Many years ago, back in the 1990s, after my first year of training in Sister Pat McCrann’s program of Spiritual Direction in Oregon, she had said to me that I needed to do something and that she didn’t know what it was, but I was to take some time and go and do it. This had come to her in prayer. I had no idea what was being asked of me. It was a very strange feeling. At the time I had no intention of diving into the life of a clergyman. But I stopped, prayed and stepped into the bright darkness.
Within weeks I was traveling down to San Francisco where I went to work on a project with Wells Fargo, and somehow, I can’t remember now how it happened, but I was invited to serve on the Technology Committee of the United Religions Initiative headed by the Anglican Bishop Swing of Grace Cathedral. I had to enter the cathedral in a secret elevator because there were death threats from fundamentalists who believed that the Antichrist was behind it.
All that was behind this project was the commandment to “love one another as I have loved you.” This commandment is ignored by many.
As we see, our world is still fractured, our faiths are still in pieces, seeing through a dark glass more darkly every day it seems. Religion seems part of the problem, not the beginning of a solution. This problem still burns like a festering wound.
Why am I writing this, you may ask? It is because I am feeling called by something that is commanding as well as disquieting. God is moving in my breast, like a shark under the water. I have no idea what is being asked of me.
The Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer said that God’s will is not just one will, but can be many. We are given the freedom to choose if we are quiet enough to discern. We are not slaves of God, but brothers and sisters of Jesus and God gives us the dignity of choice — a free choice.
Such a freedom is dramatic and can be terrifying — our choices bend the universe as we twist and turn. Our love is alive in this maelstrom of discernment. God’s design is melded with our multiplicities and we are not puppets but dancers riding the foam of possibilities. We all count in this dance.
So this week I ask for your help. Please pray for me to discern the right next steps and where the most blessing and joy will arise for my master, Jesus, if I find them.
Last week I received a letter from a reader, a most thoughtful and heartfelt letter. I give thanks to her for it, for it touched on my blind spots and helped me see more clearly. What a blessing!
I pray for you, dear friends of East Oregon. I pray that new gifts will descend on you and your churches as we enter uncertain times. I pray that your journey will draw you close to Jesus Christ and that you will bring a holy eye to all the matters in your life as you ask yourself what the next steps will be and look toward the challenges and joy to come.
Colin Brown is the former pastor of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Boardman.