Sunday, November 25, 2007

Pondering: Hope. Faith. Love. Forgiveness.

"And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love." --1 Corinthians 13:13

Yesterday was a glorious day in Seattle--cool, clear, crisp. I took my stiff from car-riding, turkey-eating, Thanksgiving holiday self out for a nice brisk walk followed by raking of leaves that continue to fall in my yard. While doing these activities, I listened to a podcast from Speaking of Faith on theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr. Having not read any of Niebuhr's works, I was intrigued to learn he was a lover of paradox and considered to be "a listener at heart" who could speak well into the issues of the world around him. The podcast was so rich with food for thought considering issues of war, evil and, in my opinion, simply living in the world. Today, I would like to share one of the quotes from his book The Irony of American History.

He wrote,
"Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore, we must be saved by hope. Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore, we must be saved by faith. Nothing we do, however virtuous, could be accomplished alone; therefore, we must be saved by love. No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as it is from our own standpoint; therefore, we must be saved by the final form of love, which is forgiveness."

One could look at this as a "hopeless" viewpoint such as written in Ecclesiastes 2:1, "Meaningless! Meaningless!"
says the Teacher.
"Utterly meaningless!
Everything is meaningless." However, I saw it as filled with hope and guidance for us to live fully and intentionally today. That although we may not see the results in our lifetime, we can begin the process. That even though it may not currently make sense, the results will be there at some point in the future. We cannot do things alone, therefore we need community and God. And, forgiveness is the greatest gift both for ourselves and others.

It is at this point that Niebuhr's words (serendipitously perhaps) coincided with the message of Mark Nepo's daily reading. Starting with Lao-Tzu's words, "Compassionate toward yourself, you reconcile all beings in the world," Nepo says, "Across the centuries, we have this timeless medicine: Live directly, wait, and care for your soul as if it were the whole world." Live directly -- Faith. Wait -- Hope. Care for your soul--Love. Be reconciled with the World -- Forgiveness.

Niebuhr & Nepo. Christian & Taoist. You & Me. Simple & Complex. "Across the centuries, we have this timeless medicine." Faith. Hope. Love. Forgiveness.

Hmmm....That's a lot for me to ponder on this glorious Sunday morning. How about you? I'd love to know your thoughts.

photo by bill

12 comments:

Sue said...

We seem to be pondering many of the same things, dear Lucy :)

Country Parson said...

Since I have one of the few copies of "The Irony of American History" and am rereading it at this moment I'm delighted to see these citations from his 1952 book that is as important today as it was then, maybe more so since it seems we have learned precious little in the last 50 years.

SUNRISE SISTER said...

o.k. the similar brainwaves are getting a little too spooky - will be downloading the Podcast very soon:) Thanks for the link!

lucy said...

spooky brainwaves...maybe...i like to consider that great brains think alike. right, sue, cp & SS???

Abbey of the Arts said...

hi lucy, finally over here after way too long. :-)

Love this post, reminds me of a favorite quote from martyred Archbishop Oscar Romero I'll include below. Always reminds me to be humble, that our work is part of a much greater Work in the world.

love and blessings, Christine

"It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view. The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision. We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work. Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying that the kingdom always lies beyond us. No statement says all that could be said. No prayer fullyexpresses our faith. No confession brings perfection. No pastoral visit brings wholeness. No program accomplishes the church’s mission. No set of goals and objectives includes everything. This is what we are about. We plant the seeds that one-day will grow. We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise. We lay foundations that will need further development. We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that. This enables us to do something, and to do it very well. It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest. We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker. We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own."

-Oscar Romero

SUNRISE SISTER said...

abbey ota, Haven't downloaded the
Niebuhr yet, but like the Romero quote also. I agree, very special. Thanks.

lucy said...

christine--thank you for taking the time to share this quote. it is really something to take in!
peace.

Gabrielle said...

Lucy, I don't know Reinhold Niebuhr at all, nor his works, but after just reading that little bit about him re your link, I was struck by something - his willingness to embrace change. I think when you're willing to admit that your ideas have changed over the years, because of your experiences, the people who have inspired you, through maturity and so on, that it's a mark of a sincere seeker. Great post.

lucy said...

gabrielle--i always appreciate so much your thoughts. you have such a lovely way of saying exactly what i want to say, but haven't found the words to articulate. i, also, do not know much about niebuhr, but there seemed to be a humility and a willing to ponder rather than an "absolute this is the way it is" kind of attitude. it leaves room for conversation rather than shutting doors.

Barbara said...

Just getting around to catching up on your blog. Thank you for sharing the quote from Niebuhr. It is nourishing me (along with the Romero quote that Christine sent above) as I approach this Advent season feeling simultaneously richer and poorer than ever.

lucy said...

thanks for stopping by, barbara. i, too, am letting those quotes nourish me as we enter the season of Advent and busy-ness. there is something very liberating about knowing that we will never accomplish everything :-)

Sue said...

It is liberating, Lucy. And going forward being richer and poorer - I love that, Barbara :)