Saturday, October 8, 2016

My Neighbors: Clinton and Trump

It’s six in the morning on a Saturday and I am wide awake writing this blog post. On my one day to sleep in I am awake because I am extremely scared and deeply saddened by the state of my Facebook feed.

If I was an average person, I would simply block the updates of people that were troubling me or I’d just delete them altogether. Being a follower of Jesus however, I just can’t bring myself to do that. There’s this whole love your neighbor thing that gets in the way. And according to Jesus I have to love the ones I don’t really like all that much.

Some people are posting how they can’t wait for this election to be over. I’m extremely scared that my Facebook feed isn’t going to look that much different after the election.

Instead of posting the positive reasons why they are voting for their candidate they are posting stories, articles, memes, you name it about how bad the other candidate is. It has become a dirtball fight and neither side is coming out clean.

But not only has this election been about the candidates running for office but how horrible the current president of the United States is. President Obama is doing the most difficult job in the world, making decisions no average person would ever have to make and yet any average Joe who has a Facebook account feels no remorse for showering him with utter disrespect. Forget the whole if you don’t vote, you can’t complain rule. If you’ve never held public office and don’t plan to, then show some respect. If you want change, it starts with you.

And it gets worse. These same Obama bashing people are the same people who will defend every police officer simply because that person is a police officer. We have a problem when there is more respect for the police force than for the president of the United States. We have a problem when we can support the injustices in our police force but we cannot support our president. We have a problem when we think a presidential election is about stepping on, tearing down and ripping apart the opposing candidate.  

As an almost pastor, I am about to take on the pulpit. In accepting that role, I am bound to speak the words of the Bible and live by the example of Jesus Christ. Jesus would not be happy with my Facebook feed. Will the church I serve be half empty because they don’t want to hear the message of Jesus Christ? Will I be fired because their right to free speech is more important than loving God and loving their neighbor?

I realize that I too am part of the problem because I have kept silent this entire election season out of fear. When Jesus came knocking on my door this morning, I could no longer hide behind my “almost a pastor” status.

So, who is knocking at your door this morning?

Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Sacrifice of Seminary

Last spring we found my mom dead on her kitchen floor. The last conversation I had with her she told me that family and friends were asking about me and what she thought of me becoming a pastor. She said she told them that she was so proud of me but wished I had more time with her.

This summer, I am taking a course called Teaching Bible Basics to Congregations. This week we are covering violence. I in particular have trouble with animal and the occasional human sacrifice in the Bible. A sacrifice, in general terms, is something made sacred by offering it to God.

As I have been working on sacrifice this week, I am reminded of the sacrifice of seminary. As an on-line student at Chicago Theological Seminary (CTS), I’ve heard my fair share of criticism for online learning. The most common concern is the lack of community with other seminarians. Recently however, I’ve been disturbed by a recent article by a UCC pastor and author that I admire. I just love how people who have never done online learning or at least not done the online program at CTS think they know all of the things that it lacks.

Children's Sermon on June 12, 2016 in my home church.
Let me first tackle the sense of community. If I sat in a classroom each week with my seminarians, I would most likely listen to lectures by my professors and hear from a handful of my fellow seminarians that get the opportunity to speak in class. As a part of online learning, we still have class online where we can see and talk to each other, but we also post on average five hundred words per reading, our classmates read them and then thoroughly comment on them. We still have group projects to complete and present to our classmates. So yes, we still have community, but we also have another community. We still have the community of our home congregation. And because we are still there in the congregation, and particularly for me, I still have the community who baptized and confirmed me. I still have the community who pushed me into seminary. They are there to witness the struggle, the doubt, the growth and the faith. They are there when I need to preach, when I need to teach or when I need to practice pastoral care for an assignment. They are invested in theological education because they see it happening right in front of them. They didn’t just send me off with prayers.

And let me address sacrifice. Uprooting family life for a small three year “sacrifice” doesn’t go away with online learning. Online learning is a minimum of fifteen hours per week per class. Therefore four classes at a time is sixty hours a week minimum of coursework. So yes, I still had to quit my job, I have had to miss a countless number of my boys’ games and school programs, and I’ve had to say no to spending time with friends or family. Last summer we sacrificed a family vacation for me to work sixty plus hours per week as a hospital chaplain. My family spent a year not worshipping at the same church as I completed my field placement as a student pastor. I am well aware of what being a pastor is going to be like. I know it will often end up being sixty hours or more per week, I know I will be uprooting my family every five or so years, and I know that very few marriages survive the ministry. My boys are already experiencing the kind of expectations of them as “pastor’s kids.” Why should I uproot them for the “training” portion?

What is most painful for me is I have to live with knowing how much my mom missed me while I was in seminary fifteen minutes from her house.

That is my sacrifice.