Thursday, October 31, 2013

Reformation or Re-Formation?

As we remember Martin Luther's act of defiance today when he nailed the 95 Theses to the church, I think we need to remember exactly why we're celebrating.

Are we doing it to celebrate the victory of Luther over Roman Catholicism?

Are we doing it to celebrate Luther's writings and teachings?

Are we doing it to remember God's ongoing revelation and work within our lives today?

I hope it's that third option.

I appreciate Martin Luther, and I value the work that he and the other reformers did to shake up the way church has been done, so that more and more people might find engagement with God where God has already been meeting them.

I think Martin Luther had some serious complaints about how the Catholic church was handling their responsibility as the church of God's people, and they needed to be shaken out of their complacency with some systems that were hurting the very people the church was supposed to be helping.

I think it's always important to remember that we cannot earn our salvation and that we do good works out of a response to the very thing that God has done.

I also think we've turned Martin Luther's legacy into something that itself is becoming an hindrance to the body of Christ.

Any time we celebrate the Reformation and celebrate Luther instead of God, we're doing it wrong.

Rather, we must be looking to see how God has worked, is working, and will continue to work to re-form our faith.  A living God requires a living faith.  A living faith requires pruning and growing.  A living faith sometimes requires dying and being resurrected.

Is our faith really a living faith?

We want to say "Yes!"  We want to believe that we are able to let go of some things in order to try something new.  We want to say that we are willing to lose ourselves, so that we might be found by God.

But I'm not so sure this is the case.

I know that every time I read a new book and come across a new idea I have a really hard time carrying that idea into action - especially if I like what the day communicates about God.

For example, part of Peter Rollins' book How (Not) to Speak of God includes ten service descriptions from his ikon community in Belfast.  Each service is radically different from what mainline churches in North America is doing.

And there are parts of his services that I really like.  The messages and themes that Rollins is communicating are exciting - they provide an opportunity to shift our perceptions of God ever so slightly and grow from the experience.

I am terrified to let go of my familiar worship patterns.

As much as I would love to implement the ideas and themes and develop thoughtful ways to integrate them into my own spiritual/prayer life, I am much more terrified of letting go of something that has shaped my identity for almost 25 years.

I am terrified to let go.

I have to let go.

I have to trust that God will still show up when I take away something near and dear to whom I perceive myself to be.

I have to trust that God is going to make me stretch and grow into a new and better identity when I let go of something that has defined who I am.

I have to take a leap of faith.

That's not to say I must rush into it without thinking - but at some point (soon) I need to start acting on what I'm thinking.  I have to experiement.  I have to try something new.  I have to learn to fail and let God succeed.

I hope that's where the church is being called - to let go and let God take hold.

As we walk on this journey together, what are some other places where we should let go and let God take over?

What scares you or those you know about letting go?

What are some ways you've experienced that in your own faith journeys?

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Wrestling with Authority

This is my second engagement with Brian McLaren's A New Kind of Christianity.  This section deals with his second question for the new church, "How should the Bible be understood?"

Thinking about the Bible's overarching narrative of "Who are we as God's people?" helps me think about how we should read and interpret this collection of stories.

Instead of thinking of these stories as a constitutional how-to guide for living faithfully as God's people, it is helpful to think of them as we do many stories - they help us understand a little more about who we are and how we live, rather than tell us what to do.

When thinking about how we understand scripture, I tend to think of George Washington chopping down the cherry tree and the famous quote: "I cannot tell a lie."

Yet, that story is false.

Yep.  Never happened.

However, the deeper truth that is conveyed by this familiar story is true.  The idea that the father of our country was honest and valued his integrity is true.  The idea that we should emulate that honesty and integrity is even more true.  The story resonates with us because we have been in situations that are similar.

This is how our stories in scripture work with us.  Some of my personal favorites are Jacob wrestling with God and the story of Job, are just a couple of these stories that really resonate with the truth of what it means to be a child of God.

Jacob wrestles with God and is forever changed by that experience, as noted in the story by the limp and the name change.  When we hear this story it resonates with us.

We encounter God.

We wrestle with God.

We are changed by challenging, questioning, and engaging God.

Job experiences great tragedy, and struggles to understand how such a thing could happen to him.  Even though those who are around him encourage him to renounce God or confess his (imaginary) sins before God, Job maintains his innocence and refuses to turn his back on God.  Yet, God comes to Job and informs him, none too kindly, that trying to pin down how God works is not a good plan.

We experience tragedy.

