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I don’t usually take the internet quizzes that various friends post on Facebook.  But this week I took one that was posted by fellow intern Mary Ann Harris Siefke.  It was a short quiz of only about 10 easily answered questions that was supposed to tell me which Disciple I was most like. Upon finishing the quiz, it said I was most like Philip because I am “an inquisitive and analytical person.”… My “role as a disciple of Christ is that of an open-minded and nonjudgmental philosopher.” It went on to say that I “inspire debate and thought provoking dialogue that challenges others to ‘Come and see’ what Jesus is all about.” (http://www.churchleaders.com/daily-buzz/248447-disciple-take-short-quiz-find.html ) I can live with that.   As a bonus, at the bottom, it also told me which woman in scripture I was most like.  It indicated that I was most like Photine, the Samaritan woman.  But it did not give any explanation for this choice.

I recently started an adult Sunday school class that is looking at various women in Scripture.  So far we have looked at Jephthah’s daughter and at Tamar (the one in Genesis).  Because of this quiz, I am going to have the class look at the Samaritan woman at the well next week.  I will likely ask them if the quiz was correct.  Is she the woman I am most like in scripture?

In the story of the Samaritan woman (John 4), Jesus was resting at the well while the disciples had gone off to the city to buy food.  A Samaritan woman came to the well and Jesus said to her “Give me a drink.”  This led to the longest discussion that Jesus had with anyone, woman or man, that is recorded in the Bible.  It included a theological discussion concerning the difference between the water drawn from the well and the living water that Jesus could give.

The woman was clearly surprised that Jesus would initiate a conversation.  There was an enmity between Jews and Samaritans.  They generally avoided contact with each other.  And it was even more unusual for a Jewish man to initiate contact with a Samaritan woman.  The woman knew this.  She stated, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?”  And when the disciples came back from their shopping trip in the city, we are told that they too were astonished to find Jesus talking with a Samaritan woman.  But Jesus, as he often does, is ignoring boundaries.  He ignores gender boundaries by speaking with women.  He ignores social and racial boundaries by speaking with Samaritans.

The woman clearly had an interesting and likely hard life.  In the course of the conversation, it comes out that she has had five husbands and the one she currently has is not her husband.  Many have interpreted this to claim that the woman was of low moral character.  But the text doesn’t tell us why she previously had five husbands.  Perhaps she had been widowed multiple times and was stuck in the levirate marriage tradition like Tamar.  Whatever the reason is that she has had five husbands, it should be noted that Jesus never condemns her.

Both Jesus and the Samaritan woman were at the well because they needed water to satisfy their bodily need.  But Jesus also led her to consider water beyond that which can be found in the well.  If one drinks from the well, one will become thirsty again.  Jesus offers her the water that only he can give, living water.  If one drinks of the living water, one will not thirst again.

The woman was changed after her encounter with Jesus.  She went back to the city and told the people to “come and see.”  And we are told that the people listened to her for they left the city and they went to see Jesus.

We too have access to the living water that Jesus gives.  Do we invite people to “come and see” what Jesus is all about?

When the results of the quiz I mentioned at the beginning of the blog popped up on screen, I had never heard the name of Photine before.  The Samaritan woman is not named in Scripture.  But in the Orthodox tradition, she is a saint and considered an “equal-to-the-apostles.”  According to the orthodox wiki ( https://orthodoxwiki.org/Photine_of_Samaria )  the apostles baptized her and gave her the name Photine which means “enlightened one.”  She converted her five sisters and two sons.  Tradition has it that they all become evangelists for Christ.  Later, Photine went to Carthage with her sons where they were all martyred under the reign of Emperor Nero in 66 CE.

So, was the quiz correct?  Am I like Photine, the Samaritan woman?  I certainly have no desire to be martyred.  But I would like to think that not only I, but all the people at Hope Lutheran of Coesse are like Photine.  I’d like to think that we go and do so that people will come and see what Jesus is all about.

