword. So seldom is money used to empower the weak. It favors the strong. The last will not be first. The last simply get lost in a sea of cash used to manipulate. "Water, water, everywhere but not a drop to drink."

But what would Jesus think in principle about democracy? After all, he had most likely heard of some of the same participatory ideals. The Antiochenes might have been run out of Jerusalem by the Maccabees, and the Greeks and Maccabees alike might have been conquered by Rome, but something of that old Greek idea of a self-ruled demo-cratic people remained in the air.

I wonder what Jesus might have thought about that. He may have been on the fringes of social and political power (consider stories of the rich young man, perhaps a ruler?, coming to him; tax-man Matthew; associate professor Nicodemus, small business builders the Zebedee boys--these we're exceptions, not the rule). He knew that from the margins, truth can be told: pay attention to the hungry, the poor, the blind, the lame, the lonely. Health care, anyone? Come to me.

"You will always have the poor with you" wasn't an excuse but a tragic reality. I imagine Jesus would be surprised to hear we cite him to withhold health care or food. From the fringes, you can tell what people really need.

Messianic hopes were more often than not political. They were also eschatological, yes, but pertained to how justice might be done. And that meant they were also economic. How ironic that Jesus' future hopes from the margins have become packaged in tax breaks for the wealthy.

I suspect Jesus would go to the polls in NYC where the generators are running and the lines stretch for hours and would see a living parable. The kin-dom of heaven is like a woman who stood for hours on a dark line in the cold waiting to vote because in the end it's not about the money but her voice.

When his disciples asked what he meant, he said, "Can't you see? She believes her voice matters. And it should matter to you because it matters to me, and it matters to me because it matters to the one who sent me. Let those with even one good ear to hear, listen up!"