“This is the true joy in life — being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one… being a force of nature instead of a feverish selfish clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no ‘brief candle’ to me. It is sort of a splendid torch which I have a hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it over to future generations.” ~ George Bernard Shaw
This morning’s post is all about transparency. Aging brings an acute awareness to life’s brevity. I’m sure the arrival of my new grandson, and increasing medical occurrences also punctuate that vulnerability.
The one thing I desire is to leave behind as much spiritual learning as possible for those who come behind me. I am convinced that much of what I have endured was due to my own spiritual ignorance but also might have been lessened had trusted elders been more transparent.
I think most people are sincere in their attempts to “rightly divide the Word of God.” However, denominational bias comes into play as well as fear of loss in reputation and relationships. Some are overly concerned with protecting the status quo, even defending God, as if that were necessary. Others may have simply had little confidence that God actually speaks to common men and thus were at the mercy of what elders and mentors in their lives were willing to share. They then “pay it forward.”
I will site a case in point this morning. As I picked up on my readings in Matthew, Chapter 9, I found it interesting just how much time Jesus spent in the marketplace, with others outside His belief system and in the homes of various acquaintances. Today, it seems that most all of our religious speak occurs in isolated sanctuaries, with considerably guarded personal margin between expressions of sacred learning in secular arenas.
Matthew 9:10 reads, “While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
“On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (NIV). He quoted Hosea 6:6, a text the Pharisees would understand, as this minor prophet was also questioning the religious practices of his day. It seems that repeatedly, our best attempts at “church” seem to place ritual before relationship, and organizational function above real world engagement.
Had we spent the last 200 years in America, living into and sharing the beauty of a relationship with God, over the maintenance of our denominational points of view; and, better used the resources other-wise necessary to sustain the facilities that isolate each position, some of our social challenges might have been further down the road?
It seems that the wineskins devised by men to hold the new wine of the Spirit discovered anew with each generation are constantly in need of stretching, if not some replaced (vs. 17). Why is it we are so reluctant to discuss these matters, especially given the situation of so many churches in America and given the experience of those countries who have already traveled the same path? See Wall Street Journal article below.
I am sure that I have huge spiritual blind spots, and given my recent public life, now a well pointed out wounded-ness. Yet, even after a life laden with missed God moments and aspirations jaded by personal ambition, it still seems that each morning, the Spirit beckons me aside. When I open the scriptures, my initial point of entry for spiritual meditation, I seem refreshed and assured of God’s presence and desire to continue the journey with me.
Trust me, in my prayer time, I often remind God of the possibility that He has chosen the wrong guy to journey with, but He continues by His grace!