Thursday, February 25, 2010

Seminary Sunday

Pastor Barry is calling this coming Sunday "Seminary Sunday," I think because it is the anniversary of when he got ordained or something. Since I am half a class and a few transfer credits into an M.Div. myself, he wants me to say something to the congregation about my "calling" to the ministry, so one of my projects this week has been to try figure out what I'm going to say.

I feel that the paltry number of blogposts I have written this year so far is disgraceful, but it's mostly because I'm having a little trouble getting my head round the things I want to write about, enough to write about them, so I'm going to cheat a little and once again post something in here that I have written for another purpose entirely. This is my little "talk" for Sunday. (If you go to GPC, you might want to avert your eyes, so that my delivery on Sunday is not extra-boring for you.) Critiques are acceptable. So are theological debates, if necessary. Just try not to get the two of them mixed up.

So . . . I’m taking this seminary class? One of the most recent lectures touched upon how the earliest of the early Church didn’t make a distinction between sacred and secular vocation. To be called by God meant first of all that He had called you to repentance and forgiveness and reconciliation with Himself and with other people. Then that influenced your calling for what to do with your life. Early Christians lived out their Christianity no matter what they were doing; they all wanted the people they rubbed shoulders with every day to know about the love of God for them through Jesus Christ. So every job was important, whether you were a ship’s navigator or a carpenter or a seamstress or whatever, because every job was an opportunity to work toward excellence and to show people the love of Jesus.

I was listening to this lecture thinking, “Yes! That’s how it’s supposed to be!” It reminded me of this time at another church when I had just started working at Starbucks, and I really believed that that job was how I could best serve Christ at the time. This man came up to me and, knowing I had been a missionary once, said, “But don’t you ever think about going back into the ministry?”

I got so angry, it was all I could do to keep from losing my “Christian” cool and yelling, “Are you completely blind?! How can you be so narrow-minded?” Instead I said calmly, “Well, I think Starbucks is the ministry, too.”

And it was, so you might wonder how I ended up back working for a church and now starting seminary, if I feel that strongly about it. Sometimes I wonder that, too, but I guess even though I do feel strongly that God can reach people through any Christian doing anything and that no task is more noble or more “called” than another, I think I have been called to kind of church-y ministry, mostly. I don’t really know how old I was when I found out that not everybody knew about Jesus, but however old it was, I knew right then that I needed to make sure they found out about Him. I don’t think anyone told me this . . . although my parents were missionaries, so maybe I picked it up by osmosis.

Anyway, I’ve always had a very strong sense that God was true, and that Jesus was, too, and even though a lot of things have changed about me since I first made that decision to tell people about Jesus . . . I still like to talk about Him. And I find that I still care whether or not people know He loves them, and whether or not they know what it is He did for them, through His life, death and resurrection. And whether or not they know He is calling them and wants to make Himself known somehow through them, too.

I didn’t always think it was Biblical (and therefore “okay”) for women to be pastors. If you want to know how my mind changed on that one, you can ask me about it sometime, but anyway, it did, and as soon as it did, I wondered if maybe one of these days God might call me to be a pastor, too.

I’m still not 100% sure He has, except in the sense that “pastor” means “shepherd” or “caretaker,” and in reality I’ve been spiritually “taking care” of people in some way or other for years. Since it seems like I’m going to do that for the rest of my life anyway, I don’t think it could hurt to get some more training to help me do it better. I do know that sometimes He calls people to work at coffee shops or at Norton’s or at Shaw’s, but other times He calls people to buckle down and study about Him so they can provide strength and guidance for all those people working hard and rubbing shoulders with folks who don’t think they’ve met Him yet. I believe He has called me to GPC at this time, and I’ve sort of stumbled into the opportunity to get more training. The doors keep opening, so I’ll just keep walking through them and we’ll see where I end up!

