August 13, 2014

Worry.... And Heart

Where your worry lies...there your heart is also

What keeps your leaders awake at night? What generates intense discussion in your vestry? What motivates your members to write letters, whisper in the parking lot, or furrow their brows during announcements?

Ministry involves a certain amount of anxiety. We live in anxious times, and the future of the whole church project is pretty uncertain.

As a priest who has always served congregations with uncertain futures, I have given up on the idea that I will always sleep well.

I pay attention to what has the power to keep me awake at night.

There are many candidates for focusing my anxiety. I receive frequent suggestions. In the last week or so, I have received notes that suggest the cleanliness of church tablecloths, the freshness of the altar flowers, the use of the endowment, and the timeliness of the parochial report as reasons to worry.

I’m pleased to report that the only thing that really stirred the worry pot for me this week was an event planned to invite new people to church and forge stronger connections between our church and the young people of our neighborhood. I worried about whether people would come. I wondered about whether long-time members would be friendly. I worried about whether my sermon would be good.

Did the worry help? Nope. People came, though not in droves. Some were friendlier than others. Some people stepped up in ways surprised and delighted me. The sermon was not one of my better efforts. A couple people found it inspiring, for reasons I would not have anticipated. All in all, the Spirit was much in evidence, despite human efforts of varying quality and quantity.

Clearly I should consider the lilies of the field. But until I can break my worry habit entirely, I measure my spiritual health at least in part by the objects of my worry. Does what I’m worried about have something to do with things that are important to Jesus? Love of neighbor? Our broken world? Good news of great joy for all God’s people? If so, I’m making progress.

The focus of your worry is a prime indication of where your heart is. What does worry and anxiety teach you about where you and your congregation focus time, talent and love? Do the things you worry about matter to Jesus?