Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Stumbling Toward Righteousness

                                                  Stumbling Toward Righteousness

I have driven myself crazy trying to find it. Yes, that's a short trip for me. But I can't find who wrote or spoke the quote I want to use. I am tempted to take credit for it but it seems too profound for me to have come up with it. I have carried it in my mind for a long time. I read or heard it somewhere--college, seminary, a lecture, a sermon, a bad dream--I just don't know for sure.

I've looked in my books--too many to go through. I've read through a few old sermons--too dusty to sift through. So I tried Dr. Google, she's like a first wife, she knows everything. I type the quote in and even Dr. Google is stumped. I thought for years that G.K. Chesterton from the early 20th century said it. I went through a few books of his I've read---no luck. Oh, I guess by now you are wondering what quote I have carried all these years but can't find its author. Okay, here goes:

    "When my days are completed and come to an end, may it be said by those who look back on my life, that he stumbled in the general direction righteousness."

Well, I can tell by that look on your face that your are disappointed. I never said it was a great quote or even a good one, just a profound one. I like it. For me it fits like an old pair of jeans or that soft, thin shirt at the back of the closet. Your wife won't let you wear it in public anymore but it feels good around the house or yard where the dogs don't care what it looks like.

Why do I like it so well? I guess because I know how to stumble. When I was young I thought I could fly. I could soar above the church battles and other war zones, drop truth in sermons and lessons on folks to help their lives and make the world a better place. But, the truth is, I couldn't fly.

With a little aging and maturing I thought I could run. I would run through this world and all its troubles, stopping long enough to give the answers it needed on how to get to heaven and get better. But I couldn't run, at least not far.

As the aging and maturation process continued I thought I could walk. I did a little. I was better at walking. It was slower but surer. But at the walking pace what I was sure to see were the faces, the eyes of the world. The world both shrinks and expands when you walk. It expands as you can take more in to your senses and your heart at the slower pace. It shrinks, too, for at the slower pace you see more intently the eyes of hunger, the pain of divorce, the brokenness of poverty, the hell of war, and the hopelessness of lives without Christ. You remember all the teachings and the sermons and the visits you made telling "how to" do something, fix something, know something, feel something, change something but you flew too high and the truths blew off in the wind and never landed. Or you ran too fast and the help you offered was just a blur. Now you walk for a while and you see, feel and know the issues, the problems, the pains are just too deep for a mere man to handle no matter how high he flies, how fast he runs, or how steady he walks.

But I know how to stumble. I have stumbled as a kid, as a student, as an athlete, as a husband, father, friend, pastor, and a human. There is no area where honesty's light touches that I haven't stumbled. And yet...

When you stumble, you're not too high to see or be seen, too fast to catch, or too concerned with much anything else but the next step. You just stumble, trip, weave, go in the direction of the greatest pull. When your body stumbles, gravity pulls you where your weight is centered, most often down. When you soul stumbles and you belong to Jesus, His righteousness pulls you toward Him. You can stumble and unseen hands reach out to steady you and keep you upright as you move ever bumbling toward Him.  Truly, there are times he lets us fly, bids us run, keeps us walking. I always thought the progression of Isaiah 40:31 was interesting. but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk, and not faint."  You would have expected the opposite progression would be true, first we walk, then we run, then we soar. But I know now that is not the order. And this too I know, I still have some stumbling left to do. But God is faithful to me and my fellow stumblers. "If the Lord delights in a man's way, he makes his steps firm; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand. "  Psalm 37:24

One day I will stumble no more. On that day, when stumbling ends, I will fall, and by God's grace it will be at the feet of Jesus to worship. In the meantime, by that same grace, may I stumble in the direction of His righteousness.


Thursday, July 3, 2014

A Bridge Too Far

Getting to our church has become a bit more complicated since one of the main bridges into the housing development has eroded and is closed. A  roundabout detour has been opened and folks will just have to deal with it until it is fixed. Since the church I pastor is an interdenominational church, which I highly recommend, the bridge outage and repair has highlighted some opposing ways to handle the situation based on the different faith backgrounds we have in the chapel. I am having to remind all the folks that all mindsets are to be respected and all methods offered are to be given courtesy even if they are off the wall.

Here are some of the ideas and suggestions put forth to handle the bridge situation:

The Episcopalians have called their congressman and are organizing a fund raiser for bridge relief.
The Lutherans have called several of their engineer friends to draw up a new, reformed bridge design that will last longer than the old bridge.
The Methodists have organized relief efforts for those stranded on the island and to promote unity among those otherwise impacted by the fall of bridge.
The Baptists are calling for a series of evangelistic meetings down by the bridge around the theme, "Jesus is Our Bridge Over Troubled Waters."
Our Charismatic friends are asking me to lead a healing service and lay hands on the bridge.
The Presbyterians said the bridge was predestined to collapse and our calling is now to live faithfully.
The Bible Church folks are having a detailed, brick by brick study of the history of bridge decay and are investigating to see if this is a sign of the apocalypse.
The Catholic faithful assess no blame, have offered forgiveness to the bridge, and will hold a bridge blessing service when the new one is installed.

The pastor at the chapel highly endorses each effort (the secret to pastoring 8 different denominations).