Honesty is the best policy . . . so, I let them know. I let them know that the work day scheduled for the congregation at the parsonage was messing with my football watching . . . in particular, my watching of the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers game. Living in Montana, we Husker faithful try to watch whatever game happens to make it onto the local television stations . . . typically at strange hours like 10:00AM on a Saturday morning. That was the case in this particular situation. The Husker game kicked off at the same time as the scheduled work day . . . and, I wanted everybody to know. The work day was an inconvenience.
It was the third game of the season, and the first game being broadcast in Montana (Of course, if I was not so cheap, I could have shelled out big bucks and watched the first two games on pay-per-view . . . I love my Huskers, but I love my money more!). I was really bummed that I was giving up my opportunity to watch Big Red play for cleaning up a parsonage. Now, understand, I enjoy all of the people who showed up. I didn’t mind the work that we had to do; but, I really, really wanted to watch the Huskers. Sometimes, though, the inconvenience of one thing makes things in another area better . . . such was the case with this game. Actually missing the first three quarters of the game probably saved me from having a ballistic meltdown as the Huskers proceeded to start the game with 18 points only to end up getting massacred in the final three quarters . . . they got their butts kicked. I missed the majority of the onslaught . . . my heart is appreciative.
The Christian Century recently shared a little blurb about “inconvenience”. It told the story of Deirdre Sullivan. As a child, Deirdre’s parents would take her and her siblings to funerals. “Always go to the funeral,” her father would say. She heard him also saying: do the right thing, even when you don’t feel like it; it might inconvenience you, but it could mean the world to someone else. She stated that the message came back to her when her father died and the funeral was held in the middle of the work week in the afternoon. “The most human, powerful and humbling thing I’ve ever seen was a church at 3:00 on a Wednesday full of inconvenienced people who believed in going to the funeral,” she said. (Christian Century, September 18, 2013)
It seems like life is full of inconvenience . . . especially for those of us who have dedicated ourselves to being ministers. Take, for example, the fact that there was actually a work day scheduled at the exact same time as a Nebraska Cornhuskers football game . . . blasphemy!! Especially in Nebraska!! That is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to inconvenience for clergy serving a congregation. I have never had anyone check in with me before dying . . . no one who has pre-arranged their funeral . . . and, rarely has any funeral not made a mess of my schedule. Weddings are a little better . . . but, they too can create inconvenience . . . I have missed the opening day of the past two Billings Mustangs seasons thanks to the organization not putting their schedule out earlier and people wanting to get married. Calls in the middle of the night while I am sleeping . . . people being in accidents in the middle of the day . . . crisis occurring in the middle of breakfast . . . a “can we talk” comment while standing in line at the nearby super store. Rarely is anything actually scheduled . . . they just happen, and they happen at the most inconvenient times. Such is the life of a clergyperson.
I would like to moan and groan about the inconvenience of being a clergyperson, but the fact is life is inconvenient most of the time . . . especially for those of us who proclaim that we are followers of Jesus. Life is inconvenient. Think about it . . .
Think about all of the things in your life that are a real pain in the rear end . . . funerals, weddings, baptisms, birthday parties, family gatherings, accidents, anything that you can name that puts a blip on the screen of your expectations. It is really inconvenient when something messes up what you want to do . . . what your expectations are . . . and, what you would rather be doing. I think that it is the same for everyone, but even more so for those who commit themselves to following Jesus.
Oh sure, with Jesus we know the foundational stuff . . . love God . . . love your neighbor; yet, Jesus only laid the foundation, the Holy Spirit does the dirty work. It is the Holy Spirit that confronts us in our comfort zone . . . the Holy Spirit that messes with our expectations . . . messes with our schedules . . . messes with what we rather be doing. It seems that the Holy Spook is always knocking on the door . . . challenging us to do the right thing. The Holy Spirit seems to be the deliverer of inconvenience when it comes to those who follow Jesus.
Yes, it was an inconvenience to go to the work day at the parsonage. It was an inconvenience despite the fact that I am the pastor of the congregation . . . and, a pastor should never ask his or her congregation to do anything that he or she is not willing to do . . . and, that is what they are paying me to do . . . and, that it was a Husker football game! But, I went. I went despite missing my beloved Huskers getting their butts kicked . . . I went despite wanting to be somewhere else. I went because that is where I needed to be . . . for the congregation, but more importantly for me. In the fellowship of work, I was blessed. I was blessed with laughter, intimacy, and fellowship . . . the bond that tied us all together was made stronger. And, it made me realize how strong and tight that bond truly is . . . we were family coming together, to work, to fellowship, and to be. It was blessing.
Jesus laid the foundation, but the Spirit does the dirty work.
There is not a day that goes by in which the Holy Spook doesn’t rattle my cage . . . a day in which I am not confronted . . . a day in which I am not challenged . . . challenged to do the right thing. Unfortunately, more times than not, I let the argument of inconvenience win . . . I walk away. Yet, I do not think that I am any different than anyone else . . . I think we all walk away from situations where we might be inconvenienced . . . all of the time. A person needs a drink . . . I put my hand over the cup. A person needs a bite to eat . . . I snarf down the last little bit on my plate. A person needs a handout . . . and, I turn and walk the other way. A cry in the dark . . . I feign deafness. We all do it, each and every day . . . and, these are not even the big issues that the Spirit confronts us with each day . . . the issues we see espoused in the papers we read and the radio/television we watch. We do it because it is inconvenient.
Shame on me . . . shame on us . . .
. . . and, the Spirit confronts us in the comfort of our lives. The foundation of Jesus has never changed . . . love God . . . love your neighbor. Oh sure, there are moments when we get it right . . . like going to a work day, but more times than not, we miss the mark. Thankfully we have a patient God . . . a patient God, who no matter how inconvenient we make it for God, God still sticks by us . . . believes in us . . . and, bets on us that we will eventually get it right.
Yes, life is inconvenient . . . faith is inconvenient. Don’t we owe it to someone else . . . to God . . . to allow the inconveniences that we experience to change the world in which we live? To make a difference for someone else? To be the change that we always talk about? I think so, except on those days in which Big Red is playing . . . God could cut me a little slack on those days . . . maybe?