We hear people tell us that it is because of our sins.  We hear people encourage us to turn our backs on God.

We don't understand how God works.

These stories speak to us with an authority beyond that of a "how-to guide."  These stories speak to our hearts and are given authority by their power as stories of the human condition.

Why do we need to give them authority beyond that?  Isn't the fact that thousands of years later, these stories still resonate with the hearts and minds of their audience authoritative enough?

For example, when we read Leviticus or some of the Epistles as a set of laws instead of hearing a story of how people tried to define themselves as God's people, we lose something in the cultural translation.

We think slavery is bad, so the rules for slavery are out of date.

We believe women should have equal voice and rights, so the rules about women are out of date.

However, when we see how the rest of the Middle Eastern world, the Jewish (and Paul's) ideas on how to treat slaves indicates that we should treat them respectfully and break societal conventions with how we should treat those over whom we have authority.

When we look at how women were being treated in the Greco-Roman world, we see how the authors  are trying to wrestle with being a child of God in that time period.

Just as we wrestle with what it means to be a child of God in our time.

We might never come up with a satisfactory answer, but then again, Jacob didn't really get an answer when he wrestled with God.  In fact, Jacob got a limp and a name change.

It was the wrestling that was important.

The desire to engage God is what gives the scriptures their authority, and as long as we do that in love we listen to the authority of God.

Monday, October 28, 2013


This sermon was delivered to the people of The Lutheran Church of the Nativity on October, 27, 2013.  This is Reformation Sunday for many Protestants, and the text was 1 Kings 5:1-5; 8:1-13.  

Our journey through the narrative lectionary continues this morning with the next step on the faith journey of the Israelites.  They have had two kings, who while they both had their flaws, helped unite Israel and bring peace.  Now, they are on their third king, Solomon who takes it upon himself to build a house for the Lord.
And this was some house.  It took Solomon seven years to design, gather materials, and build.  The people made large pots, huge candlesticks, and even decorated the innermost dwelling place with golden cherubim.  This is a house fit for a king.  And God does come to dwell among the people.  God’s presence fills the house of the Lord - God’s presence is so great that the priests cannot stand to minister there.  Solomon explains for us that “The Lord has said he would dwell in thick darkness.”
And the form of Judaism that we come to recognize with the High Priests in Jesus’ day slowly begins to form.  For this particular group of people, the temple is no longer a place to signify God’s presence in and among the people.  Rather, for them worship becomes all about saying the words just right, making sure the animals are sacrificed in just the right spot, and that people give enough to pay for the priests’ food and the upkeep of the temple.  
Sounds a little familiar right?  For those of us who grew up Lutheran, every year on Reformation Sunday, we hear about how the Catholic church was worrying more and more about money, worrying more and more about saying the right things, and worrying more and more about making sure everything was in its proper place.  We associate these with bad things, because our superhero, Martin Luther, comes in with his mighty hammer - reminiscent of Thor - and starts pounding his 95 Theses to the door of the high and mighty Catholic church in Wittenberg.  Luther wants to reform these things within the Catholic church, much like the prophets of Israel wanted to reform the Jewish faith as we’ll see in the next couple of weeks.  
For the prophets and for Luther, it wasn’t about making sure that things were said just right, or that the building was perfect.  Like Pastor Mark said last week, God doesn’t care about outward appearance.  God is concerned with the heart of the individual.  Luther and the prophets were concerned about the hearts of the people who were claiming to be children of God, but weren’t acting like it.  They said that God doesn’t dwell only in a building, or in the priests, or in the pastors, but that the Spirit of God dwells with each and every one of us.  God dwells in the thick darkness, not in some building that humans have built.
We have been blessed with an opportunity to live through a period of re-formation of the church today.  There are several authors writing right now that talk about how the church is in a period of upheaval.  We’re beginning to let go of some of these things that don’t matter, an institutionalized faith focused on blind participation rather than the heart, mind, and soul’s engagement with God.  We too, have lost sight of what’s important to God - our heart -  in favor of this great institution that we have built out of Martin Luther, who would likely shudder to hear us call ourselves Lutheran after him.
That’s not to say that what Martin Luther did for the church was bad, no he put the scriptures in the hands of everyone, so that all might have a personal experience with God, and he tried to show that God dwells with each and every one of us when he uses one of his popular phrases, “priesthood of all believers.”  Martin Luther reminds us that we cannot earn our salvation, and to borrow the phrase from The Princess Bride, “and anyone who says differently, princess, is selling you something.”  Martin Luther and those who are working alongside him, John Calvin, Philip Melanchthon, and others, are trying to remind the church that it’s about the heart.
This is similar to the religion associated with the temple, because this form of Judaism didn’t start out as this institutionalized Judaism that would focus exclusively on right worship, with disregard for the poor or oppressed.  Instead, this temple was built out of love for God, out of gratitude for what God has done, and out of desire to let people see that God dwells among them.  It was a physical icon, or worship aid, to help people focus their hearts and minds to be with God, and to be transformed by God.
Unfortunately, as is the problem with many icons, these worship aids to help us focus our hearts and minds to be present with God, the people started to think of the temple as THE place where God was present, to the exclusion of everything else.  Those who followed about 150-200 years after Martin Luther started to think of the icons that he developed in his writings to help people dwell with God, began to think of those icons as the only ways that people could dwell with God.  Just as there are many worship aids that we have developed over the past 50 years, that have been seen as the only way to worship or be with God.  