Image:  https://orthodoxwiki.org/Photine_of_Samaria

~ Intern Thomas

Living Generously Together

Posted: August 1, 2016 in Intern Joel

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Christ the King Lutheran Church in the Harvey Park neighborhood of Denver was celebrating their 30th anniversary in 1986, just as my internship site Abiding Hope was coming into existence as a mission start-up.  As part of the celebration, Christ the King took a love offering for Abiding Hope to help get them off the ground.

In the following thirty years since, Abiding Hope has grown into a large congregation, consistently in the top-10 ELCA congregations in the country for giving beyond their doors.  Christ the King has struggled, declining in membership and slowing becoming unsustainable.

This past week, the two congregations began a new partnership with Abiding Hope taking over the responsibility of mission redevelopment of Christ the King.

As an intern over the past year, I have had a front-row seat to watch this partnership develop.

The initiative stemmed from Abiding Hope’s congregational vision to live generously in order to partner with local struggling congregations to support our collective mission as God’s church in the world.  In 2015 Abiding Hope began a new movement in tandem with their strategic plan called “Generous Life.” Congregation members are responding to the movement by even more generously providing financial resources, their gifts for service and their precious time toward these partnerships.

The Rocky Mountain Synod of the ELCA connected Abiding Hope with Christ The King in January and has been supportive and actively involved in the development of the partnership.

Christ The King, after much discernment between January and July, voted on July 17th to become a congregation under redevelopment and to enter into partnership with Abiding Hope.

Today I was in worship at Christ The King as my supervising Pastor Chad Johnson presided and preached, and the Holy Spirit continued to blow in and through all who were gathered.  During a second year residency year with Abiding Hope, I will be able to build relationships with the good people of Christ The King, worship with them, preach the word in their midst, hear how God has been at work in and through them in the past 60 years, and begin to see what new thing God is bringing about.

Yet, I am only one tiny part of this partnership.  The congregants of Christ the King, and the congregants, lead team and staff of Abiding Hope will all participate in the redevelopment work that will happen.  We will all learn a new measure of humility as we work together, yet I sense God will be at work bringing about hope.  Hope that comes about because of the relationships that are being formed, the risks that are being taken for the sake of God’s mission and the generosity that is pouring out of the lives of everyone involved.  And from this hope, I have confidence that a new sense of vision and mission will emerge for Christ the King of who God is calling them to be and how God is calling them to love and serve their neighborhood and the world.  Likewise, Abiding Hope will also grow more fully into who God is calling them to be through the relationship built with Christ the King.

I share this story because the gospel, specifically our gospel lesson from today, Luke 12:13-21 reminds us that we don’t need bigger barns for ourselves or our own individual churches.  We don’t need to worry and hoard toward the future.  God calls us to be generous with all we have been given today for the sake of the world.  Our lives, our possessions and our talents and gifts can all be used today to love and serve others and to participate in God’s mission.

In a day in age where we are all a little freaked out about the future of the ELCA, our seminaries our congregations and our world itself, God does not call us to act out of fear or a mindset of scarcity, and especially not to focus inward, only on ourselves.  God calls us to pour out our lives today for the sake of others, and to trust God in doing so.  It is through generously living together that we experience the life God intends for all.

So how is God calling you to live generously together with others?

How is God calling your congregation to live generously together with others?

Share your answers and stories, and experience hope and the fullness of life in doing so.  What a gift!  To be God’s church together!

~ Intern Joel

(photo taken by Joel Rothe)

 

KTruhan - Caricature

Years ago, I was at an amusement park and came across a guy with a charcoal stick, sketch pad and easel.  While we waited, he made the most amazing caricatures based on exaggerated facial features.  And all the while, he kept saying, “Magnificent!” “Marvelous!”  The drawings were spot on – he couldn’t have illustrated my huge nose and my cousin’s squinty eyes any better.  Caricature artists have a remarkable ability to acknowledge the uniqueness of expressions and characteristics.  Their ability to see differences and portray them in a jovial light is their job.

In this week’s gospel, the man on the side of the road, stuck in the ditch, is in desperate need of help, but the people refused to see him.  He’s not hoping to steal the limelight with magnificent or marvelous comments, but rather for someone to simply see and acknowledge his broken body.  After being overlooked and left to die by those who you’d expect to offer assistance, the priest and Levite, I think it’s fair to say this guy is left wondering if he had become invisible to the world.

