“Who Searches Our Deepest Depths” by Interim Pastor Tim Morphew
Harvard psychologist and researcher Daniel Gilbert [Stumbling on Happiness ] challenges every professor [& maybe all the rest of us too] to complete “The Sentence.” “The Sentence” begins with these eight words:
“The human is the only animal that ….”
How did Daniel Gilbert [himself] finish “The Sentence”? What does Gilbert identify as the defining feature of our humanity? Gilbert is a secular psychologist, but his answer is insightful. He said,
‘The human being is the only animal that thinks about the future … [Human beings] think about the future in a way that no other animal can, does, or ever has, and this simple … ordinary act [thinking about the future] is the defining feature of our humanity.”
The average adult spends 12% of the day thinking about the future, roughly 1 of every 8 hours. Humans can imagine events years into the future… – Adapted from Frank Partnoy, Wait: The Art and Science of Delay (Public Affairs, 2012), pp. 120-123
What about that?? Does that make any sense to you?? How much time do you spend thinking about the future, looking forward to it or worrying about it?? How much of what you are feeling right now (this a.m.) has to do with something in the future that you are either looking forward to with happy anticipation or something that you dread?
Does it make a difference if you anticipate a hopeful future? – Or a hopeless one??
Author Os Guinness tells a hauntingly sad story about the beloved 19th century Japanese Haiku poet known as Issa. When he was a young child, Issa’s mother died – the first of many tragedies in his life. Many years and many sorrows later (including the death of his own daughter), Issa went to a Zen master for solace. The master reminded Issa that Zen Buddhism teaches that the world is an illusion; like the morning dew our lives will evaporate with the rising sun. (What if our future was hopeless??)
Although Issa remained committed to his Buddhist worldview, he still yearned for a more hopeful existence. (Christians might say that Issa shared our common longing for the hope of the Resurrection.) When Issa returned home he wrote this poem of yearning:
The world is dew –
The world is dew –
and yet …
Os Guinness comments about Issa’s poem: Here is a truth that should make [us] stand still in [our] tracks, but it is expressed in such distilled beauty that the fragrance of its pathos … becomes such a jewel of poetry that its lesson is easily lost. Issa the orthodox Zen believer must say [that life is only dew], but Issa the father, the husband, the human being, with his agonized grief and tortured love can only cry into the unfulfilled darkness where Zen sheds no light, “And yet …” Issa feels an inescapable tension between the logic of what he believes and the logic of who he is. – Paul Louis Metzger, Connecting Christ (Thomas Nelson, 2012), pp. 106-109
What if the future is hopeless?? The poet Issa yearns for a reason to look forward to the future with hope.
It is a troubled world that we live in… Earthquakes, storms and floods, public outbursts of hate and violence, natural and man-made disaster, destruction, disease and death. Too, too much misery and grief. It isn’t new. People suffered with earthquakes, storms and floods, violence, destruction, disease and death when Jesus walked the earth. Yet Jesus was not hopeless. There were earthquakes, storms and floods, violence, destruction, disease and death when Paul wrote his letter to the Romans. But Paul writes about hope! He mentions hope 5X in Romans 8:24-25:
“24For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? 25But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
Paul writes about the world – about Creation – like a woman giving birth!
“the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; 23and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait.
Many of us know about such groaning, don’t we? We have shared a yearning deeper than words as we have loved, supported and cared for expectant mothers and fathers in our church family, as they have waited for the birth of a newborn. We have commiserated with them in the discomfort that some have endured as their due date neared.. We know how they yearned – some-times with sighs too deep for words – to be delivered of their unborn infants…
It is a mostly hopeful image that Paul offers when he suggests that the suffering of our world might be like the birth pangs of something as promising & hopeful as a newborn baby.. Yet the future is unknown. The turmoil of our world makes the future more a question mark than a certainty.
How the birth will go, how the baby may emerge, what he or she will look like or be like – so many unknowns – yet as the pregnancy comes to term, the mother-in-waiting yearns to get on with the birth, to get that baby out and get on with whatever changes & challenges the birth may impose.
Paul says that all creation is in a sort of birth process, new things about to be born that we cannot fully know until they really emerge and have their own reality in the world… More questions than answers until the future becomes the present
Yet, Paul looks to the future with hope.. – Maybe because his Damascus road encounter with Jesus completely transformed his life and gave him a reason to believe and a future hope to sustain him in the face of all the challenges & threats that he faced! – Or [Paul writes about the unknown future with hope] because followers of Jesus know how the Sun rises to chase away every night. – Or because Christians know how God’s Son rises even from suffering and a shameful death to prove that God’s power to give life and redeem life is greater than any power of death or destruction.
How do we know this? – I mean how, in our lives – in our everyday lives – how in our earthly experience can we know this with any certainty? Paul says that we “have the first fruits of the Spirit.” Do you know what Paul means?? “We have the first fruits of the Spirit”?
Ray is [a movie] about the trials, challenges, successes & addictions of the late pianist, singer, and composer Ray Charles. The film shows how Ray compensated for his blindness by learning to hear what others couldn’t.
As a blind 10-year-old, Ray enters his home and accidentally trips on the side of a rocking chair. He falls, yells out in pain, and calls out to his mother for help. His mother steps forward, stops, hesitates, and takes a step back. Ray, lying on a rug on the floor, continues to cry for his mother’s help.
