Friday, August 30, 2013

Missing The Party

I had a great vacation.  It's also great to be back home and in the office and pulpit.  I am grateful for the chance to be part of the First Baptist Church at Gaithersburg family for this time as their Interim; and I missed it while I was away.

One of the things that happened while I was away was that I realized how much time I spend on things....many of them good things, needed things.....that can easily become obsessive lures away from what God wants to give me, or use me to do.

In the New Testament lesson for this week (Luke 14:15-24) a man throws a party.  Now he's already sent out the first invitation.....in the Middle East in Jesus' day an invitation would go out and food would be prepared based on who said yes.....and then, when the food is ready the host sends his servant out to let folks know that it's time to come to the party.  Now the excuses start.  And they aren't even good excuses.  In fact, if you look at them in the context of time and place, they are insulting excuses that may have indicated that the guests had decided they weren't happy with who else had been invited and so they weren't going to come.

Now the story ends with the host sending his servant out to bring in the poor and the broken and the outcast so that the food will  be eaten.  Such generosity would have shamed the guests who attempted to shame the host by not showing; would have demonstrated the host's generosity; and would have raised his status.

But what struck me was the question: "how often does God invite me to the party of 'today' for me to just find an excuse to be doing something else?"  I am shocked by how often this seems to happen.  It's not that the things I spend time with are bad (okay, most of them aren't bad); it's that they've become priorities that block my listening for God's invitation to do/see/encounter something new and sacred.  I become so obsessed that I decide that what I'm doing is more important than God's invitation.  Does this ever happen to you?

What taught me this was going hiking right off the Blue Ridge Parkway.  A friend had told me where to find a beautiful waterfall (the trail is right at mile marker 117 by the way).  I got down into the woods and was awestruck by the calm and beauty of the place.  I ate lunch in peace and found a quiet, sacred time there.  Two butterflies came and lit on my boots; fluttered away; then returned....it was a deeply holy moment.  Had my friends not pushed me to take vacation time; and my other friend not said, "you really need to see these falls," (both of which I read as God's invitation to the party of the present moment) and had I not chosen to say, "yes," I would have missed this particular party....and it would never come again.

Learning to be still and listen for that invitation is one of my growing edges.  It may be one of yours as well.  Let's pray that we both grow in our capacity to do this.

Shalom,
Stephen

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Taking Sabbath

Just wanted to let folks know that I haven't disappeared.  I'm taking vacation time and doing a bit of "practicing what I preach" about Sabbath.

Things at First Baptist Gaithersburg are wonderful and the Fall looks like it's going to be very exciting.  So I'm taking some time to refuel and get down into the mountains of NC for a bit breath some mountain air.

The Rev. Cynthia Brasington will be filling the pulpit this week; and I'll be back on the 25th.

Have a great rest of your summer and we'll be back writing in a week or so.

Shalom,
Stephen