Thursday, May 26, 2011

Falling in Love With the Church

Me being ordained in 2010, with my wife, the Bishop
and other elders laying hands on me.
My calling to pastoral ministry was a little odd. Other pastors talked about growing up in church, about how much it meant to them. They spoke about little old ladies pinching their cheeks and telling them they will make a fine pastor some day, and about youth pastors and older pastors giving them leadership roles and letting them "try on" pastoring for size. There seemed to be a rather clearly-marked path that led right through college to seminary and into the pulpit.

Not me. True, I was a child in church. I have memories of Pastor Ken Metzger yelling passionate sermons (and even scaring me a little), of Pastor Buff Hearn playing his guitar in church (can you really do that?!), of my mom playing the organ, of going to Sunday school and Vacation Bible School. And of course, my chubby cheeks were sufficiently pinched. I was a well-behaved church kid. But I didn't stay very active in church. And I was certainly never going to become a pastor.

Needless to say, things changed. There were a number of steps along that road that eventually did lead on to seminary and into the pulpit. Those seasons can be celebrated (and cursed) in other posts. But there was one main thing that opened my eyes and heart to pastoring: I fell in love with the church.

It wasn't just memories of bazaars and revivals and Christmas Eve candlelight services; of my grandfather being the first to arrive at church on Sunday to make the coffee and my grandmother leading Bible studies for the ladies circles. It was those things. But more than that, it was freaky mind-blowing stuff like this:

"I ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory, to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life he has for his followers, oh, the utter extravagance of his work in us who trust him--endless energy, boundless strength!

"All this energy issues from Christ: God raised him from death and set him on a throne in deep heaven, in charge of running the universe, everything from galaxies to governments, no name and no power exempt from his rule. And not just for the time being, but forever. He is in charge of it all, has the final word on everything. At the center of all this, Christ rules the church. The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church. The church is Christ's body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence." (Ephesians 1:17-23, The Message)

Not a bad way to spend a life. Of course one needn't be a pastor to be part of this. (Indeed, that might be a last resort for many of us.) No, it is the people: organ-playing moms and coffee-making grandfathers, guitar-playing pastors and cheek-pinching old ladies, young and old women and men with light or dark skin in cathedrals or huts playing organs or djembes, thousands in an arena or a dozen in a living room--all knit together...forever...joined to God at the center of eternity. Even me. Even you.

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