It is wonderful to welcome Dr. Gilbert Lawrence as our preacher this morning—may God give us open hearts and attentive ears to discern God’s voice through his.
Last week during my sermon on John the Baptizer, who lived to please God by telling the truth and was beheaded by King Herod as a result, I quoted from Thomas Merton who was writing to encourage a friend. Here it is again:
“Do not depend on the hope of results. When you are doing the sort of work you have taken on, essentially an apostolic work (like peacemaking), you may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect. As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself. And there too a great deal has to be gone through, as gradually you struggle less and less for an idea and more and more for specific people. The range tends to narrow down, but it gets much more real. In the end, it is the reality of personal relationships that saves everything.
The big results are not in your hands or mine, but they suddenly happen, and we can share in them; but there is no point in building our lives on this personal satisfaction, which may be denied us and which after all is not that important. The next step in the process is for you to see that your own thinking about what you are doing is crucially important. You are probably striving to build yourself an identity in your work, out of your work and your witness.
You are using it, so to speak, to protect yourself against nothingness, annihilation. That is not the right use of your work.
All the good that you do will come not from you but from the fact that you have allowed yourself, in the obedience of faith, to be used for God’s love. Think of this more and gradually you will be free from the need to prove yourself, and you can be more open to the power that will work through you without your knowing it. Our real hope … is not in something we think we can do, but in God who is making something good out of it in some way we cannot see. If we can do God’s will, we will be helping in this process.”
May we all be strengthened to do God’s will. What is God’s will? In the very least it is that we speak the truth. Lets start there! Peace, Alan. (See you next Sunday)