I’m a sucker for 80’s music. Growing up, I watched 80’s movies and, inevitably, there’d be a montage a little over halfway through where the characters got better at something—learning to fight, building a boat, dancing, etc—and that moment would be accompanied by a sweet rockin’ 80’s tune. One of my favorites of these is “Eye of the Tiger”. The first two Rocky movies might be some of the most awkward film ever made, but Rocky III? Amazing. What’s better than Mr. T? The answer is “very little”, but still, that song… The lead up is great, the video is hilarious (Google that here), and the refrain? Absolute mastery (ok, not really, but still...its pretty good). It wasn’t until I made…erm, strongly suggested…that Nicole watch these movies (yep, she made it all the way to 34 without seeing them) that I began to take note of the verses, to the message of the song.
It’s actually pretty great.
In the film Rocky III, the plan was to use “Another One Bites the Dust” by Queen; unfortunately, Stallone couldn’t get the rights to the song and thus, Survivor was contacted and asked to amend their soon-to-be hit, “Eye of the Tiger” for use during the movie. It ended up being 1982’s biggest hit. The chorus is catchy and uplifting, but I think my favorite line is, “So many times, it happens too fast; you trade your passion for glory.” It hits me in the chest every time I hear it, now; it does happen too fast, am I trading passion for glory? And if so, whose? God's or mine?
We’re a merit-driven people. The only ways we know if we’re succeeding are through feedback and results—the former usually only manifesting in negative ways and the latter fluctuating. I came into an environment with very few people and wanted nothing more—after listening to their story—to help, to lift this place up and get more people…get more ministry going. So, I put my head down and I charged ahead. The thing about looking down is that most of the time, you miss the stuff going on around you. Now, I won’t say that I haven’t paid attention to the people of this parish--I feel like I've been present and that we've grown together, but I will say that tunnel-vision has had me on a quest for growth and prosperity and left me tired and searching for the next 'thing', rather than stopping and listening to God for direction. And while we’ve done well, so far, I've felt the need to reorient, but I didn't know where or how to begin. Then, God sent me a message.
Recently, I was gently counseled that the message on Sunday seemed to be lacking content, and that it seemed like I was strongly focused on numbers and engagement. The thing about counsel? If someone is willing to voice it, there’s a large possibility that others agree in silence. It takes courage to speak opinions, and to do so lovingly. So, hearing this, I took a step back and started reviewing my past articles, my sermons, and the other communications I’ve sent. I wanted to see with different eyes and determine how I could get back to the message God wants versus the message of Sean. In short and after my search, I discovered this: I had begun to trade my passion for glory. Not God's glory—which is the only glory I should ever seek to promote—but instead, the glory found in being over-proud in a human way of our accomplishments and therefore seeking more to 'do' to keep that feeling going. People are noticing what we're doing here and I started to become caught up with constant growth rather than real growth...both mine and yours, spiritually and communally. And I miss it. I am a passionate man, I give all of myself to whatever I do (for better or worse) and it's time I remembered the passions that drive me.
My passions—in this order—are: Jesus Christ, my family, this community, and then a bunch of other fun stuff that follows when I have time. I’m hyper-focused on most of the things I do, but sometimes I lose sight of the ‘why’ while I’m doing it; the work of God overtakes my growth in God during the process. Does this happen to you? How can I help? Because without passion and without growing ourselves spiritually and faithfully, we're no longer being church, we're just a social group who meets on Sundays. I don’t want to lose that passion, or have it translated as a mere numbers game. I'll wager you don't either. I recently told someone that the people with whom they were charged were ready to grow—grow in spirit and knowledge of the love of God—and that they were just waiting on this person to lead them.
Time to take my own advice.
Jesus Christ is more than just an ancient figure to me; he’s my life, the life of a passionate man trying to figure out how best to remain faithful, disseminate Christ's message, and take care of a budding congregation in the process. I believe in his words, his actions, his miracles, his love, his abounding grace. I believe in his Passion. The TRUE Passion. The Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ that began in a manger and hasn’t ended yet. I want people, as many people as possible, to hear his good news and feel his presence. I want the world to shout, “Holy, Holy, Holy” when they think or speak his name. The numbers are a vehicle for that—nothing more—because just a few people can do this just as well as a few thousand. I got so caught up in projects and community-engagement that I lost sight for a moment of the ‘why’ rather than the ‘how’. I want to lead with integrity and I hope you want to walk alongside me with grace, while we follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ.
This community is more than just a job to me. It’s my passion. And I wouldn’t trade it for all the glory in the world. I’m so proud to be here, so proud to be your priest and co-conspirator in the subversion of evil and uplifting of good in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Ghost. So, this is my montage. This is my moment of a silly song playing in the background that has actual meaning to me (you can google that here). But I’m not learning to fight, not learning to dance, not learning to build a boat. I’m learning to recognize the power of true passion and not get caught up in the draw of glory. This is my ‘why’.
Because of Jesus Christ. Because of Jesus at all times, in all places. Through the low moments and in the highest elations; during the deeply meaningful seasons and in the doldrum of summer; throughout successful ministry weeks and in the midst of cancelations; in the darkness of night and the light of day. All of it. All I ever want to do is proclaim that Jesus is Lord. Proclaim that the Triune God has changed my life and done so for the better. Proclaim that I believe the Bible isn’t done teaching us. Proclaim that I believe the Holy Spirit still whispers on the wind and creates the words of the prophets. And proudly proclaim that I want to be a prophet, too, for the glory of God and not my own.
A change is coming. I want to see you as much as possible, but if I don’t, know that the message I believe God wants us to hear (yes, us, not just 'you') will be amped up from here on out, with less 'doing' and more 'being'. We’ll be doing things around the church at the highest level, still, but those communications about the 'when and how' will be coming in the form of other articles in the newsletter, announcements and emails—please read them. Because I’m turning my attention back to my call: The call to proclaim by WORD AND EXAMPLE (both, not just one) the good news of Jesus Christ. I want to start here, now.
Because He didn’t trade his passion for glory…through his Passion, he was glorified...and we were saved.