The turn of the calendar sometimes gets me thinking a little bit sentimentally. Last week, I went back and looked at my early blog posts; my first post was January 1, four years ago.
I was a blogging machine that first week, posting four times in 9 days. I didn’t continue at that pace.
I began writing this blog with the hope of building a following that would be useful for the novel that I was getting ready to publish. Everything I read told me to write a blog to that you’d have a following of folks who would be knocking down your door to to read what you wrote. It didn’t quite turn out that way.
I don’t say that with bitterness or regret. The blog has become for me a thing in itself, something that has brought me a great deal of satisfaction and if a few people read it along the way, even better.
Which brings me to the point of what I want to say today. What this platform has become for me is a way to contribute the the conversation that goes on between matters of faith and what’s going on out there in the big, wonderful world. Matters of faith are important to me — no, they are central to me. I also carry this insatiable curiosity about what’s going on in the world, a deep desire for things to work better than they do. I write because I think I have something to share with the rest of the world that might be useful, something that might be pertinent to the larger conversation. I have no illusions that I have firm or definitive answers to any of the things I write about. But I do have opinions, and sometimes those opinions might be useful beyond my own head.
There is a lot out there in the world that is not right. For most of us, I think, the default position is that there’s nothing we can do. I don’t buy that. I think that when a lot of us care about those intractable problems and we do even little things collectively, we can get something done. I’ve seen it happen over and over in organizing work; some of that I’ve written on these pages. I think of the honeybees, the thousands of them all going out finding even more thousands of flowers and each collecting their little bits of pollen and returning to they hive. Those communities of bees get done what they need to do to survive and thrive.
Part of what’s necessary for the human community to survive and thrive in the midst of the challenges of the 21st century is to have conversation about those challenges. Conversation is not the whole thing, but it’s a necessary thing. We are a species of language, information, and reflection. Our ability to reflect on our situation is one of the most powerful and magical things about being human. Our reflection and conversation will, I believe, lead to a measure of healing, reconciliation, or making things better.
I want to be part of that larger conversation from the perspective of my Christian faith, and of my position as a leader in the Christian Church. I come to the conversation from my vocation as a Lutheran pastor. I come also fully aware that some lousy versions of Christianity have contributed to the mess the world is in right now. The Christianity that I know and attempt to practice is a faith that is inclusive, inviting, and gracious, a way of being that finds it’s transformative source in the death and resurrection of Jesus and attempts to live consistently and authentically according to the teachings of Jesus. God has intentions for the world; God is at work moving things towards fullness and completion. My vocation is to be an agent of that reconciliation and healing.
If you’ve read this blog for very long, you know that it’s not about one thing. I suppose that violates a cardinal rule of blogging. I haven’t carved out a niche. I write about the things I’m interested in and I’m interested in a lot of different things. But if you look back at the nearly 120 pieces I have posted, what it looks like is that I’m mostly interested in the intersection of faith and life — in particlular, how the Christian faith gets lived out in the world — and what faith has to say about the gnarly messes that we come into contact every day. Reflecting and writing on that intersection calls on my training in theology, my twenty-seven years of experience as a parish pastor in Lutheran congregations, and my continuing interest in theology. It also calls on that curiosity about this big, wonderful world that I’ve already mentioned.
I write, certainly, because I want people to read what I write. And for those of you who are still with me, thanks. But I’ve also discovered that I write for myself. It’s good for me. I want to be a writer when I grow up, and the more I write, the more I practice, the better I get. This is my version of going in to the piano practice room and doing my scales. And, there’s even something b beyond that. When I write, it helps me to organize and clarify what I really think about something. I’m am prone to fogginess of thought, and laziness when it comes to the hard work of actually naming with clarity what I think. Writing forces clarity.
As we enter this new year, I’m looking forward to continuing this conversation. Thanks for being a part of it. And if it’s like many of the conversations I get to be a part of, it will take us to places that are beyond what I could have imagined.