Dear Partners in Ministry,
Each week I look at my calendar and try to visualize my week. What needs to be done? Where I need to be & when? And then I laugh. After 31 years of ministry I have learned that no matter how much I try to organize (read that ďcontrolĒ) my time and how I spend it, it doesnít work. I stand in the shower each morning and break the day into blocks in my mind: morning, afternoon, and evening. I try to visualize what I can get done in between the major events/meetings/appointments of the day. Then, as I step out of the shower, I hear the phone ring. The call brings the news that thereís a problem somewhere, with someone, and there goes my carefully constructed day. Itís the nature of ministry. And from what Iím hearing from those around me, itís not just a problem for us ministers.
We all have our ways of trying to maintain control of our lives. Our world promotes the principle that if we just have the right attitude, if we just have the right technique, if we just have enough discipline we can have things the way we want them. But itís just not true, itís an illusion. Illness happens. Accidents happen. Unemployment happens. People with other agendas happen. Life happens!
The only way Iíve found to thrive under the pressures and countervailing demands upon my time is to acknowledge that my time is not my own. It belongs to God. Now Iíve known this for years. I learned it in Confirmation when I was taught the first article of the Apostlesí Creed and Lutherís explanation of it. Everything that I am and have has been given to me by my Creator. This is reaffirmed each week as I join in the offertory prayer, ďMerciful Father, we offer with joy and thanksgiving what you have first given us Ė ourselves, our time, and our possessions, signs of your gracious love.Ē Unfortunately, itís only after I try to take control and find that my way isnít working that I, in desperation, hand it over to God. Itís called going back to the basics of the faith and learning to prayÖĒThy will be doneĒ and mean it!
Last week I caught myself complaining that I had wasted my whole morning. Itís not that I was sitting around staring at the wall; I was busy. But I wasnít doing any of the things that I thought I should be doing. I was getting frustrated and irritated when I stopped myself, took a deep breath and acknowledged that God obviously had other plans for my morning. Not two minutes later the phone rang and the answer to a problem that I had put on a back burner for lack of a solution arrived out of thin air. It was amazing! Was it coincidence? No one will ever convince me that it was. If I had been doing what I had planned to be doing that morning, I wouldnít have been around to get the phone call and would still have a nagging problem on my hands.
Itís amazing the way in which the Lord works in our midst, accomplishing his will in spite of us and our best intentions.
If this is true for our personal lives, itís also true for our community life. In all of our PLUM congregations we are working on plans for the future of our ministries. So far, weíve had two retreats where our leaders have challenged each other, shared ideas, encouragement and enthusiasm. These retreats have been helpful and invigorating to say the least. One of the outcomes of our work together is the Macedonian Project. What a surprising and creative way to demonstrate support for a congregation in need of help with outreach ministry! Sending out missionaries from our congregations! Thatís what weíll be doing for the next three months: sending missionaries to Bethlehem Lutheran to help with their outreach to their community. If this idea proves beneficial then we will have another tool in our collective belt to help congregations struggling with outreach ministry to our communities.
But, some may say, weíve made plans before and they havenít worked. Thatís right. A part of the process of ministry is experiencing the frustration and irritation of seeing our plans hit snags, encounter obstacles, and undergo changes as we move forward. We can focus on our irritation and frustration. We can spend our time complaining and trying harder to take control of things. Or, we can go back to the basics and remind ourselves that the future of our ministry is in Godís hands and, when our plans donít go the way we expect, we need to stay alert because itís very likely God is working a new thing in our midst. If itís the devil thatís working to thwart us, we can trust God to give us the guidance and help we need to deal with him, too. All we have to do is keep the faith and keep moving.
Thatís the Good News of this Easter/Ascension/Pentecost season. All this month, we continue our celebration of our Lordís victory over sin and death and his promise to share this new life with us! Because Easter was so late this year, we wonít celebrate Christís glorious ascension into heaven until June 2. Then, we will conclude the Easter cycle with the Festival of Pentecost (again, in June, on the 12th!), when we celebrate the Holy Spirit descending upon the disciples in wind and fire. These celebrations remind us that our risen and ascended Lord is now free from the bonds of time and space. His promise to be with us always is fulfilled in the gift of his Holy Spirit who empowers us in our belief and service in his holy name.
Weíve got the promise that Christ is with us! Weíve got the power of the Holy Spirit working in, with, and through us! Weíve got our brothers and sisters in PLUM sharing our journey with all of its challenges. So, why waste time and energy on the struggle to maintain control when our gracious and faithful God has a better plan for our days, our weeks, our years...our lives?! Try handing the controls over to the Lord and see...the results will amaze you!
Grace and peace this Eastertide,
Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church of Sheraden, 3102 Sherwood Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15204 412-331-0600