Finally, I'm out of the Proverbs. It's not that I don't like them, I do. And it's not that they bored me, they didn't. Evidently, I'm not as ADHD as I thought I was. Just as I was getting into one of the thoughts that the writer of Proverbs presented, it was over. Just one or two lines and then on to something else.
It's funny that I had problems with that. I admittedly have a very short attention span, so you would think that those kinds of writings would be right up my alley. But they left me wanting more. Such is much of life.
I'm sitting here in the midst of our 2010 Annual Conference (And to those who are wondering, yes, I'm still here). I'm listening to the conversations in the halls and around the coffee pots. I'm hearing some complain and some brag. I'm watching the politics from a distance as I am not a fan of politics, and certainly not in the church.
This morning, I didn't get to blog first thing after waking like I usually do so I felt like I was behind the 8 ball from the very beginning. But now, I finally caught a few minutes where I could catch up on my reading, and the reading this morning was from Ecclesiastes. Oh, I love Ecclesiastes. Maybe Solomon wrote it, maybe he didn't, but to me that doesn't matter. What matters is the words that are written. This morning, from Ecclesiastes 4 come these words:
"And I saw that all labor and all achievement spring from man's envy of his neighbor. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind."
Ouch, Solomon. Ouch. Over and over the author makes a statement and then follows it with... "And this too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind."
You know, I certainly don't pretend to have all the answers. I wouldn't be so pretentious as to even begin to think I have the answers...but.... if we as the church are engaged in things that the writer of Ecclesiastes says are just chasings after the wind, why are we surprised that we are no longer as effective as we once were?
When clergy are more concerned about salary than salvation, and laity only want a young pastor with 2.5 kids and no pets, and churches are turning inward at a rate that threatens to break the sound barrier, why are we surprised at the shape we're in?
Let me just say that I love our denomination. I was born a Methodist, and see no reason why I won't die a Methodist. I love the work we do globally, I love the freedom we have in worship, I love the fact that we recognize our need for grace and God's relentless attempts to offer that grace. But...
...but what if we quit chasing after the wind and went to back to work? I'm just thinking out loud, and I will probably catch some flack over this. What if while we are here conferencing together, we spent less time fighting over money and benefits, and who gets what, and what if we spent a little less energy trying to climb the ladder, and spent more time in dialogue with those who actually need our help? To me, that's where we're lacking...as clergy, and as laity.
Now, I may be cutting my throat here, but I'm skipping out for a couple hours in the morning. Why? Because I have been feeling the need within the very core of my being to go back to the place where I was taught what real ministry is, to Manna House on Jefferson in Memphis. This is a place where real people's real needs are really being met. There are no wordy prayers or lengthy reports, but there is love with feet and the very real presence of Christ.
I hope that I'm not coming across as overly negative towards what we do here for three days each year, but I do feel that at the very least, some of what we do here are chasings after the wind. Until we are as familiar with homeless shelters and food kitchens as we are with the decorations in our office...until we have held the icy hand of someone who spent the night under a bridge...until we see the desperation in their eyes and maybe even share a soup kitchen meal with someone, we will always and only be chasing after the wind.
We can debate and talk all we want, but I think Jesus is ready for us to quit chasing the wind. I think it's time for us as the church, regardless of which side of the pulpit we sit on, to hear the words of Mary as told by Rick Kirchoff last night in his message on the wedding at Cana, "You see that man sitting over there, that's my boy. Do whatever he tells you to."
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