This morning, I was reading a post from Nadia Bolz-Weber, a copy of her “State of the House” address to her congregation at their congregational meeting. And, there was one little paragraph that jumped out at me, that really struck me:
“This week Barbara Brown Taylor, a wonderful preacher and writer, took me out to coffee and when she said “tell me about the church you serve” she said that when started talking about this congregation my face lit up. ‘You are obviously in love’ she said and she’s right. Not that you don’t also make me totally crazy, of course you do. And I make you crazy and somehow we seem to all get over it pretty quickly.”
Let me highlight the part that really got me: “You are obviously in love.”
Yesterday (Sunday) was a whirlwind of a day for me: I preached and led worship twice on Pentecost, and also said goodbye to my internship congregation, St. Barnabas Lutheran, as it was my last day with them. Then, in the afternoon, I graduated with a Master of Divinity from Luther Seminary.
The speakers at graduation gave what I would consider typical graduation speeches, with of course, the expected faith/mission/gospel/Christian emphasis, whatever you want to call it. We got a “pep talk” from the student speaker, a call to “not be boring” because “God is not boring,” as leaders in the church, “we gooder than that,” and “now get to it!” (Yup, she referenced Kid President) In short, to go out and be God’s agents to “change the world.”
Let me say this: it wasn’t a bad message (and I happen to like Kid President too), but it left a bit of a sick feeling in my stomach. Maybe because for the most part, I don’t know if I can be “gooder” at “being awesome” and “not being boring.” I don’t know if I can change the world like that. I don’t know if I can proclaim the gospel like that (and I sure as hell know I can’t preach like her…she really got the place rocking). I don’t know if I can proclaim a gospel like that.
But, I do know I can love people. I can love people because God in Christ loved me first. If I can love people, I can have the courage to hear the hard things and say the hard things. If I can love people, I can have the humility to allow them to love me, and allow myself to learn from their wisdom. If i can love people, I’ll stop worrying about schedules and tasks and take the time for conversation, and to pay attention to them. If I can love people, I can trust they understand and accept that I am not perfect, and neither are they….but we keep on moving and living together anyway. If I can love them, maybe they’ll come to know something about this God who truly loves them, and does all things for them out of that love.
I think, like Nadia, if my face lights up when I tell people about others – like when I talk about my Augsburg College wrestlers, the folks at St. Barnabas Lutheran and other congregations I’ve been a part of – if it’s evident that I truly love them, and not in some co-dependent, shallow, self-serving sort of way – then maybe I’m on the right track.
PS: I have to share this picture….Tony Fair, a friend and seminary classmate, died this past winter after a long battle with cancer. The seminary awarded him a degree posthumously, and his boys were present to receive it. Easily the best moment of the ceremony…you’re missed Tony, always!