gentry13

Tuning Through the Static

In Uncategorized on May 26, 2011 at 2:50 pm

Submitted By: Gentry

the other day, while “cleaning” my desk, i picked up my esv study bible* and it felt foreign in my hands. over the last three months i’ve been leafing through the bible, but i haven’t seriously studied a text or said the word pericope once. there have been moments in the past where i didn’t think i could stand outlining one more text, pulling little kittel off my shelf, or bumbling through bibleworks’ greek nt. but now that i have some distance from my somewhat studious study practices, i miss it.

ok, i’ll be more honest, i miss a lot of it. i haven’t preached in three months. i miss wrestling with the text, listening for the Word, and reporting my paltry findings on sunday mornings. i miss presiding over the eucharist and feel a little bit envious of the marvelous priests at christ church who have that privilege every sunday. i miss playing a more active role in the sunday morning as together we wrap words around the Word and wait for the Spirit to turn that dialogue inside out. i don’t miss the coffee hour challenge of struggling to hear people’s stories and longings over the intermittent static issuing forth from post-sermon exhaustion and self-condemnation concerning my listening skills,** but what longing is ever unmixed?

fortunately, in this sabbatical season filled with long, sermonless weekends, God is leading me into intersections of unexpected connection and offering opportunities to work out my salvation with fear and trembling.

for instance, two weeks ago, before a presentation at work, a community partner asked me about my faith and revealed that her own grandfather had been an adventist pastor – not of the seventh day variety – on the south shore. she mentioned that while she was less explicit about her faith, the spirituality of her family informed her practice on a daily basis. as we continued to talk another collaborator joined us at the stained cafe table, spoke of camp experiences in her youth and, for a moment, it felt like the conversational rotation that incites many a small group meeting. then, as abruptly as it started, we adjourned for the previously scheduled meeting.

a couple of days later, i received an all company email that one of our long-time community members had died. as i was expressing slight shock, our hr director mentioned that we were fortunate that charlotte was involved in the grieving process because she alone had thought to take the longtime partner and housemate of the deceased to the hospital so that he could say goodbye to his beloved. when i first met char, i didn’t know what to make of her manic energy – in a one hour period she can call me with a request to research the gates foundation and hit me again with a demand to listen to her radio friend sound off in the elephant echo chamber – or her spiritualist faith. however, when i heard that she had set aside her, normally wisely boundaried, private time to walk our mutual friend through the grieving process, i was overcome. quite literally. i left the hr director’s office and immediately set off to find char. when i found her, i embraced her in gratitude for her great kindness and realized, for the first time, that in a very vital sense our calling is shared.

so, there’s that. and there is also the everyday privilege of laying my hand on the moppy brown or humidity curled hair of my son and daughter and saying a blessing. in those moments i often feel like buechner’s vision of godric, an utterly unworthy conduit of grace whose hands and prayers can sometimes bestow blessings all the same.

maybe this season is about tuning into the rhythms of every day ministry – which include pleasing my wife by doing things like “cleaning” my desk in circumstances that cannot be labelled duress – and reducing some of the static that renders me a remedial pastor. one can hope.

at the least, as i itch for the pulpit and look longingly at the altar, i’m aware that at the cafe table, on sorrow filled tuesday mornings, and beside my beautiful children, God is still working and willing in accordance with his good purpose.

* though restless, i am neither young nor reformed, but i appreciate the translation and am sold on the study notes and maps.

** forgive me, st. rogers, for my reflective listening skills are for shit.

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