Pastoral Relief and Retreat

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Wethersfield, CT, United States
I am Pastor at Poquonock Community Church, Congregational (CCCC) in Windsor, CT. My wife Jama and I live in Wetherfield, CT. We'd like to invite you to Terre Haute -- High Ground -- That's what Jama and I call the retreat space on our property. We offer free intentional get-away retreats. We'll feed you and house you and give you space to be with the Lord. All are welcome; no questions asked. This blog is my daily devotional journal. I write it because it is so easy to go for weeks without ever taking the time to be alone with God. Writing helps me develop a discipline I need.

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Tuesday, March 3, 2009

February 21, 2009 Traditions

READ: Matthew 15:1-9
1 Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said,
2 Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.
3 He answered them, And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?
4 For God commanded, Honor your father and your mother, and, Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.
5 But you say, If anyone tells his father or his mother, What you would have gained from me is given to God,
6 he need not honor his father. So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God.
7 You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said:
8 “This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me;
9 in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.

Psalm 108 begins with these words:
1 My heart is steadfast, O God!
I will sing and make melody with all my being!
2 Awake, O harp and lyre!
I will awake the dawn!
3 I will give thanks to you, O LORD, among the peoples;
I will sing praises to you among the nations.
4 For your steadfast love is great above the heavens;
your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.
5 Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!
Let your glory be over all the earth!

As a pastor, the thing I fear above all else is that I will find myself in the pulpit or in front of God's people teaching as coming from God what is really just the musings of my own heart. I am a musician by training. I have stood on stages in all capacities. I have performed drama, opera, oratorio, sung in church and secular settings alike. And like all who enjoy the art of performance my goal is to erase the line between script and reality, between the spots on a page and the heart of the music. There is a level of musicianship and a level of dramatic training where the audience has a hard time telling whether the person on stage is acting or not. But the best performances are the unrepeatable ones. The best performances are the ones where the performer has become his own audience and is experiencing what the character is experiencing and yet is still in full command. In faith, and especially in the leadership of worship, that last level of acting is the greatest hypocrisy. The things the leader is doing have become real, from a certain angle. But they are not real because the leader is still acting, is still in control, and has not let the Lord really own him. He has convinced the audience and even himself (on a certain level) that what he is portraying is real, and it is not. Real, by definition, is unselfconscious.

Oh God. I am self-conscious and I know that I am self-conscious. I find it hard to relax in front of your people and just be with you. I find it just as hard when I am alone. And here I am, writing this piece... for whom? Lord, be my Lord today and take away my awareness of the audience that I feel is watching me and not you.

Jon

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