I believe I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of living.
These words are found in Psalm 27 v13. I read them a few weeks ago and they have been going around in my head ever since. It’s been a long hard winter. Lots of work – far too much for the number of people we have at our church to do. I know that’s a good thing. The parable of the talents is about people faithfully using what God has given them and their faithfulness is rewarded not with rest but with more work! How does that happen? Somewhere in our Christian communities we have got to believing that faithfulness brings rest – peace – contentment. Actually the Bible says that we only enter into our rest at the very last. Up until then we judge our faithfulness by how much comes back to us and by how much would be better taken out into a field and buried where it can rest. Things reach their end and we are very bad at letting them go and other things come back to us threefold and fourfold, lots more work to do. We interpret that as obstacles being put in our way when, in fact, by the principle of the parable of the talents it may actually be God’s affirmation of what we’re doing and where we are headed. So for us in our Christian community we prefer to interpret the abundance of work and opportunity and people coming in beside us or opening up space for us to come in beside them in community work – we interpret that as affirmation from God. But there are times when it can seem like far too much work to do. Not enough resources. Not enough people. Not enough energy. Of course we have to question the not enough syndrome as feel because what we think of as not enough may actually be a challenge to redesignate and reinterpret what we have.
All of that is very hard work. You have to believe me if you haven’t had the experience. Mostly this is working against the general drift of the life of a Christian community. We prefer to believe that the things that come easily to us are the things God intended whereas the things that require work, more work, more thinking, more creativity are interpreted as the things God is telling us to avoid. So first of all it’s hard work to go against the traditional flow of thought, even if that flow of thought is somewhat questionable in light of the parable of the talents. Then its hard work to do the redesigning and redesigning. I wouldn’t say I’ve known success but at least after all these years I begin to see this aspect in a new way and of more importance than I saw it in the past. I still have learning to do clearly. Then it all has to be done, people have to be responded to and worked with and if you choose, as we have chosen, to put relationships at the core of work then there is always more energy needed – talking to people so they know where we are coming from, listening to people so we can hear where they are coming from, working through then how we can partner and set goals and processes which honour our commitments. Goals are great but the processes to achieve them have to be as full of integrity as the goal and that takes inordinate amounts of work.
So it’s been a long hard winter with lots of work and tired and wet on these summers days I have found it a challenge to believe that I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living, in the land, time and place where I am living. But there it is in black and white from the Psalmist who was calling out for blessing and affirming God’s power to keep him safe from harm and bless him all at the same time. There are days when even to say ‘I believe’ is tough enough but to be prepared to put concrete time and place on it – now, where I am living, – that’s a whole new challenge to faith. But stick with it and seeing God’s goodness is a certainty. The Message translation puts it this way:
I’m sure now I’ll see God’s goodness
in the exuberant earth.
Stay with God!
Take heart. Don’t quit.
I’ll say it again:
Stay with God.