Due Reason

Three weeks to go until my ordination as a priest, notice was read at church yesterday that if anyone has due reason as to why I should not be ordained to contact the bishop.

Of course I stuck my hand up. It was only kinda as a joke. Because I know myself. I know my flaws. I could come up with dozens of reasons, if not hundred. And I don’t just say that out of a false humility.

I am broken. Not as strong. The “wretchedness” of Romans 7 still rings true.

But the truth is also that I’m not the only person who really knows me. I am deeply and profoundly known by the God who calls and compels me. This God knows all of my flaws, shortcomings, addictions and brokenness. And mysteriously I am still called. And the amazingness of grace washes over me again. And so I sit in my brokenness with a smile on my face and hope stirring my heart.

May God’s holiness grow in me. May my life come to reflect more and more the fullness of who I am made to be. But may my identity be sure in who God is and who God sees me to be.

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New beginnings

Big changes. Pack up and left St John’s on Thursday and drove down the country with a fairly full car of most of my important stuff. I don’t like goodbyes – the word always seems so final. When it came down to it, there were lots of goodbyes, but still a lot of people I regret I did not get a chance to farewell personally.

Was welcomed as curate at St Peter’s Pahiatua on Sunday. I look forward to visiting the Eketahuna community in the next few weeks too. It’s exciting and daunting. A huge privilege and an honor.

This week it’s straight into a week of holiday program at church and hanging out with the diocesan youth camp in town. I look forward to the rest of my gear arriving on the truck this week (hopefully). The place feels like home already, and will moreso once everything is in place.

The last night prayer at St John’s completed our reading of the book of Romans. The words “pray for me” (Romans 15:30) continue to resound in my ears.

End of an era

This is the email I sent to the St Johns College Community after my final day today…



Dear college community,

Firstly, thank you for the farewell today. It was a splendid occasion and I have appreciated the opportunity to put a marker in the ground, to farewell this place.

I know I mumbled something today at lunch, but I wonder if you would grace me with me the space here to say a little more. (If not, feel free to stop reading immediately.)

Genesis 28:16-17 “When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, ‘Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.’ He was afraid and said, ‘How awesome is this place!’

I spoke of the importance to me of being aware of the call of God to be at St Johns. And God has not brought us here as some sort of cruel joke or punishment. God is at work, in us and among us. We can trust that. Sometimes faith is a matter of hanging in there, trusting the process.

I know that God has been at work on me during my time at St Johns. I know I have grown. At times that process has been painful. At times it has been very dry. Other times it is pure frustration.

But we hang in there. Because God has called us here. And God is at work.

But more than just hanging in, we pursue God’s work. We break bread together daily. We speak words of life to each other. We listen to scripture together. We pray for each other. Sometimes in our despondency it can be easy to ask, “What’s the minimum standard I can give at St Johns?” I implore you to pursue the ways of God – energetically, expectantly, relentlessly. If God is at work in this place, I don’t want to be the one dragging my feet.

When I arrived at St John’s I had in my head that I was arriving to work through a degree and a diploma. But that’s not accurate. We are here to be formed more into the people that God is calling us to be. While being formed we might do some academic work. Hopefully both feed into each other.

My goal at St Johns has been the same – to leave this place even more in love with Jesus than when I arrived. Loving Jesus is not a destination we arrive at, but a journey that we embark on. It’s glorious.

Philipians 1:9 “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight…”

So please pray for me as I head to Pahiatua as I commit to pray for you. Please do feel free to drop in and say hi. There is a spare bed waiting for you.

And may God’s transforming presence continue to guide you, to inspire you and to draw you close as you journey through this place.

Chris

Not long to go now

Two thoughts from a few minutes I spent in the library today before chapel:
  1. I had reflected a couple of posts ago about jigsaw puzzles as a bit of a metaphor for our calling. I said to trust the quality of the puzzle. The library staff have befuddled me by putting out now a puzzle of very dubious quality. It is very poorly made and the pieces do not fit well together. What do you do when you find yourself in a scenario where you don’t think you can trust the quality of the puzzle? You examine each placement even more carefully, you approach each step with certain uncertainty. It makes the puzzle process less pleasurable for sure. It is very tempting to throw your hands in the air, to announce that I am too good for such puzzles. But perhaps therein lies a challenge.
  2. Overheard a comment in a conversation in the library as I searched for edge pieces. “Thank you for your company this week.” What a great compliment. We thank people for their actions. We thank people for the things that they do for us. Such thanks are difficult to know what to do with. But being thanked for just being there… there’s something in that that is incredibly appealing. I think it is (for me) the top level of compliment to anyone.
I spoke at the Life Course at St Pauls on Wednesday night. After 29 months living in the Christian bubble of St Johns, speaking to a room full of non-christians was a scary prospect. Think it went ok. My slides were pretty at least. Positive comment afterwards. Still find it hard to take. Were they just being polite?

Things I’m noticing:

  1. I’m so hungry right now.
  2. Had a presentation in class that didn’t go as well as I hoped. Felt like a fool. Spending some moments this evening noticing my reaction. I think it is good to name and identify the feelings that come to the surface.
  3. Same class, related item. Someone asked me (being kind to my tech skills) why I don’t have a computer job. “You should work with computers.” I know it is a compliment, but something inside me wondered “is she saying I shouldn’t be a priest?” Was a very small voice, but one that identifies the fact that I have been thinking a lot about ‘calling’ lately.
  4. Switching to ‘getting ready for Pahiatua’ mode. Looking at cars to buy, warmer clothes to wear, thinking through what I take with me…
  5. So much work to be done before the end of semester. It’s tiring and exhilarating. 

Finding the fit

I spent rather longer this afternoon (after a three hour lecture) finishing off a jigsaw puzzle in the college library. As a puzzle, it has taunted students for a while now – it has been quite a challenge. I think working through the puzzle was somehow therapeutic though… I have been thinking a lot about the nature of my own call to ministry – how do I recognise God’s leading in my life?

I thought about the challenge of finding the “right fit” for a piece. There are many places that a particular jigsaw piece could be made to fit. Sure, it might jiggle a bit, but it fits, right? There’s nothing quite like the snugness and satisfaction of the right fit. Persisting with something that doesn’t fit will only make make things more difficult as you move onto the next piece.

Finding the right fit sometimes comes as a surprise. It’s not always the piece that you thought would fit there. But as the fit happens, it is an immense “aha” moment and the picture becomes more clear.

Knowing the difference between a right fit and a wrong fit means trusting the quality of the puzzle.

Making some key finds unlocks some other pieces to be placed with confidence.

Sometime you make quick successive moves. Other times nothing seems to fit. Have patience. Keep trying and looking. If necessary, just work successively through all the options. Sometimes it’s much more about persistence than some imagination of personal brilliance.

Sometimes you encounter serious doubt that all the pieces are present. Trust the process.

Sometimes there is nobody present to cheer you on when you place your final piece. Appreciate the feeling of personal satisfaction. But not too much… many other people also did good work in getting this puzzle completed. Placing the final piece is really no more important than placing the twenty-seventh piece.

Genius from a genius

Have not (yet) had a particularly productive day. But I have had my spirit enlarged by this quote from Albert Einstein:

There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle. 

But without deeper reflection one knows from daily life that one exists for other people; first of all for those upon whose smiles and well-being our own happiness is wholly dependent, and then for the many, unknown to us, to whose destinies we are bound by the ties of sympathy. 

A hundred times every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life are based on the labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving. 

A human being is part of a whole, called by us the “Universe,” a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest -a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. 

Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. 

Only a life lived for others is worth living. 

Now, where do essays fit into that description?