The 10th century Tibetan Buddhist poet, the Lama Milarepa, taught this as he prepared for his death:

“All worldly pursuits have but the one unavoidable and inevitable end, which is sorrow: acquisitions end in dispersion; buildings, in destruction; meetings, in separation; births, in death. Knowing this, one should from the very first renounce acquisition and heaping-up, and building and meeting, and … set about realizing the Truth. … Life is short, and the time of death is uncertain; so apply yourselves to meditation.”

This Buddhist concept of meditation has parallels in the Christian practice of the present: to be aware of God in this present moment, and to be thankful for the gifts of the moment. (As I said to Patty when we first greeted each other this morning, “God has given us another day together!”)

It is true that peace and fulfillment come from this realization of God in the present. Things we buy and things we accomplish bring only fleeting happiness. (And, sometimes, things we buy bring only remorse! It would have been better simply to give that money away.)

Still …

Still, I am proud (another sin, right?) to come across mentions of great accomplishment, by St. Stephen folks!

For instance, what I have discovered today (and it’s not even 8:00 AM!): In the latest issue of the publication, “Ideation,” highlighting research and scholarship at William and Mary, I was pleased to see the face of our own Carl Strikwerda, Dean of Arts and Sciences, and to read his opening column.

Then I turned the page, and there was a feature about our own Heather Macdonald, Professor of Geology (who accumulates awards!). Heather has most recently been honored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Heather leading a team of colleagues in compiling a web-based compendium of professional development resources for geosciences faculty.

Then I turned the page and saw the smiling face of our own Regina Root, Assoc. Professor of Modern Languages and Literatures. Regina has been invited to serve as “president ad honorem” of Latin America’s largest fashion congress, Ixel Moda, which draws 10,000 people. Regina is an expert in Latin American fashion, and specializes in sustainable design practices in fashion.

Then I opened up this morning’s “Virginia Gazette,” and saw Ray Baseley’ article about this Monday’s VFW-sponsored Memorial Day commemoration. (Did you know that, every year, Ray organizes this event? Did you know that Ray is even honored to present the “Ray Baseley Prize” to someone working to further the work of the VFW chapter? What an honor, to have a prize named after you — while you’re alive to enjoy the recognition!

And I know that one of our teenagers, Robert Floyd, will be competing in a big-deal bicycle criterion this afternoon at Todd Stadium in Newport News.

And …

There’s more going on, in all of our lives!

Even if ultimate fulfillment and happiness is not found in accomplishments, I am proud of the ways our St. Stephen folks are using their God-given talents in their achievements.

In fact, with our Lutheran theology of vocation, we can point to those as examples of our ministries in the world.

About Pastor Andy Ballentine

Pastor Andy Ballentine loves being a parish pastor! Pastor Ballentine took his BA degree from the University of Virginia (with a major in sociology) and earned the Master of Divinity degree at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. He earned the Master of Sacred Theology degree at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, with the thesis topic of: "How Benedictine Monastic Spirituality Nourishes Parish Ministry." He has completed the program of Spiritual Direction from the Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation. In the Virginia Synod, Pastor Ballentine has served as Dean of the Peninsula Conference and as chaplain to the candidates in the Virginia Synod’s Candidacy process (those on the way to being approved for ordained and professional ministries in the church). He has staffed many, many Virginia Synod youth events!