Yet, now we are seeing people pick up hammers and smash these idols, which once were icons, just as Martin Luther did almost 500 years ago.  We are able to let go of some of these things that were created to help us worship, but now hinder the worship of others.  We see people pick up things that haven’t been used for a thousand years, and say “This is a place where God’s light shines through.”  That’s why we celebrate the Reformation today, why we celebrate the building and dedication of Solomon’s temple.  We celebrate the fact that God continually inspires us to re-form, re-think, and re-build icons that help us see God more clearly.  We also celebrate the fact that God encourages us to challenge, question, and smash the icons that have become idols, so that we might let go of something that stands between our hearts and God.  Amen.  

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

How God Speaks through Us

This is my last engagement with Peter Rollins' How (Not) to Speak of God

 After many conversations about this a/theological approach to our faith, we cannot help but beg the question, "Which interpretation is the right one?"

After all, my dis/belief might be very different from your dis/belief.

Are they equally valid?

Am I right?

Are you?

How do we determine what is a helpful look at a/theology that allows God to speak to us where we are in our lives?

Peter Rollins posits that we look through all of these questions through a lens of love.  That is, is our interpretation of an experience/text done in such a way that love is the primary message being conveyed through our interpretation.

However, it is impossible for us to define how to interpret through a lens of self-giving and Christ-like love.  The Christ-like love we are to emulate in our interpretations is one that is charitable "above and beyond" what any instruction manual could ever say.  Trying to pin down precisely what is required - to turn the "above and beyond" into the norm - fails to recognize the radicalness of self-giving love.

This means, that we aren't able to concretely nail down one correct way to interpret scripture and ethics.  Instead, it's something that we must be able to feel through and work out on a case by case basis.

Our interpretation in love in one situation isn't always going to be our interpretation in love in another situation.

This brings us to the importance of the community's role in faith.  We must continue to talk through our struggles with one another - to continually be re-interpreting our faith through the lens of love.  And we must continue to hold up all of these interpretations together in a dis/unity that allows us to embrace the mystery that God presents to us through scripture, tradition, and experience.

As one thinking about how to accompany people as we all continue to walk on our faith journey, this presents a tremendous challenge but also a wonderful opportunity.

The challenge is that simply talking about people about God is not the solution.  It never was, isn't now, and won't be in the future.  Instead we must listen to where people are; we must listen to where God is working in the lives of those around us.  We start our conversations about God where the other person is - and not from the belief that they should be where we are now, but rather that we can find a new direction together.

Finding that new direction together is the wonderful opportunity that we have been given.  We are on the frontier of a new conversation about God and it's one that will allow us freedom to play and explore God's mystery and hypernymity together.

We need not speak of God, but rather allow God to speak through us - our thoughts, words, and deeds.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

What's in a Plot?

I recently started Brian McLaren's A New Kind of Christianity.  The book raises ten questions that are at the forefront of the emerging conversation regarding the future of Christianity in a postmodern world.

The first question that Brian McLaren engages in his book is, "What is the overarching story of the Bible?"

This is an excellent question to bring up, because humans are creatures of stories.  When we are little, we want to hear the same story again and again.  We have favorite stories that describe what's going on in our lives.  We love to listen and tell the stories that have impacted us.

After reflecting on this fact and this section of the book for a few days, I think that the overarching story of the Bible is...wait for it...

"Who am I?"

The whole of scripture is an exploration of what it means to be God's people.  The Old Testament wrestles with creation as God's creation and how a certain people came to know and experience God.  It continues as they wrestle with what God wants them to do because they have been chosen as God's people.

