Facing challenges one at a time – Pastor Thoughts

I am writing to you back from Monday morning (June 6th). I am preparing to head out to a Study Conference for clergy . It is the first time that we have been able to gather in person since 2019.

Strangely, I actually feel closer to my local Lutheran colleagues now than in 2019. And that is because we gather weekly on zoom to support one another and we started that practice in March of 2020. That support and collegiality has been invaluable during this time. Sometimes it is just nice to commiserate with folks who are going through the same things that you are going through, who are faced with the same struggles as you and who know what it is like to be standing in your shoes.

So, I am looking forward to this week of fellowship and study. Looking forward to getting away for a few days. Looking forward to being challenged by new ideas and having the chance clear the mind while learning some new things.

The other thing that I am anticipating today is something I have been refraining from bringing up for a number of weeks now.

I haven’t written about the Oilers or boasted about my team, lest I jinx them. (I didn’t say anything during the Oilers/Flames series!) The Oilers are facing elimination tonight (you will know if they won by the time you are readings this) from the Western Conference finals of the NHL playoffs down 0 games to 3 to the Colorado Avalanche.

One of the things I do to keep sane and to clear my mind is that I often listen to podcasts and sport radio about Oilers throughout my days. But even as I listen to analysts and sport media endlessly talk about the minutia of hockey teams, sometimes things break through into my thoughts about church.

And as the Oilers face elimination needing to win four games in a row to stay alive in the playoffs, some of the rhetoric coming from the team has sparked my thoughts.

The mantra today is “one game at a time.” Even though they are facing an impossible task of winning four straight games after losing the first three and even though only four times have teams done this before where 198 teams haven’t, they are choosing to focus on the things that are immediately in front of them.

There are lots of things in the world right now that can make us feel like we are facing an impossible mountain to climb, the task of winning four games in a row against the best hockey team in the NHL.

But like the Oilers, we can only face things one at a time. You can’t play all the games at once, you can only go one by one.

Wherever it is in life we feel like there are impossible mountains in front of us, I think it does us well to slow down and focus on what is right in front of us, what the next thing that we need to tackle is. In fact, I think this might be exactly where God calls us into discipleship. We are not called to go out and to preach to all the nations today, but to take the next step in our journey of faith.

And so as we consider what comes next for us, whether at church, at home, at work or in our community, we are only ever called to tend to the next thing, to play the next game, to focus on the upcoming challenge first.

So I am looking forward to this week and looking forward to being back with you on Sunday. But for now, the next thing for me is to pack my suitcase and guitar.

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