A Prayer to Start the Day

Blessed are you, creator of all,
to you be praise and glory for ever.
As your dawn renews the face of the earth
bringing light and life to all creation,
may we rejoice in this day you have made;
as we wake refreshed from the depths of sleep,
open our eyes to behold your presence
and strengthen our hands to do your will,
that the world may rejoice and give you praise.
Blessed be God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Unresolved

And life is full of loose ends, of rivers never crossed/ On tiny scraps of paper, notes jotted down and lost.

— Brooks Williams, “Some Fine Day”

It’s an experience every pastor has eventually. Someone stops coming to church for no clear reason. There’s been no conflict and no division, at least that you are aware of. Visits and phone calls, if received at all, add no clarity. You’re simply left with unanswered questions and a feeling of loss.

A lot of life, not only church life, is like this: unresolved loose ends and questions.

What do we do about situations like this? How do we handle it when there’s a distinct lack of resolution?

Sometimes our “Why?” questions are left hanging in the air, without answers forthcoming.

Like it or not, I think we have to learn to live with this lack of resolution. Whether it’s to do with church, a relationship, or something else. Because people are messy. We human beings are quite inconvenient creatures. We don’t easily fit into people’s expectations of us. Others don’t neatly fit into our expectations. We don’t even always fully know our own motivations or reasons for the decisions we make. We can be a mystery to ourselves. No wonder we can confuse and confound those around us.

And life is complicated a lot of the time. There’s a lot going on around us. And inside of us. We don’t understand it all.

It occurs to me that one of the reasons I can be left so frustrated with the lack of closure that attends life (and ministry) at times is that it leads me to question myself or the value of what I am doing. I wonder if I’ve done something wrong. I can wonder if there’s something I didn’t do that might have prevented the situation. Sure enough, that might be the case at times. After all, I make mistakes. We all do. But other people make decisions too. And their choices aren’t always–or even usually?–about me. Either way, the fact is I may never know the reason why a given situation lacks closure.

And think of it this way. There may very well be other people who experience a lack of closure because of you. Knowingly or not, perhaps you’ve left someone out there wondering why, and feeling unresolved about some situation. As the lyric above from Brooks Williams says, “Life is full of loose ends.” And sometimes our best intentions become sins of omission or “notes jotted down and lost.” There is someone out there who has disappointed you. There is also someone out there whom you have disappointed.

Ultimately, life–that is, people and our circumstances–does not always provide the closure we desire or seek. So we’re often left with these (sometimes) unconscious feelings of longing for wholeness. That’s where regret sometimes comes from. Such a longing can surface in all kinds of ways. In bitterness, sadness, resentment, as well as in our feelings of disapppointment regarding family, relationships, our professional lives, and church experiences. But this longing points us to something deep inside of us. We all have a longing for wholeness. But if we’re counting on such closure or resolution in order to feel better about ourselves and our lives, we’d best get used to locating our sense of wholeness elsewhere.

At the beginning of his Confessions, Augustine wrote these famous words: “You have made us for Yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in You.” That’s where we receive wholeness. That’s where we find ultimate resolution to all the broken pieces of our lives. That’s where all the loose ends either get sorted out or no longer matter. To that end, when we find ourselves feeling such a lack of closure, and we have it about something that this life can never truly resolve, we should let that experience point us to the only One who can resolve it. And not because in eternity we necessarily will get all the answers to the questions we’ve asked in this life. No, because once we find ourselves in his presence forever we will discover in his face all the answers we will ever need whether we asked them or not.

A Collect For Strength To Wait for Christ’s Return

“O God our King, by the resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ on the first day of the week, you conquered sin, put death to flight, and gave us the hope of everlasting life: Redeem all our days by this victory; forgive our sins, banish our fears, make us bold to praise you and to do your will; and steel us to wait for the consummation of your kingdom on the last great Day; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

A Morning Prayer

“Blessed are you, creator of all, to you be praise and glory for ever. As your dawn renews the face of the earth bringing light and life to all creation, may we rejoice in this day you have made; as we wake refreshed from the depths of sleep, open our eyes to behold your presence and strengthen our hands to do your will, that the world may rejoice and give you praise. Blessed be God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit for ever. Amen.”

Baptism

Today I stood, clothes soaking wet, taking a look around at the sizeable crowd that had gathered for the occasion.

And I was grateful and full of joy.

Across the Causeway, at Northeast Point people were mingling, chatting, some hugging others who were similarly dampened by the cold water of the Atlantic.

No matter the time of year, it’s always cold. Only the temperature of the air changes. And today it was beautiful, sunny, and warm. Perfect for what we were doing.

We represented a handful of local churches joining together to celebrate as seven people entered their baptismal waters.

For my part, I had the privilege of baptizing a young woman from our church and my twin 12 year old sons. What a gift to be able to do so. It was an honour to baptize them.

Two other pastors led four more into the water to confess their faith in and commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ.

It was beautiful. It was brilliant. It was glorious, absolutely glorious.

You see, it’s on days like this I’m reminded what it means to be a pastor. Because as I watched all of the people there, from a bunch of different churches, talking, mingling, laughing, and, in the case of the kids, playing, I realized just how big and wondrous God and his kingdom and his story of grace are.

What God is up to is so much bigger than me.

But here’s the crazy thing. I get to participate in what he’s doing. So do you.

When I baptize someone, I get to play one small part in their story, in their walk with God. I may baptize someone, but they belong to Christ. And what Christ is doing in their life is not under my control but his.

I felt the same way as I watched all of these people, believers I know from different churches, talking together.

A friend of our sons, who is more or less the same age and had already been baptized, gave each of them a beautiful handwritten letter, congratulating them on their baptism. They have known her since they were five years old. She and her family used to attend our church, but even though they no longer do, they are still friends.

What God is up to is also bigger than any one church.

We can’t control what God does. How he chooses to work in someone else’s life, and in this or that church, is entirely up to him. He is sovereign and he is mighty and he is gracious.

And he is at work—in your life and in the lives of people around you, pursuing, extending grace, inviting each of us to trust in him and to rest in his presence and promises revealed in the good news of Jesus.

Today was a good day. Today I was a witness to how God has drawn people—young and old—to place their faith in him. I was a witness to the ongoing power of God’s grace in our world. Baptism tells the story of God’s grace. It’s a story I never tire of hearing.