But Jesus said a Samaritan man was moved through pity to offer care for his neighbor.  And it was the Samaritan who saw the reality of the man’s wounds.  This unlikely Samaritan showed the community the mercy and compassion of Christ when the half-dead man was intentionally made invisible by others.

These past few days have brought a familiar but unwelcome feeling of sadness and profound loss.  As the events of Baton Rouge, St. Paul and Dallas unfolded, the cries for people pleading to be seen, recognized, and acknowledged raised through the roof.  Both sides – people of color, police officers – are being further crushed and destroyed under the systemic weight of racial tensions.  Both sides are people crying from the edges of the roadside, needing to be acknowledged.

As a people in Christ, we can no longer simply see that differences exist.  The priest and Levite saw the battered man, but refused to acknowledge and help him.  They had already painted a portrait of unclean defilement in their head.  And so oppression and brokenness are seen, but get stepped around.

Being the Samaritan to those along the road means trusting in God’s radical inclusiveness, speaking only words of peace, and walking to that other side of the road to do so.  While it is easy to draw our own interpretations of what we see by the media, we barely know the story from the perspective of the roadside.  Perhaps instead of trying to draw our own interpretations of what we see, what if we let others make their own messy charcoal drawings for us? To listen to weeping and frustration, and to be the presence of Christ’s peace to our neighbor in need – it is to help make those who are invisible, visible.

About the photo: Caricature artist at Huntington Park.  Columbus Clippers baseball game 7/9/16.  Photo credit: Kristina M. Truhan.

~ Intern Kristina

 

 

 

 

We Are Family

Posted: July 7, 2016 in Intern Dale

 

Dale BlogHalima and I believe that a lot can be learned about a community when watching how children are treated.  We have been blessed here at Ascension. Our children have been welcomed, received, encouraged, spoiled, included, comforted, disciplined, challenged, taught, embraced, prayed for, and lifted up in love and compassion by our congregation. As parents, one of the realities that can scare you is the fact that we don’t have control over all the people our children interact with.  The Ascension family has made it easier for my wife and I to trust other people with our children. This community affirms young people in ways that call out to their humanity.  The Sunday school program is full of joy, laughter, prayer, bible stories, and constant reminders of God’s love.  The spiritual based friendships and interactions will be part of the foundation that our children will depend on in times of trauma and trouble.  The emotional intimacy our children experience through hugs, smiles, high fives, love laced touches, presents, and prayers, are the gifts that will keep on giving throughout their lives.  Emotional memory is being built in this space and it is healthy.  We know that the time between birth and five years of age determines many things about an individual’s future, including how they will learn, what their emotional rhythm will be, and if a desire to know Christ will be a lifelong pursuit.  The cradle roll ministry has provided wonderful information to our family for our daughter Abbe.  Pomgna has an incredibly generous OWL.  He loves Sunday school and had a great week of learning at vacation bible school.  Trunk or Treat and family fun night were activities our family thoroughly enjoyed, as well as attending some Boy Scout activities.  The safety of all of our families is so important. Ascension is a safe space for the Linder family and we thank God for all of you.

In Christ

~ Intern Dale

Relationships

Posted: June 15, 2016 in Intern Kathryn

 

 

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When I first went off to college, I really struggled with creating new relationships. This was due to many factors, but once some of my high school friendships began to change due to our physical distance, I began to realize that this difficulty was going to be a problem for me. I began a long journey of soul searching and learning, and there are still aspects of relationship-making that I’m working on, but early on I realized one very important thing. I had a deep-set belief: if I knew a relationship I was beginning wasn’t going to last forever, then it wasn’t worth the effort of creating it in the first place.

Well.

The world had a little something to teach me about trying to continue along with that criteria for every new relationship I entered into.

