Master of Divinity and Master Food Preserver

Colossians 1 wordle
I started using Twitter several months back and have really enjoyed it. In my pre-Twitter days I had sort of assumed it was an exercise in self-absorbed navel gazing, getting updates from random people about marginal details of their lives, i.e. - I'm eating dinner, or I'm going to bed, or I'm watching TV. There is some of that but mostly Twitter is this wonderful aggregator and unearther of interesting things. It's a personally crafted news feed on steroids - and I'm hooked.

So yesterday I hit 200 followers and it occurs to me that this blog and its scope and purpose may be hard to understand for people that sign up to follow it. (The Twitter feed at this point is mostly blog updates) One day I'm writing about wildflowers or local food, the next I'm tweeting about chicken coops and then, what may seem like out of nowhere, I write about faith and holiness and my vocation as a Presbyterian pastor. People that sign on thinking that this a gardening blog or a backyard chicken blog or a Christian blog may be a little confused. (I explain at some length what this blog is about here.)

One simple way to explain what I'm about is that in my office I have my degrees and credentials up on the wall. Next to the Master of Divinity degree certificate that I received 15 years ago from Fuller Seminary is my Master Food Preserver certificate from the County Extension office that I received 2 years ago in the midst of our year long experiment. I've come to see how both of these credentials (and what they represent) are inseparable and essential for me, and represent much of what I'm up to on the blog and as a person.

I've been a pastor for almost 13 years and about five years into that vocational journey I found myself suffocating within the dualistic divide that tends to get handed to you when you are called a Master of the Divine. (It's really got to be one of the most ridiculous degree titles ever) In practice, it means pastors are assigned to attend to spiritual realities and spiritual truths, as opposed to everyday material realities. On top of that we're told that it's the spiritual that really matters.

For example, yesterday on Twitter this flashed across my feed; “Our greatest fear should not be fear of failure but a fear of succeeding in things that have no eternal impact." That's classic dualistic pastor speak, as if there are "things" that have nothing to do with the eternal or divine, corners of the world where holiness and faithfulness are inaccessible and irrelevant. It's just not so.

The journey for me has been to peel back these boundaries, between earth and heaven, and seek some sort of integration. The Master Food Preserver companion to my Master of Divinity degree on the wall represents my efforts toward that end. It's a reminder to me that all things are important and all things are part of what God is up to in the world, in and through Jesus. Check out Colossians 1:15-20 if you want to see more of what I'm talking about here. (the picture above is a Wordle of those Bible verses)

I can relate in some ways to Elizabeth Gilbert in her book, Eat, Pray, Love, where she describes her journey out of materialism and into a spiritual quest for the transcendent, only my journey is in reverse. She says of the occasion of her first prayer;

...something was about to occur on that bathroom floor that would change forever the progression of my life – almost like one of those crazy astronomical super-events when a planet flips over in outer space for no reason whatsoever, and its molten core shifts, relocating its poles and altering its shape radically, such that the whole mass of the planet suddenly become oblong instead of spherical. Something like that.

What happened was I started to pray.
You know – like, to God.

For me, instead of reaching out of the secular abyss toward heaven I have been moving away from the constant focus on the transcendent to sink my hands into the holy materiality of the world and that has been my pole shifting, planet flipping experience. My version sounds something like this. On the occasion of my first Master food preserver class;

“Something was about to happen in that class that would change forever the progression of my life...

What happened is I learned how make chutney and can salmon.
You know - like fish."

It doesn't quite have the mystery and intrigue of prayer, but this would be among my transformational practices. It's part of my slow but sure movement away from the inane grandiosity of mastering the divine toward the skills of paying attention to the fruit of the earth, the wonder of the everyday, the kingdom of God that is at hand in the world, the incarnate God who is redeeming all things.