A message from Transitional Presbyter, Shannan Vance-Ocampo for the second week of Advent.
This week I attended the Session meeting at one of our congregations where we opened with a reflection on the passage from one of the Hebrew Prophets for this second week of Advent, Malachi:
“See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?
For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the Lord in righteousness. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.” -Malachi 3
We discussed how pure soap is so strong it will eat off your flesh and how truly unpleasant that would be. We discussed how difficult it is to go through the changes that God seeks in and around us to make people and communities whole again and responsible in their living out of God’s Way. We prayed together for wisdom for the tasks ahead of us. It was a wonderful devotional time.
I have been thinking about this idea of refining quite a bit this week in light of our transitional work in the Presbytery. We have in many ways hit the edge of the issues and needs in 21st Century Ministry that will be the most painful for us as a Presbytery to reckon with:
- How will we handle patterns of behavior that have caused pain in the past and move forward with healthy learnings for the future?
- How will we handle the polarities and emotions of new ministries springing up in some places and other ministries entering their final stages of live in other places?
- Will we be willing to live with greater oversight and organization than we have in the past?
- Can we respond with grace, care and mercy not just to each other–but to the brokenness of the world around us?
- Are we willing to speak our truth as those who follow Jesus with the strength of a prophet, and live with the consequences when some walk away from us?
Just this past week I have been with members of the Presbytery as we have wrestled with each of these leadership questions. These are holy conversations. They are scary and they are also important. It gives me incredible hope for our Presbytery as I listen to and participate in so many of these bold and brave conversations. We are getting deep into our transitional work and we are having the trust to have conversations of great depth and great trust with ourselves. This is what I think Malachi had in mind. He had no room for timidity of faith–and I see us getting bolder. And boldness moves us to take greater and greater risks. This is a gift!
May we have the grace, the wisdom and the belief in Resurrection to use some of that soap on ourselves–trusting that as we are refined and worked on, that our God of love has Resurrection waiting around the corner for us.
Blessings in your second week of Advent….