Bolded emphases added mine.
It helps now and then to step back and take the long view. The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision. We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is the Lord's work. Nothing we do is complete, which is another way of saying that the kingdom always lies beyond us. No statement says all that should be said. No prayer fully expresses our faith. No confession makes us perfect; no pastoral visit brings wholeness. No program accomplishes fully the church's mission. No set of goals and objective includes everything. This is who we are. We plant the seeds that some day will grow. We water seeds that were already planted, knowing that they hold future promise. We lay foundations that will need much further development. We provide yeast that produces effects far beyond our capabilities. We cannot do everything and, realizing that, there is a sense of liberation in our very being. This enables us to do something and to do it very well. It may be incomplete, but it is the difference between the master builder and the laborer. We are laborers, not master builders, ministers, not the Messiah. We are prophets of a future that is not our own.***
Ken At Providence told a story:
Derry was serving a small mill village church in the piedmont of North Carolina. Who was a beloved pastor, and in fact shared a great deal in common with the people of his community. A member of his church was convicted of murder, and was put in Central Prison on death row. Derry began to visit him in prison, once a week, for several months, almost a year. The church loved this young man, who was from one of the longtime families in the church, and supported Derry for reaching out to him.Father, forgive them.
At some point another inmate was overheard to confess that he had committed the crime. The young man from Derry's church was released. He was coming home. The church decorated the fellowship hall and through a great party. All was right, and justice had been done.
But this was not the end of the story. The man who had actually committed the murder contacted Derry and asked if he would visit him. Derry visited him once, and then again, and continued once a week. The church was not supportive of Derry's visits with this man.
Michelle of Living Texts posted about The Lord's Prayer and got talking about the ways in which Jesus teaches us to pray -- not just the Our Father, but various parables. She writes:
The connection is in the longing, in the asking, in the desire, in the repeating, in the knocking on the door all night long. Praying over and over and over gives us a connection, it burns a pathway in our brains and souls to God, it keeps the phone lines open, it increases the bandwidth of the connection. It isn't about polite conversation, it isn't about taking turns in responding, it isn't about waiting quietly for God to say something. It's about persistence, tenacity, irritating repetition.And then:
In Jesus' stories we often know exactly who we are. In this one we are the ones knocking on the door. We are the ones with the inconvenient but well-excused request. We are the ones with the holy purpose, demanding help so we can go ahead doing what God has asked us to do in the first place. But sometimes I think it is helpful if we think about the story a new way, if we switch up the roles a little. What if we are the ones in bed with our families all sleeping, tired from a long day, not wanting to get up, and God is the one knocking on the door of our house, demanding a response, demanding help?I had a difficult time with petitionary prayer for a while (and still do sometimes) but I came to a generally very positive relationship with intercessory prayer because of how it connects the pray-er with the person being prayed for. By telling God every day about my loved ones who are in pain, I am reminding myself of those situations.
Sometimes we are the ones sleeping, sometimes we are too tired and crabby to hear, but God is always banging on the door, asking us to open it, to keep the connection going, to respond, to keep praying even if we don't know what the prayer does, or how to pray, or what words to use and what use it all is.
Lord, teach us how to pray.***
David of Labrynthine Journey posted about Elijah. I'm not all that familiar with the lifestory of Elijah, but I love the story of the still small voice, and when I got to that bit in the post I was struck by how strongly I reacted to it. These are TRUE stories, as far as I'm concerned. Which I think is why I stay in Christianity. Marcus Borg talks about "history metaphorized," and to some extent I'm open to them being True without being actually historically accurate documentations of events that literally occurred (though I'm still rather attached to that "literal truth" thing -- yeah, I have that modernist scientific mindset... am not especially wired for spirituality or post-modernism).