perspective check: the kingdom always lies beyond us, and other reminders

26 08 2010

I found myself forgetting things this morning: I left the house without my gym shoes when I needed them to go walking after work.  I left my mug on my desk as I walked to the lunchroom to get (a cup of) tea.  Little, nonessential things slipped my mind.  Sometimes we operate in life thinking we’ve got everything we need in view, and then a random thought, unexpected phone call, or calendar alert on our phone pops in out of nowhere and shifts our perspective.  Forgetfulness skews our perspective.  Reminders keep us on track.

While I was forgetting non-essentials today, I found God reminding me of very important things, essential to the core of my being.  Some of them are things I have been straining to remember for the last year (or more) and refusing to forget, despite a host of other things competing for my attention.

He reminded me that the knowledge of God can also be the quickest thing to separate us from him and that my theological education means nothing if I fail to behold the beauty of the Lord.  For a great sermon on the topic, check this out.

He reminded me today during chapel, as we heard from youth involved in World Vision’s Youth Empowerment Program, of his heart for young people to know him and for especially forgotten, oppressed, or abused youth to be empowered to rebuild their own cities (Isa 61).  He reminded me of the way he has built that part of his heart into my own, and of the ways he has been stirring me to be a peacemaker.

He reminded me of the passion I had once that burned deep in me for others to know the Living God and to be changed by his love.

He reminded me of the way he calls his people to live like exiles: by praying for the city they are sent to, settling down and making it home, even if they are far from the place and community they love (Jer. 29).

And he also reminded me, through these words by the Archbishop Oscar Romero, of the greatness of the kingdom of God, the privilege it is to live in it and work for it, and the meaning inherent in every small way we participate:

“It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that
is God’s work.  Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying that the
Kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the Church’s mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for
the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master
builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.”


A Borrowed Word…

4 01 2009

This encouraged me today from a website I frequent called Sacred Space, and I want to pass it along:

The week after Christmas can be a time of anticlimax, of crackers cracked and bottles emptied, the fun and excitement just a cold memory. We cannot live our whole life in a buzz of exhilaration, even religious exhilaration. Even a charismatic service, with ecstatic crowds and catchy music, can leave a morning-after feeling. As Joseph brought Mary and Jesus down to Egypt, dodging soldiers and footpads, the adoring shepherds and the jubilant angels were just a memory. In Jesus’ parables, the kingdom of God advances not by fireworks and peak experiences, but by trickling increment, by quiet, organic growth like the mustard seed or the leaven in the lump. Thank you, Lord, for the high moments; but when they are past, let me be good leaven.

I’m starting 2009 with a lot of fear about the change that is coming my way, and all the things that are still unknown.  And at the beginning of a new year, when the wheels that we spin feel like they might get a little more traction, my default is to dream big: big purpose, big change, big impact.  This prayer was a helpful reminder that big impact with God often comes in the tiniest of ways: in faithfulness, trust and perseverance.

In 2009, I want to look for the leaven instead of the loaf.