I am mourning

Tonight I was going to post on Matthew 13 1-9. It is the pericope from a sermon [by Tiffany] I heard at Covenant a few weeks ago. In the sermon Tiffany spoke of Gods grace completing our work. She shared a store about the communal efforts required to harvest crops in the fields. She offered that “Great work is done while we are asleep.” That the focus on harvest is not on the sower rather the focus lies solely on God and the majestic beauty present in the maturing of the crops.

In her sermon Tiffany dared us to ask the question, “What is it that you want brought into the world?” She offered no solution but this…we must explore this question in community!

She goes on to say, “That in partnership with one another we are given the opportunity to recognize our gifts. In partnership we learn each others limitations. We are bound in community to walk with each other in our sorrow, our joys, in our heartache and victories. In all that life has to offer we are drawn to community. We desire to belong, to be loved, to strive along side with others. These are the characteristics that Jesus the Christ models us on the cross and in his life.

Where does the sower go wrong? I am not sure this is the right question to ask in these times, on this day. Whom do we sow with? Who do we strive alongside to do the work of God? What breaks our heart? What moves us? What is your passion? How can we strive alongside each other as we seek to answer that passionate place inside us where the divine dwells?

I was going to offer something deep and profound. I was wrestling with this passage and the sermon that Tiffany delivered [This sermon being one of the most beautiful and well delivered sermons I have heard in sometime]. Then…

Then I got a call. A call from a friend in Seminole County, Oklahoma. The place I spent last summer as a pastoral intern. The place I grew wings and flew into ministry under the watchful eye of four beloved congregations and a man named John Lively.

Tonight was informed that John died early this morning. My heart goes out to his family. His oldest daughter and her husband just had their first child and John was a doting grandfather. His wife just retired and they looked forward to spending more time together. Hid youngest daughter is on the verge of her junior year of high school. It hurts, badly.

John is a fixture in that community. He is a judge, lawyer, and minister. John loved so many and served all. John was a wonderful mentor that offered me the best insight into Tentmaking and subsistence pastoring. John will be missed.

I worry about his family. I worry about his congregation and the three others fledgling congregations that John touch. I am heart broken. My life is filled with sould’s, have not’s, and was’s.

I was john’s last pastoral intern. I wish more folks could know this man. This past Spring I meet up with John in Austin. He was there for training for a new intern to be coming in this Fall. I drove him to the airport and we talked. John was a great listener. He had a cool smile that relaxed you like a cool summer breeze. He spoke of his excitement for the Fall and his wife’s retirement. He spoke of possibilities for when his youngest went off to college. He encouraged me and cheered me on in my ministry quest. Reminding me of the successes I had in Seminole County. John and I departed with a hug. We have never hugged before. It was a little embarrassing at the time. Now I am thankful that I got to embrace John. I will miss him. I am dismayed and baffled by his death.

In her sermon a few weeks ago Tiffany offered this prayer for illumination…

God we are grateful for any time we have the chance to encounter your word. Because in the midst of the challenge of it, in our seeking to understand its meaning for our lives for this time. We know it as a chance to know you better. So we are humbled in this time as we meet you in your Word. May we encounter your mystery and grace in the words we are about to hear. Amen

I hold on to this prayer as a prayer for illumination in this moment. I am humbled to have known John. I am humbled by his death. I search for meaning in this time. I wrestle with purpose. I know that God is in the midst of it all. That Gods love will ultimately reign above all things. I mourn seeking Gods mystery and grace in the words that I seek to hear. In the words I hope to read. In the words that I hold.

God be with the Lively family and the congregations in Seminole County that he loved and served. Tonight we mourn in community. Let us not be alone blanket us in prayer.

5 thoughts on “I am mourning

  1. Karen says:

    John’s legacy of ministry lives on in you Ryan. He was a wonderful man of God. The church will miss him, but the church triumphant rejoices and welcomes him home.

  2. Greg says:

    I was just getting ready to call John this morning when I got the notice of his death. I’m still shocked by the suddenness of it all.

    I met John when we both spoke at the seminary’s Partnership Luncheon in Oklahoma City this past spring. By coincidence we got to share a flight together back to Austin. Problems with the flight caused us to have to wait in the airport, during which time we had dinner and got to visit at length.

    In just that short time, I grew to like and admire John Lively. Rarely has such talent and intellect been combined with such a humble and loving heart.

  3. Hello, Ryan. I’m sorry to trouble you at this time of sadness in your life. However, I haven’t found another way to contact you. I’m the managing editor of The Progressive Christian magazine, an ecumenical bimonthly journal on “faith and the common good.” I’m writing to ask permission to reprint a comment you wrote on the Tribal Church blog in our “Quotables” feature:

    “I hunger for a ‘church’ that reaches outside of itself. A place where all are welcome and affirmed to their calls to serve. A home to be and a vessel of rising courage. I believe one can be presbyterian, evangelical, progressive, and post modern in one imperfect package.”

    If you’re willing to be quotedI’d like to know how you’d like to be identified with this quote. I note that you recently graduated from Austin Seminary. Are you ordained yet? And what about your new Nuni De Community? I regret that I don’t have enough Latin to know what “nuni de” means.

    Please email me at your earliest convenience and let’s talk. Thanks.

    Cynthia Astle

  4. @Karen, Greg, and Carol thank you for your kind and blessed words.

    @Cynthia It was great to speak to you today. I will get an article out to you as soon as I can.

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