Before college, a person’s life may be fairly stable. Mine was. I always lived in the same place and I grew up with the same set of people. Some of those people are still dear friends, despite distance, but others are not because it turns out not every relationship is forever. Then college begins a long series of transitions, various graduations, people moving, different classes, everything in the world begins to show you that some relationships are only going to be for a small period of your life. What I had to learn was that they were still absolutely worth it. I had dear friends in college that shared with me as we each went through the growing up process that we all face there. Our lives changed and we learned and grew together. My life is better because of those people, even if I don’t talk to them much more or at all anymore. I can only hope that their lives are better too.

Then came more changes with seminary, and finally this past year with an internship congregation. Talk about building relationships you know are going to end. Now that I’ve gotten this far in my journey of relationship building, I’m becoming better at it. I have truly grown to love and care for the people of this congregation. And just like that, I’m getting ready to leave. I’ve already started saying goodbye, making a concerted effort to not just disappear, as I’ve done before. Through my time with this congregation, always knowing precisely when it was going to end, I’ve learned a lot about the power of relationships, even temporary ones.

I’ve come to know God better through my relationships with other people. I proclaim to these people that God loves them fully and completely, even though we are all sinners. When I know that to be true for them, I can believe that God also loves me that completely. I hear these people’s stories about God and their lives and I see the amazing ways God works in the world, and how those ways are as varied as the people I meet. I have shared important moments with these people, and even though I’m not going to be their pastor forever, they have opened their lives up to me and invited me in to share in the presence of God with them, which helps me to understand the presence of God in this world.

I know that God works in many ways, and I know that one of those ways is relationship – long and short. Through understanding more people, we can begin to understand just how big, and yet how close, God really is. God works in each of our hearts, and God brings healing and understanding to us through the people we are closest to. And God provides that same thing for others through us.

God, the Trinity, Father Son and Holy Spirit, is a God made of relationship, and who made us for relationship. God’s Spirit resides with us, and we can share that love of God which we are created with.

My old understanding of relationships was so small, but I was young. I’m growing a bit each day, and I’m beginning to understand just how much God has yet to teach me through the people that come into my life and leave again.

 

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Picture 1: Some rights reserved. https://www.flickr.com/photos/lauramary/2052023141/

Picture 2: Some rights reserved. https://www.flickr.com/photos/craftybunny/94933714/in/photostream/

~ Intern Kathryn

Vacuum Filling

Posted: June 6, 2016 in Intern Alex

Why do we need to say something? Why do we feel compelled to fill a silence as though it were a vacuum, abhorred by nature? Since beginning chemotherapy six weeks ago I have become the recipient of much vacuum filling. Now, don’t get me wrong—I have been showered with love, prayer, attention, and much needed diversion from my treatment, and without these I would be downtrodden and broken in spirit. However, I have also had more people than I can count feel the need to compulsively talk about whatever should come to their mind or to offer me painfully cheap clichés of comfort.

So I ask again, why do we need to say something? I know for a fact that I myself have been the vacuum filler in plenty of encounters, speaking endlessly about nothing hoping to soothe my uncomfortable innards. I imagine the idea of a young, seemingly healthy man with his whole future ministry ahead of him being struck with something as insidious and terrifying as cancer makes any of us question our own sense of security. It would make anyone question it enough to make any of us babble about nothing to fill the void where we are forced to encounter the terrifying reality of our own vulnerability.

But is this how we do ministry? Is this what Jesus had in mind when he commanded his disciples to “cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons,” (Matt 10:8)? I seriously doubt that Jesus had intended for future disciples to alleviate their own insecurities by filling the anxious vacuum of silence with too many words.

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There is a definite need in our churches to teach discipleship, and a huge piece of discipleship is how we minister to each other and to others. After all, we show Christ’s love when we show love to one another. We spend an inordinate amount of time on Bible studies and classes whose ultimate purpose is growing in knowledge and spiritual formation, which is good and beneficial for the church, but in the end is self-serving. Maybe we need to spend more time on teaching real world practical skills on how to minister to one another.

I am not sure how well attended a class on “how to have a meaningful conversation with a person in long term medical care for Christians” would be, but I am sure the church needs to give it a try (maybe it just needs a catchier title.) Caring for one another is not only vital to the life of the church but an essential command of Jesus, yet it is often relegated to abstracts and ideals. Maybe it’s time we get over ourselves and admit that very often we Christians don’t actually know how to follow Christ’s command as well as we would like to think we do and practice selflessly in order to show even more love for one another.

