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 the city, in America, in community, intergenerationally, at this time in history...

Monday, September 15, 2008

Like a child?

Yesterday, in completing a sermon series in the book of James, I spoke of the necessity of having a childlike faith. To 'become a little child' (which Jesus indicates is needful if I'm to participate in His kingdom), I need to develop certain attitudes:

1. Dependency - Little children can't do anything on their own. They need nurture, provision, direction, intervention, training, and so much more. Of course, in the physical and emotional realms of life, it's critical that we move away from dependency so that we can be fully functioning adults. But our relationship with God our creator is intended to be a relationship of dependency throughout our days. It is childlike faith which realizes that, underneath the superficial relationships of education, connections, and employment to our daily bread, there is a God who is the true source. Economies will change (by, say, 500 or more market points in a single day), but the truth of the matter is that we're invited to look to God as a source of provision. This isn't an invitation to passivity our laziness, but simply an acknowledgment that, 'unless the Lord builds the house', all our striving, education, connections, plans, and hard work will never bring kingdom change, daily bread, or satisfaction to our lives.

We must learn to apply dependency to more realms that simply material, for the truth of the matter is that we are invited to look to God as our source of strength, direction, meaning, and in fact, the source of our very life. Looking anywhere else is tantamount to looking amongst the dying debris of this fallen world for life.

2. Gratitude - Dependency on God, far from leading us down a path of eschewing the glories of this world, leads instead to the fullest possible enjoyment of this world. Romans 1 reminds us that the indictment on humanity in our fallen condition isn't that we have contact with all the glories of this world, but that we fail to thank God for these glories, and as a result end up worshiping the gifts rather than the Giver. Childlike gratitude gives thanks to God for sunshine, rain, music, food and drink, friendship and intimacy, beauty and peace, wherever they're enjoyed.

I'm wondering why we aren't more consistently wide eyed with wonder at this incredible world in which we live? Why are we so senseless?

3. Trust - In healthy families, children trust their parents, and this creates an approachability, so that the parent is where the child turns, not only in times of joy and gratitude, but also in times of need. We lose our way, we get hurt, we are easily frightened. This is simply the way of it for all people, at various times, and in various ways. We need to know that there's one who cares.

Of course, in a complex and pain filled world, this is exactly the rub for many people. "Where is this God who cares? What was he doing between '39 and 45, while six million Jews were executed? What about the Red Guard? Pol Pot? I'm not sure this God does care!" Ah yes... the great question of suffering and evil. While volumes have been spilled to address this, and still the question remains, I'll only offer this thought - if we're to hold up the suffering as evidence, we need to hold up the beauty too. And we need to hold up not just the story of these moments in history, but the promised end to the story, for these are all pieces of evidence with which we must deal. When I do this, I find it easier to come to God with my pain, knowing that though I might not get full answers, I will find solace and shelter.

4. Obedience - Children are invited to obey their parents because the parent knows the fuller story, the bigger picture. I've watched parents spare their children from running out into the street, eating endless m&m's, staying up way too late, and in each case watched the child cry, declaring without words that the parent doesn't get it, doesn't have their best interests in mind; is, in fact, an ogre.

I smile. "Go ahead and cry" I think to myself. Someday, if your little heart is teachable at all, you'll get it. And you'll be glad that someone was there to cross your will with a better, higher, fuller will.

I find this childlike posture lived out well in the Celtic Christian strain of church history. This book might get you started.

I think, right about now, I'd like some cookies and milk. Maybe a nap too.


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