So, here's hoping that my stress level rapidly decreases. My jaws ache from being clamped shut -- an old habit, wherein I apparently try to hold my whole tired body up by thrusting from my lower jaw, or at least it feels that way. I need a nap, too. I need to drop my to-do list for a couple of days. I'm getting too old to go this pace much longer, I'm afraid. That said, I really, really love what I do. And I love to work with the people I work with, especially the youth.
It can take a long time to see your work bear fruit. I've been here five years, and I think we're just about ready to take off in some ways. Last night, we had many more youth show up to help prepare the Sunrise breakfast than I'd counted on -- and parents came with them! What a wonderful (and challenging) surprise. So, yeah, that's coming along nicely. I see other relationships that take a long time to mature, too. Not everyone can be won to Christ (and/or the Church) by a super-energetic, "buy it today" sales pitch. Salvation is about proper relationships (with God and with others) and that can take a long time.
Now, usually, "slow-pitch" evangelism is the laity's bag. Clergy come and go, and it's up the laity to nurture long-term relationships toward the grace of God. Still, each of us is called to the same general tasks of discipleship; clergy are expressly called to do some things that laity don't generally do, but clergy are also disciples like everybody else. Whatever gifts you've got, God expects you to use them. One of my gifts is making disciples -- not in the fast, razzle dazzle, make the numbers dance kind of way, but in the slow, intensive, come with me and let me show how it's done kind of way.
I guess I do my work the way I do it because of what I needed back when I was a kid -- and then, a young man -- and nobody was there to invite me, to show me, to form me spiritually. When I entered the clergy, I decided that if nobody was going to be the kind of Church I had wanted and needed them to be, then I was going to have to make the Church -- insofar as it was up to me -- the kind of Church I knew I had wanted to belong to, for those who were looking for just that kind of Church. So, I talk a lot about "coming home," home to God. I spend a lot of time talking with those trying to figure out God, Church, and Jesus. I do lots of Scouting because that's something I can share with those who are in that hazy zone where I grew up, where you want to find something worth believing in and somewhere to belong, and where you will know that you are wanted and loved.
Anyway, what it all comes down to is, I think that teaching confirmation is one of the most important things I do. And Scouting is one of the best ways I know to gather up the church orphans -- like I was -- and start them on the journey home. And when people -- especially young people -- come to the front of the church to say those magnificent words by which we profess our faith and claim our place in the kingdom of God, I know that the angels in heaven rejoice and Jesus is well pleased. I know no higher privilege, and I rejoice that my service has not been entirely fruitless.
In the Letter to the Hebrews (2:13), the writer speaks of Christ fulfilling the prophecies (here, Isaiah 8:17-18). As the followers of Christ share in his ministry, and the clergy exhibit his priesthood in an even more direct way, I think such sayings could be used to refer to his ministers. And when I come to stand before the great seat of judgment, I know I will have nothing to plead but the blood of Jesus; then further, when Christ also demands of me an accounting of my service, I will point to all those I gathered in and taught to follow him, and say, as was said of him, "Here am I, and the children God has given me."