Last fall, I applied to the Masters of Divinity programme at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Wenham, MA. Right now I am getting my feet wet with that church history class I mentioned. You would think that it might be boring, but I find it absolutely fascinating--I love it. So far all this seems to be a good move. As I take it a step at a time, I trust God will keep leading, and I hope you will pray for me when you think of it, that I will learn what He wants me to learn, become who He wants me to become, and do what He wants me to do.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Weather? Or Not. Oh, Definitely Weather.

While the UK and Ireland, as well as Washington DC, have been having levels of snow this year that surprise, baffle and maybe even sometimes terrify them, we in New England have been having what we call "a mild winter." This doesn't mean we're not getting any snow. We are. It just means we can handle it. You can tell it's a mild winter when all the teachers you know complain about not having enough snow days (and when, two days after their February vacation, they're still saying, "I hope we get a snow day this week"). The two weeks before that, it seemed like the meteorologists and school administrators were teaming up to rectify this snow-day-less situation, because twice they cancelled or delayed school in advance for what were supposed to be "major" snowstorms, but which ended up being something that could only be considered major in Alabama.

So this time, when people started saying, "It's going to snow all week," you know, you took notice, but you were a little skeptical. By which I mean I was. Plus it was supposed to start snowing yesterday morning. And it didn't. It's true that last night, by the time I was about to drive over to the Other Jenn's to watch LOST together, I decided what was coming out of the sky might not be that fun to drive in by 10 o'clock at night. (We ended up watching the show from our respective living rooms, with our facebook chats open so we could "chat" things to each other like, "I knew it!" or "Ewwwww!" or "Psycho Claire!" or "Jack just wrecked everything!" or "Maybe he was supposed to do that . . . " Come on, LOST fans. You know what I'm talking about.)

This morning, however, the warnings of a major snowstorm had proved to be true. It's not that I've never seen this much snow before, although there was a lot. It's that every single beauteous flake seems to weigh 16 fluid ounces or something, so when you try to shovel the stuff? Well, let's just say I'm going to wish that professional massage the Other Jenn bought for me for Christmas which I accidentally missed the other night, was scheduled for Friday. The snow is beautiful, though, don't you think?

I suspect I may head out to church/work later in the day, but I'm going to take my time getting out. Mark-the-Plow-Guy says that it took him half an hour to get up Dead Horse Hill (yes, it's called that) with his plow because of all the cars that had slid off the road. Can I just tell you how happy I am that I no longer have a job that requires me to leave my house before 4.30 a.m. to serve coffee to people who don't know how to make it at home . . . or to people who probably won't even come into the store that early that day because of how much it's snowing? Very. Very. Happy. (I did say a quick prayer for whomever it is that had to open today.) Meanwhile, I'm going to sit here in my nice warm house with my nice warm dog and listen to the church history lectures I'm behind on.

Photos: February 2010, taken by jennwith2ns.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Constantine

At the beginning of my on-line church history class, I ended up writing a little bit about Constantine. I remember learning about him while I was growing up--maybe in 6th grade history class or something--and getting the impression that he was this great guy because he made it okay to be a Christian. (I'm not sure I got that he made it well-nigh mandatory, but even if I had, I probably thought that was a good idea at the time, too.) Now I have some different views, although I suspect they are not entirely free of culturally-influenced thought. One of the "tutor"-type people for the class said that it was okay for me to copy my classwork responses to my blog, so for the sake of future discussion, I am duly posting my on-line discussion:

Discussion Question:
This question is simple. Has the role of Constantine been for the better or the worse throughout history?

1/16/10
Recently a non-Christian friend of mine accused me of having "something of an affliction fetish." I'm not sure that's exactly how I would term it (but I might as well get off to a shocking start with my interactivity assignments). However, I do think, as a follower of Jesus, that "trials" or "persecutions" or "afflictions" or whatever else we may want to call them, are probably meant to be par for the course. I suspect I have a tendency, from my comfy North American living room, to idealize and romanticize "the persecuted church." I don't feel quite right about saying, "Constantine should never have been part of church history because we as Christians should always be getting beat up for our faith." As cthayer [another student] states, "While it is clear throughout history that the church stunningly thrives under persecution, it makes it no less of an atrocity that men and women of faith throughout the centuries have had to undergo it."

