Sunday, January 30, 2011

Christ and courage in community

Throughout the morning at St. Christopher's, students from the Teen Challenge residential program offered a wonderful and oftentimes (in Episcopal circles) overlooked gift of Christian community - they shared their testimonies. One parishioner remarked to me as she left after worship, "Wow. That takes courage." God knows it does. The courage to name God at work in one's life requires a tremendous vulnerability and courage, becoming an equally tremendous gift to the Church, lifting the veil, witnessing the transparency of grace.

On the subject of courage, I'm astonished at how often I'm tempted to believe that my job as priest is to protect people from the dangerous things that it takes courage to encounter in worship: foolishly trying to protect people from God, from God's people (that is to say, from one another), from the naivety of their thirty-year-old priest, from the Spirit by which the Word calls and convicts, heals and sends, in the lives of God's people.

The words of the Lutheran pastor in John Updike's Rabbit, Run are not undeserved from time to time for me: "In running back and forth [trying to fix/protect other people] you run from the duty given you by God." The Lutheran pastor, Kruppenbach, says that that duty is prayer. Trading my protective instinct for prayer? My own work exchanged for God at work in God's People, even and especially when I stand to look silly? That takes courage.

God, give me courage.

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