The different books and stories explore how their trials and tribulations, as well as their causes for celebration engage with God's promises.

The Old Testament (for Christians) culminates with an experience of God in Jesus Christ, as witnessed to by the Gospels.  The letters of Paul and the Acts of the Apostles are also written wrestling as those who followed Jesus Christ try to understand what exactly their faith means based on the crucifixion and resurrection.  

The whole story culminates in the Revelation of John as John writes down about the end of human history as God's chosen people.  

"Who are we?"

When we think about the scriptures as a series of stories that wrestle with this question, it helps us to make them more applicable to our daily lives.  Instead of being stories that are about a place long long ago in a galaxy far away, they are stories that mirror stages of our very own lives.

We want to know what we're supposed to be when we grow up.

We want to know what it means to be a child, a sister, a father, a mother, a brother, a grandparent, a friend.

We want to know what it means to be a Child of God - claimed by God's own act.

By interpreting the scriptures as a story that wrestles with a peoples' identity, we allow the scripture to be more than just a record or a fact.  Opening up the scripture to answer an overarching question - this struggle with identity - we open ourselves up to the larger meaningfulness of the story.

I can picture the Hebrew people and their ancestors sitting around a fire or a meal to share these stories about who they are, and where they came from.  Just like our stories at Thanksgiving or Christmas.

These stories are an important part of who we are as Children of God.  More importantly though, through the telling of stories that central message can be passed from generation to generation.

The Levitical laws, for example, aren't just good suggestions or commands to not eat bacon.  No, they are stories that emphasize how the children of God are set apart from other peoples.

The story of Abraham and Sarah isn't a story that's just about the father of a nation.  No it's a story about how experiences with God bring life, sometimes laughter, and change.

All of these are stories that say being chosen as God's people means something tangible in our lives as part of the mystery and beauty of creation.

And so, armed with these beautiful stories we engage in conversations with one another in our communities - just like we did in high school English Lit classes, as we try to understand how these stories are our stories.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013


This sermon was delivered to the people of the Lutheran Church of the Nativity on the 13th of October in 2013.  It is a sermon based around 1 Samuel 3:1-21 on Care Ministry Sunday.  

