Insomnia is a bitch. I was doing really well at sleeping through the night, up until last night. Now it seems that I’m back to wee-hours of the morning awakenings.
On the plus side, it leaves me more time to read and think.
I keep discovering more things that I have to do on this process towards ordination. It is frustrating at times because it seems like so much is required when there is often such a miserable return (yes, I have clergy friends. I know how tough it is at times! I also know how rewarding it is at other times.) I have been reflecting on the idea of “hoops” – those requirements that seem like they are requirements for the sake of being requirements, not for any other purpose – and recalled some advise given to me by an unnamed person in a collar: “Just jump through the hoops that you need to in order to get where you are called to be.”
Yesterday was a cold-day in London. All of the schools, including the university, were either closed or had all classes cancelled. So I went for a walk. Well, a walk to the bus stop and then took a bus downtown for coffee and a change of scenery in which to read. I brought along Nadia Bolz-Weber‘s book, Pastrix, which a friend was kind enough to loan me and I have been meaning to read all holiday.
In it she tells the story of being asked to preach at an ELCA service to recognize LGBTQ clergy being brought back onto the official clergy roster, one of whom being the pastor who, as she describes it, introduced her to grace. The text she was given was the parable about the Kingdom of God and the landowner who hires labourers in the morning, midday, and in the afternoon, paying them all the same at the end of the day.
I said that the text for the day is not the parable of the workers. It’s the parable of the landowner. What makes this the kingdom of God is not the worthiness or piety or social justicey-ness or the hard work of the labourers… none of that matters. It’s the fact that the trampy landowner couldn’t manage to keep out of the marketplace. He goes back and back and back, interrupting lives…coming to get his people. Grace tapping us on the shoulder.
And so, I reminded those seven pastors specifically, including the man who introduced me to grace, that the kingdom of God was just like that exact moment in which sinners/saints are reconciled to God and to one another. The kingdom of God is like that very moment when God was making all things new. In the end, their calling, and their value in the kingdom of God comes not from the approval of a denomination or of the other workers, but in their having been come-and-gotten by God. It is the pure and unfathomable mercy of God that defines them and that says, “Pay attention, this is for you.”
This morning, when I could not sleep, I pulled out Malcolm Guite’s Sounding the Seasons and re-read the sonnets for epiphany. Again, I found words of affirmation.
The Call of the Disciples
He calls us all to step aboard his ship,
Take the adventure on this morning’s wing,
Raise sail with him, launch out into the deep,
Whatever storms or floods are threatening.
If faith gives way to doubt, or love to fear,
Then, as on Galilee, we’ll rouse the Lord,
For he is always with us and will hear,
And make our peace with his creative Word,
Who made us, loved us, formed us and has set
All his beloved lovers in an ark;
Borne upwards by his Spirit, we will float
Above the rising waves, the falling dark,
As fellow pilgrims, driven towards that haven,
Where all will be redeemed, fulfilled, forgiven.
I’m right where I should be.
Please just jump through the hoops. The hoops, though annoying, are unimportant. The importance is the good works people will experience through you.