Dear St. Mark’s,
I am utterly heartbroken by the death of yet another unarmed black, George Floyd, this past Monday. Our entire past Pentecost Sunday was devoted to him as well as others who have been victims of America’s systemic and deeply entrenched racism. If you missed the service, you can still join in this powerful worship service with us by going to this site: https://www.pbumc.org/live/
On a more uplifting note, I want to share with you how meaningful it was for me to see your faces for the first time in several months this past week for my parking lot farewell. As I saw each of your faces, memories of each of you flooded my mind and I was overwhelmed with emotions.
My time here with you was so short, but very special and precious to me.
The conditions under which I am leaving you is bizarre. It’s so bizarre that it feels surreal. I don’t think I’ll fully understand this whirlwind of an experience until I’m long gone. When all the dust of this pandemic and transitioning has settled, I’ll sit down for a cup of tea in a couple years and think, WOW, did we actually go through that together?! What a MINDTRIP!
Some of you who have attended church for many years now, and have had the chance to experience numerous pastors, may know that every pastor has, what I call, a “shtick.” Each pastor has a unique set of gifts, weaknesses, and a particular passion.
Most congregants don’t realize what a pastor’s “shtick” is until much after they’ve left and a new pastor has come to take their place. The juxtaposition illuminates each pastor’s qualities.
Well, I figure I’d just cut to the chase and tell you what my “shtick” is before I leave. Also because…it’s a part of my sermon for Sunday.
My “shtick”—a.k.a. my passion, my gifts, my guttural longing, whatever you want to call it—is contemplative spirituality. This may not come as a big surprise, especially to those of you who were a part of my weekly mindfulness meditation group.
Contemplative spirituality has somewhat of a bad rap because it isn’t as loud or glamorous as shticks that are more showy, like new alternative worship services or a fiery devotion for social justice ministries. Don’t get me wrong—those are important to me as well. They’re just not my shtick, if you know what I mean.
And all of my sermons, in some way, shape, or form, have all revolved around this contemplative spirituality message that our great, mysterious, infinite God lives not outside of us, but rather, within us all. Therefore, we don’t need to go outside of ourselves to learn “the answers” or “to be saved.” We are already saved and the truth lives within us all. Contemplative spirituality then offers the tools for us to excavate that truth—the truth that we may have buried deep within ourselves because we were taught a more harmful theology: that more powerful or prestigious leaders have all the right answers and we need to fall in line with whatever they tell us.
The gospel lesson for this upcoming Trinity Sunday is the part where Jesus ascends to heaven after his resurrection on earth. The disciples have lost him once and they are all the more frightened to lose him once again. But as Jesus ascends, he shares these words: “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
I am with you always.
That’s my shtick. I’ll share more this Sunday.
In this together,
Matthew 28:16-20 (CEB)
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus told them to go. When they saw him, they worshipped him, but some doubted. Jesus came near and spoke to them, “I’ve received all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything that I’ve commanded you. Look, I myself will be with you every day until the end of this present age.”