Thursday, March 29, 2012

Theology Thursday #2 - Transmogrification (what a beautiful word)



What is it like to be ordained, a leader in the church, and then become a layperson?

Exhilarating!

A person might think after what I had been through in my “downgrade”, that a person would only feel shame or remorse in “losing the stole.” But, no, quite the opposite has been the case.

No joke, I find the novelty in participating in a church as a layperson after having been a pastor is pretty fun. I’m even the chair of our Stewardship committee and I look forward to going to meetings! I don’t think the sole reason for this joy is its newness; I believe the source of the joy has to do with two things: 1) the church we attend, St. Paul Reformation, is an extraordinary, very intentional faith community that has me really excited about claiming my baptism; 2) when I was a pastor, my faith was assumed to be a “given”, and I, by extension, believed that somehow I had “earned” it and I was “done."  God has transmogrified this assumption. Like a sweet chunk of salt-water taffy, my former assumptions about identity and faith have been twisted into something new and wonderful.

I’ve gone through a radical transformation in the past year. I’ve come to a new realization: it seems that faith is not some-thing at all. What I mean is that faith is not a noun, but a continual verb. The growth is ongoing. It is never an achievement or something to be attained—hanging that certificate or diploma or confirmation of ordination doesn’t make faith “done.” Spirituality doesn’t work that way. How does it work? The spiritual life (faith) is a cyclic, daily reincarnation of trust.

What has surprised me about my journey is that I assumed that going to seminary, getting a degree, being ordained, serving a church, and being a pastor would give me spirituality. Far from it. What gave me the gift of seeing was falling down hard and rising to new life as one who “is less” to become more. Every day is a gift and spiritual growth is eternal. Those who seek to gain life will lose it. Those who lose life will gain it. It is the Infinite One's way of twisting things around. Transmogrification.

What does my experience mean for those who continue to be ordained leaders and who have always been lay people? I guess it means that the human constructs which we build up--like castles in the sand--are weak, temporary classifications. In the whole scheme of things (and that’s all there is, folks, the-whole-scheme-of-things) it doesn’t amount to anything.

Some might see my transformation as a loss. I prefer to see it as gaining something that really matters—eternal trust in a power greater than myself. It's the gift we all have in front of our noses. All it takes is a new impulse, a change in the way we see things. Who knows, maybe this column will stimulate your own transmogrification of faith.

8 comments:

Paul Peterson said...

This post is very poinent. While in Western ND I was more intentional with my spirituality an was visiting with Sr. Ruth out at the abby. She was my spiritual director and helped me to take the time to focus on "be still and know...". I have been without a spiritual director for a little over two years now, and I can tell that this hasn't been a good thing. I have used all of the old excuses... not enough time, cannot find one in the area... bvut really what it comes down to as a Pastor if I am not working on my own spiritual life, how can I help others to work on there's...

Irene Emly said...

I really liked your statement that faith is an action verb. Much of my devotional reading this past week has been to focus - not be distracted when you are seeking to know what direction the Lord wants you to take. I find "being still" is difficult since I have so many things to be "busy" with. I have lots of work to do to focus.

Charles Galloway said...

Very Good, Danial. I better understand your struggles. I never did think or assume I had it together when I got ordained. Although, I did, however, put pastors on such a high pedastol that I never dreamed that I could be one, therefore, I wondered why God would push me to make it through the seminary and be one. If I ever did get too irrogent, I was humbled when I suffered my mental illness. You are right. It is fun to sit in the pew and listen, and participate as I wish. I think I was able to do more ministry and evangelism as a lay person then as a pastor.

Charles Galloway said...

I guess I live by grace. If we don't as both lay people and pastors, it will destroy us. I tell people that I am a Lutheran because I am not good enough or holy enough to live up to another denomination's standards- some Lutherans either.

donald duck said...

It is not what we want but what we are that is life.

donald duck said...

nice

donald duck said...

Nice.

Kari said...

Nicely done. Even though we talk about the priesthood of all believers, Lutherans still idealize the role of pastor. I hate it when people call being a pastor "the ministry"--so wrong on so many levels. Right now, I'm on leave from call--pastor, but not. Limbo. Stuck in a moment and can't get out of it. Thanks for sharing about your transmogrification :)