A path already laid

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Over the last couple of years, I have felt a shift in my faith that has caught me off guard. Last year a phrase that I have used at the top of my website came to me as I submitted this shift to God in prayer as I tried to understand what was happening.

"Pioneering a well-worn path"

This feeling first came from my study of church history in seminary, and then through reading sermons and journals from preachers that have been dead for over 200 years. The heart of this feeling is that in the Christian faith, our personal experience is not all that personal…or unique. I know some wouldn’t like that I don’t think everyone is special and unique, but I sincerely feel that the number of truths that transcend personality and personhood have begun to outweigh my desire for individuality. My confidence is moving away from what I know to what the church collective knows.  

I doubt that idea is clear, so let me put it this way. I sincerely doubt that my faith journey hasn’t been done before. Each step I take in my faith, each piece of theology I come to understand, every Bible study that I lead, it has all been done before. And that isn’t a reason to feel that I am unproductive citizen of the kingdom of God, but that I am discovering for myself the truth that God has revealed to his people over the centuries…and that is something to take joy in.  

Now, the backside of this heart shift is that even though I have accepted the well-worn path, this is not an escape from spirit-led discovery. Rediscovering truth requires work because time and context often disguises the heart of what we are getting at here. The path that the saints have paved is often overgrown and has become dull in color from the years of exposure to the elements.

This truth has become all the more clear in my role of associate pastor of church that has been around for well over 100 years. Every time I think up some new idea for a program or event, I am met with memories from the congregation of that time they did exactly what I have proposed 30 or 40 years ago. It’s actually astounding how little I am capable of inventing as pastor and because of my shift in faith towards this big idea that I am simply pioneering a well-worn path, I find comfort in that fact. I am not here to make something new up, but to resurface it for a new context, a new day.

Yesterday, in a small way I was reminded of this while I did some yardwork. Our house was built in 1895 and has some beautiful river rock pathways across the backyard. They have fallen into  disrepair from years of use and some stones that you thought would be there were just plain missing. So I went about straightening the pathway and adding some stones. I laid out where I wanted the stone and went about digging the holes that would keep them.

Overall I was adding six new stepping stones to the path. And as I began to dig each of those holes, my shovel was met with a ting that let me know I was hitting rock. I discovered that this path that I thought I had so cleverly designed…already existed. In the exact spot that I was digging for each of these stones there was already another in it it’s place just a few inches under the surface. My job stopped being inventor and became restorer.

Yet again, I was merely pioneering a well-worn path.

Mega-corporations doing a good job of telling their humble story. Church we should be better at doing this.

Getting beyond survival mode

We all have a craft of some sort. That thing we do, that we think about and that we pursue on our own time. But having the physical and emotional energy to do requires certain prerequisites. 

Over the last 6 months we have been reestablishing our lives in a new city, in a new community and with a whole new career. 

So much has changed that I really felt like I forgot about some of the things that I know best and did a lot. 

In other words, I am sorry that I stopped blogging for the last 6 months. Not because it disappointed my reader (hey mom!) but because public writing challenges me in a way that little else does. 

In thinking through this post, I kept coming back to the idea that when we make such big life change it’s easy, and honestly necessary, to fall into survival mode. I’ve been meeting the demands of the day and little else. 

Well, I think we are to a point where camp is setup, the land has been scouted and the necessities are taken care of. I’m ready to begin my craft again. 

Blogging being one craft I am eager to dive into again. Hello blog.

There is something satisfying about tucking a manuscript into this folder on Monday. Not that the message is done but that its out there and has been said. That’s its no longer in my head but in the hearts of my church family.

Sermon Preview: “He Was” - Romans 5:1-11 

Over the last two weeks we have covered a lot of ground in our sermon series "Because I am…" This week we’ll be hitting another huge (HUGE) topic of justification and sanctification. If those words don’t make a lot of sense to you, here are my simple definitions…

Justification: All of your sins are forgiven. You just got right with God. 

Sanctification: This immediately follows justification because sanctification is the growth that we experience in our new relationship with God. 

For the brave, I dare you to read The Scripture Way of Salvation by John Wesley. This is one of his most famous sermons. Read it here.

Finally, our text for this Sunday is Romans 5:1-11, the text below is from the ESV, my preferred version. 

See you Sunday!

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” (Romans 5:1–11, ESV)