Monday, January 22, 2007

Irrelevant Pursuits

We all want to matter.

Don’t we?

Don’t we all somehow want to think that at the end of our days that what we’ve said, done has made a difference?

It’s a noble thought, but only if what drives our desire to matter is clear – pure.

In our worship during these days, our congregation is living with Henri Nouwen’s profound book, “In the Name of Jesus – Reflections on Christian Leadership.”

My goal is framing my homilies around Nouwen’s words are not merely to have us somehow emulate someone else’s journey.

Rather, it is to use our awareness of who Jesus is to help give form and direction to our own, especially now as we believe we're called to lead the church into gospel hospitality.

This preaching series has been quite a point of departure for me. I have observed the lectionary as a discipline for 20 years. Quite literally, I took my first appointment as Associate Pastor at Old Hickory United Methodist Church outside of Nashville, 20 years ago this June.

So to give myself permission to veer from that is not something I feared, rather it was something I ran to.

I've found it a welcomed break from texts that folks who've been with me know into my sixth year have heard me preach twice.

And while I’ll return to those prescribed scriptures at Lent, for now, using the temptation of Jesus in Matthew and the post-Easter exchange between Jesus and Peter as a guide, Fr. Nouwen’s journey helps us deal with the spiritual dis-eases of our days and offers the way to lead the church.

The most notable of those things we need to give up – the desire, if not outright lust – to be relevant. In the wilderness temptation, Nouwen contends that the true meaning of the tempter’s encounter with Jesus was to convince Jesus that he mattered, but on terms not in keeping with who he really was.

God help each of us, when our lust for relevance gets in the way of our call. And what is that call? To walk in the way of the Servant, “who, though in the form of God, did not count equality with God something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, and became obedient unto death on a cross – so that, at his name every knee should bow, and tongue confess that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God.” (Philippians 2 paraphrase)

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