I love superhero movies.  More specifically, I love the origin stories of superheroes.  There's something about watching these seemingly normal human beings transform into something more.  It's why I prefer Batman Begins to The Dark Knight, and why Casino Royale will probably be my favorite Daniel Craig James Bond film - even though Skyfall was amazing.  But my favorite superhero movie is probably last year's The Amazing Spider-Man.  As many of you might remember, the beginning of Spider-Man involves Peter Parker being bitten by a radioactive spider, standing aside over some crime that leads to the death of his uncle Ben, and the rest of his career as a superhero is spent trying to redeem himself from that one act.  But the reason I love this incarnation of Spider-Man isn't because of the cast or the villain, rather it's one line near the end of the movie.  Peter Parker slides into class late as his teacher is talking about English literature.  Her line is "I had a professor once who liked to tell his students that there were only 10 different plots in all of fiction.  Well, I'm here to tell you he was wrong.  There is only one: "Who am I?"
What a great question.  Who am I?  Not only does it sum up the whole movie - Peter Parker's quest to find a new identity because of his supernatural gifts, but it accurately sums up how many of us spend a good portion of our lives. I believe Peter's teacher is right, most of our literature revolves around this basic question: Who am I?  
Am I the clothes I wear?  Am I the job I do?  Am I the movies I watch?  Am I the people I spend my time with?  Who am I?
Even Samuel wrestles with this question.  He thinks he knows who he is - he's a boy that works with Eli to serve the Lord.  He knows his name and his lot in life.  He thinks he knows what the status quo is, and he's ok with it.  Then he falls asleep one night and hears a voice calling his name.  We know that this voice is God, but it takes Samuel and Eli some time to get there.  It's only after this happens the third time that Eli puts two and two together saying telling Samuel God is calling him.  And so, when God calls Samuel a fourth time, Samuel is ready to answer, ready to embrace this gift that is going to be poured out upon him, and he takes ownership of that.
But even still, once God tells him what Samuel is supposed to be doing, Samuel still wrestles.  We can imagine that he spends the rest of the night tossing and turning as he tries to make sense of what God has asked him and as he tries to work up the courage to go through with it - a feeling I'm sure many of us resonate with as we have spent one or two sleepless nights wrestling with major life changes or trying to work up the courage to say something we know needs to be said.
In the story, Samuel goes through with it.  He tells Eli what needs to be said and hears Eli's response.  But the story ends with Samuel spending the rest of his life trying to live into his newfound identity as God's prophet.  He spends the rest of his life as Israel's superhero because of his connection with God.  And as we'll see in the next several chapters, it's not always easy.  As is the pattern with superheroes, they are pushed out onto the fringes of society or ignored because they have gifts that frighten people because "they're not natural"
Samuel wrestled with his "who am I?" question and finds an answer, but what about us?  Who are we?  We want the clear voice in the night to call our name and tell us who we are.
Yet, we have heard that voice at some point in our lives.  However, this voice isn't as clear as the one Samuel heard.  Instead, we hear that voice call to us in our baptisms - (like Ana this morning).  We hear the voice in our family and friends as they help us figure out or discern our gifts and talents.   We hear that voice in our teachers and pastors that walk with us as we explore God's work in our lives together.  We hear God's voice in people like Eli who encourage us to just answer it and say that we're willing to work to bring in God's kingdom.
We forget that God works more subtly than we traditionally expect.  We want dramatic moments of clarity like Samuel and Moses got.  Yet, God works through the communities we are a part of, and in our gifts.  We all have those moments where we feel like we are doing the right thing - or maybe that we aren't where we are being called.   There are moments where one person influences us, they say something that resonates within us and helps us focus.  Like the doctor, by whose care, encourages a young woman to become a doctor.  Or a teacher who identifies within a young man that he should teach.  When someone comments on a young child's gift for art and encourages them to pursue it.  These are all places where God speaks to us through those in our lives.
I heard God's voice in college.  God spoke through my good friend and mentor Brian Bennett.  Brian was the pastor at the local congregation I attended while I was enrolled at WVU.  After my first semester when Chemistry killed my dreams to become a doctor, he quietly encouraged me to think about parish ministry.  It was by listening to God speak through him that I changed majors, worked with the church, and discerned a call to seminary, which led me here.  I affirmed God's call through him and it has been a journey worth walking.
We affirm the new sisters and brothers who have just joined our congregation as they again respond to God's call.  We hear God call their names.  We hear their hearts respond to that call as their spirits' call out to God to speak because they are listening.  We too respond with them, promising to encourage them as they continue to answer God.  We hear their words as they encourage us to do the same. We promise to walk with each other on our journeys of faith.
We affirm the call of those involved in the prayer shawl ministry today, as they serve God with their creativity and their prayers for those in need.  We hear God speak to us through their gifts as we seek to serve God using the very gifts God has given to each one of us. We witness their steps on their journey as God continues to call all of us.

Samuel's call story isn't just a model story for pastors and preachers - as much as we might want to make it that way.  Samuel's call story is for those who go into medicine to care for the ill and the elderly.  Samuel's call story is for those who become engineers and keep us safe.  Samuel's call story is for those who create art and make music.  Samuel's call story is for those who study and learn so that they might teach.  Samuel's call story is all of these and yet none of these.  Samuel's call story is just one more step in this search for the answer to "Who am I?"  And that makes it our story too.  We ask, we plead, and sometimes we even beg to understand who we are.  And God answers us.  He calls our name and says that we are children of God.  Amen.

Friday, October 11, 2013

What's So Great About Twitter Anyhow?

Last week I finished reading Meredith Gould's (The Social Media Gospel.  Her book does a great job of outlining how and why social media should be integrated into our Christian mission - both in terms of outreach and in maintaining the Christian community we already have.

It was great to get a sociological and a psychological perspective on why I enjoyed using Facebook and writing this blog.  I didn't think about my introversion as being a factor in why I prefer social media conversations to face-to-face conversations.  Or that my learning style would lend itself to tweeting about lectures rather than just listening.

So here I was, with all of these exciting reasons to use social media in church.

Then I went on a youth retreat.  

While there I talked to several of the youth in my internship site and realized that they just aren't really using social media. 

So here I was with all of these great ideas about using social media in churches and no reason to use them here.  Go figure.

So I thought I would table my great ideas for how to use social media until I was placed in a more social media savvy area.  It's not like they would go bad, right?

But then, I happened to see David Hanson's () tweet about the weekly chat regarding church and social media ().  Since I had the hour free, I decided to join in by following tweets that included #chsocm.  Figured it'd be interesting at the very least.

And I was sucked in.  It was fascinating to participate in this flurry of ideas that encouraged those involved in mainline churches to rethink social media and how we can use them as effective tools for proclaiming and spreading the Gospel.

