It helps, now and then, to step back and take the long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts; it is beyond our vision. We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God's work. Nothing we do is complete, which is another way of saying that the kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said. No prayer fully expresses our faith. No confession brings perfection. No pastoral visit brings wholeness. No program accomplishes the church's mission. No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
This is what we are about: We plant seeds that one day will grow. We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise. We lay foundations that will need further development. We provide yeast that produces effects beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that. This enables us to do something, and to do it very well. It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for God's grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker. We are workers, not master builders, ministers, not messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own. Amen.
These words are frequently attributed to Archbishop Oscar Romero, but when I heard them at the event the other night, another author was named. Of course, I could not retain the name for longer than a few seconds and it took me awhile to track it down, but the source is clarified here: the prayer was written by Bishop Ken Untener (to whom they were credited by our speaker).
My daughter frequently reminds me that I should not generalize my experience as a universal one, but I think that I might be on safe ground here: When you suffer the sudden, unexpected, suicidal death of a child, all sense of the future is crushed. Seeds planted and watered, foundations laid, yeast provided ~ it seems that it was all pointless, and that there is no hope for another future. I haven't heard anything different from any other parent in my circumstances.
For the rest, though, I will stick to my own experience and not seek to impose it on anyone else. And my experience, slow and halting as it is, has been to recognize that, whatever our own plans and expectations, however much we hope and however hard we work and however deeply we love, God's grace is at work, not merely on an enterprise beyond our small contribution, but on a project that may be extravagantly more dimensional than that in which we imagine ourselves to be engaged.