Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Mystery and Meaning...worth giving my life for

On Sunday, I concluded my sermon by asking folks what they are giving their lives for. Economists have a term for this: opportunity cost. Time spent one way costs the opportunity of all of the other ways that time could have been spent.

The gospel of Mark chapter 6 was the focus. God's mission for us was the question at hand. It is tremendously freeing and empowering to become clear about what I am giving my life for. Every person is giving their life to something(s). That is just another way of saying how we spend our days is how we spend our lives. Being clear that God's mission for me in the world is the lens through which everything else is evaluated gives me my sense of meaning and purpose.

This also means I must be comfortable with mystery, and even embrace it. This is part of the essence of faith. I do not have all of the answers, or even understand all of the questions. I am not in control of most of life.

Yesterday, I had a great lunch conversation with a clergy friend. He and I are both comfortable with mystery. I find it enormously comforting that God is so big, it is impossible for human beings to understand God and life completely. It's almost like reading a mystery novel. Life is much less interesting if we know everything about the plot to come. I love the fact that I could talk and think endlessly about God, and the life God has for me and all others, and still never reach the end of interesting conversation. Even more, I love the fact that this God who loves me completely has a purpose for my life. All I have to do is give myself over to it.

This is true for everyone, not just pastors. It is part of the essence of the good news. I see my role as pastor as helping people see with eyes of faith to understand this mysterious truth in particular: that God has a purpose for each life God has created.

(I use the word purpose, not plan, intentionally. I do not believe God has laid out every jot and tittle of my life to come. That would eliminate free will. But God has a purpose for me to fulfill, and there are a myriad of avenues that lead in this direction. I also hasten to add that I am very uncomfortable with Christians who claim to understand everything about God's plan for the world, and say things like 9/11 happened because of "abortionists and homosexuals" as Jerry Falwell did.)

When every decision, from what type of employment to seek, to what type of stuff to buy or not buy... what type of service is done in the church and community... whether to spend money on a vacation or tithe to God's church... what is most important to teach children (is kindness more valued than competition? Is prayer more important than TV? Is snuggle time worth stopping everything for? Is worshipping God more important than sports?)...Every decision can either bind me closer to God's will for my life, or take me farther away from it.

The more I live my life seeking God's purposes, the more infused with meaning every aspect of my life becomes. I limit eating in restaurants, and drive a 7 year old car for a good reason: I am choosing to give 10% of my income for God's mission in the world. I spend time in prayer, and in a covenant group, and practice spiritual disciplines because I want to grow in the Spirit. I don't spank my children because I want them to embrace peaceful conversation over violence as a way of settling disputes. I do not support the war in Iraq because it does not meet the Christian doctrine for a just war. I exercise because I want to honor God and take good care of the body God has given me. The list goes on....

Hopefully, the more time I spend on this journey, the more beautiful the mystery will become for me.

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