Saturday, January 6, 2018

The Long View. . .

It is often said of politics that Americans, in particular American business, are enamored of the short view of things, the quick profit, the immediate outlook.  And, of course, it is said of our enemies that they take the long view, less concerned with the moment than with the direction.  This same polarity has been used among Christians.  It is often said of evangelicals and most Protestants that they take the short view, fearful of being left behind in a world constantly changing.  In contrast, those who take the long view are the Orthodox for sure and Rome much of the time.  One wag in the Vatican said that they think in terms of centuries rather than moments.  I have no idea how true this assertion is but I do know that when Christians tend to fall away from orthodox doctrine and practice, it is the short view that supports their detour.

We are an impatient people.  We are impatient with one another but we are also impatient with God.  When we pray, we expect tangible answers that we can see -- and SOON.  We clock watch at church and get very antsy when it seems things are taking too long.  When we plant a church, we give it a short span of time to determine if the mission is a go or if we will abandon it and move on to other fields.  We are constantly reexamining such things as catechesis and worship to see if they are relevant and producing the fruit we desire.  We grow tired of change and we are just as likely to grown tired of the lack of change -- it all depends upon our perspective.

God certainly thinks in terms of centuries.  He refuses to be rushed.  He moves steadily but slowly and deliberately toward the future He has prepared.  So a thousand years are like a day.  A few days from Eden and it takes you to Calvary -- at least by God's reckoning of time.  A short jaunt across the Sinai becomes forty years of wandering -- at least by God's reckoning.  Soon is a term which has meaning to God and frustration to us.  He is coming soon has been said by so many so often as to grate on our nerves.  We are not good at maintaining.  We are much better at being quick to adapt.  From our anger to our expectations and outcomes, God is just plain too slow for us.  But that is why we are live by faith and not by sight.

I think today of the Magi.  They did not have a short trip.  They need a star, how many nights full of stars I do not know but I expect it was a whole lot longer than my trips to family in Nebraska (14-15 hours) even though that journey sometimes seems unbearably long.  They followed the light of a star, a star that most likely began to shine before the Christ was actually born.  Not to mention their trip back by another route, probably longer still.

Faith is not a sprint.  It is a long distance marathon.  The Church does not live by seconds but by years, decades, centuries, and millenia.  God will bring it to pass.  One tills the soil, another plants, another waters, another weeds, another tends, and God sees the harvest.  It is often a hard thing for pastors to admit that they are not there for the beginning and the ending of much -- not even those in long pastorates.  But that is a good thing.  Faith is, if anything, a rebuke against the short view and an insistence upon the long view.

The Magi were wise but their greatest wisdom was their patience and their endurance.  They followed.  A long journey.  A single star.  And in the end just a baby.  But they rejoiced on bended knee and offered this Child the worship of a people who knew they saw a beginning and might never see the ending but it was enough.  Would that I would learn such patience and endurance.

A blessed Epiphany!

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