Sunday, August 16, 2015

Ramblings on My Pastor's Last Day at Our Church

Today was our pastor’s last day at our church.  I have been attending a United Methodist Church for the last three months.  She has been pastoring this church for the last six years!  Near the end of the service, we watched a video that interviewed various church members, who answered trivia questions about the pastor: What is her favorite sports team?  What is her favorite sweet?  Who is the love of her life?  Which song would she like to be played at her funeral?  What is her favorite saying (her saying, that is)?  They also addressed the question of how she influenced them spiritually.

Before we watched the video, someone got up and told a story about her trying to get used to the ways and sayings of the church when she first came.

Some things were new to me.  Some things I knew, or at least could envision.  I knew that the pastor loves chocolate chip cookies, and that she is a huge fan of Richard Rohr.  The story that the one person told was about how she had to get used to how the church was during the summer time.  At the church where she was previously, summer services were well-attended.  At our church, however, the pews are not packed during the summer, and people take some “me time.”  I have noticed that myself, on some level: I would say that the church is fairly well-attended during the summer (maybe that’s because I’m used to even smaller churches!), but people do feel free to take Sundays off, at times.  And these are pillars of the church, who have attended for decades!  I can meet someone, and not see that person for weeks!  But the person still comes back, because that is home.

I felt that I got to know the pastor, on some level.  I read her blog.  I attended Sunday School for a little over a month (and I still want to write a post about last week’s class, which was the last one for that unit!).  I’ve heard some of her sermons.  And she treated me to lunch.

How has she influenced me spiritually?  Well, I do now subscribe to Richard Rohr’s daily e-mail.  That has been an interesting experience.  I would say that, on some level, I was prepared for this experience even before I attended this United Methodist Church.  When I was living in upstate New York, which was before I moved to Washington, I read some books about Ignatian spirituality, mysticism, Julian of Norwich, and Thomas Merton, so it was not as if I was entering into territory that was unfamiliar to me when I started reading Richard Rohr.  There are parts of this thought-system that resonate with me: using one’s weaknesses as an opportunity to grow closer to God, for example.  Contemplation makes sense to me, but I do not practice it.

There are aspects of Rohr’s thought that strike me as panentheistic, or that seem to regard humans as good, or as having good within them (and I hope that I am characterizing Rohr’s thought correctly).  I am not sure if this resonates with me entirely: I would like to believe that God is in me, that the world somehow manifests Christ or is held together in him, that God is working on me even when I do not feel it, and that there is good within me that I can bring forth or draw on.  On some level, maybe I do believe those things.  But there is just so much that is bad about the world, and about me.  Original sin is a concept that resonates with me, not so much because I am settled in believing that there was a historical Adam and Eve who screwed everything up for themselves and the rest of us, but rather because I notice a lot of crap within myself.  I see myself as a sinner saved by grace; maybe Rohr does, too.  In any case, I will still read Rohr.  Even if there are some things that he says that seem strange or foreign to me, I at least do learn something from his e-mails about the history of Christian thought.

The pastor also told me about the show Orphan Black, which she may like because of her background in genetics.  My Mom, step-Dad, and I have been enjoying that show.  I’m looking forward to season 3 coming out on DVD!

The pastor’s sermon this morning was about how Paul believed that God’s grace was made manifest in the love and spiritual fruit of his congregations.  That, she said, confirmed to Paul the truth of the Gospel.  Maybe so, on some level.  Paul already had enough that confirmed to him the truth of the Gospel—-his own experience of the resurrected Jesus.  Yet, I do believe that Paul liked to see the Gospel working in people’s lives, that this reinforced to him its truth.  The thing is, he did not always see that, as we can observe in the case of I Corinthians, for the Corinthian church had strife, class divisions, and even sexual immorality.  If the Gospel works, why was God not transforming the Corinthians?  Maybe they needed to hear about the implications of the Gospel.  Maybe Paul’s expectation was that, because they were saved and had God’s Holy Spirit, they would respond favorably and repentantly to what Paul had to say.

I’ll stop here.

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