11024 S. Bell Avenue
Chicago, IL 60643
Rev. Dr. Joel Mitchell, Pastor
Reflection March 25,2018
A Palm Sunday Reflection: On Being Lost And Found by Rev. Dr. Thomas Aldworth
Do we not all feel ourselves lost from time to time? How do we find our way home? How do we make our way through the minefields of this life? I’d like to share a story from Sheldon Kopp that I used years ago in a sermon.
Kopp recounts the following story about a blind jazz musician named Art Tatum: “Relaxing between sets in a New York bar, Tatum sat alone at a table, drinking beer. A Salvation Army Missionary wandered in from the street and came over to talk to him.
“She said, ‘Joining the flock is your only salvation.’ Without answering, Tatum took another swig of beer. She insisted: ‘If you don’t join the flock, you’ll be a lost child of God.’ Finally the musician shrugged and said softly to her: ‘Sister, all God’s children are lost but only a few can play the piano.’”
This story reminds us that we can, indeed, find ourselves lost from time to time. And we must be very careful not to divide the world and all in it between those who are “lost” and those who are “found.” This is usurping the divine authority that is found in God alone.
Lent is the traditional time when we admit our innate “lostness” and seek again the way home. As the Episcopalian pastor, Alan Jones, notes in Passion for Pilgrimage: “(In Lent) we tell and retell the story of the great Passion: God’s longing for us and our longing for God. The Lenten stories are maps for a journey back to God and to ourselves.”
He goes on to add: “The Story of Christianity is about the mending of the world so that broken bones may rejoice. Christianity is a passion for reconciliation and resurrection. It’s the story of a special pilgrimage, passionately undertaken for the sake of love. Ours is a pilgrimage towards wholeness in companionship with every human being … (But) our clinging to a virtuous view of ourselves is our greatest vice, and we have developed it into a fine art … Repentance isn’t a matter of beating our breasts and saying that deep down we’re rotten. Repentance is hoping for nothing less than the truth about who we really are … Repentance requires that we honor our passion for connection.”
Lent is the ideal time to recognize where we are all on this pilgrimage to healing, this pilgrimage to wholeness and holiness, this pilgrimage to reconciliation and resurrection. And this pilgrimage, this faith journey, is not a solitary endeavor. It can only be embraced in communion with our brothers and sisters. We are on a together-journey, not a solo one. We forget this truth to our peril. This is why we come together as church!
Most of us, at least once a year, go to our physicians for an annual check-up, to see if our physical health is what it should be. But where do we go to have an annual check-up on the health of our faith-life? I believe all of us should have not only an annual physical check-up but also an annual faith-life check-up.
For years now I’ve been offering spiritual direction to a number of clergy, including ABC Metro ministers. This is given as a free gift from me and from our congregation. This echoes the free professional counseling Judy Healy and I offer to our Beverly/Morgan Park community.
I’d like to suggest to the members of our beloved church that Lent might be a good time to undergo a spiritual health check-up. Lent is always a good time to ponder how “lost” we might actually be.
Let me personally encourage our members to just call and say: “I’d like to make an appointment for my annual spiritual health check-up.” In about an hour, we can talk about how things are going spiritually. I might then be able to offer suggestions regarding spiritual disciplines or spiritual reading.
This role is one of my primary tasks as the pastor of our beloved congregation: to care for the spiritual welfare of each and every member. This pastoral task is without doubt one of the true joys of my ministerial life. It might also serve as a perfect way to discuss the importance of baptism for those who have not yet been baptized.
I love getting to know EACH member of our beloved congregation. It’s undoubtedly the best part of my wonderful job as pastor of Morgan Park American Baptist Church. Now that I’m approaching my ten-year anniversary I realize that there are too many members who are still a mystery to me. Maybe we can do something about this! Please never hesitate to call me!
Thanks: Thanks much to Rev. Dr. Craig Jenkins who “filled the pulpit” for me last Sunday while I was on vacation. Thanks to all who helped make him feel at home! Pastor Thomas