Monday, March 22, 2010

Faith In The Face Of Futility

It doesn’t take a genius to see that what we are facing in the opening decade of the 21st Century is a moral crisis of major proportions, something being manifested in political and economic catastrophes. We shouldn’t be surprised. Nor should we forget that civilizations have gone modern before, only to collapse into heaps of ruin.

Is the demise of society as we now know it on the brink? I don’t know. It seems to me that it does make sense to be prepared for whatever may come down the pike.

Pardon me for thinking so simplistically but problems are never solved from the top down. Treating symptoms is not a remedy. The problems of these modern times are organic in nature. They have tenacious roots that continue growing wider and deeper. Disguising them in new dress won’t make them go away. Lopping them off won’t kill them. The roots must be laboriously dug out and discarded in a way that leaves them no potential of taking root and reestablishing themselves.

Personally, I think the moral, political, and economic problems facing post-modern society have grown so large and are so deeply entrenched that any little bit of hand digging any of us can do, even if we commit ourselves to full-time digging, are beyond excavation. It seems to have been well proven that cussing them into hell or preaching them into heaven, two extreme means exercised toward the post-modern moral dilemma, have been and will continue to be efforts in futility. I’ve got to do more with my life than spend it in futile exercise.

Faith fashions itself into a number of forms and I hardly think there is a soul on the planet that doesn’t exercise faith in one fashion or another. Granted, faith can be misguided and poorly invested. It is, nonetheless, a valuable gift that all souls are endowed with, at least in some measure. According to the ancient biblical writer, faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Faith is, as one old preacher entitled his sermon, “life’s great essential.”

I don’t know what the outcome of these cataclysms will be. I do know that there is a sure Grander Scheme, one that all of humankind’s preferences have never been able to derail.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Wisdom In Weariness

The marauding and noisy icterids have arrived like a dreaded army in full-force, gorging themselves at our feeders, depriving our better feathered friends of the diet that keeps them hanging close to Homestead Hermitage. They show up every spring about the time the robins begin their spring migration, flapping their way back toward the northern states to announce the coming of spring to folks sequestered by long winter weather.

I used to try chasing the unwanted birds away but all my efforts were efforts in futility. When the feeders run empty they will sit in the trees and squawk at me, scolding me because they can’t get an easy handout. I tried to keep feed out so the better birds wouldn’t do without at a time when nature’s supply train is pulling empty boxcars. But the cost efficiency fast became apparent. It costs a lot in bird seed to feed the droves of unwanted moochers that never get enough and always demand more.

Maybe I’m judging, placing a higher value on some feathers while discounting others. No. I am definitely being judgmental, counting the cost, weighing on a balance. It so happens that the few lifted by the grosser weight are the more valuable lot. And they suffer because of the greedy mass congregated on the other side of the scale, squawking and pushing their weight around as though their volume and noise is indicative of some privileged classification.

Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin. Handwriting on an ancient wall. The handwriting is indelibly scribed all over the post-modern wall. More often scoffed at when it is read. But mostly ignored and unread. Weighed in the balances and found wanting. Who wants to hear that in this age of hedonism, self-gratification, and rampant self-indulgence?

I keep a supply of bird seed on the porch and dole out a little now and then during the lulls between the droves that quickly hone in. It’s the least I can do for the gentle little ones that accompany us and bless us with their pretty songs.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Loosening And Limbering The Lees

If the objective of Lent is to cultivate a deeper awareness and appreciation of the grace of God, epitomized in the marvelous Salvivic Act on Calvary, then I’m having a pretty successful Lent.

If the objective of Lent is merely to mechanically sacrifice and do without in a prescribed or calculated manner, whatever aspect or aspects that particular doing without happens to involve, then I can only conclude that I’ve blown the liturgical season altogether this time around.

I recognize and affirm the need that we have as human creatures to shake things up a little. We so easily settle into the humdrum of day to day, week to week, month to month, and year to year living. We get into our comfortable and preferential ruts. It’s easy to “settle on our lees” as Zephaniah talks about in 1:12 of the prophetic book that bears his name.

Then some bad stretches of life-road come along, even successions of bad stretches of life-road.

We don’t plan for them, can’t plan for them. Life happens and confronts us and we don’t, for all our self-confident effort and well rehearsed philosophies and theologies, have much control over what life does or does not do. The very nature of living life in a very real world imposes refining forces on us that move us into a type of the continuous Lent that our Patron talks about in RB 49. We don’t have to look for or select ways or means that test or try us.

Life quite often has a way of doing a really good job of selecting our trials for us. And all we can do is go with the flow, bash against the boulders, take getting dunked in the whirlpools, and ride the rapids in hope of calmer water. I’ve been wet and banged around for a while now. Is that a stretch of still water that I see?

It’s easy to fight against the bruising turbulent forces of life, to wish them away. They, after all, seem to extract so much from us. Maybe, just maybe, they are what we need to loosen and limber our lees from their settled and concretized positions, the wetting and kneading agents used by the Skillful Potter in an effort to fashion us more in his making.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Exspectans Exspectavi

I waited patiently for the Lord,
and he inclined unto me,
and heard my calling.

He brought me also out of the horrible pit,
out of the mire and clay,
and set my feet upon solid rock,
and ordered my goings.

He hath put a new song in my mouth,
even a thanksgiving unto our God.

Psalm 40:1-2 KJV

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


Somewhere along the way I realized how lost I was, how futile my efforts to change people, how inept all my outward actions directed at changing the world. I realized how well-intentioned others had deceived and used me, how I had deceived my own self, how skilled I had become at criticizing and ostracizing those that failed to share my own well groomed and culture-warped narrow opinions.

I’ve changed a lot over the past decade of searching my soul, diving into the depths of my interior regions, seeking and searching for the Christ who is not concerned about time or culture or my personal egotistical preferences.

It’s not been easy. It has been relationally expensive, costing me quite a number of what I thought were friendships, a hard price to pay for simply walking an unexpected but divinely ordained path. Nor is the search anywhere near complete. Though an overwhelming peace permeates my soul, every wakening day draws me to the conclusion that my spiritual journey is far from complete.

I think we are all pretty badly bent. The world’s conglomerations of people-folk remind me of buckets full of rusty bent nails eroding away by the effects of the atmospheric conditions, no longer able to recognize the growing rust devouring them. Only it’s not oxygen and water that are the destructive culprits.

It’s the preferential forces of social and economic time unmercifully hammering and bending and pulling and discarding people. This alone, I think, reinforces the imperative, the need and necessity, to rest one’s soul’s eternal welfare upon the truths contained in the ancient and unchanging creedal statements that define the Christian faith, and in those models that most aptly characterize these truths.

Destruction will come to an eventual and perpetual end. So intimates the Psalmist. But how many will be consumed before it does?