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Archive for May, 2007

pastorAccording to this study done by the University of Chicago, out of 198 professions surveyed, being in ministry – clergified, if you will – ranked far and away as a number 1 in job satisfaction.

These are very interesting findings. In my life I’ve had several careers, from cooking in gourmet kitchens, to computer software, to catering, to being a hospital chaplain and now I’m a parish pastor. I have to say, the diversity of what I get to do in ministry is very satisfying. Getting to know people at a very deep level is also very deeply satisfying. There are challenges, of course, but I do love this work God has called me to.

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jesusway.jpgMy newest acquisition is The Jesus Way by Eugene. I bought it the other day at Duke. It’s his newest book and its based on the lectures he delivered a number of years ago at Regent under the title Follow The Leader. So far, I really like what I’m reading. Actually, the old saying is true of this book and most of those written by EP: “You don’t read Eugene. Eugene reads you.”

His introduction is “The Purification of Means.” In it he address the the goals, the end, and the destination of Christians, the Church, and Culture and he looks at the Ways & Means (the process we take to achieve ends). I remember in his lecture on this topic he mentioned how the church needs a Ways & Means Commission like the U.S. Government, that is, the Church needs to be attentive to what it is we set as goals and what processes are in place to ensure that we get there following Jesus not following the world.

And here is the pinch, Eugene says. The ways and means of the world are rewarded and approved in this world because “things get done” and grandly conceived ends are achieved. But do these ways and means constitute what it means to follow Jesus? Do they exhibit a followership on our behalf or are we simply ambitious and drive just like a Herod, or Caiaphas, or Josephus?

In my personal experience, my productivity is what gets rewarded. My performance is how I’m evaluated. And clearly, you must use your gifts and talents in responsible and effective ways. But the trap is as subtle as a Sherman tank. Work hard, long, and creatively and you will be commended. Take a more subtle, quiet, relational approach and what happens? Relationships are strange because they aren’t linear. We can’t use words like successful or productive when characterizing or evaluating relationships.

Eugene then refers to Jesus’ metaphor when he calls himself the way. “Metaphor is our lexical witness to transcendence – to the more, the beyond, the within – to all that cannot be accounted for by our microscopes and telescopes, by our algebra and geometry, by pulse rate and blood pressure, by weights and measures…a witness to all the operations of the Trinity.”

If Jesus is our way, our path, our road, our highway to right relatedness with the Triune God what does walking this “way” look like? I don’t know the answer to that yet. But I do like this quote from Scott McKnight on “Getting the Gospel Right”: (from Out of Ur)

The gospel is the work of the Trinitarian God (a community of persons) to create the community of faith in order to restore humans (made in God’s image) through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ as well as through the empowering gift of the Holy Spirit to union with God and communion with others for the good of the self and the world. And all of this to the glory of God. What then is Christian spirituality? It is the person who is restored to God, to self, to others and the world – all four directions for all time – by a gospel that emerges from a “communal God” (the Trinity) to create a community that reflects who God is.

If relationships and community are at the heart of what Christian Spirituality is all about then what are the implications for the way we live, the way we function in relationship with others, the way we minister?

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My sons Noah and Caleb were outside having a water fight a few minutes ago. It’s amazing how terrified with joy little kids can be about cold water and a garden hose! They were having so much fun I had to get into the mix, so I emerged, to their delight, out the back door with about six cups of water. I doused them by surprise. Once my cover was blown, however, they staked out the back door waiting for me to peek out. When I did I got blasted along with the kitchen table. What a mess we made. Now they’re upstairs getting showers. Good times.

I think I’ll go grill some hotdogs.

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