There were a few things that resonated for quite a number of people in the first message of our new series What Shall I Do? For the next few days, I’ll blog a bit on follow-up thoughts.
Today, I want to say a little more about the sources that have shaped my thinking on this.
Preachers always preach out of a context. I am grateful that our preaching team studies, reads, has conversations with others, goes through our own experiences, reflects on experiences, does pastoral ministry . . . and all this shapes how we think and then what we say in a Sunday message.
I personally have a very high sense of responsibility. If I am going to make a mistake, it will not be from avoiding responsibility, it will be from taking on too much responsibility, more than I can handle, and more than what God actually has for me to do.
This summer, I had a convergence of reading that helped me think more deeply about what it means to be responsible as a human being, and responsible as a follower of Jesus.
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks wrote a wonderful book, To Heal a Fractured World: The Ethics of Responsibility. That book alone would have been enough. Sacks, as a rabbi, helped me see just how significant and constant was the theme of human responsibility in the Jewish tradition.
New Testament scholar Michael Gorman, who teaches right down the road in Baltimore, Maryland, has written much on how Christ transforms those who follow him, so that we fully participate in the life of God and work together for the missional purposes of God. It is a constant theme throughout the New Testament writings. Gorman is powerful as he helps us see that the Apostle of Grace is also the Apostle of Faithful Obedience and Holy Responsibility to the purposes of our Good, Good Father.
The non-Christian philosopher-psychologist Jordan Peterson’s wildly successful book gave me much to think about. The 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos talked non-stop about the need for personal and moral responsibility in a world that is spinning out of control. Life is hard. Being irresponsible makes it worse. Apparently, that message is resounding for millions of people. I don’t go along with many things Peterson says, but he makes me think about everything he says. And what he says about responsibility is very powerful. He is the one who asks the question, “What shall I do?”
I am also reading a complex book on the nature of organizations, systems, or institutions. The author helps me understand the importance of healthy institutions for a good society. Living Word is an institution. We are a spiritual institution, but still an institution. Leaders are responsible for the institution, the mission of the institution, and the future of the institution. I think about Living Word every single day. How can we become all that God wants for us?
And then there is the poet Mary Oliver. She is so artistic and insightful and finds ways to put into words the beauty of life and, therefore, the invitation to life fully human and fully alive. “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
So, these things shape my heart, my soul, and my mind as we move through the fall.
In the spirit of G. K. Chesterton, “May the good things of God run wild” through your life this week. And may you be ever more fully human, fully alive.