From Pastor Kevin
O God of earth and altar, in mercy hear our cry;
Our earthly rulers falter, our people drift and die;
The walls of gold entomb us, the words of scorn divide;
Take not Thy thunder from us, but take away our pride.
From all that terror teaches, from lies of pen and tongue;
From all the easy speeches that satisfy the throng;
From sale and profanation of honour and the word;
From sleep and damnation, deliver us, good God!
GK Chesterton, 1906
So many words, agendas, obligations, and responsibilities compete for our attention. It’s hard to discern where to put our best energy because we can’t do it all. We can’t please everyone. Despite St. Paul’s earnest exhortation, we can’t be all things to all people.
Roman Catholic writer Henri Nouwen admits to being increasingly aware
“of how much I want to go in many directions, do many things, meet many people, be involved in many situations. But to be fruitful I have to stay close to the source of life and allow myself to be cut back.
This is something I cannot do for myself; it must be done by the Word of God. It’s the Word that tells me that the grain of wheat has to die in order to bear fruit. Maybe its first of all a question of becoming attentive to when and where the cutting is taking place, and recognizing these times and places as times and places of fruitfulness.”
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not one of these “simplicity for simplicity’s sake” types. I love being busy. I love seeing plans come to fruition. I savour the blast of adrenalin that comes when multiple projects come together. And I get a perverse delight in crossing off items in my day book after a day well spent.
But what I think Nouwen and Chesterton are getting at is forming our life and priorities according to a different set of values than what the world gives us. Chesterton warns of the dangers of being swallowed up in the world’s quest for personal aggrandizement and comfort at the expense of our souls. And Nouwen reminds us that fruitfulness involves the Word of God pruning away those parts of our lives that destroy what God has so lovingly cultivated.
For me, this would mean having a lazar beam focus on Word and Sacrament ministry, being a messenger of good news to all I encounter. For you, it may mean re-evaluating how you spend your energies. It may mean cutting back in some areas and giving more in others. For us, as a congregation, it may mean reflecting on how we can be a more effective witness to the good news that makes a claim on our lives, building on the exciting things that are happening around here. And there are many!
This new year, it is my prayer that we, as a congregation, will continue to be shaped, formed, pruned, and cultivated by the Word of God, the message of salvation in Jesus’ name, so that we may live more faithfully, bearing joyful witness to the story that promises to bring life, freedom, and salvation to all people.