"What needs to be said?" I heard the chairperson of the Order of Elders ask. The clergy-packed Chapel of the Unnamed Faithful at Calvin College, Grand Rapids, remained quiet. "What needs to be said?" he repeated and paused as members of the West Michigan Annual Conference found voice and answered.
I don't remember all of our clergy response that evening, but the question "what needs to be said?" resonated with me for years as one of the wisest refrains on earth. Over time, I sensed the need to go beyond talk and wonder about necessart words spoken and heard. My faith tradition says "The word became flesh and lived among us." "Who needs to be known?" is what I'm trying to ask now.
M. Craig Barnes writes in the February 10th, 2009, edition of the Christian Century about pastors as "Poet in residence," subtitle "listening for the sacred subtext." The undercurrent. Barnes writes that "pastors help people explore the mystery of their souls." He opens his piece with an example of Bob and Carol Stratton who come into the church office to complain about the new organist. "Complaining is usually a veiled lament about deeper issues of the soul. Since people are unaccustomed to exploring the mystery of their own souls, they will often work out their spiritual anxieties by attempting to rearrange something external, like a church's music program. but it doesn't matter how many changes they make to the environment around them. They will never succeed in finding peace for the angst of the soul until they attend directly to it. This is why people have pastors."
Pastors are not lynch pins but I am a pastor and I am called to be about the work of exploring undercurrent in my life.
Prayer is one place where I catch glimpses of what happens behind the scenes. For example; at Bread & Water, LLC, the cafe, lodging and kayak tour business I own and operate on Washington Island, Wisconsin, I noticed that the Washington Island School did not have a hot breakfast nor hot lunch program for the students. In spring, 2008, I piggy backed with Student Council Health Week and provided a free hot breakfast trial for the kids -- a universal program where all could eat. Hot old, fashioned oatmeal, golden raisins, fresh frozen fruit, milk and brown sugar is the menu. Fall, 2008, I got a sponsor and permission from the School Board to serve hot breakfast every day. Even today, in a few moments I will turn the water on to boil and begin the ritual of cooking oats, packing, transporting, serving and coming back to the restaurant kitchen sink to wash the dishes and prepare for tomorrow's service. No paper products are used so I count and wash each spoon, each dish, each pot every day.
Each day, the elementary children fairly dance in front of the service cart holding empty bowls and saying "more please." With candle lit in office, prayer shawl warm about my shoulders, just up from the kneeling rail by my desk. Bible still open to Isaiah 34:1 "Come near, ye nations, to hear; and hearken, ye people; let the earth hear, and all that is therein; the world, and all things that come forth of it," I dare to come near, hear, hearken and nose around. This morning in prayer, I remembered the Craig Barnes piece I had read while lying in bed before the sun rose. I remembered that I had a blog site with no blog post. I dared consider (or, was it whispered to me?) that my call to preach is not stilled, but offered new form and function beyond the local church.
Blogging for the first time, I assumed the undercurrent was what I had already guessed -- the reason I am serving oatmeal to the students at Washington Island School is that I have six children of mine in the school and some of them rarely eat breakfast at the kitchen table before they leave in the morning. I thought that my breakfast service at the school was me chasing my children down the street -- even into the halls of the school to make sure that they ate.
But, I sat at the monitor and dared go deeper. In the process of writing, I recognized that I am serving what I know to be communion with students and some teachers who are hungry. The elements are oats, golden raisins, dark brown sugar, fresh frozen fruit, cinnamon and milk. Thanks be to God.
1 month ago