Inspired by the commissioning responses of Andrew over at Thoughts of Resurrection and the ordination responses of Andy at Enter the Rainbow, I’ve decided to post a few of my own. This has been taking up a lot of my writing time, so I thought at least my blog wouldn’t go silent in the meantime. So, feel free to comment, make suggestions, ask questions, etc. These are all rough drafts and will most likely change in some form or another.
1.) How has the practice of ministry affected your experience and understanding of God? Oftentimes, ministry is like the weather in Oklahoma. If you are not happy with what’s happening at any given moment, all you need to do is wait and it will change! Three scenes scattered from my last three years of ministry illustrate this perfectly: a quiet evening at home with my family is interrupted with the news of a motorcycle accident involving a teen from our congregation who was broken but survived, I am awakened by a late night call with word that a beloved matriarch of our congregation is dying in the hospital intensive care unit, and an evening visit with community members at the local high school football game is cut short in order to be with a family at the funeral home when the body of their loved one arrives.
In the middle of life, in the very midst of ministry, I have learned to experience and understand God in a new way. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. once said, “I would not give a fig for the simplicity this side of complexity, but I would give my life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity.” Looking back at my answers immediately following seminary, I see a very complex doctrinal portrait of God focused on God’s Triune nature, creative power, redemptive purposes, and eschatological vision. Even though I still hold strongly to these commitments, the very practices of baptizing both young and old, offering God’s grace at the table, speaking words of both comfort and challenge from Scripture, sitting with the dying, and leading worship for the bereaved have helped me move more closely to the simplicity beyond complexity. It is no wonder that the first letter of John to the “beloved,” eventually states the simple fact that, “…God is love.”
At times, I am overwhelmed by the sheer mystery and complexity of our Triune God, but through the free gift of grace, I have experienced God’s abiding presence and abundant peace in the midst of the storms of life. Through countless experiences watching God at work in the lives of others, I am more and more convinced of God’s transforming love. So even with a full appreciation of God’s complexity, I have a simple trust that God’s eternal self-giving love descends to us in the incarnation, seeking to reach out to save those who are hopeless, helpless, and hungry.
It is this simple loving presence in the world that motivates my ministry. It is God’s subtle, yet increasingly real work in my life that sustains me through the ups, downs, and surprises of service. The fullness of God’s love is the fullness for which I’m willing to lay down my life.
3 thoughts on “Ordination Questions – Experience & Understanding of God”
Thanks for this, Matt. Simplicity is powerful, too.
i think you honed in on the point, “this is a new commandment i give you…love one another as i have loved you…by this all people will know you are my disciples”
Matt – I resonate with the simplicity past complexity. It is a hard thing to explain at times and something which I continue to seek. Thanks for sharing.
Also – be aware if you get an unusually high number of hits on these pages. I wondered if others were using my responses as guidance for their own response.