Gone in Sixty Seconds and the Priest Who Died So Others Might Live!

Sixty seconds.

That’s all you the time you have left to live.

How are you going to use it?

That’s the “spiritual rhythm/discipline” I’ve been trying on for size the past six years or so. It’s challenging because it forces me to spend that moment – which is all I am ever promised anyhow – well. It’s not enough time to do anything (fix what’s broken, repair what I’ve mangled, etc.) other than use that time well.

In this season of social distancing (a phrase that my good friend Derek West calls an oxymoron – “if you’re distant, you can’t be social”), this discipline/rhythm is taking on new meaning for me.

The discipline itself is rooted in the Scriptures. While I’ve not done a thorough examination, I’d guess there are a couple of dozen direct biblical references to time and our use of it. There are dozens, maybe hundreds, more indirect references and lessons related to the use of time in the Bible.

My favorite is found in Ephesians 5;15-16,

“Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil. “

Earlier, in Ephesians 5:1, Paul encourages us to “live in love.” He then defines what he means by instructing us to imitate and model Christ in the world.

When we see words like “imitate” and “model” we think they mean that we observe and repeat what we see. But it’s not as simple as observing and repeating. To imitate means more than mere observation.

If I am going to imitate someone, I will need to get to know them. I will need to become so familiar with them that it’s as if I become them. Imitation demands intimacy!

That’s why Paul, before he tells us to imitate Jesus, encourage us, in Ephesians 4, to clothe ourselves in Him. We are, in a literal sense, to “put on Jesus.” In Ephesians 4:24 we read,

“Clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”

This “putting on Jesus” is something we do again and again. It requires discipline – an action we take that’s driven by an intention we have.

When reflecting on Spiritual Discipline, Henri Nouwen once wrote,

“In the spiritual life, the word discipline means ‘the effort to create some space in which God can act.’ Discipline means finding that place where you’re not occupied, certainly not preoccupied. In the spiritual life, discipline means to create space in which something can happen that you hadn’t planned or counted on.”

The act (or action) of clothing myself in Him is a recurring discipline that creates space in which God acts. The discipline creates space in my life for God to do the unexpected in and through me!

In other words, if my intention is to imitate Jesus, then the action that must happen prior to that is the discipline of “clothing myself” in Him.

As we clothe ourselves in Him, we are then empowered by Him – His life within us – to live in love as we live in the world.

This is what Ephesians 5:15 explicitly calls living wisely – or living in wisdom (Ephesians 5:15-16. Specifically, that means that as God’s beloved children (Ephesians 5:1-2), clothed in Christ and living in union with Him (Ephesians 4), we are empowered to live well in a world that’s all but forgotten (and even forsaken) how (Ephesians 5:3-4) to live well.

This week, I was humbled by a news article that exemplifies how one can live wisely in our world. The story caught my eye because it’s subject is an Italian Priest who died from the Cornovirus in March. He died because he made a decision to surrender his ventilator so that someone younger might have access to it and live.

Such a decision is possible, even probable, for one who spends a lifetime clothing themselves in Christ. That’s a decision to live as God’s beloved, wrapped up in His life, in the world. A world where both currently and rampantly our first inclination is to hoard, consume, and preserve ourselves rather than sacrifice and share for the sake of others!

Could I make that kind of decision?

Honestly, I am not sure.

I know I could give up a ventilator for those I love, but for those I don’t know and those who may even be an “enemy,” I am not so sure.

I’ve recently witnessed other behaviors from Christian leaders that I consider to be foolish. Behaviors like bantering on about our First Amendment Rights in relation to the mitigations set in place during this Coronavirus pandemic.

No. That’s not the way I want to live those last sixty seconds of my life.

Nor is it the way I think the Scriptures encourage us to live them.

Sixty seconds.

That’s all the time you have left to live.

Do you surrender your ventilator so that others might live?

Do you whine about your rights and pound your self-righteous chest so that all might hear just how upset you are?

Do you extend mercy and grace or anger and hate?

Do you share the light of Christ or keep His light to yourself?

Do you rest in peace as you head into peaceful rest?

Are you able to reflect on a lifetime of sixty seconds in which you’ve “put on Christ” and absorbed HIm into your life?

Sixty seconds.

How are you going to use it?

I am asking myself these questions more than ever before.

I am not always satisfied with my answers, but I am thankful that I continue to ask the question.

Grace and peace,

Biz

Transforming Pastoral Ministry: Congregational Care as Companionship

From time to time someone will ask me a question like the following:

“Pastor Biz, what do you spend your time doing during the week?”

To which I often answer (in my more serious moments) something like,

“I meet with church/community members, have appointments over meals, and work with our ministry teams and leaders.  The care I provide to our ministry teams differs from week-in and week out.  Currently, our Youth Ministry is receiving more time than usual.  But I may meet with our Missions, Children, Deacons, Elders, Worship, team, etc. depending on the day or the week!  I also spend time in study and preparation for my teaching/preaching responsibilities.  When I have time, I like to pray/think/reflect on the church’s overall health.  I also try to craft out time to pray and connect with parishioners who are homebound or in need of visitation.  And, finally, I enjoy meeting with other pastors and ministry leaders, when possible.”

That’s all to say that I spend most of my time and energy providing some form Congregational Care.

Continue reading “Transforming Pastoral Ministry: Congregational Care as Companionship”

Transforming Pastoral Ministry: Congregational Leadership

I don’t know much about cars.

I do know that ALL wheeled vehicles have axles.  After browsing the internet, I learned that axles are used for steering, driving, and braking.  They are, therefore, crucial for basically every aspect of vehicular transportation.

Further (to sound more knowledgeable than I am), they transfer power and torque from your engine to your wheels.  This means that axles withstand the accelerated forces of driving and braking.

Axles, it seems, always endure stress as they perform the job that makes it possible for me to drive from point A to point B.

Cars, Congregations, and the Rhythm of Co-laboring

As I’ve been reflecting and writing on what I am calling Transforming Pastoral Ministry and Leadership, I am coming to believe that the ‘axle’ of the entire “Pillar and Rhythms” paradigm is Congregational Leadership as a wearisome but wonderful practice of Co-laboring.

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What is a Contemplative Bible Study? Pt. 4, Mediation that’s Uniquely Christian

Meditation that’s Uniquely Christian

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”  Colossians 3:16

The subject of Colossians 3:16 is “the word of Christ.”

While that seems self-evident, it’s important to note a few implications of this fact.  First, the subject is not me or you.  The subject is always Christ.

This is why Paul invites us to surrender.

We often come to the Word longing to hear from God specifically in response to a situation or issue we are facing.

While such an approach is common, it’s also idolatrous.

Continue reading “What is a Contemplative Bible Study? Pt. 4, Mediation that’s Uniquely Christian”

What is A Contemplative Bible Study? Pt. 2: Mountains, Metaphor, and Meditation

What is A Contemplative Bible Study? Pt. 2: Mountains, Metaphor, and Meditation

Last week I retreated with a group of fellow believers at a Franciscan Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado.  This retreat is the final in a series of retreats facilitated by the Apprentice Institute and James Bryan Smith†.  Though it was our final retreat together, it was my first visit to Colorado – ever.

Having heard much about Colorado’s beautiful landscape, I was anticipating some wonderful views filled with moments of majesty and awe.

 

And, though what I saw mocks my meager reach for words to describe it, I can tell you that I was not disappointed!

Continue reading “What is A Contemplative Bible Study? Pt. 2: Mountains, Metaphor, and Meditation”