|May I see Jesus, please? I need to talk to him.|
A dock on the Sea of Galilee in Israel
Author’s note: I’ve noticed the readership of this blog has increased. This is causing me some anxiety, but perhaps I’ve finally found something interesting to blog about.
“What are you doing?,” Keith asked me when I told him about my meeting with the district superintendent. “I thought you weren’t going to do this again.”
I know, I know! These days, I try to protect my blood pressure and blood glucose levels, which are negatively impacted by stress. I had already noticed both were increasing.
“Did you ever think your tendency to do this might be more about you than about God?” he asked; a nasty, terrible, valid question! It was a question I already had been asking myself.
Here’s my answer: “Maybe. But I think God might do a lot more, and bigger things, if people were open to it.”
Some years ago, I led Carr United Methodist Church in Durham in making a gift of its building and parsonage to the Shepherd’s House UMC, a new church composed of people from Zimbabwe. Today, the Shepherd’s House is going strong, reaching out with the love of Christ to the inner city neighborhood around the church. The pastor gives me a bear hug when he sees me. It’s clear, in retrospect, that God was at work doing something pretty big.
But the experience with Carr was really stressful. It changed me in ways that are not all positive. I swore I would never do something like it again. In later years, when I was pastor elsewhere, every time I would start to pray, “Jesus Christ, take back your church!,” I would check myself… “Jesus, take back your church as long as it’s not overly stressful for me, please.” Jesus would smile, and the Spirit would pass over.
I had stopped praying that particular prayer long ago (God help us all if Jesus really takes back his church), but I had not stopped praying. In fact, during and after the spiritual direction course I took, my prayer life had strengthened.
And here’s something strange: When I prayed about Aldersgate, I often sensed a playfulness on the part of the Divine. This was something new – or perhaps my ability to perceive it was new. It had (still has) the effect of keeping me from taking myself too seriously, and it has kept me from being too stressed out to pursue this new thing that God might be doing.