Attached Image: Jesus Teaching by Sadao Watanabe

~ Intern Alex

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My thoughts have been occupied these last few days with the challenge and opportunity transitions make possible in our lives. I hold the position that if we were truly honest with ourselves, we would begin to recognize change, transition, as the norm of the human condition, not as an anomaly to get past. From our first steps, under the watchful gaze of our parents, we begin interacting with a big world that holds the promise of new horizons, as well as the possibility, if not probability, of failure. We begin to see our ever-changing world, small though it is, and our ever-changing sense of belonging as normal. Change or transition it seems in our youth is a norm so constant that we become blind to its effect until those moments occur, which jerk us unexpectedly into a new reality, a new norm. As time passes, the continual flux of transition ebbs and flows with often-predictable regularity, which, as in childhood, leaves us blithely unable to perceive our own forward momentum.

Much of my focus on the subject of transition is due in no short measure to the dynamic community in which I have been privileged to be engaged during this last months. As some of you are aware, Gloria Dei Lutheran is actively engaged in a discernment process following the November announcement of Pr. Vicki on her intent to retire on Jan. 1, 2017. In those early days, the community entered an expected time of grief and denial. However, under Pr. Vicki’s leadership those feelings of loss have slowly been transformed into a focused time of intentional prayer and guidance for the future ministry. The focus has been on what the Spirit has, is, and will continue to do in the community, and most especially, in the lives that are impacted by its mission to show and be God’s love in this place. However, this intentional process has not been, nor would I expect it, to go forward without a few hiccups. The truth is, we become comfortable, and in that comfort grows complacency, which, if threatened, becomes paralyzing uncertainty. Our anxiety feeds an irrational fear that tomorrow cannot be as good, as rewarding, and, yes, as comfortable as yesterday.

In these times of transition I find comfort in lesson such as these. “While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:10-11, NRSV) and likewise, “Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.  Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.”  He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” (John 21:3-7, NRSV). Each of these texts gives us a glimpse into the difficulty the disciples faced as their world was suddenly jerked forward into a new norm with new possibilities and new opportunities for failure. What next, Becomes the distant gaze grappling for guidance and understanding. Who me, becomes the question we cry out silently desperately needing assurance from our Lord. I know in my own life, I often find myself peering longingly toward the heavens waiting for the Lord to send a messenger to me with words of assurance for the path ahead.

In those moments when trust becomes a question, rather, than assured hope, I especially appreciate the message that Jesus gives to Peter later in the 21st chapter of John. “Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” (John 21:18,NRSV) These words are all too true and represent the final release of the human illusion of control. The constant in this life is change, transiting from one moment into the next. We trust in our Lord that with boundless grace we have been justified. As the second lesson from Holy Trinity Sunday reminds us, our suffering will give us endurance and build, over time, a character that is quick to recognize the assurance of hope given in our Lord and Savior. Regardless, we are after all mortal, and change, life-altering upheavals, transitions, or whatever else we may call them, cause us to reevaluate all we know, believe, and trust. For people who profess Jesus the Christ and are marked and sealed as heirs, we are pulled ever closer into the loving and comforting embrace of our God. For all who find themselves on paths they do not recognize, being pulled forward into a future they cannot comprehend, I say trust. You are not alone on this journey and our Lord will never lead you into a transition that our divine Creator has not already trod. Peace be with you as tomorrow beckons with the promise of new beginnings!

~Intern Creighton

 

 

A few years ago, some of you may remember, I participated in the Peoples’ March for Climate Change in New York City on the eve of the UN’s global climate commission.  While at the rally, I walked beside a man who was, I thought, a little too excited about a new bladeless wind turbine he had developed.  Wind turbines typically have three windmill-like blades, but this man’s technology, he espoused, would be more environmentally-friendly.  That’s nice, I said under my breath, and I wished the man well.  I couldn’t figure out how on earth we could possibly make wind power generation any better.

