“Help us not to be so overwhelmed by the details of ministry that we forget what is central. And help us to find that which is central, even in the details.”
—Maryann McKibben Dana (p. 40)
Help us not to be so overwhelmed by the details that we forget what is central. . . .
I read and reread that prayer last night and have continued to reflect on it. It is an honest prayer. It is a necessary prayer. It could easily be turned into a prayer of confession: “Lord, forgive me for being so overwhelmed by the details that I forget what is central and for being blind to the central in the details.”
That simplistically profound prayer underlies much of this issue. Scott Hoezee writes that the gospel message is both simple—Jesus is Lord—and profound enough to require creeds and confessions, and, we might add, theological treatises (“True Confessions,” p. 17).
When I was planning to attend seminary, someone asked why I would need that training, when all we really need to do is believe in Jesus. In her opinion, everything else was wasted time. But then I asked, “Who is Jesus?” and we began a theological discussion. In the past such discussions have called together the greatest minds in the Christian church and resulted in creeds and confessions, including the Athanasian Creed (p. 17). While we need to struggle with questions about the divinity and humanity of Christ and the place of children at the Lord’s Supper (p. 44), we also need to remember the simple confession that binds us together as Christians: “Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.”
Help us to find that which is central, even in the details . . .
That’s a necessary prayer when we are confronted with the faceless statistics of HIV/AIDS (p. 16) or the terrors of life in Guatemala (p. 15). Television and the Internet have brought the world into our homes. And yet it sometimes seems that through our repeated exposure to horrors—both actual and imaginary—we have become numb and are moved by little. So we pray that we will find Christ in the statistics, that we will respond to unknown sufferers as if they were Christ himself. “And Lord, deliver us from evil, which from our very depths tempts us to live our life by keeping to ourselves, when you are inviting us to give it for our friends” (Julia Esquivel, “Praying with Brothers and Sisters from Guatemala,” p. 15).
One of the ways God helps us to keep our eyes on that which is central is worship. Ron Man argues that the chief reason for our redemption is that we may once again worship God as he deserves (“From Rebel to Worshiper,” p. 34). If this is true, then every time we respond to God’s call to worship we are recalibrating ourselves to live a balanced life—we are adjusting our eyesight so that we can see Christ in the details of life and not get misled by the competing calls to worship other gods.
Celebrating the Christian year is yet another way we are anchored. In this issue we spend time with both Ascension (see “A Wonderful Hope,” p. 3) and Pentecost (“Alive to the Spirit,” p. 6; “From the Cross, through the Church, to the World,” p. 10; “The Holy Spirit, Our Guide,” p. 14). Ascension assures us of our future—just as Christ is physically present with God the Father, we too will one day be in God’s presence. Christ’s Ascension also assures us that he understands our suffering and pain and that he is interceding on our behalf. Pentecost is the fulfillment of the promise Christ made that he would not leave us alone but would provide a comforter and guide for us. In the midst of our busy lives we need to take these opportunities to be reminded of the deeper reality of our lives. Keeping our eyes on what is central, we come together to rehearse again and again the full message of the gospel, including Christ’s Ascension and the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Finally, in the busyness of your own ministry, take time to reflect on what Ascension and Pentecost mean for you personally. Allow the Holy Spirit to work in you so that you may be further drawn to “what is central”—Christ himself. Spend time contemplating Scripture, but also meditate on the poetic prayer by Peter Menkin (p. 48):
I search; let me
welcome the Holy Spirit.