Friday, January 26, 2007

Weeds Among the Wheat: God and.......

Thomas H. Green S.J. has the words for today. He is a Jesuit priest from New York State who is now Professor of Philosophy and Pastoral Theology at the Ateneo de Manila University, that is unless he's retired. I was introduced to his writing about prayer, and spiritual direction 18 years ago. And when I picked up his book on discernment: Weeds among the Wheat, Discernment: where prayer and action meet, it is like fresh water to a parched throat.
Green's work is a commentary on the Spritual exercises of St. Ignatius who wrote over 400 years ago. What Ignatius and Green emphasize is the need to be hungry for God's will in our life, and to give God a blank check. Yikes! That's a scary thought. I like to consider God's will within some conditions and frameworks of acceptability, not a blank check! Yet what both Ignatius and Green stress is that discernment is impossible when we seek "God and..." instead of "God only." Until we are ready for God only, our discernment process must really take the shape of confessional prayer, to rid ourselves of the extra attachments we tag on.
Why is this important now? I have been reading Scot McKinight's blog on the "E" word and its possible demise under cultural overuse and political abuse. Is it Ok to be a Christian without the adjective "Evangelical?" Is that part of God or God and? I met a couple some years ago who were very active in a conservative "E" church. Over coffee and ice-cream one night we taled about God's will and his call. She looked up and me and said so seriously it was almost combative,"God would NOT call us away from St. Paul." (In fact she defined the suburb within St. Paul). She seriously believed that God's will for her had geographic boundaries. Now I experience that even more in southern California, where it is so beautiful here almost all the time, many college graduates will do anything to stay in the region, seeking God's will, but certainly not imagining it could be in Des Moines, Iowa or Kansas City. I like to attach compensation to God's will: I know he wants me where the pay is the best...or does he? It certainly seems that way for many pastors and church leaders; their careers only go upwards, anticipating and entitled to greater places.
The text I'm preaching, that has hammered me all week is Mark 9:33-37, where Jesus calls his disciples to get off the success ladder, run to the end of the line and start serving the little ones.


At 4:34 PM , Anonymous Erika Haub said...

Oh, I LOVE that image of "Give God a blank check" vs. what is likely all of our mentality of "God and..." I never thought of discernment through this lense. Thank you for the reflections.

At 7:47 PM , Blogger Chris Brooks said...

Can you walk me through some of this? You are, after all, my spiritual director!

At 8:08 AM , Blogger Rick said...

This is such good stuff. And it resonates deeply with me. The "and" for me was less geographical than denominational. God's will could not possibly be outside the ECC. Yet here I am in my 6th year in a Lutheran Church, which initially felt like a lifeboat God had provided for an interim period of time, but increasingly has come to be recognized by us as God's call to us. It's hard because we do miss our ECC community of colleagues and ministries, but I know if I left here I'd miss these colleagues at least as much.

Anyway - thanks for a good posting.

At 7:50 AM , Blogger donnjohnson said...

Yeah Rick, isn't it strange that those things we thought at the moment were losses and sacrifices on our part were, instead, marvelous long-term gifts!!


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