Mundane Miracles

A truck in the line of Weatherford Fracturing Technologies' convoy headed out of Waynesburg, PA.

A truck in the line of Weatherford Fracturing Technologies’ convoy headed out of Waynesburg, PA.

“All that you touch
you Change.”

Sara is traveling to Berkley to begin the early phases of her ministry. Prophets are being laid to rest. Johnsonburg Camp is creating new projects and initiatives. Grants are being awarded to fund intentional community start-ups. Kristen is going to farm in Colorado. New sources of water hidden under earth’s crust are being researched. Everything is changing. Cathy’s ministry is expanding to address other needs in Waynesburg. Recent college grads are searching for programs that wed faith, service, and a direct confrontation of social injustices. Elizabeth is making roots in New Orleans. The miracles are countless…

During my second year of seminary I had a powerful learning moment in the “Preaching and Worship” class all MDiv students are required to take. We were bouncing ideas off of each other and trying to gain substance for the first sermon of the semester. The text was 1 Kings 17:7-16, the story of Elijah and the Widow of Zarephath. In these verses the traveling prophet is commanded to visit a Widow, with a small child, as she attempts to survive drought and famine. In this text, Elijah asks for hospitality, just a little bit of water and a small bite to eat. The woman kindly refuses, reminding him with each request that she and her son are near death; there is nothing to give.

“All that you Change
Changes you.”

By the time this small group discussion took place we had each read this chunk of verses many times. So many times that it was becoming difficult for some of us to know what we would like to focus on. One of my friends was sharing his thoughts on the text. He stated that he was having a difficult time finding inspiration. ‘This miracle is just so mundane,’ he said. And there it was…the lesson to last several lifetimes.

Think about the miracles we’ve been taught to respond to with oooh’s and aaah’s. From the wisdom texts to the tear-jerking stories on the news, we expect miracles to be wrapped with thunder and lightning, glowing figures and levitations, new body parts and full bank accounts. These are life-changing experiences, the ones that books are written about then turned into movies. But, fireworks don’t always accompany miracles. Often, the miraculous moments in life are rather mundane—at least by comparison to the stories we know through film and novel.

This trip has been an intense reminder of the frequency with which mundane miracles occur. First year camp counselors, right out of high school, are helping 9 and 10 year olds with their first week away from home. Lasting impressions are being made. Holmes Farm is teaching kindergartners about the importance of healthy eating, connecting them with soil by teaching them to space carrots and plant delicious varieties of lettuce. We’ve driven over 1,000 miles and have not received any damages. All the while hearing more amazing stories of how people have helped lift and love hundreds of others by making simple, but authentic, decisions throughout their life. Our hosts have been warm, generous, and have shown us nothing short of love.

“The only lasting truth
is Change.”

It is true that not everyone has the luxury to sit and count, or at all consider, the mundane miracles that occurred in their life today. But for those of us who do have this benefit, we are wise to glean a deeper lesson from the power of mundane miracles. That is, our conditioned way of recognizing and naming “true” miracles is one that limits us from seeing every interaction as a Divine one. Each hand shake, each wave into traffic from the car behind, the simple smile that led to a free sandwich, the eye contact and head nod that changed your morning commute…all miraculous. We can’t know how living authentically will matter for the person who sees us living our truth. Perhaps it’s not important for us to know that such an impact is made at all. The more powerful thought to sit with is that by living truth, by seeking, questioning, loving, and dwelling in gratitude, we actively participate in the greatest network of human life. Never fully knowing how a simple decision might change the life of the next person we meet.

“God
is Change.”*

May every decision you make leave a residue that inspires love for the one that follows.

*The quotes between paragraphs are taken from Octavia Butler’s “Parable of the Sower”. Please read it and be enriched.

 

Unveiling a New World for Ministry

“You’ve spent your time in seminary developing your voice, now it’s time to see what you do with it.”-Wayne Meisel

I graduated on May 17, 2014 with a Master of Divinity. Only a week prior had I decided that I would stay to study another year at Union. With the promise of working with faculty members who have changed my life, and encouraged on a new academic trajectory, I was excited to walk across the stage with enough certainty to celebrate the accomplishments of finishing a masters, and enough faith that the other details of my life will fall into place—like, how I’ll pay rent.

About the time of graduation I was asked if I wanted to participate in the New Faces of Ministry Tour. I had no idea what it meant or what it would ask of me; I just said “yes.” To the surprise of my boss, I asked no critical questions. There are many times in my life when my spirit intercepts the analysis of my brain and makes a verbal agreement—usually an agreement that makes no “logical” sense at the time. I quickly learned that the tour I agreed to participate in would mean me traveling around with another recent seminary grad to talk with folks at camps and in service corps about their commitments to service and how their faith informs such a commitment. From New York to Ohio we would drive, stopping along the way to introduce ourselves to teams of staffers and camp directors, and listening to stories about why people care enough about others, and themselves, to serve. The following week I met Sammie, a recent Princeton grad and my travel partner. With only a week before our departure date we were both relieved that we clicked right away. One’s mind needn’t be filled with the scenes from ridiculous movies to imagine the myriad ways that a road trip with a stranger could go awry. So, together we left. Prepared with a list of meetings scattered through four states, smartphones with Google Maps, car chargers, and playlists to last for days, Sammie and I have embarked on a unique journey.

It’s the newest trend in “church talk”…the anxiety and fear of dying and becoming irrelevant in a world that is so obviously in need of love and healing. What this conversation has been lacking is the insight into the evolutions of church. We hear whispers of the new ways of doing church. People meeting in coffee shops and bars, ordaining their own leaders, moving worship out of the sanctuary and into the streets where the people are. It is becoming clearer that what looks like a decreasing interest in church may actually be an increasing interest in meeting others in practical and meaningful ways. The New Faces of Ministry Tour sets out to meet with summer camps and service corps to participate in a changing understanding of what “ministry” means. In pairs, we’ll traverse different regions of the Midwest and East Coast to lead workshops that reveal these new ways of understanding how service and faith intersect to cultivate ministry. We’ll lead devotionals with the hope of connecting with staff teams and, together, learning how we can support one another in the work we commit ourselves to. Primarily, we’ll be traveling to listen to stories, in order to experience the sacred texts being created in the daily lives of the neighbors all around us, always produced and rarely published. We will, inevitably, learn that the “new” in all of this is really the “unveiling” of the world we’ve been called to serve.

You can follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram at “Faces of Ministry Tour” and by looking out for the #newfaces posts.