Archive for December, 2012

December 31, 2012

Year in Review: 2012

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Last week, I had the opportunity to serve at the youth retreat for the church that I grew up in.  After a fruitful, painful, and blessed three days, what did I learn?  Kids are smart.  Smart enough to know that to give respect, someone has to earn it first.  Whether they know it or not, kids inherently operate on a credibility-based system.  Much like adults, they won’t invest in or be vulnerable to people they don’t trust.  If you don’t show them any respect, credibility, investment, or vulnerability to begin with, you can sure as heck not expect them to reciprocate any of it back to you.  I definitely wasn’t giving them enough credit going into the retreat.

Reflecting back on 2012, I realize that this has been a common theme for me and my ministry thus far.  I haven’t been giving credit where credit is due.  In turn, I’ve been giving credit where it certainly wasn’t due: myself.  Whether it be with youth, college students, my family and friends, and especially with God; I like to think that I have something to offer in all of the relationships I’m involved in.  That I have something to bring to the table.  That I serve a purpose in a two-way street.  And even, that none of these relationships could be sustained without me.  Are you scoffing at me yet?  I sure am.

Ministry isn’t a charity.  I am not a privileged individual with a seminary education who has oodles of wisdom to spread around to the “spiritually less-fortunate.”  I’m almost embarrassed that it took me this long to realize this.  Only now am I beginning to understand what my parents meant when they told me, “You don’t know what you’re getting yourself into [with full-time ministry].”

A friend of mine posted a quote not to long ago by R.C. Sproul about his sentiments on seminary:

That means first that when we prepare to serve in the ministry, we have to prepare to serve in the ministry. Our seminaries, if we must have them, should more reflect a training hospital than a university. Divinity is not a body of knowledge to be mastered like geology. The Bible is not a book to be dissected like Moby Dick. We go there, if we must go there, not to study the Word, but to begin to learn to have the Word study us. We go to pursue not advanced degrees but the fruit of the Spirit. We go to lose our reputations, not to gain them. We go not to be thought wise, but to learn what fools we are.

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Gospel ConnectionThere’s a lot I can learn from 2012.  There’s even more that I can work on in 2013.  And with all these lessons and resolutions in mind, I’ve boiled down by year-end reflection to one thought: God never asks us to do something He hasn’t already done.  In all His divine majesty and authority, never once did Christ claim His throne in an imperious manner.  So why should I act as though I have any power over any of my relationships?  Instead, the image of Jesus is displayed by one of utter humility in the Incarnation and Crucifixion.  In the same way, we are called to live life together in joy, grief, excitement, confusion, eagerness, anxiety, and hope because of the victory we see in the Resurrection.  We die to ourselves for the less privileged, because Christ did.  We love because He first loved us.

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.
 John 15:12-17 (ESV)

December 5, 2012

Out of sight, out of mind

Click for YouTube video

Click for YouTube video

 

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I’m really bad at keeping in touch with people.  Unless I see you on a consistent basis (i.e. church or school), I probably haven’t talked to you in a while.  I have more fingers than instances I can count that I met up with a friend from high school.  Long-time friends in Connecticut only get to see me during major holidays.  I’ve even started giving the shaft to my friends from BC.  Sometimes, it takes more than a full week for me to realize that I haven’t talked to my parents in quite some time.  I guess I could use the excuse of saying I’m so busy up here in Boston… but that wouldn’t suffice, as there’s always time to spare for a little bit of effort and good conversation.

Over the course of seminary, I’m humbled each and every day of how imperfect I am.  While I thought I was coming to grad school to get smarter and better prepare myself for ministry, I’ve never been more aware of my flaws and felt as incapable as I have ever before.  Not being able to maintain all my relationships throughout the years plays a huge discord with my inner desire to please as many people as I can.  But with my recent revelation of inadequacy, I was confronted with the fact that I can’t make everyone happy.  The catch-up coffee date, the long-awaited meal together, or even the simplest email slips my mind, and someone is inevitably let down.

I’m certainly not perfect.  And I am indeed not my own or anyone else’s savior.

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Gospel Connection

During this Advent season, we are reminded of a coming Messiah who does not let us down.  While friends, family, careers, and diplomas may fail, the birth of Christ harkens back to a God who chose to enter the story as one of us.  Jesus was a man who was able to weep for entire cities because he emphasized with all the fears and insecurities of wayward loved ones.  And he was also a God who didn’t come to judge us justly for our guilt, but compassionately bore all of these shortcomings by death on the Cross.  With Christ, we can never be “out of sight” or “out of mind,” as his very incarnation was to keep us in sight and mind, and certainly in heart and in the Kingdom.

May our attempts to show love to close friends and distant strangers this holiday season stem not from our selfish desire to clear our consciences, but out of response to this Gospel narrative.  There’s no better news than the Good News that we’ve received something we didn’t deserve.

And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it…
– Luke 19:41 (ESV)