February and early March are the color of brown here in rainy Oregon - which, contrary to what you might think, is not my favorite color when applied to landscapes. We had just a bit of snow this week, enough to give me a glimpse of what the world could look like if we were in a different climate zone. Lovely.
This week's letter is from Eugene Peterson, found in a book called The Wisdom of Each Other.
What I have in mind for you in your new job as adult youth advisor to those seven or eight Norwegian teenagers is simply this: Invite them over to your home to cook a meal with you. Make it a regular thing, say, once every couple of weeks. And that's it.
But there is more to it than meets the eye. First, its something you like to do and are good at. You have that huge county farm kitchen, furnished with every conceivable cooking device - in a culture of fast-food and efficiency, your kitchen opens up a world of care for food and its painstaking preparation will strike them, to use one of their words, as awesome. Second, you will be taking them seriously as persons, without any condescending adaptations to their status as adolescents. You are inviting them into your adult world and making them participants in it - work that is not make-work; work, not entertainment (although not without its pleasures.) Third, you will be working out of a context of hospitality, probably the very best setting in which to develop personal relationships and develop conversations that include Jesus. [...]
You have scores of delightful and sometimes imaginatively complex recipes - they're not likely to get bored. And you will have provided a setting in which they will experience themselves in ways which are rare for them: treated with dignity, not exploited to some program or other, and treated as "souls" to be nurtured, not psyches to be fixed. [...]
I'm sure by now, you can discern the conviction that is behind my suggestion: that "ministry" is organic, growing out of who and where we are in circumstances in which we know and serve Jesus; not something we impose on a person or setting as "mission" or "evangelism" or "youth ministry."
When you get around to making bouillabaisse, try and get me invited, even though I qualify as neither hungry nor a stranger.
The peace of the Lord,
I love this letter for a couple of reasons, one being Peterson's philosophy about teenagers and treating them "seriously as persons," but the other for its emphasis on ministry that is "growing out of who and where we are. "
A few years back when we had been attending a new church for awhile, a "ministry coordinator" called me and wanted to know what ministry I was going to be doing at the church. I spluttered and stammered for a bit, not knowing how to respond at all. I worked in the nursery now and then; we were making friends with several young married couples - because we liked them; we'd invited a few people over for dinner. What exactly was this woman looking for? Our conversation ended rather abruptly when I refused to commit to any projects or tell her exactly what I was doing to justify my church existence.
I've always felt that ministry is simply loving people with the gifts and abilities God has given us. No church building or ministry-coordinator-approval required. Loving children by caring for them, loving husbands and wives by serving and partnering with them, loving friends by listening...all these things are ministry. It is Christ living in us and touching people with our skin, speaking to them with our voice and our words, serving them with our hands and feet.
Your letters, sent from one house to another, are ministry too. It is a gift of time and love to write words, to respond to another's heart and mind. Your letters matter. Next time you get out that pen and paper, take a moment to pray over your words. Include something that you know will bless and encourage. Send that letter off with all the peace and joy you can find. Your hour of writing will become work done unto the Lord and true ministry. The loved one on the other end will know it and be blessed.
Have a wonderful weekend my friends.
You are loved.