“We build on foundations we did not lay.
We warm ourselves at fires we did not light.
We sit in the shade of trees we did not plant.
We drink from wells we did not dig.
We profit from persons we did not know.
We are ever bound in community."

Rev. Peter Raible (paraphrased from Deuteronomy 6:10-12)

Saturday, July 23, 2011

"It Helps Now and Then..." - In the midst of a crazy world, a moment for gratitude

I know it might seem weird to be writing about gratitude on a day when the world is reeling from the news out of Norway (more on evil in another post), when Congress can't seem to find a way to raise the debt ceiling and address the budget (or find a civil way to work and compromise together so our children and grandchildren have a future worth living into), and when some are calling the heat index and climate change a left wing conspiracy. 

Climate change, the debt ceiling, and the terrible, horrible, tragic violence wrought by an extremist in Oslo are all on my mind. (And my prayers are certainly with the families and friends of all those who were injured or lost their lives in this attack.) 

But gratitude is also on my mind. 

Here's the story: It looks like we'll be moving to Minneapolis soon, to rent a home much closer to First Universalist. We're thrilled. At the same time,  we're sad about leaving Frogtown, our St. Paul neighborhood. Right now, we're in the process of packing, as it's all on a pretty fast timeline. And you probably know the moving drill: Almost every item that gets touched get this treatment, "Keep it? Toss it? Or give it away?" Mostly, it's pretty straight forward, but there are some items that haven't been touched in years, and when they are, stories, memories, and deep feelings all come flooding back. And often, lots of gratitude. Heap-loads of gratitude. 

Not the exact journal, but close!
(image from http://www.eastgate.com/catalog/ItalianJournal.jpg)
I was packing up my home office, when I came upon a gift from my Ordination and Installation service, nearly two years ago in October, 2009. It was a beautiful journal from a dear friend and colleague. I had (somehow!) completely forgotten about this gift. "On the occasion of your ordination - Oct 25, 2009," the inscription read. 

Holding this gift brought back a flood of memories from that day, as First Universalist and I began our shared ministry journey together, as we were collectively called by something greater than ourselves to serve something greater than ourselves. I turned the page in the journal to discover these words, credited to archbishop Oscar Romero, but actually written by by Ken Untener for John Cardinal Dearden in November of 1979: 

"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.

We cannot do everything, and we will never see the end results of what we start, but we must do something...despite the heart break and fear and extremism in the world, we must be the yeast that helps bring a new creation/world into being.  

Today, in the midst of everything, this is what I needed to hear and be reminded of. Thank you, dear friend. 

1 comment:

Rick said...

Hmmm, I thought I left a comment yesterday, but it never posted. Wanted to say that I appreciate your blog, and enjoyed the quote. It reminded me of what Eliza Jones wrote in her Credo. She knew she alone couldn't change the world, but she wanted to be sure that her actions were at least nudging it in a good direction. Good nudges, I have always liked that idea.