Pastor’s Letter 2022 August

Dear Siblings in Christ,

I recently went to the movie theaters.  Angled two rows behind me were two people chatting during the trailers for upcoming movies.  I looked back to see who was talking; not annoyed at that moment, just curious and hoping (the wishful kind of hoping, not the faith kind of hoping) that they would stop chatting when the movie began.  I like chatting to be kept to a whisper, if at all, so as not to distract from the movie experience, as it is a public space and not my living room.  I also own that I am not very good at tuning out extraneous noise when I am trying to focus on something.  I also noticed that the two folx appeared older than me. I gave a lot of grace – maybe hearing issues for at least one of them; this was their occasional outing and they were enjoying each other’s company, and because I was raised to give more respect to my elders.

Alas, they continued chatting when the movie began – until the end of the movie – the climax of the movie.  Now this unnerved.  I turned around and looked at them, but of course, they probably couldn’t see me because it was dark, and they were focused on each other.  Now, I hope some of you can appreciate this situation.

Anyway, I turned back around and tried to keep my focus on the movie’s ending, even though I could still hear them chatting.  I didn’t want to be irritated so I worked at reframing my attitude to placed myself in their shoes: enjoying their occasional outing and sharing thoughts and opinions about the movie as it was happening; not realizing they were louder than they thought; what if they had been my auntie and her friend, then how would I feel?

As the credits rolled, I realized they might not know their conversations were distracting to others and, that they would feel bad about distracting from other movie-goers’ experience.  This made me feel like I was doing a good deed.  I got up and, walking out noticed they were a bit behind me.  I thought I would begin the conversation outside in the hall.

As the opportunity drew closer, I could not bring myself to do so.  I let the moment pass by and, I realized a bit later why.  While I had some good intentions, I still had underlying intentions that were not so good (also known as sin in some circles).  I could feel my righteousness (there is a proper way after all for behaving in a public movie), and I still felt irritated and annoyed with them.  I realized that even if I could come off ‘sounding’ like I doing ‘them’ a favor (righteousness rearing its ugly head) I was really being self-serving and I simply couldn’t go there.  Then also came the fear that they might react badly to me and I didn’t have a plan to handle that – I think, because my intentions were not pure.

Then I got humbled.  God had convicted me of my self-righteousness, and I thought, “Dang nab it (good ole’ midwestern language) now I have to repent for that.”  Then, I felt sad.  In the deepest part of my heart, I was going to ‘fake’ good intentions, to make them feel bad.  Whether they did or didn’t wasn’t the point, because it was really all about me.

Good things came out of this – beyond my realizing my true intentions – is realized I had God to go to about this, (I knew there was at least a parable about this that I could learn from), and I opened myself to learning about my bad intention.  As it happened, I was unpacking more of my boxes in my office and found my little pamphlet from the UMC General Board of Discipleship, “How to Have a Courageous Conversation.”  I have both read it again, which was helpful, and I searched up scripture on having impure intentions, also knowns as being righteous.

At the end, I have two really big gratitudes:  I know a God who forgives and indeed does forgive and makes things whole again – and I have a God who, when I open myself up to learn a more just and honorable way of being, things will be in front of me to use to learn (I have to be willing to see them, and use them, of course.)

So, thank you God and thank you to those who stuck with me to help me return, ever so long ago, to this faith that has served me well and given to me beyond my wildest imaginings.

Shalom, Salaam,

Rev. Pam