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  • Eric Marshburn

November 2021 - Eric's Ethereal Cereal

November 2021 Blog

Along the way someone in the church world decided that October should be deemed as, “Pastor Appreciation Month.” And now, here we find ourselves, lurching toward Advent like a bus headed down a mountain, with its brakes as dead as Lazarus on day three in the tomb. It may be a tad late in coming, but I want to add my voice of appreciation to all those, everywhere, who are answering the call again today, to: shepherd, guide, goad, pray, listen, teach, preach, (even using words when necessary) exercising faith, clinging to hope, and loving (unconditionally) ALL those with whom they live in community, (virtually, in-person, and beyond the membership rolls of the congregation.) In his memoir, “The Pastor”, Eugene Peterson frames this mysterious vocation through a uniquely “American” lens.

“I couldn’t help observing that there was a great deal of confusion and dissatisfaction all around me with pastoral identity. Many pastors, disappointed or disillusioned with their congregations, defect after a few years and find more congenial work. And many congregations, disappointed or disillusioned with their pastors, dismiss them and look for pastors more to their liking. In the fifty years that I have lived the vocation of pastor, these defections and dismissals have reached epidemic proportions in every branch and form of church. I wonder if at the root of the defection is a cultural assumption that all leaders are people who “get things done,” and “make things happen.” That is certainly true of the primary leadership models that seep into our awareness from the culture – politicians, businessmen, advertisers, publicists, celebrities, and athletes. But while being a pastor certainly has some of these components, the pervasive element in our two-thousand-year pastoral tradition is not someone who “gets things done” but rather the person placed in the community to pay attention and call attention to “what is going on right now” between men and women, with one another and with God— this kingdom of God that is primarily local, relentlessly personal, and prayerful “without ceasing.” Perhaps the primary reason I continue saying a genuine “yes” to my own calling as a pastor— day after day, week after week, year after year—stems from a core experience of being loved by God first (without strings) through the adventure of a transforming friendship with God in Jesus Christ. In a secondary, but very significant way, I continue to say a genuine “yes” to God’s call because of more servants than I can name whom God has seen fit to link me with; (not exclusive to clergy) weaving us all together into a beautiful tapestry that we will all one day see for the gift of grace that it is. Eugene Peterson invites us to consider with holy imagination the words penned long ago by Paul to the house churches of Philippi. I borrow them as a word of thanksgiving for all of my clergy colleagues and friends/ family in the church I am privileged to be linked with. “Every time you cross my mind, I break out in exclamations of thanks to God. Each exclamation is a trigger to prayer. I find myself praying for you with a glad heart. I am so pleased that you have continued on in this with us, believing and proclaiming God’s Message, from the day you heard it right up to the present. There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears.” ~Philippians 1:3-6 (The Message) In their book, “Prayer: Forty Days Of Practice”, Justin McRoberts and Scott Erickson offer the following short, but heart-felt petitions which seem to ring true as prayers I also voice from time to time – just much less articulately.

O God, may love be stronger in me than the fear of the pain that comes with caring. May I cease to be annoyed that others are not as I wish they were, since I am not as I wish I was. May I have vision and courage to join God in the places He’s already working rather than feel responsible for bringing Him with me. May the reality that I cannot know the whole truth never keep me from bearing witness to what I can and do see. May I have the courage to believe that everything I do matters. Amen.

Friends, with all the pieces of my heart, I want to thank each and every one of you for the kindness, acceptance, and love you’ve shown Sabra and me this month—in truth, from the very beginning. We feel very blessed in how you have adopted us into the Spindale UMC family and how you love Jesus, each other, and this community. Thus, let me reciprocate the love and appreciation to all of you—because pastor appreciation goes both ways. In fact, the depth of our appreciation for each of you is beyond my scope of articulation. Thus, I say Thank You, Shalom, and Selah to each of you … here’s to another year of serving our Lord Jesus Christ together in a radical, life altering, Kingdom of God kind of way!

Blessings & Peace!

Pastor Eric

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