Loving God, Loving Each Other

Sandcastles and Card Houses

Years ago the extended Walker family went on a beach vacation. We had taken shovels on the trip for the intended purpose of creating some sizable sand sculptures (as the males in the Walker family are fairly adept in the arts) and what’s not to enjoy about shoveling thousands of pounds of sand while on vacation? So we created a massive heap of sand and spent hours during the heat of the day carving out an enormous dragon.  We gained considerable joy watching people throughout the day walk up and admire the work and take pictures of it.   But at some point in the evening some art critics (probably a gaggle of kids) decided that it would be fun to stomp our dragon into oblivion… and that’s what they did.  The work of 4 people over the course of a day was wrecked in moments.  But we bore them no ill will.  If they hadn’t done it the tide, wind, or rain would have accomplished as much.  Buddhist monks do much the same thing as a religious practice.  They make elaborate sand drawings by pouring colored sand in delicate and carefully manicured patterns and they do this knowing (and often experiencing) the immanent destruction of their project as soon as a slight breeze shows up.  Indeed, that’s the whole point of their art and their religious view of all of life’s projects: it’s all being destroyed, corrupted, and ruined… all things are impermanent.  This central tenant of Buddhist teaching is considered one of the greatest life tragedies in Christian teaching.  To build something that doesn’t last?  That’s what the fool does (Matt 7:24-27).

Card houses and sandcastles are typically not built with permanency in mind, but most people would not be pleased to have their life efforts compared to a card house.  There’s nothing so discouraging and disheartening as knowing that the best efforts you make in this life are fragile and destined for destruction.  If you want to see a human being broken… you need only convince them that their life makes no lasting difference and that their efforts will be lost and forgotten.  This week we will consider Jesus’ words to us about the construction project that is our life.  What are you building?

What Are You Waiting For?

Pastor’s Pen 1/6/21

“Who/What Are You Waiting For?” (John 4)

How do you feel about waiting?  Do you like it?  Does it bother you?  Well for most of us the answer to that question depends on what we’re waiting for.  Sometimes we’re just waiting as the ordinary course of life.  This kind of waiting is mundane and might be described as drudgery.  For example, we’re waiting on an oil change, waiting for our fast food, waiting for our spouse to finish getting ready so we can go to wherever we’re headed… we may find such waiting to be tiresome perhaps even obnoxious.  But worse than the drudgery is what we feel if we’re waiting for something that we truly believe will be terrible.  Such waiting might be described as fear or even dread.  Think of the anxiety produced by awaiting news from a doctor that can only be bad, to hear we are being stuck with months of jury duty, or perhaps we’re waiting to hear about what’s happening with a flight delay… you know waiting to hear how much longer we’re going to be waiting.  But what if we’re waiting for something good or maybe even great?  Waiting for the start of a vacation we’ve been looking forward to, or for the arrival of a baby, or reuniting with loved ones after extended separation, maybe even waiting for a surprise (a mysterious something) hinted at by a loved one.  Such waiting doesn’t feel like drudgery or dread, rather this waiting might best be described as “anticipation”.  It could be joy inducing perhaps even exhilarating.

I believe the lives of most human beings could be described in these three ways.  If you believe that this life is all there is, then probably most of life feels like drudgery; life is like one big line at the department of motor vehicles.  Among those who believe that this life is all there is, some have taken the time to look toward the very literal end-of-the-line, and they live with perpetual fear and dread of that end.  If this is the default position of every human, I wonder at what could possibly change our category to that third option of expectation and anticipation?  If there is no spiritual realm, no God, no possibility of eternity then the wait is at best drudgery but realistically it is dreadful: for pain, suffering, loss, and death await us all.  But if God does exist, if we are spirits made for eternity, and if such a God has spoken to us and given us assurances and even a mission; well then all of life is infused with joyous anticipation.  What could alter our view of this waiting?  Stated simply, a word or message from the outside.  Take the most hopeless degenerate and if they receive a message that they genuinely recognize as from God, everything changes.  How good it is to have our waiting interrupted by word that reveals God and His purpose… better still is to be interrupted by the Word who is God and who reveals to us what we’re really waiting for.  We’ll discuss such an interruption this Sunday (see John 4).