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I’ve been thinking a lot about the Serenity prayer a lot. Because the wisdom to know what it is that I can control and can’t control is so hard these days. Because the wisdom to know what can and cannot be changed is so political these days.
What can be changed? Can people getting sick be changed? Can not seeing family and friends be changed? Can the church being open be changed? Can the church being closed be changed?
There is a deep wisdom in knowing what can and cannot be changed these days. And every single day every decision seems to be so big. I’m so tired of deciding things.
Should I go to the store today? Should I order curbside or not? Is it safer to go to the store or to order? If I do order am I supporting a local business or am I making people work who are scared and exposed?
The people who are rallying to reopen states, the workers striking for better safety, the churches deciding to open or close–and how open and closed to be, all of these are political stances. Can these things change? Do these things change?
Do we apply for a grant? Do we lay off or furlough workers?
I wonder about Jesus Christ, where every act of caring he made, every questionable person he helped ended up being a political one. My husband likes to point out that Jesus wasn’t killed until he started upending the economy of the time.
In the midst of a health crises and an economic crises, every single decision, even not deciding, is political.
How we make decisions is very important, because we lead the best by example, by being honest about our motivations and looking towards the great good.
The serenity to know the things I cannot change. In one of my favorite books Robin Mckinley’s Beauty (as in Beauty and the Beast) she is given a gift, and the gift is serenity. Here serenity is more than peace, it is the ability to be both fierce and calml in the midst of chaos. In this book it is how she is able to look the fearsome Beast in the eye. Serenity is a quality to pull on more than a state of being. It is about how we face the world everyday. Lord, I sure need to face the world every day.
Courage to change the things I can. I am often reminded that the Holy Spirit is an encourager. Giving us the energy (intelligence imagination and love as my ordination vows say) to do the hard things, the changes that need to happen. To become a teacher to my kids, to be still when I feel the urge to go out and do something. To help those in the capacities I have: the food shelter, the colleague making masks, the simple prayers of church members. After all, the only thing I can change is myself, do I have the courage to change myself? How can I be encouraged to change myself?
And the wisdom to know the difference. I think I need to seriously discern what things are affecting only me, which I can change, and those things that effect everyone. And then, I need to understand that those things that effect everyone, are by nature political. In the context of being a pastor, my calling is to love and serve others.
This means my decisions are, and always should be, what serves others best. It can’t be about what I’m missing out on. It shouldn’t be about holding my opinions over everyone else. It’s not even about arguing about how right or wrong others are. It must be about building a consensus, what a political thing to have to do. What a religious thing to do.
I believe that building consensus–true consensus–happens by a direct and miraculous intervention of the Holy Spirit. It requires communication, true understanding and the upbuilding of community. If we are to make decisions in the middle of the pandemic, then we have to weigh if they are upbuilding community–especially when we disagree with one another. We have to work on true communication–where what we say matches who we are. And we have to work on true understanding–where empathy and sympathy are employed as a tool to see ourselves as interwoven with each other.
To be pastoral, is of course to be political. And like most things in a crises–whatever is true or difficult in life becomes more–more true and more difficult. It’s difficult to be political or pastoral at this moment, but all the more important.
God grant me the serenity, courage and wisdom to be both, I pray. Amen.
Katy Stenta is a solo pastor at a tiny church that is bigger on the inside in Albany, NY for over eight years and blogs at firstname.lastname@example.org She is also the co-founder of the fledgling TrailPraisers inclusive Worship. When she is not dreaming up projects and ideas, some of which creep into the church, she plays with her three boys-boys or goes and visits her husband at the library, while he works, to read.
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