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A Final Muse

By Dan Baumgartner on
Dan Baumgartner
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May 15 in Musings
This is my 410th Musing for the ePres as Senior Pastor of Hollywood Presbyterian. And it is my final one. These brief columns have been a fun way to share thoughts on life, faith, reading, travel and people. They truly have been musings–not heavily researched or complete essays. Starting next Friday, this column will transition to “Musings from Our Leaders,” with a different elder writing each week. 
I’ve been reflecting these last weeks, knowing that a big transition is near for me and our Hollywood Pres community. What have I communicated over these 8 ½ years? What have been consistent themes?  People sometimes say that every preacher really only has two or three sermons, and they just get re-packaged in different ways. Upon further reflection, I think two or three might be generous...how about one?!  Actually, there are a few threads I can find, but I want to underscore one that should sound very familiar: paying attention.  If we believe the radical claim that the God of the universe is present and active in real life, the critical question becomes: are we listening, watching, paying attention?
           
Last month, Charity Ngaruiya asked me to share at her ordination service in Wylie Chapel. I found myself handing on a familiar charge that was given to me.  It started with an image from the great 19th century Herman Melville novel Moby Dick.  Melville gave a brilliant description of the job of a harpooner on a whaling expedition, out in one of the small boats.  He said the harpooner only had one job- to watch for the whale...then throw. If he was distracted by the large ship, the other small boats, the wind or sea…he would miss his throw.  He had to totally focus on the whale.
         
Melville’s image was handed down and picked up by Eugene Peterson, who said in a book that the job of a pastor was similar- to watch for God.  Peterson’s words were picked up by Bruce Murphy, who passed it onto me at my ordination in 1996–watch for God.It is applicable for every Christian. Be attentive.
         
It sounds so simple, but the truth is we are easily distracted. We get caught up in culture, insecurity, competition, passions, world events and often put our primary focus on these things. We forget that as followers of Jesus we need to look for God’s presence and leading in everyday life, especially in the mundane and ordinary places.  We pay attention to what God is already doing.  We engage in the practices that have served God’s people through the centuries: prayer, worship, scripture, reflection, meditation. We hone our abilities to truly see the people God puts in front of us, to look for his hand in life circumstances and be attentive to the movement of the Spirit.
           
If I don’t see you this weekend, know that it has been my deep privilege to be your pastor in this season. I am confident that God will continue his good gospel work through this community for many years to come. I know that he is present and working, and so I have only this one thing to leave you with–pay attention.
           
            See you soon,
                        Pastor Dan

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