11024 S. Bell Avenue
Chicago, IL 60643
Reflection September 18, 2016
Wrapping Up Our Summer of Wisdom
Rev. Dr. Thomas P. Aldworth
This past Sunday, we brought to a conclusion our “Summer of Wisdom.” I would like to include some of what I preached this past Sunday in this week’s Advance. I pray that these thoughts will be helpful for those who were not able to worship with us Sunday – but also as a way of reinforcing these reflections for those who shared in our worship.
It is my deepest hope that at some time during our “Summer of Wisdom,” we have together been able to glimpse “the holy in the ordinary.” God is not, as I have said more than once, an absentee landlord. God is here – right now! And it is our blessing and our joy to open to God’s Spirit moving within us and among us this beautiful morning.
Over this past summer, we have come to a vital understanding: Evil abounds and we must be careful not to be overly optimistic about human progress and the human condition. Many times this summer we came up against the reality of sin and the reality of evil.
We, humans, to put it bluntly are very much “a work in progress.” God is certainly not done with us as a species nor is God done with any one of us regardless of our age, regardless of our education, regardless of our piety, regardless of our faith. You and I are works in progress. God is surely not done with me! God is surely not done with you!
Let me bring up an important point from the Disciples of Christ professor, Kay L. Northcutt, and her very engaging book, Kindling Desire for God: “We, Christians, have reduced our conceptualization of God to that of ‘The Fixer.’” She continues: “When the human condition becomes a problem to be solved, for which science and psychology offer the cure, is there any need for God?”
Are we as a human race fixable? The short answer is No! Can we grow as people? Yes! Can we grow as faithful disciples of Jesus Christ? Yes! But utopia is an illusion. As long as we, humans, trod our fragile earth, we will continue to fall far short of the dream God had when we were created by God’s holy word.
And, yes, as a beloved congregation, we want to serve God, each other, and our neighborhoods. But we need to understand that we cannot fix everything that is broken within us and among us. There is a time for everything under heaven counseled the Preacher in Ecclesiastes and much of what happens in life is vanity, wind, hot air!
God is in charge. And while we are often as a loss to explain the brokenness plaguing our world, we believe, if we believe anything, that God will bring God’s ultimate and universal healing to us all – in God’s own time. We don’t get to tell God how to run God’s world – even though many of us keep trying!
Let me quote something from the great teacher of spirituality and mysticism, Evelyn Underhill: “We spend most of our lives conjugating three verbs: to want, to have, and to do. Craving, clutching, and fussing.” And because of our craving, clutching, and fussing, we are kept in perpetual unrest – and kept far away from a healthy spiritual life.
One thing that keeps people craving, clutching, and fussing is watching too much television. Many of us are being crushed by too many time constraints and obligations. Time is one of our most precious gifts. My beloved Beth and I pay close attention to our time together. We try not to squander – not to waste any of our time. For instance, we watch very little television.
An average American watches more than five hours of television per day and spends more than three hours a day on social media. Much of this eight hours a day is wasted time. Network TV also subjects us to endless commercials that try to make us feel 1) unsafe, 2) unwell and 3) unattractive. When we feel 1) unsafe, 2) unwell, and 3) unattractive, we become the perfect consumer, buying whatever is being sold. We must choose what we watch judiciously/carefully. There’s an old adage: You are what you eat! This applies to media as well as food.
We gather together every Sunday to worship our God. But we also gather to listen to our God. We gather in our beloved community to actively listen to God – to the Spirit of the Living God. We ask ourselves: Where is God leading Us – Where is God leading me? These two questions are the most important questions we can ask in church. But we must listen deeply for any answers. We must try to see as God sees. We must try to see as Jesus sees. Until then, we are blind.
We spend much of our time trying to fix the problems that life brings to us all. But life is ultimately insoluble – unfixable. When we grasp this core truth, we become free to trust in what God is doing rather than in what we are doing. As a small sign on our refrigerator at home proclaims: Faith is not knowing what the future holds but knowing who holds the future! This must be enough for us!
Rev. Dr. Joel Mitchell, Pastor