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Fast forward to this week, and I came across an interesting article in the Washington Post: “Spain’s new wind turbine will make you jiggle”.  Timely, I thought, as I’m prepping for a Pentecost-themed post.  And as I read, rather than having three blades, these new turbines have a single pole that simply jiggles and shakes in the wind to generate electricity.  My mind quickly darted back to the gentleman in NYC who was adamant about this very development.

 

Was the fellow at the People’s March foretelling or prophetic?  Let’s suffice to say that I resolved that he must have had prior insight of this technology.  Or, maybe I just didn’t want to concede that someone, somewhere, had been stirred to action and given knowledge by the Holy Spirit.  So regardless of whether this engineer developed it or it was the company in Spain, that fact honestly didn’t matter – the new technology is now in happening and God’s handiwork was ultimately revealed through the jiggling science of aeroelasticity.  My doubt changed nothing.

 

On this Day of Pentecost, we celebrated the Affirmation of Baptism for 27 youth.  We asked those confirmands if they would make a few strong promises like rejecting evil and anything else that draws them away from God.  I don’t know about you, but try as I may, that’s a daily struggle for me. I know I’ve broken these promises a time or two, and I know these kids will, too.  Some students read beautiful scripture passages and yet they’ll chose to never again enter our church building.

 

But regardless of how, not if, we break our promises to God, I am reminded of the sure and certain promise that God has given to us.  Like the new wind technology that was developed despite my doubt, God continues to come to us despite our shortcomings.  That’s power of our baptisms.  We didn’t choose to be God’s, but God chooses us.  When we affirm our baptism, we respond “I do and I ask God to help and guide me.”  We come before God knowing that we can never do it on our own.  We rely on God for strength to keep those promises and to guide us back to God when we falter and break them.  Now that’s an amazing renewable energy source I’m grateful for!

Photograph by Kristina Truhan taken at New York at the Peoples’ March in Sept. 2014

~ Intern Kristina

Traveling Through Life

Posted: May 10, 2016 in Intern Thomas

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This past week my congregation set the date for two outdoor worships services this summer.  Since I am still relatively new to the area, I am not quite sure what the locations are like.  But there are quite a few lakes in the area.  I know that at least one of the services will be on a lakeshore.   And I will not be surprised if the other outdoor service is also is also by a lake.  The thought of being on a lake reminded me of an image I have used before.  It deals with sailing on a lake or on the sea.

But first I want to talk about transportation by train.  Many years ago I took a train across a large part of Europe.  Once we are on a train, we know exactly where it will go.  It has to follow the tracks.  Most of us want our lives to be like riding on a train.  We would like to lay the tracks so that we know exactly where we are going and where we will end up. At times we may wish to pick up the tracks in front of us and lay them out in a different direction.  But we still want to be the one who controls the direction and be able to see exactly where we are headed.  I could have easily followed the tracks I had laid down in my life.  I was a tenured full professor.  I enjoyed what I was doing.  I could have comfortably ridden the train on the tracks I had laid into retirement in another 10 or 15 years.

 

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But most of us don’t travel through life that way.  There are things that derail us from the tracks that we laid out.  If we get married, we can no longer lay tracks on our own. But we still may try to lay them together with the person we have chosen to share our life.  There are other events, both positive and negative that can derail us.  Having children is bound to change the direction of the tracks.  There can be illness or loss of jobs.

Barbara Brown Taylor states:  “I think we’d like life to be a train…but it turns out to be a sailboat.”1 In a sailboat we are no longer in control.  We become dependent on something we cannot see.  We must rely on the wind.  There are no longer tracks in front of us to show exactly where we are going and where we will end up.  I have limited experience with sailboats.  But I remember one time when I took my Dad out in a small two person sailboat.  When it came time to go back to shore, the wind had shifted.  We could not go directly to shore.  We had to go in the direction the wind would take us away from shore and then turn to approach the shore from a different angle.  We could not rely on the way the wind had blown in the past.  We had to be aware of the new direction that the wind was blowing.  Another time I was out in a sailboat with a friend.  It was a beautiful day.  But while we were out in the middle of the lake, the wind stopped.  It became perfectly calm.  We just sat there.  We had been dependent on a wind that was no longer blowing. We thought we might have to swim the boat back to shore.

