Monday, July 25, 2011

Fear, Farming, Forclosure, and Seed Planting

One of the recurring themes in the scriptures for the last several Sundays is agricultural--sowing seeds, buying fields, etc... Today, The Rev. Thomas Brackett, my redevelopment mentor and the Program Officer for Church Planting and Redevelopment at Episcopal Church Center, had this to say in his latest blog entry:
The difference between [urgency and desperation] is incredibly important. Desperation stifles creativity and the capacity to listen deeply for the future that is longing to emerge in that moment. Urgency is the shot of courage necessary to take action and learn from the outcomes. Desperation is often borne out of a sense of institutional narcissism that believes that it really IS all about us!....I guess the difference between the two might be compared to the difference between "betting the farm" and losing the farm to foreclosure. Can you feel it?
As we continue to do the challenging work of redevelopment at St. Edward's, this is a key distinction. We need to avoid the temptation to slide into an attitude of fearful desperation. At the same time, we need to cultivate a sense of what one might call "holy urgency"--a sense in which we are no longer content with the status quo, not because we don't like what we have but because we have a deepening sense that God is calling us to be more than we have been in the past. This "holy urgency" is directed outwards, not inwards. It is a commitment to re-engaging with our community and serving the world in Christ's name. It is also a commitment to investing funds and time that we view as limited and finite, and taking the risk that some of our initiatives will "fail" and become learning experiences. Such a "failure" was our 10 a.m. Contemporary Service--it did not reach the necessary number of core members to be sustainable so we opted to step back, learn from that experience, and move forward.

I invite you to be a part of the discernment phase of this redevelopment work and to get a sense of "holy urgency" in the process. We will be meeting as a congregation this coming Sunday, July 31 following the 9 a.m. service to talk about where the Vestry and I believe we are called to go in the future and how we might best get there. Please come prepared to have both difficult and life-giving conversations about the future of St. Edward's, and bring both a dish to share in our potluck and a determination to share in our discussions. See you then!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

"Don't Blame! Don't Complain!" but do Pray and Offer All

One of my colleagues recently brought the following "campaign" to my attention:

While I'm not really excited about the theology that says that God actively controls all aspects of our lives and therefore allows, or worse, causes calamities to occur, that sense of being thankful for our blessings and learning and growing from our difficulties is an excellent reminder!

I'm in the process of mulling over the lessons appointed for next Sunday, July 31 (Fr. Lawrence Robles of Santa Maria Urban Ministry will be preaching this coming Sunday).  The Gospel lesson is the generally well-known story of the Feeding of the Multitudes (4,000, 5,000, whatever...).  Of the many lessons to be gleaned from this story, perhaps the most powerful one is that when we offer all that we have to God, for God's use, God will give us the resources to accomplish God's purposes. This is no "prosperity Gospel" that says that if you "invest in God" you will reap monetary rewards. Rather it encourages us not to be discouraged at what may seem meager resources in the face of so much need. Rather, God takes, blesses, breaks, and gives all that we offer, and more, back to us for accomplishing God's will in the world.

This is a hard lesson to learn in an era of tight budgets and a climate of fear and scarcity. It is hard to focus on God's abundance in the face of a deficit budget. Yet the command Jesus addresses to his disciples continues to be addressed to us: "Bring them here to me." Bring what you have, ask that it be blessed, and use it to feed the world.