Been sort of stuck this past week in terms of being able to get up and out of my head and heart the Holy Spirit whispers that have come my way at the morning readings. I shouldn’t be stuck. I have no reason to be. Ugh.
I left town last week to accompany a family member with a move, providing me with quiet time to connect some dots pertaining to my future ministry in God’s church as an ordained person. I was really looking forward to seeing more clearly where God was leading me in this new season while serving and helping at the same time.
But all week I have been unsettled and on the anxious side as I make my way through the appointed readings from the Book of Acts. This morning was the icing on the cake – the protestation from Peter to Cornelius to not kneel to him, that he was only a mortal, not divine, not Jesus.
25On Peter’s arrival Cornelius met him, and falling at his feet, worshipped him. 26But Peter made him get up, saying, ‘Stand up; I am only a mortal.’
Reminded me of the priest of my home parish who instructed the congregation not to kneel at communion but stand, because it made him feel uncomfortable. Thing was, none of us were kneeling to him in the first place.
But Peter’s humble protestation – though far from that of the parish priest I knew – triggered thoughts of all the ordained priests I know that have made ministry choices based more heavily on self – selfish – than on living into the ministry God called them to. They occupy a spectrum. On the one end that narcissist who saw his ministry’s effectiveness only through the lens of how he was perceived. And on the other end a priest who saw his ministry effectiveness through a universal lens blinding him to the particularity of the work God was doing through him at the local level. In both cases, the lens is turned towards self with little regard to the folks in the pews – a sort of lack of empathy, or superiority, or at minimum an authentic interest in the personal stories of the people to whom they have been called to minister.
So all week, I’ve faced these reminders of what ministry was and does look like in God’s church as chronicled in the Book of Acts. And I’ve been taking stock of the fact that I am – have been, forever it seems – stuck at the entrance – door open – looking at all these people doing what I believed I was called to do, educated to do, trained to do, have been doing. And yet, not all the way in the door.
And now, here I sit before this window looking out over Lake Michigan and staring at another set of clouds reminding me that my prayers and thoughts bubble up no matter where I am, to those that have gone before me and walked this path following Jesus, called to minister in God’s church.
But though reminded, I still feel stuck – stuck in the middle – stuck at the starting gate – stuck, stuck, stuck. And wondering how all these priests that occupy the two ends of a parish ministry spectrum, got through at all. And thinking about the fact that despite their dysfunctions, God worked – works – through them. That maybe because of their dysfunctions and insecurities God purposed them for ordained ministry.
Maybe this is the thought bubble these Lake Michigan clouds of witnesses are sending me. Maybe the Holy Spirit isn’t whispering but shouting out to me loud and clear, “You have not been purposed for ordained ministry!”
The opening verses of Psalm 18 are what I am coming back to in this roller coaster of a reflection.
1 I love you, O Lord my strength, *
O Lord my stronghold, my crag, and my haven.
2 My God, my rock in whom I put my trust, *
my shield, the horn of my salvation, and my refuge;
you are worthy of praise.
I put my trust in God and in this little moment, I am trusting I have heard rightly. I am not really stuck – maybe I’ve simply refused to move forward – refused to take the Lord’s hand onto the path He purposed for me all along, I am not really clear where or what that is, but I am more clear in this moment it may not be ordained ministry. And either way, my God is my refuge and worthy of praise.