After ten days away during the Christmas holidays, I just put my head down and got to work when I got home. I plowed through hundreds of emails, and dove into several projects on the docket for this semester:
- preparing to interview candidates for the third year of our Free Methodist Summer Interns Project;
- facilitating our Wesleyan Theology course for lay leaders and new pastors;
- serving on the steering committee for the Santa Barbara Mission Conference;
- taking another class at Azusa Pacific seminary in preparation to start a doctorate in ministry.
Suffice it to say, I got in the zone. Before I start down the road to burnout, I let myself sleep in this morning in order to catch up, breathe, rest and reflect.
The first song that came to mind as I rested was one that we sang last week in church: How Deep the Father's Love for Us. Being steeped again in theology through the Wesleyan theology course and the seminary course (which is on the Pentateuch -- one can never tire of studying that!) made me pay closer attention to the lyrics, the great gift being that the truth and power of the gospel washed over me again in joy and wonder. So many lines spoke to me:
How deep the Father's love for us,
How vast beyond all measure...
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice,
Call out among the scoffers...
Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom.
I was then reminded of something I had read earlier in the week from the Gospel of Matthew. In Chapter 13 we are given several of Jesus' parables regarding the kingdom of heaven. Each one is equal parts life-giving and head-scratching for me. I love the images and truths expressed, but the longer I follow Jesus, the more I know how much I still don't know.
This particular parable hit me most this time:
He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.” (verses 31-32) I cook with mustard seeds occasionally. They are tiny, beady, and non-descript. That is how the church in the world feels to me sometimes -- a tiny voice in a din of naysayers, especially as waves of violence and suffering keep washing over our world. Yet these pithy parables remind me to persevere, be patient, keep moving forward, all the while leaning into God's strength and not my own. Because in surprising ways, the kingdom keeps moving forward. I just need to open my eyes a little wider, and look for it with what John Wesley calls "spiritual senses." As the Father's deep love continues to press in upon us as "vast beyond all measure," may we grow in our awareness of what the Spirit is doing every day in our worlds. And more importantly, may we then join in!
That realization helps me understand more as to why I haven't posted much here lately... I've been caught up in the party happening around me. Glory to God. May your 2013 be one full of the Father's deep love.