Let the Renewal Continue!

Thirty-two years yesterday–June 11, 1978–some intrepid souls gathered for the first worship service of Metropolitan Community Church of Richmond. They bravely renewed their relationship with Jesus, and invited others to do so as well.

Ninety days ago, I began Renewal (sabbatical), as did all those who carry on the life of the church those pioneers began. I am grateful for the renewal period that is drawing to a close, and am grateful to the pioneers who began it all.

I am stronger for this time of rest, study, and reflection–and I know that as I return to church tomorrow to join in the anniversary celebration I will see that the entire community has been strengthened.

I have spent much of the Renewal learning more about spiritual leadership. One thing I know above all others from study and prayer these past 90 days is this: spiritual leadership arises from spirit-centered living.

Thus, as I begin a gradual return to pastoral duties over the next month, I am committed to living and leading a new way: putting regular spiritual practice at the center of my life and work.

Renewing at 32–and for me, at almost twice that age!–is only the beginning. Let the renewal continue, trusting in the Spirit!

You Shall Have No Other Gods . . .

“When Jesus said, ‘Love your enemies,’ he probably meant don’t kill them.”

I thought of that bumper sticker when I came across an advertisement recently for  rifles. The ad showed a person wearing a gunbelt, a six-shooter in one holster and a Bible in the other. The tag line read, “There is nothing wrong with clinging to your guns and religion,” a quote from Henry Imperato, President of Henry Repeating Arms.

I do not oppose the 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, protecting the right to bear arms, but I do wonder sometimes why some people spend so much energy making sure they and others can buy any gun they want. And I am quite clear that Jesus wouldn’t be much interested in owning one himself, or advising others to do so either–except if we needed one to kill in order to eat and feed our family (alas, he was not a vegetarian).

Mr. Imperato may be correct, in a constitutional sense (see 1st and 2nd Amendments), but theologically he seems off base: if one clings to guns as strongly as one clings to religion, then guns have become as strong a force as religion. Perhaps, they have even become the religion, or God.

That I do oppose (see the 1st and 2nd Commandments, among other authorities).

Losing Myself

I spent much of yesterday and today reading—probably to many they are not very exciting books: Understanding Your Congregation as a System, and Leaders Who Last.

But I really enjoy them. The writing is engaging and the authors discuss concerns that really matter to me: how to understand, serve, and lead the people God gathers in the congregation I call home. I also am reading the autobiography of Gandhi as well as a novel, The Postmistress.

I cannot remember a time in my life when I did not like to read. But sometimes I have gotten so busy that I did not take time to read, to really lose myself in a good book (or books). One thing I have reconnected with on my 90-day Renewal/sabbatical is my love of reading–and its importance in my work as a spiritual leader. 

Still, as much as I enjoy reading, I probably would not have done much these two days. Instead, I would have enjoyed the beautiful, cool, weather by working outside. However, due to a small injury to my left foot, I have been advised to put my foot up, and ice it. Can’t do much outside work that way.

Working outside in the dirt is a spiritual practice for me. So is reading. Both help me lose myself in something bigger than me.

Yellow Is Not His Color

Recently, I attended the high school graduation of my great-nephew, Charlie–a star football player and a fine scholar. I am so proud of him, and believe he will go far.

I enjoyed the entire ceremony–even the false fire alarm which sent us outside for 45 minutes. Only one (planned) thing, namely the caps and gowns, seemed off.

The school colors are red and gold. Can you guess what happened?

Yes. The male graduates wore red caps and gowns, and the female graduates wore gold (and each woman carried a yellow rose). Everyone looked good and it made for a colorful spectacle.

But, I admit to being sensitive to gender issues. So I kept wondering if, out of 150 graduates, there were any whose gender identity was less than clear. What would that person wear? A red gown but carry a yellow rose? Or a yellow gown but no flower (or perhaps a red cap)? Or simply wear the cap and gown of the “different” gender?

It all begins at birth–“It’s a boy!” or “It’s a girl!”–and we seem never to stop putting folks into boxes. I wish we could recognize the reality of there being more than two genders.

Having said that, I am glad Charlie wore red. Yellow is not his color.