“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” — Matthew 5: 48
“Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal . . .”—Philippians 3: 13-14
I am a perfectionist.
Blame my parents, blame my genetics, blame my raising, blame society’s expectations, or blame my own inner demons, but for whatever reason, I have this inner compulsion to do things just right. It seems to be my gift and my curse to always think of ways that things could be better.
Recently I had an opportunity to offer the morning devotion at the Aldersgate Gathering of representatives from Duke Divinity School, The Duke Endowment, and the North Carolina and Western North Carolina Conferences of the United Methodist Church. The day focused on how the four stakeholders, or partners, could work together to improve the health of clergy. I found inspiration for this topic in the story from Mark 2: 1-12, where four people carry a paralyzed man to Jesus for healing. Here’s what was shared:
At the Western North Carolina Annual Conference Service of Ordination last week, United Methodist Bishop William Hutchinson preached a powerful ordination sermon. During a portion of the sermon, Bishop Hutchinson shared one of the multitude of great Fred Craddock stories, this one taken from the book "Awakened to a Calling". Here's what he said:
“Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” — Hebrews 10: 23-25
As a United Methodist, I can tell you that there are no more “Methodist” verses in the Bible than Hebrews 10: 23-25. Hebrews 10: 23-25 also describe a way of being together that is my hope for all churches – rural and otherwise.
Sorry for the length between posts. I was away attending the NC and Western NC Conferences of the United Methodist Church.
One of the things I was able to do at the NC Annual Conference was to share a little bit about our partner Thriving Rural Churches, and also about the picture above. Here's what I said:
For five years I had the privilege of being a rural pastor. For five years I had the gift of serving Christ in places where I knew most all the names and most of the stories of the people God had entrusted in my care.
I’ve been in places where decisions aren’t made through the cold anonymity of email or by the faceless detachment of a phone call, but in the warm honesty of face to face encounter, out of the deep soil of shared experience.
i am a little church (no great cathedral)
far from the splendor and squalor
of hurrying cities - i do not worry if briefer days grow briefest,
i am not sorry when sun and rain make april
my life is the life of the reaper and the sower;
my prayers are the prayers of earth's own clumsily striving
(finding and losing and laughing and crying) children
whose any sadness or joy is my grief or my gladness
Solid Rock United Methodist Church is one of our remarkable partner Thriving Rural Churches. At Solid Rock, inside a little blue steel building along Highway 24 in Cameron, North Carolina, is “church like you’ve never seen it”: a congregation whose average age is in the 20’s, where hundreds of hungry people are fed each week through “Martha’s Place,” and where “those people” become “us” as they are welcomed and accepted and discover that Christ came for them, too.
“Here I am, Lord.
Is it I, Lord?
I have heard you calling in the night.
I will go, Lord, if you lead me.
I will hold your people in my heart.”
— from Hymn #593 “Here I Am, Lord”
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”— Matthew 5: 10