Donavon Riley is a Lutheran pastor, conference speaker, author, Online Content Director for Higher Things, a contributing writer at 1517 Legacy Project, Christ Hold Fast, and LOGIA. Pastor Riley co-hosts the podcast: 'The Higher Things Simul Cast'. He is pastor of Saint John Lutheran Church in Webster, MN. A graduate of Concordia Universities in St. Paul, Minnesota and Portland, Oregon, Pastor Riley received his seminary and post-graduate education at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. He colloquized into the LC-MS from the ELCA in 2008. He is married to Annie, and is the father of four children: Owen, Alma, Hoshea, and Hallel.
“The strongest person in the room doesn't win the fight," she said, "it’s whoever's the meanest…” I was fifteen years old when my aunt taught me that. Her words of wisdom became something of a mantra for me. “Don’t start a fight unless you're meaner than the other guy.”
How do we respond when a Christian acknowledges that he's fallen into doubt about the existence of God and his purpose as a Christian? What about a pastor who struggles to keep up the mask of faithfulness, but of late isn't convinced anymore there's a God?
While I was still an over-eager seminarian the professor warned me, “Mr. Riley, this is exciting stuff. It’s exciting when you first learn about justification by faith alone in Christ alone. That’s because Law and Gospel is heady stuff! But be careful. When you climb into a pulpit and you get to preach every week you’ll learn that the people you preach to don’t much like justification talk.
Nostalgia is a powerful emotion. It can get ahold of a person and turn him all the way in on himself. What seemed a brief reflection lingers for hours, days, weeks, even years. Why did we break up? What if I’d stayed? How could I have been so stupid? Where did it all go wrong?
I’m going to begin at the beginning. But which one? Birth? Kindergarten? My first drink? The first time I had sex? High school graduation? The first time I smoked a joint? The first time I tried to kill myself? Conversion? Baptism? Marriage? My first-born? Ordination? Which beginning do I begin with?
God's doing for us that gets done is Word and Sacrament stuff. Everything else flows from His speaking to us, baptizing us, bodying and bloodying us. Jesus sees our need. He fills our need with his faithful, loving, kindness. Then we mess that up. We own up to it, confess it to Him, then say sorry.