On the other hand, I do think that in many if not most cases, our brothers and sisters in more "religiously dangerous" countries across the globe have a lot sturdier faiths than I or many of my compatriots have. I guess I'm grateful for my freedoms because I haven't experienced much of anything else, but it speaks volumes to me that many times people within what is termed the Persecuted Church ask for our prayers--not that the sufferings will end, but that they will bear up under them and not deny their Lord.

It seems to me that via Constantine (and by his successors in power-mongering), the lack of persecution did make the spread of Christianity easier and quicker, but it may also have declawed it in some senses and places. If we are not bearing a cross in the name of Christ, it's a lot harder for the Cross to be much more than a symbol [in the name of nationalism, like it was for Constantine]. It is, of course, possible, but it seems like, whatever his personal allegiances really were, Constantine did his best to imbue the Cross with power instead of with the humility and sacrifice that it actually portrays. I guess I have a mild, semi-conscious resentment of Constantine for kicking off the fat-cat Christianity that seems to have beleaguered Christ's Bride and her witness for the rest of history. I might also mention that when I'm trying to talk about Jesus to non-Christian friends like the aforementioned one, Constantine almost always comes up, in a negative light, and it's very difficult to witness around him.

Nevertheless, though on a personal level I feel that his influence was primarily negative, it seems to me too simplistic to term it that way. I tend to agree with kbacklund's reminder that God works all things together for good to those who love Him, and with awestmoreland's highlighting of God's hand is in history. The Church was able to work through certain doctrinal issues during Constantine's time that would not have been possible had it still been struggling with the persecution (though perhaps the Gospel would have remained a little more unadorned if the time for these things had not been available), and surely, whether God exactly ordained Constantine's rule or simply allowed it, He was not surprised by it and He is able to make good any situation. It seems that in some ways, He is still doing that up to this very day with all the church's past mistakes, and not just Constantine's.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Is THIS Ironic?


Please tell me it is, or I may have to return my college diploma. A lot of people paid a lot of money for that thing.

First, some backstory:

The summer I returned to the States from London, I locked myself out of a friend's guestroom. I locked myself out of my car . . . twice. I locked myself out of the house--I think it was twice on that one, too. One of the times I was wearing my living-history-museum costume and had to walk about a mile down the road to find a friend who could get through the window three stories above the ground. At least it was summer. (Although let me tell you, that walk in that costume was pretty sweltering!)

After that, my parents had an extra key made for the house and we found a hiding spot for it, and I've been set, ever since. The hiding spot's not that convenient, but it's way more convenient than getting locked out.

So this morning, Oscar and I got up for our usual Walk and when I pulled the door shut after me, I made sure the doorknob was locked. Normally I also make sure my keys are in my pocket, but they're always in my pocket, and maybe I was still a little asleep. Anyway, I didn't check this time. But when we got back from our Walk and I put my hand in my coat pocket, my heart sank down to somewhere below the brick walkway. What about the extra key? you ask? Well, the extra key was sitting on the table right inside the door I was trying to open. And my usual keys were clearly (and unusually) hanging up on the hook designed for them in the hallway.

That's not the ironic part. It's the "go figure" part.

This is another "go figure" part:

The reason that extra key was in the house was because I had already used it in the last week or so, and had just been too lazy to put it back in its hiding place after I had finished with it.

This (I think) is the ironic part:

The time that I had used it before? My usual keys were actually in my pocket--I just hadn't been able to find them in there what with the kleenex and Oscar's poop-bags (no poop in them, by the way--I don't put those ones back in my pocket, in case you were worried) and receipts and stuff. It would be more ironic if the same thing were true this time, and I inconvenienced my Next-Door Neighbours and paid out for a locksmith and my usual keys were in my pocket the whole time, but they weren't. All that stuff was valid. What wasn't valid was why the extra key was inside in the first place. I hadn't even needed to use it that time. But now, when I did need to, it was patiently sitting inside for no good reason at all.

Isn't that ironic? No, you know what? If it isn't? I don't wanna know.
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