A New Journal

I have a new journal.  It was a gift from a friend in El Salvador during February of this year.  The cover is royal blue over cream-colored pages.  This morning, before placing my journal into my bag,  I slid the elastic band off of the front cover and opened it up.  The humidity is giving the pages a bit of a wavy feel.  Only the first page had writing on it, front and back.  I slipped the band over the cover and decided it's time to put a little more writing into that journal.

Sometimes, it just feels silly to write about ordinary things.

Sometimes, life is such a mess that there is no time to write.

Sometimes, life's experiences are so mysterious or so gut-wrenching that it takes a good long while to process them into words.

We sat in the back of the church this morning.  That's where our friends from the community were seated.  Bishop Gomez gave a greeting and invited everyone to pay attention to the first portion of today's worship which was actually a study time.  The whole congregation is learning basic Lutheran doctrine by studying the Small Catechism as a group.  The teacher taped a home-made poster to the back of a couple of chairs up front. "Should we do this at our church?" my husband whispered.  I pulled my journal out of my purse, turned to the second page and scratched down a few words:  Teaching moment.  Apostle's Creed.  Article 3.  I snapped a photo of the teacher and her props.  Journal entry + Photo = Way to Remember an Idea.  The teacher (who is a pastor in training) did a great job reviewing the first two articles of the creed and briefly explaining the third.  She opened up the floor for discussion.  Question #1 came from the crowd:  "What does it mean to believe?"

Great question, right?  I believe in God the Father...  I believe in Jesus Christ...I believe in the Holy Spirit...  What does it mean to say, "I believe?" and what does it mean to believe as an action?  The teacher started a response by reminding us of the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers - all of us saints, all of us sinners, all of us equipped to believe by God.  The discussion was really quite lively and illustrated the comfort the congregation has in digging in to the weeds of doctrine and helping each other to grow a little bit.  I wrote down a few phrases: "God never leaves us alone.  It's up to us to get close to God and experience transformation, but God is really already there...we come from the left, we come from the right, we come from the center and the church is responsible for creating a safe place for change and transformation for all of us."

The Gospel for today was a story about washing hands.  The Pharisees were all persnickety about the ritual of hand-washing and accused Jesus of not following the rules because the Disciples were eating without washing their hands properly.  Bishop Gomez highlighted Jesus' response to the Pharisees:  the uncleanliness or sin which infects a person does not come from anything outside of the person, but from the sinful nature or evil within.  I was thinking about the Missions of Healing which we do each year, and the importance we place on teaching families how to wash hands.  I wrote down this thought from the Bishop, "Washing hands is not bad...we can do things that are healthy for us, but if we are not in relationship with Jesus, we are not truly healthy."  This lesson from the Gospel might be a very helpful one for the Mission of Healing team to study.  We have always said that prayer and spiritual healing are central to the holistic experience we work to provide, but it can be a challenge to stay true to that focus.

This evening, I sat down to compose this story with the idea that it would simply be derived from the New Journal.  Let's go back to the beginning.  Page 1 has no date, no location, no citation.  Just this:  Don't be afraid to plant something small.  Don't be afraid of the possibility God could grow it into something big.

Read that again:  Don't be afraid to plant something small.  Don't be afraid of the possibility God could grow it into something big.

Further down on that journal page, this:  So much of what we do is a spiritual act, spiritual because we are crying out to God that those in power listen.

Just two thoughts on page 1.  I turned the page.

Page 2 has a few notes from a meeting in June (including a To Do list I have yet to do), followed by a short passage attributed to Bishop Gomez.  Apparently he was discussing clergy clothes.  "Clergy clothes are the uniform that signifies that this sinner is doing an act of God.  Sure, these clothes are super hot, but we are a liturgical church.  This alb, stole, etc. mean something, especially to the older people."

Priesthood of all believers.  Sinner and saint at the same time.

What does it mean to believe...
to believe that prayer and humility are necessary accompaniments to the washing of hands
to plant something small and have faith it will grow
to trust God that if it grows really big, God has a plan for the harvest
to cry out to God and pray for leaders to use power justly
to be a sinner entrusted with acts of God...


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