God’s potterly hands reach down constantly to work the clay of creation. Scripture is full of stories of leaders, as potter’s apprentices, re-forming the beloved community: Josiah, Jehoshaphat, Nehemiah, Paul and, of course, Jesus. Some reformers get to experience the new community and others glimpse its possibility. “I can almost see it from here,” said Moses from the top of Mount Pisgah.
What reforming could we see if we gathered in retreat on our own Mt Pisgah in Winthrop, Maine and if our eyesight could extend across the MidMaine District? What re-forming do we long for with our God hungry hearts? Are we committed to what reform will require of us: closer reading of scripture, committed time in prayer alone and in fellowship, seeing our neighbors with new eyes? These are the elements of previous reforms in Christian history.
This weekend, Christians across the western world will celebrate the influence, if not the perfection, of German reformer Martin Luther. Luther …. taught that every person — butcher, baker or homemaker — is called by God. So, when United Methodists say that every person — whether lay or clergy — is called to ministry, they are echoing Luther. (UMNS) Luther’s effect on Western civilization has been profound. Although he was famous not only for his radical re-formation ideas, but also for his fierce advocacy of the implications he drew from scripture, his ideas opened the way toward a pluralist world. “Going into the Reformation, the assumption was that to have a united empire, everybody had to be of the same confession,” [Dr. Anna M Johnson] said. “It’s a huge shift to say we can have parts of the empire that belong to different confessions and this will not undermine the empire as a whole. We don’t need to have uniformity to still have a cohesive society that functions.” (UMNS)
The roadmap to reform matters. (There’s also a Pisgah in Boothbay Harbor, do we know which way we’re going when we set out for either of these beautiful views?) For Jesus followers, scripture is our roadmap. Hearing Luther’s preface to the Romans re-formed John Wesley’s understanding of his own salvation on that famously heartwarming night, May 24, 1738.
Yet part of our own re-forming comes with eyes across history that see the damage done by Luther’s toxic views of Jewish neighbors. John Wesley thought that what Luther needed was a good honest discipleship group to help form him! Wesley wrote of Luther in 1749. “But O! what pity that he had no faithful friend! None that would, at all hazards, rebuke him plainly and sharply, for his rough, untractable spirit, and bitter zeal for opinions, so greatly obstructive of the work of God!" (UMNS)
As we mark this 500th anniversary of the Reformation, may our own hearts be moved toward that deeper discipleship together that will lead to us being more like Jesus when we go to sleep each night than we were when we arose in the morning. Life in Christ is that simple, and that difficult.
Your Partner in Christ, Karen
I realized at breakfast today that I am part of a strange community. Here we are at Rolling Ridge Retreat Center, blessed with brilliant autumn views of Lake Cochichewic, gathered as the Board of Ordained Ministry to interview provisional elders and deacons for the leadership of the church (and to accomplish many other vital tasks like planning for support of Licensed Local Pastors, and anti-racism work. And just as I was scooping some oatmeal into my bowl to fortify myself for the long day ahead, a voice spoke up inviting us to prayer. Each person in that busily humming room stopped mid-sentence, mid-scoop, mid-phone check to open ourselves to grace pouring into the room. It wasn’t the first time this strange community thought has struck me like an illuminating arrow, that to stop is as pleasing to God as to go. Each has a purpose in our Inward/outward journeys together.
[God] said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest. -Exodus 33: 14
During my conversations with pastors this year, time management was the #1 resource request. Moses was a busy man. In charge of moving thousands of people of all ages and capacities into wilderness, away from well-known and practiced bondage and toward unknown territory. He led in extreme conflict. You name the type of human conflict and it happened during his watch: with the regime, with local leaders, with neighbors, with his brother (and assistant), and with God. Did people think it was strange when he took intensive time “off” to listen to, wrestle with, and be refreshed by God? It seems to me that they got into the most trouble when they were unwilling to follow his Sabbathing example and tried to just get on with pressing issues.
Making our time “work” is not a matter of better calendar systems or other organizational tools (though they are very helpful in their place). Making our time matter comes when we remember why we are here, to encounter, be formed by, and share the radical love of our creating God. Managing to spend time with God is not dessert, it’s the feast. Like Moses, when our priorities flow out of set aside time and like the Board of Ordained Ministry, when we are vulnerable to God’s interruptions, our lives take on a strange quality. Time flows around God’s presence and purpose instead of feeling cobbled together by our own efforts to balance it all.
“Taste and See” by James Moore
Taste and see, taste and see
the goodness of the Lord.
Oh, taste and see, taste and see
the goodness of the Lord, of the Lord.
1 I will bless the Lord at all times.
Praise shall always be on my lips;
my soul shall glory in the Lord;
for God has been so good to me. (Refrain)
2 Glorify the Lord with me.
Together let us all praise God's name.
I called the Lord, who answered me;
from all my troubles I was set free. (Refrain)
3 Worship the Lord, all you people.
You’ll want for nothing if you ask.
Taste and see that the Lord is good;
in God we need put all our trust. (Refrain)
Karen L Munson
A pastor and artist, I'm wondering while I'm wandering through God's marvelous creation.