Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Life Is a Pilgrimage

In the final analysis, the call of God to whatever he wills for any of us is a call that leads one out into uncharted territory. It is a call to move and keep moving at God’s command, going out like Abraham to a land we know not where, honing our gifts by faith and using our resources to follow after and trust the One who alone knows and is the way.

A lovely story from my own faith tradition well illustrates the point. Dr. Karl Olsson--gifted among us as a college and seminary professor, denominational historian, one-time president of North Park College and Theological Seminary, who later also served as a leader in Faith at Work--was in his younger days in somewhat of a quandary about what he should do with his life.
In a long, six-page handwritten letter to David Nyvall, the founder and first president of North Park, whose spirit and work were and remain central to our self-understanding in the Evangelical Covenant Church, he sought his professor’s wisdom. “Some say I should become a lawyer,” he wrote, “others a preacher or teacher or scholar, and still others a public servant.” On and on he went, listing any number of things at which. given his talent. he could have excelled.

In response, his elder and esteemed professor, replied with a penny post card, personally addressed to K. Olsson on the one side, with a single suggestion on the other: “Proceed!” It was not that the wise old professor was without strong opinions. It was rather that he trusted God, the Covenant community of faith, and life process to reveal God’s will.

“Abraham traveled on by stages,” we read in Genesis 12. So did Karl Olsson, and so have I, and so must you, dear reader. None of us is ever alone, given God’s call. But each of us is on a life-long pilgrimage that leads to the only city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God himself.

Move, then, into both today and tomorrow confident—not cocky, as if knowing more than you do know, but sure nonetheless that the one who has created and called you has a purpose for your life that will become clear to you, if only by stages.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

A Habit of the Heart

Tomorrow is the twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost. Rising early this morning, I prayed again the prayer I offered earlier on the psalm for the day (145:1-8, see Prayers):

“'I will extol you, my God and King,' the psalmist begins. And he is obviously saying that, as one commentator puts it, 'as part of the cult community [that] responds with its unbroken hymnic tradition to that perpetual presence of the divine salvation, into which the poet wants to incorporate his song.'
"We, with the psalmist, must learn ever to sing in community, Lord—the community of your people, gathered not only in our place and time but in all ages before us and yet to come. We are not strong enough to sing your praise by ourselves. The fount of our song is in you and in all the people who belong to you—past, present, and future.
"Unless we fill our spirits with 'your mighty acts … the glorious splendor of your majesty … your wondrous works … your awesome deeds … the fame of your abundant goodness … [and] your righteousness,' what shall fuel our singing?
"Inhabit my spirit, Lord, with your Spirit, and join my voice to the voices of your saints in every age that together we may laud your name and proclaim your grace to the nations."

Worship, to be true, must be a habit of the heart. That means personal and warm. It also means communal, with other believers, both past and present. Above all, it means consistent and devotional, with focus on the One we worship, who has proven himself Sovereign over all other gods and thus worthy of worship and praise. As he alone is our hope for eternity, so he alone must be our Lord in time.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Home Again!

"Borta bra men hemma bäst" the Swedes say. It means “Travel is good, but home is best.” To that I say, once again, Amen!

After five weeks away, alone and with family, time has led us back, and we are ready to be home, where our roots now are and our neighbors and our church and our calling. The point of time away for us has never been to uproot ourselves, for in a sense we have been at home with each other wherever life has taken us. Perhaps better put we can say that our time away this year has re-rooted us, both reaffirming what and where we are called to be and energizing our return to all that.

As years pass, one’s perspective changes. We learn our limits even though the sense of need all around in people and their circumstance is heightened. What can be done to meet the challenge? Thankfully, years have taught us that God is already at work in ways far exceeding our understanding, so that our role is simply to enter in once again to all he is already doing around us. He knows our limits better than we. Yet by his Spirit and in his power, he deigns still to use us, if we are willing, to accomplish far more that we might ask or even think. So just as “Time Away” slowed us down a bit to bring us closer to him, our family, and each other, so coming home opens new doors of opportunity to enter, with him, into life as it is where we live.

Peace and joy now fill our hearts, even in the midst of life’s trials and troubles. The Lord is good. And so are his people, to whom we belong and who we return to serve in our small way. God’s future awaits us, and we are anxious to enter into that future, wherever it now leads.