Devotional Thought of the Day:
20 Who in the world do you think you are to second-guess God? Do you for one moment suppose any of us knows enough to call God into question? Clay doesn’t talk back to the fingers that mold it, saying, “Why did you shape me like this?” 21 Isn’t it obvious that a potter has a perfect right to shape one lump of clay into a vase for holding flowers and another into a pot for cooking beans? 22 If God needs one style of pottery especially designed to show his angry displeasure 23 and another style carefully crafted to show his glorious goodness, isn’t that all right? Romans 9:20-23 (MSG)
13 Like clay in the hands of a potter, to be molded according to his pleasure, So are men in the hands of their Creator, to be assigned by him their function. Sirach 33:13 (NAB) (1)
In 1964, after a stay in Pamplona during which he preached to many people, he said how ashamed he felt at the demonstrations of affection he received. “They carried me around like a statue in a procession!” He added, “Later on I heard that there had been many conversions, lapsed Catholics going to confession … and I remembered the clay our Lord used to open the eyes of the blind man in the Gospel.” (2)
Yesterday, in a class I was teaching on Evangelism, there was a great discussion on the issue of our partnership with the Holy Spirit in ministry. The question led to thikning on my part, and during breakfast this morning I came across the above quote about Jesus using the clay (mud) to open the eyes of a blind man, and St Josemaria’s likening himself to that clay.
It is a theme in scripture, this molding and designing our use, as you see in Romans. It appears in Jeremiah as well, and in other places. It gives us a model of ministry, one which answers many of my questions about why I go through what I go thorugh in ministry. Not the answer I want, by any means! But one that leaves me… at peace.
I don’t like the answer at first, because it means I can’t set the boundaries, I can’t determine my own path, or what I think is the right way and strategy to serve God. It’s not something I can turn to a mentor, or the new term “life-coach” to find out. They are on differnt journeys, they have a different calling. Prayer is good, and I often seek others to pray for me and those I encounter. Prayers for guidance, prayers that God’s desire be revealed, prayers for strength to endure what God’s desire for me is, not leaning on my own strength, but securely found in His care. Following His advice/guidelines/commands, because He is God and I am not god, I am just one of His children.
That’s tough, because I like to think of myself as a semi-rational, somewhat intelligent person. I love exploring God’s word, delving deep into the languages to see His love for my peopel revealed. But because I know a verb tense, because I have access to some of the greatest linguistic tools known, that doesn’t make me an authority over scripture. It doesn’t give me the right to say Thus didn’t say the Lord, or thus did say the Lord. I can point to what He says.
The same goes for what I am called to do in ministry, where God wants me. I can dream of other places, of places where the trauma is less, or the work is more “visibly” effective. A place where I am more personally able to relax and be at peace, or where I am not tempted to be someone else. But here is where I have been placed, this ministry (at least for the moment) is where God has placed me to serve. Do I have to understand why? Do I have to find great accolades from my peers or my people? Or can I just be satisfied with knowing God has molded me for this moment, this day, this serving, and that this moment will mold me for tomorrow and next year? That can happen only if my trust is in God, that I reognize not only His wisdom, but His love for me.
If I had a dream church, nestled in the mountains of New Hampshire, overlooking Lake Osippee, in a town of 1000, with 2500 people in church, with all my friends from the church I’ve pastored and been part of, (all of them healthy and financially stable, with solid marriages and awesome kids) there is no guarantee I would feel at peace more there than where i am today.
For peace doesn’t come to clay when it sets the rules, where it determines its use. Peace comes from knowing Who it is who created and formed and places us where we are. Peace is foudn walking with God, knowing His love. Whether we are in the inner city… or suburbia, or a jungle or desert. For we are His beloeved work, His beloved masterpieces.
Peace is found in Him, and that peace… oh that peace!
(1) For my friends from protestant backgrouns, the book identified as Sirach (or Ecclesiasticus) is one of the books in the historic canon.of scripture, and it shows up in Bibles prior to the 19th century, including the King James Version. To simplify things if you are unfamiliar with it and the issues about the Canon, consider it like you would a writings of an Augustine, or a Luther, or other orthodox preacher.
(2) Urbano, Pilar (2011-05-10). The Man of Villa Tevere (Kindle Locations 5180-5184). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day:
15 So watch your step. Use your head. 16 Make the most of every chance you get. These are desperate times! 17 Don’t live carelessly, unthinkingly. Make sure you understand what the Master wants. 18 Don’t drink too much wine. That cheapens your life. Drink the Spirit of God, huge draughts of him. 19 Sing hymns instead of drinking songs! Sing songs from your heart to Christ. 20 Sing praises over everything, any excuse for a song to God the Father in the name of our Master, Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5:15-20 (MSG)
“There is also, he added, “another richness in our culture”, another richness that prevents us from getting close to Jesus: it’s our fascination for the temporary”. We, he observed, are “in love with the provisional”. We don’t like Jesus’s “definitive proposals”. Instead we like what is temporary because “we are afraid of God’s time” which is definitive. “He is the Lord of time; we are the masters of the moment. Why? Because we are in command of the moment: I will follow the Lord up to this point, and then I will see… I heard of a man who wanted to become a priest – but only for ten years, not any longer…” Attraction for the provisional: this is a richness. We want to become masters of time, we live for the moment. ( Pope Francis’s honily this day… from Catholic News Agency)
We live in a world that is, as Pope says, fascinated with “the temporary”. We look to the short term investments to make a killing, we lease cars so that in two or three years, we can buy a new one. We buy into a system that causes us to replace our cell phones, our tablets, our computers every two or three years. We hear that young people will not have one career in their lives – but 3 or 4 or more (heck , I am on my third…) And less we forget marriage, people trade in their lifetime commitments like they were library books.
I labelled this blog – the “Idol of Time” because that is what it appears to be. Yet I think the Pope sees it very clearly – this is an Idol, because while we claim to value it, we also want to desperately control it. That’s the thing about idols – they are far easier to control than God is, who as CS Lewis put it (and Chesterton as well) God cannot be tamed. So we try to become Master’s of our own time – setting up calendars and planning our next moves, working to see what new thing we can distract ourselves with for the moment, thinking that we’ve got it all now. Then the next commercial makes us realize we are out of date already.
That’s why we are attracted to the temporary, to that which is unsustainable, to that which needs to be replaced.
But what id we were to focus on that which endures – that which is sustained – that which has a meaning that can never be replaced?
What if we understood the will of God, what if we took the time in prayer, and in reading His word, and in finding encouragement as we fellowshipped with those who also knew His love? What if our joy was found in seeing people cleansed and healed and finding God’s presence – not far off in some othre universe, or even on vacation in a gloriously beautiful place like the mountains of New Hampshire, or Rome, or China? What if we found God’s incredible majestic presence in our homes, our work places, our cars as we drive – and yes… our churches. Would we then look at those places differently? Would we find contentment in the simplicity of knowing He is there?
Would we find the joy that would explode in our singing praises?
Let God manage our time, let Him redeem it, let Him show us His will… His love, His mercy…His peace…and an eternity of wonder and awe and…Him
- Why our Idolatry is Worthless (justifiedandsinner.com)