Conference This Week

The Oklahoma District Fall Professional Church Worker’s Conference (yes, that’s the full title!) begins tomorrow with golf, bowling and a fishing derby. Yes, we have our priorities straight. I don’t normally do those things, which means I’ll be attending a Circuit Counselor’s meeting in official capacity as 3rd Vice President. Later, I’ll be preaching at the worship service held this year at St. Paul’s, Enid. This will actually be the first time I’ll be preaching for a bunch of “pros.” I’m not as nervous about this as I could be, or used to be, but there’s a little anxiety.

Tuesday brings a good friend, Dr. David Maxwell of Concordia Seminary, here to present to us about the Church of the first few centuries and what lessons we can learn for today’s “post-Christian” world. David and I met my first year at the seminary. He was fourth-year at the time and we spent many evenings talking theology and philosophy. I learned a lot from him that year. It will be good to see him again, and I know he will do an excellent job.

It’s also cool that this year we’re meeting in Enid, so Marjorie may be able to sneak away Tuesday night for the Hospitality Hour at the hotel. It will be good to introduce her to some of the gang.

Busy Times and the Disease of Busyness

Oktoberfest 2009 was a hit! Our attendance doubled from last year, the food was great, and there was nary a hitch. I was worried the day before when I saw that the city was hosting a ‘Fest the night before ours. Not to slight that one, but two separate people told me yesterday that folks who went to the first came craving for a second on Saturday and enjoyed ours immensely. What can I say? Redeemer folks know how to get together and make something happen when they want to.

I’m still looking at a very long month of activities with a stewardship Sunday, LWML Sunday, Reformation Sunday/Annual Voter’s Meeting, a trip out of town to see a convalescing member, our Pastor’s Conference next week (and a sermon still to prepare for that), plus the usual run of meetings, hospital and shut-in calls, bible study preps and so forth. Did I mention my folks returning to finish the first half of the kitchen remodel?

At this rate, Advent will seem to be a restful time!

But I’m wondering if I should push the “Publish” button. Often I hear pastors remark about how “busy” they are. Sometimes it sounds boastful to me. Other times it appears like a justifying remark. I think for many people we find our value and sense of self-worth in how busy we are: “See, look at how valuable I am! I’m always working! Don’t fire me!”

Sometimes it’s more innocent. Sometimes we report it in order to share…but often the busyness boast is a boast, a boast born from fear.  It is  fear. Fear of what others think, fear of what might happen, fear of losing what we have. Fear of being sidelined, of being rejected.

The cure for fear is not in the stiff upper lip, in manufacturing feelings of confidence and bravery. The cure for this sort of fear is embracing your inadequacy. The cure is in admitting that yes, you are a lazy sod who would destroy it all if left to your own devices. It is in admitting that whatever you put your hand to will not be perfect, that we really are pretty poor workers and producers, writers and technicians.

If it sounds like admitting your own weakness and decrepitude, a lot like repentance, you’d be right. It is. The first step to curing this kind of fear is the same as curing all kinds of fear: we are sinful people who are losing the most important of things. But we cannot stop here. If we were to stop here at only admitting our own crapulence, I’m afraid that our crapulence would take over, and we really would become lazy, careless slobs in all that we do. We need a second step.

That second step to curing the fear of “not being busy” is to embrace your vocation. While I would mess all things up (and frequently do) if on my own, I am doing the work God has given me to do, as we all are. Whether president or mother, teacher or engineer, pastor or retiree, we can be certain that God has placed us where we are, and that this is His will, at least for today. God has given your work to you, your gifts and abilities, your time and your energy, your will and vocation. It is a valuable thing because it is from the Lord. While you have bosses and supervisors to answer to, ultimately you have the same boss that I have: the God who is love. He is the one to please, honor and cherish. We do our work for Him, in thanksgiving, and with His help. This truth not only brings comfort, knowing that our time is not being wasted, that we are doing good work God has given us to do, but it also serves as holy motivation to excel, to improve in your skills and abilities, to work. We work to please God and to honor Him.

75th Anniversary and Oktoberfest Weekend

Redeemer’s 2nd Annual Oktoberfest begins tomorrow at 11am and goes until the food is gone. It’s shaping up to be tremendous fun. This year we sold advance tickets and have already sold the same number of meals that were served last year, and the committee has done an exemplary job in planning, decorating and putting everything in place.

This is day one of our 75th Anniversary celebration. Sunday brings a guest preacher, Rev. Richard Peckman, the longest-serving pastor and oldest active pastor in our history. Between services we will be enjoying a continental breakfast, video slideshow of pictures throughout Redeemer’s history and a few letters of congratulations. All our choirs will be singing as well.

I can’t say enough good things about the groups that have planned these events. Glory be to God.

Whereof We dreamed as Children…

And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.

(Ecc 12:12 KJV)

There’s a sequel to Winnie-the-Pooh and House at Pooh Corner. We can add to the thought above that there’s no end to the making of money by publishers. Yet the trustees of Milne’s estate have approved the book. But they also approved the Disney adaptations, as well, so we’ll have to see just how faithful the book is to Milne’s original.

The AP article about the release says, in part:

In the final chapter of “The House at Pooh Corner,” Christopher Robin asks for understanding, “whatever happens,” and makes Pooh promise he won’t forget about him, ever. Pooh does, and Milne then makes a promise of his own to the reader: Wherever they go, and whatever happens to them, there will always be a little boy and his bear playing in an enchanted place.

The book addresses topics such as the necessity of growing up and moving on, Nikolajeva says, and she believes that if Milne had wanted a sequel to the books, he would have written it himself.

“The whole point is that the boy has to go away from his childhood, from this very idyllic pastoral world of his childhood,” she said. “This is an absolutely perfect ending, and doing anything beyond this is pointless.” (source)

I agree with that final sentiment, but it is very sad, this end to childhood and leaving the “idyllic pastoral world.” It’s hard to say goodbye, yet St. Paul writes it is necessary: “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. (1Co 13:11 KJV) It is the way of life, growing up, being a man. Of course, St. Paul was using this as an illustration of the shadow-world we now inhabit as compared to the glory and reality of the Kingdom of God.

But still…What of the idyllic, pastoral world of childhood? What of the innocence, the play, the delight in life and and exploration? Must it pass away? Must our lives be given over to work, to seriousness? Must we leave the nursery?

Our sadness of leaving the nursery behind, of saying “goodbye” to Pooh is spiritual, and true. We know that our homeland awaits, which is the incarnation–the antitype– of childhood in the fullness of idyllic, pastoral life. The Kingdom of God is innocence. It is delight. It is friends who understand, whose differences are cherished, whose loyalty and life go beyond understanding, where Christ is all in all. It is that place whereof we dreamed as children: to run and never tire, to soar on wings of eagles. The tears we feel saying goodbye to Pooh are tears of longing and repentance, tears acknowledging the world of grown-ups is broken.

I believe St. Paul’s words about knowing and understanding, but I cling to the words of Jesus, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 18:3)