A Move Forward, Dynamic Spirituality
Sharks are the most powerful and agile creatures of the ocean, but they have to keep moving forward to live. A slug on the other hand looks simply for moisture and sits. We always have the choice to sit like a slug or move through life like a shark. I love to read about Jeremiah who is called to become a leader, but he has every excuse in the world why he can’t take on the responsibility.
Yet, he must face the call from God to move forward. Furthermore, he is not only called to move forward, but he is also called to lead his people forward. Jeremiah is told that he will be given the strength to move forward from God.
If he does not accept this strength to move forward, he will lose his heart, and he will become like a shrub in the desert, “Cursed are those who trust in mere mortals and make mere flesh their strength, whose hearts turn away from the Lord. They shall be like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see when relief comes. They shall live in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land. Blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose trust is in the Lord. They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream. It shall not fear when heat comes and its leaves shall stay green.”
In other words, God expects His people to be like sharks; he wants us to keep moving forward. If we are children of God, then we must be people who are always moving ahead with our lives, and, at the same time, we are pulling others along with us.
In the eyes of the world Jeremiah would be considered unsuccessful. In responding to his call from God, he was only to know rejection. He would spend his life in poverty, prison and rejection by his family and friends yet he continued to move forward. Even in his sense of failure and disappointment, he continues to move forward with a message of encouragement,
In Mark 10, we meet Bartimaeus the blind beggar who is sitting at the roadside and hears Jesus is coming, so he shouts out, “Jesus, Son of David have mercy on me!” Everybody said “Be quiet,” No, he kept moving forward and Jesus answered “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus gave the man his sight and said, “Go your faith has made you well.” We could say that Bartimaeus kept moving forward in faith.
We have this picture in our minds and hearts of this Jesus who is standing still. We see Jesus on the cross, but He is still. We see pictures of Jesus in our churches, but He is a still image. Back in the sixties, we began to realize how important it was to express Jesus in a dynamic art form. I can remember the exhilaration that I experienced, when for the first time I heard the musical Jesus Christ Superstar. It was a bold proclamation about the true nature of Jesus Christ. In the musical we met a dynamic Jesus. We met a Christ who had come to move people ahead. He brought a dynamic message that the world could be better if only we accepted His teachings. I am afraid that we are getting complacent, and we are no longer like Christian sharks, constantly moving ahead in life.
The psychologist Madeline Uddo who is with the Southeast Louisiana Veterans’ Health Care System in New Orleans finds that it is “dynamic” people who can take action and face any situation in life, no matter how oppressive. These Dynamic Move Forward people have three things in common:
1) They embrace a challenge
2) They do not run from long term commitments
3) They believe that they can get at least some small control of the situation.
An expression I often use is, “When you are in hell, the worse thing to do is stop. Don’t give up!” It is the driving nature of the soul to move forward. Spirituality is about caring for and touching the soul. Our soul is the powerful moving force of our life. It is where we find our driving energy. We have heard the expression that person has “real soul”. When we say someone has soul, it means they have the ability to carry on, no matter the circumstances. Today, in Episcopal congregations, we need a spirituality of soul-based optimism that life of our Episcopal community can grow and move forward. We must have the soul of a spiritual shark.
Frank Lloyd Wright designed many famous buildings and when asked near the end of his career about what building was his most favorite he answered, “The next one.” He understood the principle of moving forward. God has done wondrous things for us, but God never performs his greatest feats in yesterday.
Bartimaeus knew rejection. He lived with rejection, but he did not give into it. Instead Bartimaeus learned that from his greatest rejections by the crowd came his greatest direction from Jesus, “Go, your faith has made you well.”
In our Episcopal journey of hope let us have a spirituality of a shark. If we have a dynamic Move Forward spirituality, in all our concerns about the future of our denomination and its congregations we will:
1) Embrace the challenges in front of us with a dynamic shark like spiritual energy,
2) Will not look for easy answers; we will continue, like Jeremiah and Bartimaeus, to move
forward in the face of all small and great obstacles,
3) We will take some small action step everyday towards solving the problem.
As a result, if we are asked about the best year our parish ever had, we will not say, “Oh, our best year was back in 1980. We had 400 hundred members, and everything was flourishing.” Instead, we will answer like a spiritual shark, “Oh, our best year as an Episcopal parish is next year.”