Friday, February 2, 2018

Groundhogs, Jesus, and Five Years a Pastor

February 2nd is Groundhog Day and, only slightly less well known, the festival of Presentation of Our Lord. The Bible story sees the Holy Family showing up at the temple in Jerusalem (Luke 2). The elderly Simeon and the prophet Anna are both awaiting the promised Messiah. The weirdness of this scene is marvelous. Simeon scoops up the baby Jesus and dances around. Eighty-four year old Anna praises God and talks to anyone who will listen. It’s an impromptu, ecstatic celebration. It also happens to be the reading from my pastoral ordination with the good people of Augustana, five years ago exactly on the festival day of Presentation of Our Lord.

After five years, I love Jesus, the people, and the work. There’s work I’ve done well and there are situations I wish I’d handled so much better. Reflecting on these experiences is my own personal version of the good, the bad, and the ugly. Superstar Jennifer Hudson said awhile back, “Stop singing a perfect song and tell an imperfect story.” I love her line so much that I ended up preaching it on Christmas Eve [read it here]. There are several reasons that I can't let go of Christianity. Imperfection as a given is one of them.

Recently, I led the rite of individual confession with someone – hearing their confession and announcing to them the forgiveness of all their sins in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The power of that moment hung in the air of my office for a good while. There is nothing like being present when a soul is broken open by forgiveness. People are in pain, my friends, deep in their being. There are so few places to be held in grace and held accountable. The church is one of them, however imperfectly lived out. 

At this five year mark, I'm still grateful (and yes, on occasion, even ecstatic) for the chance to do this weird thing called church...

...and still having fun along the way...

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