As I stated earlier, I could have easily ridden the train tracks I was on into retirement.  But when I followed this call to ordained ministry, I did not just change trains, but I changed modes of transportation.  I started traveling by sailboat.  And so while I may not know exactly where I will go or where I will end up, I do know what lake I am on.  I am sailing on the lake of God’s grace and mercy.  And so are you.  It is the Spirit that is the wind in our sails.  “God’s Spirit blows wherever it wishes…” (John 3:8a, CEB)  And so we may not always know where the Spirit will blow our sailboat, we can be confident that it is the Spirit that fills our sails.  We can be confident that we will never sail on a different lake.  We will always be on the lake of God’s grace and mercy. Amen.

1http://www.azquotes.com/quote/807241

Images are from https://thetomatos.com  — a free clipart site.

 

Intern Thomas

Authenticity?

Posted: May 3, 2016 in Intern Adam

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Internship, and seminary as a whole really, plays a huge role in self-awareness and self-development. This year of internship has not only helped me to grow, it has also helped me learn who I really am. However, during this process of growth and understanding, I have also struggled with the idea of being authentic. I am struggling with the idea of acting in a way that faithfully resembles who I am. What does it mean to be an authentic church leader and how am I supposed to engage in ministry authentically?

When I first got to Lord of Life, one of the first relationships that I started to develop was with one of the high school youth. This youth was both on my internship committee and looking at a possible future in ministry. One of the first things he asked me was how could he go to seminary and still be a ‘normal human’? I understand ‘normal’ is kind of an ambiguous term, but in this context I believed the question to be, ‘can I be a pastor if I sin like everyone else?’ I told him that we are all basically shit-bags, tied together in the universal human condition of brokenness, and that the only reason we are able to do anything is that we are called and strengthened by the Holy Spirit. I observed the initial shock and confusion when he heard this new intern, talking to him in a clerical collar at a Panera Bread, essentially call himself a shit-bag. However, I think he understood the point that we are all still human.

Thinking about that interaction, I had to admit that I don’t always feel like I can admit my humanness. Throughout my internship I have had many similar experiences and I keep asking myself: am I really being true to myself in this situation, am I really being pastoral in this situation, and is there really a difference between the two.

In a recent internship committee meeting we were going over one of my sermons. In the sermon I referenced the story of Jesus and the Syrophoenician woman. What I actually said was, “Jesus words to this woman are hard to hear.” However, during the meeting we talked about what would have happened if I said, “Jesus was kind of acting like an asshole.” A couple people said it would have made them pay attention, but most thought it would be distracting. Now I’m not saying that my identity is the same as comparing Jesus to an asshole, but it was a great conversation in thinking about how much of my personality I should share and at what point does transparency become distracting, especially from the pulpit.

I guess my goal here is to figure out how to get through ministry without wearing so many different faces. I see this most clearly with the dichotomy between Sunday morning Adam and Chaplain Candidate Taylor. On Sunday morning I am very reserved. I’m interacting with hundreds of people throughout the day, some of whom I don’t know too terribly well. I wouldn’t say I am dishonest in any way, but I definitely have a thick filter. In uniform, I am not a different person but I act very differently. Curse words are used more like punctuations in sentences and there are topics brought up that many people would never feel comfortable sharing with their pastor. In both of these roles, I am still Adam, but I would feel very out of place if I acted the same with both groups.

Even in this context, how many of you are worried about what identity you let show in this public forum? I know I am not the only person who asks myself, “what if the call committee of my first call finds this online?” I’m not saying that’s a bad question to ask, it’s probably a good question to ask. I am simply wondering how often we should take inventory of all those different ‘identities’ to make sure we can still figure out who we are beneath it all.

If you are like me, you might only read through these posts when you get that reminder from signupgenius. However, I am honestly asking for feedback on this. Do you ever struggle with being yourself in ministry? Has your understanding of yourself changed over internship? What does being authentic mean for you?

Photo courtesy of: http://marketingforhippies.com/authenticity/

~ Intern Adam