Wednesday, October 28, 2015

All My Saints

I have been so grateful for the people in my congregation as I parent.  This week I offer this letter of gratitude and confession:

Saint With Slightly Bent Halo, Richard Kirsten Daiensai
November 1 is the day the world wide church celebrated All Saints.  This day began as a day in the Catholic church for all those who have feast days – the ‘big S’ saints – and evolved as the church evolved beyond Catholicism to a celebration first of all the baptized– the ‘small s’ saints – and further to recognize either all true believers (living and dead) or even to a celebration for all whom we particularly remember who have blessed and influenced us to further the kingdom of God. 

In our worship this year we are recognizing All Saints Day and in that context bringing infants to be blessed and dedicated to the care of God of this congregation – their cloud of witnesses.  And let me tell you, friends, you are my saints.  You are my saints because of your sincere prayers and love.    You are my saints for your graciousness and understanding.  You are my saints because of how you respond in times of need.  You are my saints because of meals delivered, prayers said, hugs offered. You are my saints because when my child is melting down at ten o’clock on a rainy night at Camp Casey you hold my baby, pack me up and get me on the road home in record time.

Nadia Bolz Weber writes in her new book Accidental Saints,
"It has been my experience that what makes us the saints of God is not our ability to be saintly but rather God’s ability to work through sinners.  The title “saint” is always conferred, never earned.  Or as the good Saint Paul puts it, “For it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).  I have come to realize that all the saints I’ve known have been accidental ones – people who inadvertently stumbled into redemption like they were looking for something else at the time, people who have just a wee bit of a drinking problem and manage to get sober and help other to do the same, people who are as kind as they are hostile.”
I confer upon you, followers of Jesus at Seattle Mennonite Church, the title of saint, for you have indeed willed and worked for God’s good pleasure – or at the very least have pleased this humble servant of God.

Megan has a piece of artwork in her office entitled “Saint with slightly bent halo,” (bad photo above) and friends, I feel my own halo is more than slightly bent.  It is mighty dinged up.  By God’s grace I trust that I too am still enabled by the Spirit to work for God’s good pleasure.  But the dual call to both parent and to pastor has at times been really difficult and even painful as I have rarely felt fully able to give myself to either one.  I bring my little one to be blessed in this congregation with great joy this All Saint’s Sunday because you are indeed my saints and his.  And yet you will likely not see either of my children often for a while after that.  I have kids – both of them, but maybe especially the elder – who right now need way more than I can offer them and still be present my a pastoral role on Sunday mornings. 

I pray with hope that at some point in the future I will be able to be in worship and at other events of the church with both children in a way that will be an experience that honors all of us.  And I ask that you will continue to offer grace to me, offering pastoral leadership in the area of family ministry even while my own family can’t accompany me.  May we with all of our dinged up and dented halos receive God’s blessing as we seek to do God’s pleasure.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

What do you want me to do for you?

This week we’ve been preparing worship with the story of Bartimaeus, (Mark 10:46-52) a blind man who wanted to get to Jesus but was shushed and pushed aside by the crowd.  Children and youth most certainly know what it feels like to be shushed, told to wait because more important people are talking, instructed to get out of the way because they’re too small, not significant.  When this happen to Bartimaeus, he is not deterred, even though the crowd is “sternly ordered him to be quiet.”  I cringe thinking of the way I may sometimes have been overly ‘stern.’ But unlike a frustrated parent or teacher who has had enough of interruptions and begging, Jesus turns toward the nuisance. 

“What do you want me to do for you?”  Jesus gives Bartimaeus agency and Bartimaeus receives sight.  And then he becomes Jesus’ follower!  

It can be really hard to listen to children when they are being ‘pests’.  We teach them that to be respectful they need to be quiet.  I ran into a funny video this week in which three parents talk to each other as if they were talking to children and the first 10 seconds hilariously illustrate how ridiculous it would sound if we shut down another adult for inserting an opinion or response.

Okay, I’m not saying it’s bad to teach respect.  But I had a bit of a ‘How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk’ moment with the text.  When he is given agency and a voice, Bartimaeus becomes Jesus’ follower.  He makes a choice toward relationship with the one who listened.  That’s certainly what we want with our own children and what we want in their relationship with Jesus and their faith.d their faith.