Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Practicing What I'm Preaching

"The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet."   Frederick Buechner (Wishful Thinking: A Seeker's ABC)

My God, how many times I've used that line?  I've preached it for years. It's the framework on which so much of my sermon work is based. It's often shared in connection with Parker Palmer's "Let Your Life Speak," a book I've preached a series of sermons on a couple of times and referred to endlessly through the years.

Buechner's words ring true across time and space as both affirmation and provocation.

It's affirming when you know the moment (whenever that is and however it reveals itself) is matched with opportunity, and that opportunity elicits a Joseph Campbellesque proclamation of anthems and celebration of bliss.

It's provocation when the context of life is examined from the standpoint of "gladness" and "world's need," and neither of them have clear answers--or at least we're not willing to admit they do.

"What makes you happy?" "What makes you glad?" "What makes your heart rejoice?"

The wilderness wanderings of Lent makes the whole enterprise of finding real answers to those questions as hard a work as being in the wilderness in the first place.

But if Easter is about life springing forth from what once was dead--life resurrected and bursting from the tombs that bury our hopes, dreams, aspirations, character--even our integrity, then seeking the answers to those questions are the keys to passionate ministry, spiritual renewal, meaning itself...

I've preached those words for years. And this Lent? I'm living with them as I traverse the labyrinthine wilderness that is my life and what it will yet mean in the years ahead.

A hard thing, that....actually living into the words you proclaim. Maybe what makes it so difficult is resisting the notion that it could lead to places unexpected and outcomes unforeseen.  It might require a little faith...another thing often preached.

But if in the end gladness matches need...then it is the reflection of what God desires of us and for us, and it's worth the journey as tumultuous as it can sometimes be.


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