Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Summer Malaise and Holy Spirit Nudges

There are times in any church when the pastor must be away.  At my church, the pastor always asks lay leaders if they want to preach.  If no one can do it, then he looks for a supply pastor.  We take this approach for several reasons, among them, the money that we save.  But it's also good for us as a congregation to remember that the pastor is not the only one with those particular gifts.

As Lutherans, we declare the priesthood of all believers, but we don't always practice it.  Of course, it's difficult.  After more than 25 years of teaching, I'm comfortable speaking in public.  Most people would rather do anything than speak in front of a group of people.

On Sunday, I was the substitute for our pastor.  Often when I fulfill that role, I feel a little nudge.  Often, I get similar nudges from parishioners who ask me when I'm going to seminary.

On Sunday, all went well, but I didn't feel that nudge.  Most of the departing congregation members were kind and complimentary, but no one asked me when I was going to seminary.

I won't read too much into this, of course.  I had a tough text to preach, the one in Acts with Simon the magician who offers to pay money to be filled with the spirit.  That's not the toughest passage in Acts, of course.  I took the approaches you would expect:  you can't pay for God's grace and salvation, you can't control God, you can't capture God's powers for your own purposes.

I confess that of all the books in the Bible, Acts is high on my list of least-favorite, just under Leviticus and some other Old Testament texts.  I confess that I feel guilty about that fact.  As a Christian, I should treasure these stories from the early Church.  They just don't move me the way they move others.  I would be the first to speculate that the fault is mine, that some deficiency in me keeps me from fully appreciating this text.

So perhaps I can attribute Sunday's malaise to the book of Acts.  Maybe it's the general lethargy of summer.  We didn't have high attendance, which is a drawback to having congregation members lead the service.

Or maybe it's that I'm unlikely to attend seminary for a few years, thus I'm less likely to be open to Holy Spirit nudges.  I've come to believe that my current full-time job may well be the last full-time job I have, one with a good salary and full benefits, and so I don't want to leave it too hastily.  We'll stay put, hopefully move to a house that's a better investment, and see where we are in a few years.

Or at least, that's what I'm thinking today.  But I've read my Bible.  I know that the Holy Spirit often has other plans that can be irresistible.  I'll work on softening my heart and staying open to the possibilities.

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