Monthly Archives: October 2009

The mystery of ministry

Mystical communion
Perhaps it is an age old truth that the longer you do something, the more you realize you have to learn. I was shocked to hear myself at a recent church meeting say something like, “And I’m going on my third my year working here with these two congregations.” I feel blessed, and as my last post indicated, very much challenged in my ministry to these two churches.
The other evening I had a really revelatory conversation with a colleague at the church about a class that I am teaching in both congregations on Presbyterian Beliefs. There is so much to teach, but more importantly, there is so much for me to learn. Even though I knew the same activities in the English-speaking church wouldn’t be appropriate for the Spanish-speaking culture church and vice versa, I didn’t know which activities to choose and why. It is humbling to consider that these students at the church are accompanying me through a process where I don’t know all the answers.

It can be kind of excruciating, this inkling that you’re not quite getting the information through to the people right in front of you, because you’re constantly learning how to teach to the audience that’s in front of you, but then with the words of my colleague for encouragement, I also found a way to rejoice in this experience. What a blessing to see the diversity of God represented in my midst, and to see the multiple interpretations of the gospel through different cultural contexts. Too often we rest in the complacency and comfort of our own interpretations of scripture and theology, and we don’t get out to see that in the real world, faith really takes faith!

I believe I’m blessed to do ministry in a cross-cultural setting, even if God is only revealing this mystery to me step by step.

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The God of Challenges

Fall

It already seems a long time ago, but on Labor Day weekend our Pastoral Team from United Presbyterian Church and Iglesia Nuevas Fronteras in Plainfield, New Jersey had the opportunity to travel up to a Presbyterian Retreat Center in Holmes, NY and spend a Saturday praying, preparing, and getting to know one another. I had the pleasure of leading the closing Bible Study on Saturday night after a very full day.

I shared with the group the very familiar passage of the Beatitudes in a reflective, lectio exercise. Drawing upon Kathleen Long Bostrom’s devotional, Finding Calm in the Chaos, I reminded the group of the blessings amidst the challenges of this first sermon that Christ gives.

Though the beatitudes repeatedly bless its hearers and those who identify as meek, poor in spirit, those who mourn, etc., with the confirmation of blessings from God, we are all inherit the challenge of not only ushering in the kingdom of heaven, but enacting it and bearing those blessings and good news to others.

We took the moment to recognize which beatitude we identified with that evening, and where and what challenges and blessings God might be calling us to simultaneously, in our ministry together this year.

Fast forward one month, and just last night as our pastor and I drove home from church, we continued to reflect on the deep need for pastoral care in our community. In essence, just when I felt our churches were bubbling over with opportunity and growth, my eyes have been opened to the new challenges that come in the midst of the blessings God has provided. It is tempting to look to all we have done and worked for and ask God to make things just a bit easier, but our God is not that kind of God. Our God is one who thankfully possesses the power to bless and to challenge simultaneously.

The challenge in front of us in ministry currently is to bless God for all that God has done in our midst, and at the same time, ask God for support to go forward toward growing our church in ways we currently don’t have the imagination and the vision to see.

Have you ever been in this position? In what great blessings in your life have you inherited great challenges from God?