Awareness and Aha

As I write this I am sitting in my room at our seminary in Philadelphia. It has been a good week, I’m working on my thesis and I hope to complete it soon. I won’t bore you with the title, it is something that church nerds like me get excited about. Most people look at me funny when I try to explain it to them. The gist of the matter is that I am a believer that the world has changed and is still changing, and that it w e could use some new vision to see a new world. Can we stop it, bottle it up, tuck in a drawer, or hide under the table hoping it will go away? I don’t think so, but you might disagree. I get excited about trying to figure it out, and what the church (i.e. a congregation) can do.

Rather than give you long explanations and plenty of footnotes[1] I’ll share a story…

It happened to me last year at this time. It was right at the end of January, 2010. I came to the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (LTSP) for a class titled “Always Reforming.” It was a class I had been looking forward to, in fact it was the class that helped me pick the program I was in, and it did not disappoint.

Yet I was in a weird place. I had just had another great Christmas, I was looking forward to another great year, I was feeling settled in my work, in my life, in the path that I thought was in front of me. The Thursday before I left for class Sunday afternoon, the Synod called and asked me if I’d be interested in St. Michael’s. So here I was at school, a few days later, after class, thinking about where God was leading me, and what, if anything, I should be doing about it right now, from my comfortable room. So being a footnote junkie I did what made me feel comfortable – I went to the library.

Krauth Memorial Library - LTSP

It was a Tuesday night (I went last night too). It was brisk but not too cold (just like last night). I had seen a former student of mine the night before and we caught up at a local watering hole the night before (we did the same thing this Monday night in fact, he’s ready to go on his internship this fall). There I was in the library thinking, and browsing, and praying, and browsing some more (I also did some browsing last night), and wandered into the basement where the old journals are kept. I found one and started paging through it. I don’t know how I found this particular journal (maybe it was Providence) but in it I found the welcome address of a new college president from the 1920s given at a school that no longer exists. The address highlighted the importance of faith and the dawn of something new God was doing in that place. It wasn’t particularly profound, but the emotion rang through the pages from yesteryear and it struck me. I got lost in it. I loved it. I wanted more.

Then I noticed it was really quiet. I looked around and noticed I was the only one still working. I put the journal away and grabbed my belongings. I walked up the steps only to discover I was THE last person in the library, everything was shut down, the lights were off, and the librarian was locking the front door. Had I read one more page, or even a paragragh I would have spent the night locked in the book stacks! (It probably would have been a long, cold and uncomfortable night.)

Last night I went to the library. I didn’t really go to work there; I was taking a mental break from writing and editing and remembered how fun it was a year ago to wander around and almost get locked inside. As many parallels as this year and last have as I tell you this story, there are some differences. The first is the only thing weighing on my mind this year is the health of a few people I care an awful lot about and the prayers I’ve been uttering have been for them, not any choices I need to make. The second difference is that I am not taking a class – no classmates, no networking, no stories from other places, just the books, the screen, some nice support from my advisor, and the task in front of me. The final deviation from my last time I was here is that I knew what i was doing. No getting lost in the book stacks, no getting locked in (or almost), and no librarian shaking their head at me while holding that big ring of keys. While I was there last night, I looked and browsed seeking some other mischief to get into, but I couldn’t help be aware of the time, my location, and the wisdom gained from that experience that brought a smile to my face.

Awareness in the moment is everything. Aha is the essence of faith as a collection of moments. In this moment, God opens the door to a whole new world.

For a while now the church (in my view) has been chugging along, browsing the book stacks, remembering old stories, and in the process (truly without any fault of its own) has almost gotten lost in the library. Maybe it was even a little too comfortable in there, but we’ve gotten uncomfortable and its time to grab out belongsings and head for the door. As the church comes out of the library it is entering a now unfamiliar world – its faster, its more individualized, its more secular but remarkably spiritual, people have more power in the palm of their hand than was even conceivable a few short years ago, and yet many feel disconnected and lost in the book stacks, not even sure where to turn (unaware that the library is about to close). That is where we come in. As we leave the library with some hindsight and knowhow, it is not quite the same. We know where we are and what time it is. We know what needs to be done, and even if we are unsure of ourselves, we know what to do. The keys to this door are not there to lock us in, or lock others out, but to open the door to a brand new world if we only dare, if only we laugh, if only we go.

We notice the people around us struggling and we lead the way, not belittling them or telling them our way is better, but showing them how much we care. We listen to where God is leading us because we see God always on the move. We pray for the things that seem so overwhelming and in doing so feel the burden get lighter.

Maybe I’m just rambling and you have no idea what I’m talking about. Maybe what I thought was cool is making you uncomfortable. Or maybe, just maybe, I’m onto something. Maybe you are too.

It may look like the world is against us, but it is only Jesus beckoning us to come and see. It may appear like we have lost something, but if we get our hands dirty the pearl of great price waits in our field. We may see only division, hatred, violence around us and want to stay inside, but if we go we will taste and see that the Lord is good.

Awareness in the moment is everything. Aha is the essence of faith as a collection of moments. In this moment, God opens the door to a whole new world.

Climb out of the book stacks. Walk out through the door. Take a step into a whole new world. May the only footnotes we leave behind be the stories of our worn sneakers.

Peace, Pastor Geoff

[1] Made you look!

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“Then (Jesus) said to them, “Do you not yet understand?” They came to Bethsaida. Some people brought a blind man to him and begged him to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village; and when he had put saliva on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Can you see anything?” And the man looked up and said, “I can see people, but they look like trees, walking.” Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he looked intently and his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. (Mark 8:21-25) ——————————————————————————–

About geoff sinibaldo

Follower of Jesus, Husband, Father, Son, Friend, Volunteer Firefighter, Teacher, Mission Focused Church Leader, Camp Lover, Change Proponent, Seeking Faithfulness in the 21st Century
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1 Response to Awareness and Aha

  1. Amy Little says:

    I remember that night cause I heard about it the next day! That was a great class and a wonderful week at LTSP! I’ve been feeling kinda lost in the stacks myself. . . thanks for the Word! God Bless you G-Geoff!

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