Our Project of Life
Pastor, James Lees Memorial Presbyterian Church
originally published in the Sowers of Justice newsletter, Louisville, KY
In the midst of so much that calls to us — so much activity, so many emails asking for response, so many actions for peace, for environmental integrity, for economic justice, for racial justice, for the end to senseless wars, for a just immigration reform, for gender equality, and fairness — we find ourselves in the liturgical season of Lent. Lent is construed so often as an interior time; the season of “repentance.” Is it only inward? Is “repentance” only an interior concept? Surely not. Our traditions understand it as both. I like Marcus Borg’s understanding of the word “repentance” as “going beyond the mind you have.” Surely this is true for our society as well as us as individuals.
Lent does not have to be grim. It is that time of invitation to go beyond our small minds, to expand our horizons to include an ever-growing care of the world, and to respond to Life with our own “Yes,” as we dare believe God embraces us all.
This great Mind and Heart and Project of Life is powerfully expressed and witnessed to in the following prayer composed by Bishop Ken Untener of Saginaw. It was drafted for a homily by Cardinal John Dearden for a celebration of departed priests and as a reflection on the anniversary of the martyrdom of Bishop Oscar Romero.
It helps, now and then, to step back and take a 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 God’s work.
Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying
that the kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the church’s mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted,
knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation
in realizing that.
This enables us to do something,
and to do it very well. It may be incomplete,
but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is the difference
between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own. Amen.