Many churches throughout the world use a Bible reading schedule called a "lectionary." It's just a fancy word meaning "selected readings." Posts like this reflect on the readings for an upcoming Sunday or other Church holiday, as found in the three-year lectionary.
Our reading of Psalm 131 reminds me of the extraordinary nature of activism. Our world seems to have a lot of anxiety, largely fueled by outrage over things that most of us are not personally responsible for and that individually we are unable to change. Whether it’s the seven year old who feels responsible for shifts in worldwide ecosystems or the eighteen year old who is anxious because he can’t fully understand how Nietzsche would come to his conclusions and whether he is right or not, we have a world full of concerns which we, as individuals, can’t fix.
The Psalmist reflects on the contentment we can find when we deal with what is in our own domain. We work with what is ours to address. At times, we might have an opportunity to speak or act in a way that reaches farther, but most of us have very few, if any, of those chances. In general, we work within a much more limited framework.
Am I saying that the Bible advocates retreat and fatalistically leaving the job of world change to others, some sort of a ruling class? Not at all. What I’m saying is that the seven year old should not worry about worldwide ecosystems. She should plant some flowers, maybe grow some green beans, and delight in the fact that those plants provide for a world of animals, including herself and her family. She should also draw a nice picture of the bees buzzing around, and make it pretty with fairies and rainbows if she wants, because more is better. I’m saying that the eighteen year old should recognize that Nietzsche was describing the world in its fallenness and, when he looked only at earthly reality he saw something grim. Nietzsche really needed to open his mind to transcendence and the fact that there’s beauty and life all around us. Our eighteen year old friend can find that beauty.
Who knows? As we all work in our spheres of influence, a few people with outstanding gifts of God will have a larger influence. Maybe the little girl will end up showing her friends and family the beauty of having a peaceful little garden and caring for one another. Maybe she will wind up as a scientist who revolutionizes human transportation and efficient flight after observing bumblebees. Maybe she will find a way to feed millions of people better than ever before. And maybe she will make the world better by having a tea party in the flower garden with her little children. Maybe the teen philosopher will realize the world has too little of truth and beauty, and become an artist. Maybe he will decide to figure out why people are discouraged. Maybe he will revolutionize mental health practices. Maybe he will end up keeping things orderly in an office environment and encourage his co-workers around the coffee machine to find order out of chaos in their desks, in their families, and even in the civic soccer league.
If I set out to change the world I will fail. If I set out to care for something within my sphere of influence, I might fail, but I might succeed. If we all care for what is in our domain, we will end up making the world a better place. This is how most of us serve the Lord. We look to his redemptive love and we walk in it right where we are. Our hope is not in our ability to change things, but in the Lord, who has worked redemption and restoration for his people. He understands us and our world. Surely he can direct our paths today.
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