Monday, March 06, 2006


If the foundations are destroyed,
what can the righteous do? (Psa 11:3, RSV)

I fret a lot these days. I fret about the decay of society; I fret about the future of the country; I fret about the future of the Church here in America. I fret about what kind of a world my daughter is going to have to live in. I fret about just what the heck it is God wants me to be doing.

In the 15th century, they used to fret, too. Pope Calixtus III (1455-1458) prayed “From the devil, the Turk, and the comet, Good Lord deliver us.” Substitute global warming for the comet, and nothing much has changed. Constantinople fell in 1453; the towers fell in 2001. Their portent of impending doom was Halley’s comet (1456); ours is melting icecaps. The devil, well, he’s always around.

There are two primary reasons why I fret. One has to do with not really knowing what I’m supposed to be doing. I always feel like I’m supposed to be “doing something for God,” and I can never figure out what it is. The other has to do with the feeling that the world is spinning out of control – “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.” I think both derive from flaws in how I view God’s relation to the world.

Why do I think it’s up to me to figure out what God wants me to do? If God wants me to do something, He will no doubt be able to find a way to inform me. He is God, after all! My real fear - the one that I don't want to admit – is that God wants me to do what I’m doing now, and do it well It’s an insult to my adolescent-level grandiosity, and a testimony to my unwillingness to submit.

And why do I fear the course of events? Christendom quaked in terror of the Moslems back in the fifteenth century; it looked like all of Europe would be overwhelmed. Things didn’t get better for a long time; it wasn’t until 1529 that the Turks were finally defeated at the gates of Vienna. In the meantime, saints kept on being saintly, and the lost kept on getting lost. And the people who spent their lives fretting wasted time that they could have used to become saints. Civilizations come, and civilizations go, and all are in the hands of God. People, however, last for eternity, and my job is to choose whether or not I will be an heir of the promise. The answer to the problem posed in the psalm at top is immediately answered in the succeeding verse.

The LORD is in his holy temple, the LORD's throne is in heaven;
his eyes behold, his eyelids test, the children of men. (Psa 11:4, RSV)

Nothing exists outside the permission of The God Who Sees (Gen. 16:13), the same God Almighty Who gave the promises to Abraham and to Peter. Whatever comes, comes within that context; there is no other. Perhaps, what I should really give up for Lent is fear.

The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? (Psa 27:1, RSV)