This is a week of countdowns for the people called Methodists.
For most it is the countdown to General Conference, the gathering of United Methodists from around the globe to rewrite our book of church guidance and law that we call the Book of Discipline. All over the world people are packing and getting on planes to flood into Ft. Worth, TX for two weeks of bad meals, hard seats, and blathering on about inane things.
For a a large part of my life, I have been one of those persons gathered to carry out the business of the church. In previous years, I would have already been in the host city for almost a week, making sure that all was ready for the several thousand people on their way. However, this year is different for me. After twenty years of General Conferencing, I have given it up for another way of being in the world and the church. I have chosen (or more accurately in some ways, God has chosen) to remove myself from the seats of power in search of something else — a connection to the holy that is often not present amidst the legislation and the political argument.
Instead of counting down to the stage lights rising in Ft. Worth, I am instead counting down to get on a plane in another direction, for in just a couple of days I will be getting on the big silver and blue bird to head to Israel for two weeks. I travel with twenty other pastors all who have been called and chosen to make a pilgrimage overseas to get in closer touch with the land of the scriptures, as well as to get in touch with our own connections to God.
This trip is not designed to be a whirlwind excursion of the holy sites with side trips to the sacred megastores in which we might buy a few relics to take home. It is specifically created to be a pilgrimage to a sacred place in which we might regain our footings in ministry and deepen our relationship with God. Roberta Bondi, my former professor at Candler and the author of several books, is going as our spiritual director and we will also meet in small groups to process what we are hearing God saying in our midst. Our daily order is focused in themes from Esther De Waal’s book “The Celtic Way of Prayer: The Recovery of the Religious Imagination.”
For me, finding myself tired in the midst of a calling, it is a chance for Sabbath, a chance to get away and listen for God again. Part of that Sabbath is that I am not taking my laptop with me, and will very likely not be online in any significant way for the next couple of weeks. While I’m not completely eschewing technology (I am taking an IPod for the trip over and my Palm with Keyboard for some writing), I am hoping that I might open myself to sitting on the shore of the Sea of Galilee to just listen for the breath of God.
So dear readers, I ask for your prayers.
Pray for those counting down to General Conference. I can say from experience that they need it more than they even know at this point.
And pray for me as well, asking God to grab hold of my heart and fill me with the peace that passes all understanding.
Shalom my friends. I’ll see you in a couple of weeks.