This morning, I'm going to leave the Song of Solomon and jump in with Paul for a few minutes. Paul is writing to the church at Philippi, a group of folks that he evidently loved dearly and felt no small amount of pastoral care for. But Paul hasn't always had such an easy row to hoe and he doesn't mind telling you about it.
This morning he's talking about being in chains. For him, that has been a good thing because he sees it as a way to encourage those around him and advance the gospel, that's what he says. To a certain extent, I agree. His chains are the sufferings he's endured, and most anyone who has done work in the church, whether clergy or laity, will agree that Paul's sufferings are not imagined. It's tough work. Being out in front means that your back is an easy place to hang a target. But...Paul wasn't afraid.
I also feel as if I'm in chains, but of a different kind than Paul is talking about. My chains are not necessarily a list of sufferings or difficulties that I have faced in my ministry, although there have been plenty of those. My chains are more like those chains that take away my own freedom to do as I please. I am chained to One who is leading me into places I have never been, and I'm not scared.
I hadn't really noticed the chains so much until just very recently. You see, I have always had trouble distinguishing what was Jamie's wants and what was the call of God. It's been something I've struggled with for years now. But recently, what I have felt called to do is totally opposite of what Jamie wants to do. Let me explain.
I don't like confrontation at all. As out there and rebellious as I might appear to be, I don't like confrontation. I know that what I am being called to do right now might possibly lead to some difficult conversations. Jamie, that's me, would prefer to not have to go there. My District Superintendent told me when I came to this appointment that I was coming to rest for a while after seminary. My Jewish carpenter boss is telling me otherwise. So, therefore, the chains metaphor.
I am extremely excited about the call I have been given in the last 8 months or so. I can't wait to get started on it, and hopefully I can get half a dozen or so folks from the church on board with me. And this is part of what I love about my job. No matter what I might want for myself, I sometimes have to yeild to my chains. It would be so easy to ignore the nudgings I've been getting lately, or to pretend that it's not the One speaking that I'm sure it is, or to just try to justify the many reasons why I shouldn't do this, but...I can't. Why? Because of my chains.
But here's what's so cool. Paul was chained to his sufferings like some self appointed martyr. I'm chained to the One leading me into these unchartered waters, which means, wherever I go during this new adventure, there is no chance that I will be going alone. And that makes it alright. If I struggle, or even if it seems as if failure is my lot, I am still chained to the One who has led me there. I think we have a great number of pastors and church leaders who have either never grasped that concept, or are too busy trying to please themselves that they have chosen to ignore it.
So, my friends, it's time to rattle some chains. I'm about to ask First Church to step out into the mission field in a way they have never before, but as long as we remember that we are chained to the Spirit, it's going to be alright. So, don't even bother looking for the keys to unlock the chains, we don't need them.
And as I said the other day, if you're curious, bored, tired of the same ol' same old, or church as you perceive it isn't working anymore, come to First Church Sunday morning as I begin to cast the vision. I'm not going to be unveiling all of the details, but Sunday the vision begins to unfold. If you can't make it Sunday, give me a call or shoot me a text 270-748-9619. If you are looking to be chained to something much bigger than we are, I want to talk to you. If you're not scared and if you're ready to begin the adventure of a lifetime, I want to talk to you.