Monday, September 23, 2013

A reflection on Ephesians and Arkansas

Ephesians 3
This is the reason that I Paul am a prisoner for Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles— for surely you have already heard of the commission of God’s grace that was given to me for you, and how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I wrote above in a few words, a reading of which will enable you to perceive my understanding of the mystery of Christ. In former generations this mystery was not made known to humankind, as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: that is, the Gentiles have become fellow-heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
 Of this gospel I have become a servant according to the gift of God’s grace that was given to me by the working of his power. Although I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given to me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ, and to make everyone see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things; so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was in accordance with the eternal purpose that he has carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have access to God in boldness and confidence through faith in him. I pray therefore that you may not lose heart over my sufferings for you; they are your glory.
 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
 Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever. 

This passage from Ephesians is one that means a great deal to me.  So much so that I will carry it with me forever...on the side of my calf that is.  It is important to me because it is a reminder of my calling.  To be a servant of the gospel of Jesus Christ for all people.  The Gospel that is love and proclamation of justice.  This passage is not just a reminder but it continuously humbles me because it clearly declares that this calling is not superficial but it is of God, from God, and in God.  This is a calling given by the power of God in accordance with the grace of God!! How powerful, how amazing, how humbling, how awesome a calling is this??  Too many times I find myself wandering around wondering what is coming next...
In the last two months I left seminary, moved to Louisville and then to Arkansas, have bought a house and am reapplying to seminary.  I have no job and feel at times like I am wandering aimlessly in the world.  Then I look down at my calf and am reminded I am a servant of this gospel, according to the grace of God given to me by the working of his power!  
This journey to Arkansas has been crazy.  Had you told me even 6 months ago I would end up here  I would have laughed!  But my fiancé and I have prayed and communicated and explored all of the possibilities that were in our path and God led us to Arkansas.  I still wake up at times and wonder what am I doing? Why did I ever leave seminary?  Why Arkansas?  But I am called to be a servant of the gospel as much here in Arkansas as I was in Austin, Hanover, or Louisville.  
I am longing to be back in a theological classroom.  I long to be back in the pulpit.  These things will come.  Until then I am embracing Arkansas.  I am embracing the outdoors and am spending my time planning a wedding and picking paint colors for our house.  I am learning to slow down and I am enjoying the quiet time I have.  Soon enough I will be in a classroom being fed again, until then God has me where God wants me.  Making neighbors and friends.  Learning more about myself and preparing to spend the rest of my life with the man I love and for now that is okay...I am still a servant of the gospel of Jesus Christ and I am enjoying the ride we are on.

Peace be within you,

Friday, September 13, 2013

The Astounding teachings of Jesus...

"Now when Jesus had finished saying these things the crowds were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes." Matthew 7:28-29

After hearing the sermon on the mount referred to a few times this week and spending some time with it I have been stuck on the concluding remarks made in the book in Matthew.  I am stuck because I feel as if we forget how radical and powerful Jesus' words are in those three chapters of Matthew.  I feel as if we are not astounded enough at the teachings of Jesus throughout the new testament. 

Part of this is a guilt trip I have been on for myself.  The last 12 months have been crazy. I have been busy, sick, self indulgent, tired, depressed, annoyed, and at times full of myself.  I have not been reflective.  I have not been receptive.  I have not been myself.  I am not writing to make excuses for myself but I am writing because it helps me to be reflective of and receptive to the grace that is before me.  My life has changed so much in the last 12 months and I have tried to take everything in stride, but this week reality has started to sink in...I am living in Arkansas, getting married, changing seminaries, making new friends, and entering into an entirely new way of life. 

This week has been refreshing for me.  Church on Sunday, chapel (at my fiancé's place of employment) on Wednesday, church supper and Bible study on Wednesday, and now an entire morning to sit and write.  I have been surrounded by scripture and prayer, good conversation, laughter, friendship, and gentle souls.  It is in this context that I was reading scripture this morning and came across these closing remarks to the sermon on the mount.  

So I pose these questions to myself and to you:  When was the last time you were astounded at the teachings of Christ?  When was the last time the proclamation of the Word left you in awe?  When was the last time you let yourself be receptive to and reflective of the grace of God?  What would our days be like if we could do these things daily?  Are we scared to let Christ into our lives in this way?  

Astonishment, amazement, joy, energy, love, grace, compassion, faithfulness, obedience, life.  What would our days look like if we were full of these things because of our attentiveness to Christ's teachings?  

My goal this year is to blog 3 days a week based on lectionary texts for the week.  It is my hope and prayer that I continue to be astounded by Christ and Christ's teachings.  It is my hope and my prayer that I will continue to reflect on God's amazing grace, and receptive to receiving it over and over and over again.  

Peace be within you all,