By Francisco Herrera
Pastor Jeff asked me to share my thoughts about why I feel God has called me to be among the people of Gethsemane Lutheran Church - thoughts which would then be shared in a blog post and used as sort of a teaser for my upcoming residency this week.
So without further ado…
Why do I think God has called me to be with you at Gethsemane these next few months?
I'm a Lutheran seminarian who is also a teacher, and as someone who spends a great deal of time talking about God, the more and different kinds of people I spend my time with, the better I will be in my God-talk, and spending the next few months hanging out with everybody in Camden and Lind-Bohanon will be a very good way for me to develop precisely this skill.
This is the first major reason why I think God called me here.
Though I've talked about God a lot with a lot of people - an activity which makes me a thing some people like to call a theologian - this is my first time actually having the title ‘theologian’ officially attached to my name, and I have your community to thank. Even greater, your church has a lot that makes it unlike any other. You have a lot of great programs here, with a wonderful school for the children on the block and distribution centers for the needs of the neighborhood - just to name a few. This means that there is a lot of God-work, along with God-talk, that happens through your congregation – and I’m looking forward to listening in on some of it.
It's pretty awesome, what you do here, and if I may also add - it's also extremely Lutheran.
Because Brother Martin made it very clear, the grace that we receive because of Jesus does not free us merely to make us feel content but self-satisfied – rather, it frees us to better serve the neighbor. How deeply does Luther say we must serve our neighbor, you may be asking? In his elaboration on the Fourth Commandment, in the Small Catechism, he says that we are to be so concerned with our neighbor that we must even be mindful of the amount and quality of their "Nahrung" – their food or sustenance – so that they don’t suffer from malnutrition. So here, we are to love our neighbor so much that we even keep an eye on what they eat!
Pretty intense and intimate, if you ask me.
And from what I've seen happen in your community on Fridays, something tells me that Dr. Luther would definitely smile on your ministries.
As for the second major reason why I think God called me here for the summer? Because in addition to learning and being influenced by the people of Gethsemane, I also hope to teach a bit of something that my fellow theologians like to call ‘constructive theology.’
As God calls us into more passionate service of the needs of our communities, at some point we have to start seriously thinking about how our lives have influenced the ways that we think about things like Jesus, like the Resurrection, like God, even on something seemingly so basic as what it means to do ministry. Being called by God eventually means being called into intense relationship with the people around you, and when that happens it's really important to understand how your personal God-talk may or may not make that relationship building either easier or more difficult.
So, to do this, I'm going to have a series of chats called “God-Talk and Me-Talk,” where folks have a chance to sit down and take a good close look about the who, what, where, when, why, and how of their thoughts on things like sin and death, the church, even how we read scripture. Conversations like these can be a little hard at times, but they are also terribly exciting - and it is my goal to use some of the insights from our time together to help other seminarians learn how to better talk about these things with the people in their churches.
Because let's face it, a lot of seminaries may do a good job educating pastors-to-be, but they don't always do a good job showing pastors-to-be how to share what they've learned with the people they're called to serve. So after my time among you, I hope to be able to change that a little bit.
And I look forward to all the singing and praying and dancing and eating and living we’ll do along the way!