I was awakened/did awake early this a.m. (3:53). My excuse, I retired too early per the 6 hours I normally sleep. Yet, my curiosity has me wondering the real reason, for my 64 years of life history has informed me that each day is recorded beforehand, and holds a divine mystery for those who chose to journey with the Ancient of Days.
Either way, having completed my devotional reading, the morning newspaper and my a time with the Lord in prayer, my only alternative is to explore the contemplative side of me. That side of me is always eager to engage when there are no other distractions. I guess that is why I enjoy early morning time alone, though alone is never the case!
There is always a sense of purpose in my musings, even a sense of calling, given my first recollection of The Voice at age nine: “One day you will preach the gospel.” Yes, I am a preacher; a somewhat tired vocation in today’s fast pace of social networks where everyone now has a voice; though for most, the message requires little thought and minimal words, thanks to a culture of Tweets and Facebook.
The preacher in me this morning was stirred by just a few thoughts from Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation: Compassionate Action — September 4, 2012: “About eight centuries before Christ we finally meet the spiritual geniuses—the Jewish prophets—who try to link the two traditions: inner God experience and outer work for justice and truth. We continue to have halfhearted divisions—in the form of Right or Left, liberal or conservative, establishment or disestablishment, contemplative or activist—down to our time. They really do need one another, but in most of history, as in Judaism, the priestly tradition has clearly been in control. The prophets are always marginalized. We always need the prophets to balance out the priests, but they are not just pushed off to the side, but usually killed, according to Jesus (Matthew 23:29-31).”
His comments follow an introduction that describes three phases of the Judeo-Christian tradition: The Exodus, The Priestly and the Prophets. Having just finished his book, Falling Upward, a commentary on second half living, I have begun to reflect on my own life journey; possibly no different than any other, but it definitely reflects similar stages.
I have had a wonderfully full life, which apart from inexhaustible wealth, holds similarities with the Preacher in Ecclesiastes. I experienced a wonderful childhood, learned to work hard at an early age, mentored by a Dad still in recovery from the Great depression and WWII. I was taught the virtue of a good education, and though never a scholar, earned three progressive degrees, the first in Biology, the second in Community Development and the Third in Leadership and Administration. While amply prepared for a competitive career, none of that formal training was centered on pulpit ministry. Yet, serendipitously my mind was framed with a curiosity around creation, a love for community and a certain bent toward building human capacity for the accomplishment of strategic vision. I am quite content that the Lord knew what He was doing.
Though having a call to preach, my heart was never firmly drawn to a pulpit or religious setting, though I have thoroughly enjoyed each opportunity provided and in fact, many, in their times of challenge, have shared their appreciation for my life as a “pastor.” I guess I am a strange duck given where life has taken me.
Now in my second half of life (you’ll need to read Rohr), I seem to have exhausted my need for institutions, yet still respect these valuable repositories, critical to “first-halfers” as they work to frame their own wineskins. As well, they serve as comfortable boxes for those who refuse to step into their second-half, preferring rather to take up lodging, having loved false security more than life (ouch).
Whether institutions of higher learning, religions or politics, I, like The Preacher of Ecclesiastes, now seem disenchanted with them all.
The dilemma then is a place to preach, if not a professorship, a pulpit, or political stump, where? I am not pining, simply awaiting my next window, with the assurance that the same Voice, The I Am, The Paraclete who led me successfully through my formal preparation, a 25 year stint in education, 40 years of experience in various ministerial institutions, and now over ten years in municipal and political engagement, will soon use this old wine skin once more in ways not yet pondered.
Perhaps, I am entering the last stage described by Rohr: “We always need the prophets to balance out the priests, but they are not just pushed off to the side, but usually killed.” I would delight to think that my life is being prepared for a time such as Peter was cautioned of in John 21:18: “when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.”
I trust that my first-half prepared me for such a day if ever required.