I have blogged recently about how we experience community in the church. We are brothers and sisters, we are family members, we are members of one body and all the parts work together. Because of our relationships in Christ, what forms is a kind of intimacy with each other. This closeness grows as we learn together, worship together and serve together--but especially when we risk together. The risks we take can be internal risks of trust and grace--can I share authentically with this person and still be accepted? Other risks are external risks of experimentation and leadership--can we walk through this new door together and come out the other side still friends, still trusting God together?
The real joy of ministry is never the predictable times of meetings, worship services or planning sessions, but it is always those times of risk, both internally and externally where we depend on God together and we actually are transformed. That change is miraculous because it's not something we expected or planned on, or anything we could have actually done on our own--it took God and the other in our lives.
So what happens when those relationships of trust and grace and intimacy, of history and shared memories suddenly end through death?
As a pastor there are many ways to deal with the loss. One is compartmentalizing. That's when we put those relationships in clean lines and boxes in a way that distance us from real grief. That wasn't a friend, that was a congregant. Being a pastor means when I lead a memorial service of remembrance, I don't attend as one who grieves. Being in charge means I use a different side of the brain--more thinking, less feeling.
Another way is theological. They're in a better place. God is good all the time.
Yet another way is logically. We're all going to die someday. This just happened to be sooner than we all expected.
I'm not any good at any of these responses. I'm first and foremost a person, not a pastor. And what my mind does as a pastor sometimes robs me from what I need to experience, what I want to experience as a person.
In the past 5 years I've lost three friends who were all involved in those great formative years of ministry with students. We learned together what it meant to have joy in serving--real joy because we struggled, prayed, failed, laughed and cried, and we made a difference together.
I miss Maynard, Geoff and Rawley. I thank God for the relationships. I'm thankful for lessons learned, for real transformation in my life and theirs, and for a bit of the Kingdom of God we experienced together.
Sunday was my last at Solana Beach Presbyterian Church for the next four months while I’m on
sabbatical. Paula Taylor reminded us of what was true about us and the church:
We love God, his church and each other; the church loves us, wants us to be
blessed while on sabbatical, and look forward to our return. Paula then prayed
a prayer of blessing for us. Hands raised, the congregation was sending us
away, so that we might be refreshed and renewed to return again. She prayed for
God’s presence to be with us as we journey together to Israel, and then walk
the five-hundred mile Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route. We
all prayed together from the Northumbria Community... Christ,
as a light illumine and guide me.Christ,
as a shield overshadow me.Christ
beside me on my left and my right.This
day be within and without me,lowly
and meek, yet all-powerful.Be
in the heart of each to whom I speak;in
the mouth of each who speaks unto me.This
day be within and wit…
We decided to walk 22km to the outskirts of Santiago and walk the last few kilometers in the morning.
Neither of us could sleep, so we got up, packed our mochilas for the last time and walked to the old city at 5am. It was dark and rather than being joined by other pilgrims, we passed a few late night partiers and a woman walking her dog. It's not the entrance into Santiago we pictured, but we were all alone in the Praza do Obradoiro in front of the Cathedral.
It was June 17—thirty-eight days and 780 kilometers since we started May 11, in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port.
We were two of the first ten pilgrims in line for our compostelas, which meant we got tickets for a free lunch at the historic parador. Peter from Australia showed up and introduced us to Michael and Linda from Washington DC, who also got the lucky tickets.
Peter also knew Ted and Darlene from Winnipeg, and gave them contact, since my phone died and we couldn't contact them. But we …
In 1981, the summer between my junior and senior year at UCLA, I studied in Madrid for six weeks. I had declared my Spanish major the previous September because I could graduate in four years with AP units and because I loved the language. I saw a flyer for the summer program with Bryn Mawr’s Centro de Estudios Hispánicos. I got accepted to the program with a scholarship. I packed my bags and backpack and began my first trip to Europe. Not many of my friends studied abroad, and no one in my family had traveled to Europe. Just a few years ago my mom told me she cried all the way back from the airport.
I had never been to a nation’s capitol, even our own. Madrid’s monuments, fountains, post office that looked like a palace, wide boulevards, narrow alleys and the expansive Retiro Park inspired me. I was taken by Spain’s romantic history of kings and queens, art, culture, buildings, the independence of food, I experienced the independence of travel and the journey with other students in d…