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The Rev. Susan Sparks The Rev. Susan Sparks
The Rev. Susan Sparks is a former trial lawyer who now serves as senior pastor of Madison Avenue Baptist Church in New York, NY.

Member of:

American Baptist Churches USA

Representative of:

Madison Avenue Baptist Church, New York, NY


Let the Race Begin!

October 26, 2010

 

I've written a lot about those times when God seems silent.  But today, I would like to write about the exact opposite.  Today I would like to write about the times God seems to talk too much. 

I don't know about you, but lately I have felt that God has been talking a bit too much; talking about all the stuff that needs to be done; talking about all the things that need fixing; talking about all the jobs that need doing. 

If we really listen, God is talking to each of us all the time about all the work that needs to be done.  And after a while, it can get a bit overwhelming. 

However, I know I am not alone in this feeling.  The Bible is full of stories of people who felt overwhelmed with the things God put in front of them.   The book Jeremiah is a classic example.  At one point, the prophet Jeremiah finds himself in Jerusalem with the Babylonian army approaching their gates.  "Why do the guilty prosper and the treacherous thrive?" Jeremiah cries out.  And it is here that God offers what I think is one of the best lines in the entire bible:

"[Jeremiah] if you are raced with foot runners and they have wearied you, how will you compete with the horses?" (Jeremiah 12:5)

Implicit in this short statement are two messages:

       1)  God's got bigger things in mind for Jeremiah; and

       2) Whether he knows it or not, Jeremiah has the power to face them.

 Fast forward to the end of the story and we find, not surprisingly, that God was right.  Jeremiah did have bigger things ahead.  Jerusalem was sacked, and all the people, including Jeremiah, were exiled to Babylon.  Yet even in exile, Jeremiah stepped up, ran with horses and acted as God's voice to the people -- a voice of hope and assurance and peace.

The moral of the story:  God saw the potential in Jeremiah that he couldn't see himself.

Frankly I think Jeremiah's story is our story.   Like Jeremiah, we may think God is asking too much -- talking too much.  But think about this:  Who knows our capabilities better than the creator who made us?  God is the one true source that knows our full capabilities.  Not our friends or families, and most definitely not the world.  Bottom line: If God gives us a job to do, rest assured we have the power to do it.  Yet we continue to doubt.

Joseph Campbell, best known for his work with cultural mythology, argues that human beings create heroes because we are unable to see the greatness in ourselves.  We look outside ourselves to sports figures, movie stars, rock stars -- everywhere but where it truly resides which is within.  Campbell calls it "standing on whale fishing for minnows." 

God calls us all to find the hero within -- to run with the horses.  And sometimes that can be in times of great crisis, like the Babylonian army bearing down at the gate.  But sometimes we're asked to be heroes, run with the horses, in the hum drum of daily life.  And frankly, that may be the harder place.

Where is the hero in the laundry?  And paying bills and the Monday morning jobs that tax our patience?  How do you run with the horses cooking dinner, or in the evening traffic snarls?  Yet there is the possibility of finding the hero even in the humdrum of the commonplace, in the gray tedium of all that seems insignificant.  It is about reframing our purpose.

In the Buddhist tradition there is something known as a Bodhisattva or hero of enlightenment.  With a Bodhisattva, heroism is not found in the reaching of enlightenment, but in the helping of others to reach enlightenment.

Jesus' life is a powerful example of this concept.  His heroic moments were not in flaunting his status as a holy figure, it was in his teaching and healing - his quiet, daily ministry to humanity.    

It's the same for us, for no matter how small the task, there is always an opportunity to help or teach or enlighten others.  Maybe we are enduring a tedious job or a frustrating class - but what's the ultimate goal?  More than likely you are doing it for a higher cause, such as supporting a family or getting an education so can you can do good work.  Maybe we find ourselves ironing a load of laundry--but what's the ultimate goal?  To get out every wrinkle?  No, our goal is that we and/or our family can go out into the world feeling nurtured -- able to offer our best gifts. 

You don't have to be in front of thousands of cheering people to be a hero.  Being a hero is not defined in the number of people who acknowledge our gifts.   As the saying goes:  "To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world."

Whether it is in the times of great crisis or the humdrum of daily life, we are all called to be heroes.  We just have to believe, as God does, that we are capable of assuming that mantle.

"If you have raced with foot runners and they have wearied you, how will you compete with the horses?"

I don't know what your answer will be.  But I say, let the race begin and let's find out.

 

This blog entry was preached as a sermon at Madison Avenue Baptist Church in NYC on Sunday, October 24thhttp://www.mabcnyc.org/mabc-audio.htm


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