His mother silently goes back to her work. Ray hears men chattering and a hen clucking. He stops crying, looks around him, and slowly gets up. He hears more people talking, a cow mooing, and metal clanking. He looks into the direction of a kettle of boiling water.
Stretching out his arms, he walks toward a crackling fireplace and feels its heat, pulling back a hand because it is too close. His mother continues to look on, concerned with his every move. Ray listens intently as a horse and carriage go by.
He then hears a cheeping cricket close by and walks toward it. He bends down and, fumbling a bit, encloses his hand on the cricket. Smiling, he picks it up and puts it to his ear. His mother is taken aback and gives a low gasp.
Ray says, “I hear you, Mama. You’re right there.”
His mother now has tears streaming down her face. She tells him, “Yes, yes, I am.” She kneels in front of him and gives him a hug. [Ray (Anvil Films and Bristol Bay Productions, 2004); directed by Taylor Hackford, written by James L. White & Taylor Hackford]
In a similar way, Christians need to pay attention & learn to notice how the Spirit of God is at work in our world.
Paul says that we “have the first fruits of the Spirit.” What does he mean?? In what way do we “have the first fruits of the Spirit”?
Maybe the Spirit of God is there when we notice and delight in a moment of pure goodness, a moment of blessing, a moment when we sense God’s nearness. Surely when we recognize or remember how Jesus makes God real in a surpassing way. How do we recognize the Spirit of God? Any time our hearts are moved with holy joy, gratitude or praise. Any time something gets into us that inspires us to be our best selves.
Maybe the Spirit of God is what Frederick Buechner describes as strength beyond our strength, the wisdom beyond our wisdom, as whatever it is in our hearts that keeps us human enough at least to get by despite everything in our lives that tends to wither the heart and make it less than human. – Frederick Buechner, Christian Reader, Vol. 35, no. 2.
There was turmoil when Paul wrote his letter to the Romans: earthquakes, storms and floods, human violence and brutality, destruction, disease and death. Yet Paul writes about hope!
The Roman Christians yearned for God’s Kingdom to come and God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. Paul assured them that not only they, but even the whole creation – all of nature, yearns eagerly for that day.
And Paul assures them, that whether or not they can put their yearnings into words, God understands. And when we pray, if words fail us, the Spirit is there. The Spirit understands us and the Spirit intercedes (talks to God) for us. So we can be sure that God “gets” our prayers – even better than we do…
Consequently, followers of Jesus live in hope! – because we know what God can do! – And we have experienced how the Spirit of God can touch our hearts, come into our lives and makes us better than we could ever possibly be on our own. We enjoy life in the present because we have sensed the movement of God’s Spirit in our lives. And we can face the future with hope because we know that we are not alone, and that, whatever may come, God is there in the future. – Already there waiting for us.
Just because we can’t see God doesn’t mean God’s not there, does it? So faith means watching, listening and “tuning in” with our whole selves, it means thinking and doing with confidence in God’s loving care whether or not we can see it or feel it..
Love Comes Softly is the story of Marty Claridge (Katherine Heigl), a young woman on her way to a new life out West in the 1800s, who suddenly finds herself a widow. On the day her husband is buried, she is approached by Clark Davis (Dale Midkiff), a widower, who proposes marriage. This arrangement gives shelter and provision for Marty for the harsh winter ahead, while she in exchange provides a motherly influence for Clark’s daughter Missie (Skye McCole). Over time, Marty finds that Clark is a man of faith, reads his Bible and communes with God in prayer.
In one scene, Clark stands among the charred remains of his barn that has just burned to the ground. Marty hands him a cup of coffee.
“What are you going to do?” she asks.
Clark answers, “Neighbors have offered to collect some logs and raise a new barn. Ben said he’d take care of the milk cow, feed her, in exchange for some milk, till I get my feed built back up. I think it’s gonna be fine. I pretty much got it worked out…just keep praying for answers.”
“Why do you think God will answer your prayers?” Marty asks.
“He always answers my prayers.”
“Really?” Marty responds sharply. “Did you pray for this? Did you pray to have Ellen taken away from you? Did you pray that little Missie would grow up never knowing her real mother? I just don’t understand why the God that you pray to would let such unthinkable things happen to decent people.”
Clark takes Marty by the hand and says, “Come with me.”
“Where are we going?” she asks.
“We’re going to church,” replies Clark.
Clark takes Marty to the place where he has his devotions with God.
Clark tries to explain. “Missie could fall down and hurt herself, even if I were right there beside her. That doesn’t mean I allowed it to happen. But she knows, with her father’s unconditional love, I’ll pick her up and carry her. I’ll try to heal her. I’ll cry when she cries. And I’ll rejoice when she is well. In all the moments of my life, God has been right there beside me. The truth of God’s love is not that he allows bad things to happen, it’s God’s promise that He will be there with us when they do.” – [Love Comes Softly (20th Century Fox / Hallmark Pictures, 2003); directed by Michael Landon Jr.]
Like Paul says, “the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. 27And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”
This God Who knows our hearts, the Spirit of God, Who is as close as our next breath is there – is here, with us in this moment – in every moment! – Whether we know it or not, whether or not we are tuned in, whether or not we’re ready to talk – or if can only groan or cry… This, my S & B is the faith that sustains our hope – whatever may come: That God is there – always there, yesterday, today, tomorrow, and always! This is our faith: that God always cares and will always help us through as we put our faith in his constant, everlasting love and care. AMEN!