Then, on Wednesday I noticed that the Shalem Institute () was hosting a contemplative prayer/discussion on contemplative prayer that involved some of the theologians I currently enjoy reading (mostly Bryan Berghoef, )

In this one, I felt more comfortable and was able to participate more actively.  It was an incredibly enjoyable experience.  Being able to hear from a variety of people about their contemplative prayer practices and being able to learn from one another was incredible.

Again, by searching for the appropriate hashtag () I was able to see all of the tweets that related to this topic, not just from the people that I normally follow. 

It will take a few more participatory sessions to really get the hang of how these conversations work, but the spirit of love and cooperation found in all of those participating was energizing.  

I'm also grateful for the opportunity to become more social media savvy as I continue to wrestle with and explore the best ways to use social media to proclaim the Gospel. 

Please help me learn and grow in this area of proclaiming the Gospel using social media.
  1. How is social media being used in your context - business, church, personal life? 
  2. What some other good hashtags that promote good conversation?  
  3. Who are good people to follow that provide good examples of proclaiming the Gospel using social media?

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Seeking Because We Are Found

This is stage four of my engagement wtih Peter Rollins' How (Not) to Speak of God.  For parts one, two, and three click here, here, and here.  

"So I say to you, Ask and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.  For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened." Luke 11:9-10
I think this is our culture's favorite passages.  We love the idea that we can ask for anything and it will be given to us.  We want to find when we seek.  We want the door to be opened when we knock.  More importantly, we want it now.  We want to get the things we ask for immediately.  Sometimes, we want to have what we're asking for before we even ask it.

This is espeically true of our relationship to God, I think.  We want God to know what we want and we want God to give it to us right now.  We, at some level, really believe that only good things should come to us because we are Christians.  

We hear this message time and time again.  "Turn over your life to Jesus and then everything will be ok."  

So people "convert" in an attempt to make their life perfect.  They want to avoid pain and suffering.  They want to make sure they have enough money to get through to the end of the month - or they want to write a check that absolves them of all obligation to actually get to know and care for their neighbor.  

They go to church and expect everything to be wonderful forever.

And then bad things happen.

This is something we've all experienced.  People we care about die.  We get sick.  Sometimes there's not enough money at the end of the month.  Our lives are not as wonderful as we think they should be, especially because we've become "Christian."

So then we stop going to church.  We stop putting money in the offering plate.  We stop identifying ourselves as Christian.

We miss the point.

We don't go to church because the pastor has all the answers.  We go to church precisely because the pastor doesn't have the answers.

Let me explain this.

We've talked about how our worshipful attempts to understand God's identity and action in the world are, at their heart, a/theological.  They both affirm and question our traditional understandings of God and stir up in us a desire to listen and learn from other understandings of God - while continually affirming and questioning the differing perspectives we hear.

Rollins points out that this ongoing quest for God and trying to put God in to words becomes spiritually transformative.  In desiring change we become changed - we embody the change that we want to see within ourselves.

For example, people who want to become healthier.  

They must start to make conscious decisions that will help them as they strive for their goal.  They need to begin making healthier food choices, stop eating out, start excercising - learn self-restraint.  In doing so, when successful, the change happens because their mindset has changed.  They begin to live healthier because of their desire to be healthy. When it is said and done, they no longer have to make conscious healthy choices, because they have transformed their mindset from unhealthy to healthy.

Likewise our search for God is transformative.  Our desire to know God stirs up in us changes within our heart that make it possible to see the aftermath of God's work in the world.  That's one of the primary jobs of pastors - to search with those who seek God and help identify God's work in their lives.

We cannot and should not create a "one size fits all" model for how God works in the world.  How God has worked in one person's life is not how God will work in another's.  

And that's beautiful.  

This is good news because God knows so much about us and our lives that God is going to give each of us individualized care and attention.  

However, this means that the pastor (spritiual leader/friend/whomever who want to talk to about God) is not going to have answers immediately for you.  Sure she (or he) will be able to give you some traditional answers - for example what's in the Lutheran Confessions, but that's not necessarily helpful for identifying where God is in your life at this moment. 

So we go to church.  

We live in community.  

We talk to one another.  

We listen.  

We learn and we help point to God's work in our lives based on scripture, tradition, but we also cannot discount personal experience and intuition.  We must work to be pastors to one another by walking with each other as we all seek God.

And we seek God precisely because God has reached into our lives and given us an experience of God.  For many of us, that happened in baptism.  God acted in our lives and we spend the rest of our time together trying to stumble around and seek the One who has found us.