I want to suggest still another image (for the identity of a Pastor): the poet. I present this not as the normative or even preferred image, but simply as another biblical discription of the calling of those who have been blessed with a vision that allows them to explore, and express, the truth behind the reality. Poets see the despair and heartache as well as the beauty and miracle that lie just beneath the thin veneer of the ordinary, and they describe this in ways that at recognized not only in the mind, but more profoundly in the soul.
In a day which people are so profoundly confused about fundamntal identity issues, and are desperately tryin to construct life as best they can, it is critically necessary for pastors to recover this poetic dimension of their ministries. What the congregation needs is nt a strategist to help them form another plan for achieving a desired image of life, but a poet who looks beneath even desperation to recover the mystery of what it means to be made in God’s image."
A church is not a center for religious goods and services, where people pay a fee and receive a product in return. A church is not an organization that surveys its demographic to find out what the market is demanding at this particular moment and then adjusts its strategy to meet that consumer niche.
The way of Jesus is the path of decent. It’s about our death. It’s our willingness to join the world in its suffering, it’s our participation in the new humanity, it’s our weakness calling out to others in their weakness."
A good thing for us to hear.
O give thanks to the God of heaven, for his steadfast love endures forever.
I read this Psalm the other day as I sat in the airport getting ready to head back home to spend the Thanksgiving Holiday with my family. This particular Psalm repeats the phrase “his steadfast love endures forever” twenty six times in total. It is any interesting refrain. The author of the book i was reading when I stumbled across this asks an interesting question. Will the repetitions dull our minds into a pious stupor? Or will they condition the reflexes of our spirits to respond with a quick praise to any stimulus? (Peterson, Praying with the Psalms)
I wrestled with that question for a while, often my heart falls into the first category rather than the last. I think primarily because of my comfortable life. I do not have many needs, though I may feel needy often, I am not suffering, though many of my days I complain, I do not experience much despair, though my heart is often troubled. I think much of my disposition arises due to an unthankful (I might have made this word up since it keeps trying to correct itself.) heart. I wish I was more thankful, not in a thanksgiving way where I take one day out of the year to reflect on all the things that are great in my life, but in a heartfelt and sincere response to what I know to be true about my life.
The reality of my life is that I have been lavished with grace upon grace. I have a great family, I have the best friends anyone could ask for, I am not wanting in any area of my life, I have a great church, a great ministry, and I live in a free country. It is these realities that have dulled my heart on daily basis to being unthankful or maybe better put a-thankful (indifferent).
Let’s just say that all of these things were taken away from me…my family broke, my friends left, I became desperately needy, my church crumbled, and my ministry was negated, what then would my heart say?
I think what the Psalmist is trying to say is that the root of all thanksgiving is evoked out of a proper understanding of the steadfast love of God. So what is this steadfast love of God? The Psalms scream it, the Gospels display it, the epistles call us to it, but somehow I keep missing it in my everyday life. The steadfast love of God does not come and go as our lives move in flux, it is constant and strong. The steadfast love of God is not anymore on display in the good days of life as it is in the dark days of life, I just see it more when I want to. The steadfast love of God is not dependent on me but sustain and lavished on the basis of Jesus Christ.
The celebration of the Thanksgiving Holiday is a good one, but I have to ask myself, why does it take me a day in the calendar year to reorient my heart to thankfulness. As I look to the person of Jesus Christ and the beauty of his Gospel I must, as a believer, concede in my heart that every day should be a day of thanksgiving. For once I was lost, but now I am found. Once i was in the mud and the mire, but now I have been placed upon the rock and given a new song. Once I was without hope, now I am filled with hope. Once I was without God and without an inheritance, but now I am a son of God and filled with the greatest riches.
If my heart were to take seriously the implications of Gospel of Jesus Christ there would not be one day where my heart could not proclaim all that I have to be thankful for. This has nothing to do with my life, but everything to do with Jesus Christ. May my heart this day and all the days of my life not waiver from the understanding the steadfast love of God leaves me with no other choice but to be thankful. May the Lord through the work of the Spirit change my heart and cause it to be thankful.