It's New Years Eve.
For me the transition from one thing to another is palpable. Right now my son is off finishing up business in the Global Outreach Department of the church where he ministers. In a ministry the size of theirs, tomorrow will be too late; certain things have to be finished today so that important good deeds can be done in the New Year. The accounting folk at Chris's church remind us of, and reinforce, a universal truth--What we do today always leads to what we can do tomorrow.
There is another reason that I feel the transition. Before the day is done I will have departed my son's house. Last week with Chad and his family, and this week with Chris and his, have been wonderful, in a way that only a grandparent can understand. Half a work-week of driving is in front of us. I expect to use a good portion of it doing just that, working--laptop + cellphone + place to sit = office. At the moment nothing else is going on, so I'm already working. As another preacher famously said, "Sunday's Comin'."
Often times sermons coalesce around a question, or a contrast. I'm note sure yet which category to put this thought in, but in rough form, here it is in interrogative form: Do we spend too much time thinking of what we can do, and not enough about what we should do? I'm thinking not only about Sunday's sermon, but 2010 in my life and the life of my church. Since I'll turn 60 in a few months I'm thinking as well of the outcome of this mostly spent life of mine--but I'll avoid the maudlin. I'm thinking of the disciples looking in a little boy's lunchbox and concluding--by mathematic certainty--that they couldn't feed the 5,000, and Jesus insistence that they consider what they should do. Or, Esther very correctly telling her uncle that if she appeared uninvited before the king it would likely lead to her death--pretty good support for "I can't"--and Mordcai's insistence on, "Yes, but you should." Or Daniel, faced with the King's trumped up edict against prayer to anyone other than the King, himself, who refused to say "I can't."--sounds reasonable to me--and instead said, "I should continue my pattern of prayer unchanged." Many of you readers will remember my son's message about Jonathan, who with his armor-bearer crawled up the cliff to the Philistine camp. The question, "Can we?" was ludicrous--on a level with, "If we feed pigs bird-seed, can they fly?" Clearly he was motivated by should rather than could, and his energy came from a potential resource that we desperately need to factor into our equations for future plans, "perhaps God."
For the past couple of years at Covington Bible we have begun the year with serious doubts about whether we could achieve the budget put before us. God has enabled us to finish each year in the black. Adopting a yearly budget always puts us on a spectrum. On one end are the disciples looking at the little boy's lunch, flanked by charts and spreadsheets saying, "Here is what we can do." On the other end of the spectrum there is Jonathan, already climbing, waving a beckoning arm to his companion, saying, "I'd rather die on the cliff doing what I should do, rather than rot back in the camp doing what I can--PERHAPS GOD . . . !"
In my personal life what should I do? How does my conclusion about what I should do stretch the limits of what I conclude that I can do?
In my family . . . ?
In my career . . . ?
In my ministry . . . ?
In (fill in the blank) . . . ?
Collectively, in the life of my church . . . ?
The Spirit-inspired author of Esther does his job so effectively, that though God is never mentioned in the book I cannot hear the scene played out with out hearing God's name. Perhaps (God) has brought you to a position of royalty for such a time as this." (Esther 4:14)
Clearly we are here for a reason. What should we do?
I'd appreciate your input.