Pastoral Musings from Rain City

it's about 'what is church?' it's about whether 'emergent' is the latest Christian trend or something more substantial. it's musing on what it means to live faithfully...in the city, in America, in community, intergenerationally, at this time in history...

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

On being a "Mourning Person"

Maybe you've seen those slick motivational posters that dot the landscape of corporate America. Pictures of climbers, runners, hang gliders, each with a single word in 60 point font, with a small typeface offering a definition right below it. The intention, of course, is for people who are walking from the fax machine to the water fountain to see this and be inspired towards creativity, or excellence, or productivity, or teamwork, with the end that everybody wins, especially the company.

It's all well and good, but recently I've been pondering why we haven't yet seen a product line mirroring the concept, but embodying the wisdom of Jesus as articulated in the sermon on the mount. The large words would be: Poverty - Hunger - Mourning - Persecution - Meekness. Under each one would be a specific promise of blessing. Of course, this will never happen because the wisdom of God isn't wisdom in this world; it's foolishness. It's not only foolish because these are things to be avoided in the general course of one's life. It's foolish because God's wisdom is so untidy, so defiant of systemization, so resistant to being reduced to a poster.

Of course, God invites us to make the pursuit of wisdom a chief aim in our life, because sound wisdom will no doubt become the fertile soil out from which a fruitful and well lived life is born. But God is also clear, in many places throughout the Bible regarding two things:

1. There's more than one kind of wisdom. There's the wisdom of God and the wisdom of this world. The wisdom of this world comes in numerous posters, numerous pursuits, ranging from disengaged cynicism, to an unabashed lust for power and privilege, and everything in between. But whatever the color, the consistent story running throughout the Bible is that this human wisdom is sinking sand, is unable to satisfy, is vapor, emptiness, not profitable.

2. The other kind of wisdom available to us is God's wisdom. But there are problems with God's wisdom. Because it flows out of a dynamic and ongoing relationship with creator of the world it can't be reduced to posters, or even nice little systems. There's a time for everything, we're told, and it's the wise person who knows what time it is: love or hate? peace or war? laughter or tears?

The other crazy thing about God's wisdom is that it leads to a robust life, but by no means are we promised that it will lead to comfortable, or even a long life. In fact, God is quite clear in declaring that wise living has every chance of leading to some pain and mourning. This is because the wisdom of God leads us to confession (which is painful) and solidarity with the suffering of this world (which is painful) and a humble acknowledgment that in certain circumstances, there's nothing we can so or do to help another person choose wisely (and this is painful too). Further, wisdom will ask of us obedience, and sacrifice, which will clearly push us out of our comfort zones and might cost us our lives.

But the history of the church, from the apostles, down through the Celtic saints, to St. Francis, the radical reformers, right up to Desmund Tutu and the present day, testifies that a life lived wisely is a life lived fully. Joy, hope, courage, sacrifice, purpose - these are our inheritance when we step into the story God is writing.

All of this, though, requires the red-pill, requires facing reality courageously and responding by walking further into the light. But sometimes that initial dose of truth can be a bit shocking, so different than the motivational posters and preaching with which we've become familiar. That's the danger in preaching through Ecclesiastes. It's like going on a de-tox diet. There'll be pain before healing, mourning before comfort. It's the way of so much in life... including God's wisdom.

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3 Comments:

At 2/4/08 07:09, Blogger Katie said...

Then there are always Demotivators:
http://www.despair.com/viewall.html

 
At 3/4/08 09:48, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why am I always so dissatisfied with where I am in life? I realize more all the time that we were not made for this world. I so long for the Kingdom; where we will all be free from the bonds of this world and freed to operate in the full capacity of our unique giftedness in a world that is void of limitations.
Sometimes, I am so heavenly minded that it only serves to frustrate my earthly existence all the more.
Wayne Bays wfbsparky@yahoo.com.

 
At 4/4/08 09:07, Blogger Joanie said...

I give thanks to the Lord and praise His name that He has led you to teach on Ecclesiastes. I can readily understand where Wayne is coming from, as I have been right there as he explained in his comment. And yet, as you shared last Sunday my eyes were opened to see in a new way (the beginning of a new understanding). I am frustrated in living in this world. I want to stand on the roof of my house and yell until people listen that Jesus is Lord and they need to turn away from worldly ways and understand that we can work together (across racial, economic, political issues) and function as children of God. But, I know that is not reality in this troubled world. I know things are going to become more difficult in life before they are better. I'm learning anew that we have the gift of HOPE and no one can take that away from us. If I am to be used by God, I must spend more time in His word, in prayer and allowing Him to mold me and make me and submitting myself to His ways ~ gaining wisdom, allowing Him to fill me to overflowing with His love (as He cleanes my life and renews my spirit, so I may share with others). Hope in the midst of despair; victory in the midst of defeat and love in the midst of hate ~ He is the only source of life and living! I am reminded of this once again as the Lord brought an amazing book to my attention - The Heavenly Man - and I began reading about other Christians and their level of faithfulness and love of our Lord in the midst of this broken world. May I learn to be a source of His hope and love that others are drawn to Him. Oh, I have so much to learn still...

 

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