Pastoral Musings from Rain City

it's about 'what is church?' it's about whether 'emergent' is the latest Christian trend or something more substantial. it's musing on what it means to live the city, in America, in community, intergenerationally, at this time in history...

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Clearing away the fog –

Our shoes are on, and the trail is ahead of us, but the trail is just about all we can see. My wife and I have packed our lunch for this glorious outing because all the books say that from Hannegan peak, one can see the good mountains around us: Challenger and Ruth, Baker and the Pickets, along with the endless expanse of mountains just to north in Canada whose names are unknown because our map ends at the 49th latitude. So we’re hiking upward, switchback after switchback. All the while, we’re building up a sweat, so that the biting wind chills us to core if we stop, even for a few seconds. And yet, body becomes furnace with each upward push so that we become hot if we continue to hike. And did I mention the biting wind?

Why do people do this for fun? It’s all about the seeing – or the hope of seeing – or because we saw once and feel the need to see again. People do this art of gentle suffering in hopes of encounter; with both creation and their companions – and if there were no hope of encounter – there would be no motivation whatsoever to continue. On this particular day, we saw nothing beyond 10 feet our so. But we’ll be back, because we know that, if we keep coming back often enough, eventually we’ll see – even in the Northwest.

Church life is really quite similar. There’s the hard work of relationships, the chill of change, the perseverance of serving, and the simple act of showing up week after week, in the same way the hiker shows up step after step…all of at must happen for a reason.

And ultimately, the reason should be about seeing Christ. As we keep showing up in His name, and listening for His voice in worship, and learning, and confession, and fellowship, something happens. What happens is that we see Him. Sometimes gloriously in praise and worship, sometimes clearly in His Word, and sometimes just a glimpse in another’s confession, or in receiving a helping hand. Of course there are other ways of seeing too, too many to name; they have to do with healing, and intimacy, and pain, and celebration. But we see the Lord – see His glory, if only in glimpses, and if only through foggy glass. And it’s the seeing that changes us forever, because the promise is that the seeing results in our transformation. Hope displaces fear. Beauty casts out ugliness. Honesty overcomes duplicity.

I don’t see on every hike. And I don’t see in every worship service, or every meeting, or every encounter with someone. I’m too spiritually near sighted to see consistently. But I have seen. And the seeing has changed me forever, and so I’ll keep showing up – keep serving, worshipping, confessing, forgiving, and giving. Why? Because out from the seeing comes the change – the move closer to the person God made me to be.

Leadership in Christ's church is really about helping people see, and that entails leading them up the mountain, and encouraging endurance and humility. But too often, it feels as if the pastoral community has resorted to promotional skills as motivator in hopes that we’ll all put on our boots and slog up the mountain. I’m not going to do that. I’m simply going to say this: In showing up to be the part of Christ’s church He invites me to be, I’ve seen – and this seeing is worth everything. And my hope then, of course, is that others will not just show up, but also see – Christ’s heart.

(Thanks to Larry Bushnell for the picture)


At 13/10/05 01:43, Anonymous jenny sorensen said...

Amen! I think it is great that as a pastor you are willing to be honest enough to say that you won't give in to being a marketing specialist or promotions consultant. People (especially my generation) have seen enough advertising in our life times to be completely sick of it and I hate going into church and feeling like Church, Christianity, and Jesus are all about appealing to us as "the consumer." Honesty, sharing the journey, being light and love--that's what it should be about. I appreciate that you recognize this. Keep strong on the "hike" and know that others are walking with you. "Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall Know fully, even as I am fully Known." 1 Corinthians 13:12

At 14/10/05 11:31, Anonymous Lisa said...

I got to see this morning. With a dear friend and a walk around Greenlake. We shared a coversation about how difficult our call to serve can be, but how refreshing and hopeful it is to know that there is a value system beyond status, and belongings, and security. We shared our conversation with the ducks, and the quiet lake, and the turning leaves. We noticed the beauty, we were grateful for the chance to see each other, and honored with the burden of knowing. Knowing about the hike, seeing, even if just in glimpses, Christ and His vision. No amount of advertising or promotion can sell this vision. It's only when Christ reveals Himself that we are able to see. So thank you Richard for teaching us, often by example alone, that this life with Christ isn't a commodity, owned only by the rich, but rather a relationship, shared by those who are willing to wait and sometimes hike through fog.

At 14/10/05 12:33, Anonymous rebecca said...

Hi. I started attending Bethany not long ago. I just thought I'd introduce myself.

I attended Prairie Bible College, where I met my husband Josh ( We moved into the area in April...sort of. Josh moved to the area--I had to do my internship in South Korea, so I moved into the area in July. Anyway...

I appreciate your sermons. They always speak to me...and right now, not much "churchy" stuff does.

At 21/10/05 08:49, Anonymous Bree Aseltine said...

Richard, what true words these are. I have been at Bethany for 5 years now and I will have to admit that there have been plenty of times that my vision has been clouded. There was even a time for a few months that I just had to leave because the fog was more than I could bear. But then God whispered this very same truth to my heart. So I came back. And Oh what a blessing it has been. There is still fog and quite often but the blessing that come in those momentary clearings have been the richest I have known in years. For as many times as my hopes have been dashed, my heart has been blessed. I will keep showing up, keep serving, keep hoping!


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