Pastor Burke’s final dispatch
I see that the end of my time in Petaluma is drawing close. That soon, this amazing, incredible, challenging and miraculous season with Petaluma United Methodist Church will be finished. I am really sad to think about this change but also have to say that I am so very grateful for my time here. Looking back, and thinking about all we have been through as a community, I believe, overall, that the time here has gone well. I do know for sure you all have helped me grow and stretch and learn. It is a certainty that this church has made me a better pastor and a better person. There is still much for me to discover, skills to develop and more patience and diligence is required on my part. Here, I have learned more, done more, and connected more with a church community than ever before I thank you for this and will always keep you in my heart and prayers.
For my final Petaluman column, I would like to share a few theological and spiritual thoughts with you. They are about my relationship with God and understanding of the Holy Trinity and understanding of the purpose of life. What follows are expressions of what I perceive in relationship to the divine, and my ongoing appreciation of the gifts that life brings.
To begin, here is my definition of the divine; I believe that God is the source and the destination for all of us, as well as the place where creation abides. To put it plainly, everything is God, even if it does not appear to be that way.
From study, contemplation, everyday life experience and spiritual practice, I have seen God in action, felt the presence of the spirit in my life and heard the miracle of Christ speaking in the world and in my soul. These are strong statements. Yet they are based on many years of active discernment of my life purpose assisted by a growing clarity from God, which has been further developed by my time as father, husband, son, employee, student, teacher, manager, pastor and person of faith.
Let me say a few words about the Trinity, for my understanding is perhaps different than others.
The Father/Mother is the parent, the ultimate source, God in all its perfect mystery, present in the midst of creation and yet apart from all that we see, hear, feel, touch, taste, think or feel. This is the heart of all life, and as a result, the most difficult to comprehend or define.
The Son/Daughter is the incarnate child of God; that aspect of the divine that takes on identity and personality and physical form so that creation becomes and more fully realized. This organism of incarnation is the divine’s way to fully comprehend itself, realize its potential, and, over time, establish a deliberate community in faith and love.
Finally, it is the Spirit or holy ghost, that connects the source, Parent, with creation, Child, and so keeps it alive and engaged, so that life never loses its freshness or creativity. The spirit brings its joy and innate ability to transform the divine into creation, and creation into the divine.
I believe that each of us, as created beings, as children of God, have work to do in this life, in our world. For we all have a task that is unique to each of us. In an assured way, God has created us with a very particular set of skills, talents, gifts and graces so that we can become, over the course of living our lives, our most complete and wondrous selves possible.
Given the vast, frankly innumerable life forms in existence, from the mirco to the macro levels, from the sub-atomic to the galactic, this life process is incredibly complex, and beyond our individual imaginations and life cycles. At the same time, life is wonderfully simple.
I posit that this simplicity, which is a great gift, is the result of the very limitations we experience as humble, limited life forms, created in God’s image. In a certain sense, we are each akin to small replicas of the greater divine. We live for a few decades, experience moments and aspects of creation, and then are called back to the source, to serve in future ways we do not know, but that we will, one day, realize, as the hymn says, ‘by and by.’ So it is in our, and God’s, best interest that we live our lives fully, give it our best effort, our best shot, and trust in God’s grace and blessing.
For we are the great experiment of creation, and the wondrous love that God created us from is what powers and moves us. So have faith and trust in God, even when suffering and experience changes you. Look at all the many miracles that surround you each day. It is a wonder and a mystery that we are even here. Let that fill you and grow your faith, so that, in time, you may learn to trust and so love God as much as God loves you.
I do not share these thoughts for any reason other than to encourage others to try to understand what God is to them, to take the time to appreciate the wonderful mystery and miracle that is life. It is not important that each of us come up with a theory or define the divine or even feel confident speaking about God with others. But it is important, very important, that each of us discover what God means to us, that each person develops a way to communicate with the divine and do all they can to answer the call, and welcome God into their lives.
For God loves each one of us more than anything. And there is nothing more important than realizing this in our life.
Thank you for welcoming me into your church. It has been a great joy for me to be here.
May God bless you and keep you always,