A Few Words From Pastor Bryan
...And Gordon Cosby
In my sermons and ministry in general I often find myself referring to things I've learned from people I met years ago in and around an amazing congregation in Washington, D.C. called "The Church of the Saviour." This is the church founded by Gordon Cosby, the former World War II chaplain I often quote. Few people have impacted my life and my understanding of the Gospel and the Church more than Gordon. In fact Gordon had a huge influence on many of the people I've grown to respect and learn from the most, including Richard Rohr. Father Rohr and Pastor Gordon worked together closely at many points throughout the years. Gordon was also the spiritual director and mentor of Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners Magazine and community.
Gordon was one of the most authentically humble men I have ever known. He was brilliant and wise, but never full of himself. He was a strong presence, an innovator, and no shrinking violet by any means, but he was gentle and open and unassuming. He was an energetic individual force for change to be sure, but he dedicated his life to nurturing communities and relationships and to birthing new forms of local church that he hoped would be worthy to be called, "The Body of Christ."
Gordon lived what he taught, and one of the things he taught most consistently was that a spiritual journey, to be fruitful, had to be equal parts "inward and outward." As I've shared with you, he used the metaphor of breathing often. We all need to breathe in he would say--to nurture our own inner life with personal spiritual practices. To "take in" the Spirit and Presence. We all need to be deliberate about prayer and listening for God's Word in Scripture and in small groups in which we are lovinging held to account for our commitments. He urged practices such as meditation and Centering Prayer through which we learn how to listen to the Voice of God within our own beings and discern God's call upon our lives.
Equally important, Gordon taught that followers of Jesus must be involved in breathing out as well--in some form of specific ministry of service and outreach to others. He insisted that this external commitment also had to have a wel-honed focus and lead to tangible actions on behalf of others, especially to the poor and most vulnerable among us. In other words, following Jesus was not just a matter of getting one's own spiritual needs met, and coming to church was not only about "getting something out of it." We all need to both receive AND give. Breathe in and out.
Well I just want to say something from the bottom of my heart that makes me very happy. That is, I can often feel Gordon Cosby smiling at our congregation. I think he would look at who we are and what's going on at McFarland UCC these days and in his own gentle way say something like, "You look like a bunch of folks who are actually committed to being and becoming a local expression of Church."
And we are. Oh we're not perfect and we never pretend to be. There's always room for growth.
But we're breathing in through our morning devotion group of and average of 12-20 folks. That group is digging deep and going strong. Many in our congregation are learning spiritual disciplines in Midweek Inhale and Bible Study and personal study and practice. We're listening for God's Word together in worship, and doing our best to focus on Scriptures that draw us into a deeper relationship with God and also into a more powerful force for justice and healing in the world. All of our Outreach groups--NION, Racial Justice, Green Team/Eco Justice are getting more active, more focused, and more bold in their commitments.
So really I just want to say thank you to all of you this week. This is fun, and I am grateful beyond words for the maturity and balance and depth that I know is real at McFarland UCC. Again, there's no "perfect church." But as Gordon would also often say, there are two primary ways for churches to grow--deeper or broader. When forced to choose between the two, he would always say, "choose deeper." Small and deep is better than broad and shallow when it comes to spiritual growth.
BUT--I actually feel us growing both depth and breadth at the same time. That's kind of amazing really.
All we can do is be grateful, and do our best to be faithful. We are truly in a season of being "blessed to be a blessing."
What a joy it is to be your pastor!
See you soon,