Thursday, September 30, 2010

Kingdom Come and Cola

A few weeks ago I broke down in tears while buying dog food and Diet Pepsi. The heavens and earth collided, and I couldn't help but feel both the world's grief and the joy of Jesus flanking me.
  • It took a Mormon to revive Christian faith in prayer and due process.
  • Football season kicked off and 24-packs of soda were on sale.
  • A girl died of cancer, but her testimony stirred international inspiration.
  • An Olsen twin skipped another week of eating but made the front cover.
  • My daughters giggled in the shopping cart.
  • A father thumbed keys on his phone, ignoring his crying son.
Reconciling the holy beauty and horrid pain of our world is a harrowing task. The heavens laugh and the earth laments. I sometimes wonder if there is any greater joy than this moment, or any deeper pain than my past. My emotions are inconsistent, and I project the sentiment on God.

"Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."

Happily I will pray "Your Kingdom come..." if it means a discount on carbonated beverages. But can Jesus' prayer include recession? The Coming Kingdom suggests peace and power, prosperity and freedom from pain. The Coming Kingdom promises quick check out lines and tearless monetary exchange.

No, this earth is not God's kingdom. It is mine. And yours. We envisioned it from a mountain top, told "we are like God, knowing the difference between good and evil." We were told death was mythic and fresh bread unlimited. We were told the world is watching us. It is a kingdom driven by 6.7 billion "I wills" instead of one I AM. It is a kingdom where we cry.

Nonetheless, Jesus tells us to pray for the collision, the irruption, the coming of His Father's reign. When it comes, when He comes, the tears will cease and we will raise our glasses.

Monday, September 13, 2010

DRIVE by Wal-mart

A couple from our church tailed us in the Wal-mart parking lot. It was Labor Day. We needed Diet Pepsi and brats for a cookout no one could attend. The other couple needed hot dog buns. They were buying for a dinner party of their own.

On the way in, the husband noticed his pastor was dressed down and holding a grocery list in the middle of the afternoon. "Do pastors get Labor Day off?" he asked, chuckling.

I supplied my typical, self-deprecatory response: "I did all my work yesterday."

Earlier in the day I played golf with a high school student and our youth intern. After tearing up the course (with my club, not my score), I met a grad student from our church for lunch. Picnic and play: Did I work?

There is this curious line between work and play in vocational ministry. Forty hours used to be standard. Somewhere along the line, typical hours mushroomed. Fifty-five became the new median. Earlier in the year, a pastor speaking to a group of youth workers said, "Unless you work fifty-five hours, you won't be part of my team." I withdrew my resume.

In his recent book Drive, Daniel Pink suggests that play, when it becomes work, kills motivation. External motivators (money and pensions) are losing clout. Autonomy, mastery, and purpose are the internal motivators that will shape our future economy.

Engineers develop stickier products when unleashed to create than tied to flow charts and formalities. Artists working for free turn out a better canvas than the commissioned painter. Monkeys solving puzzles find better solutions when allowed to play than taunted by reward.

Pink's ideas are compelling, but they have yet to translate to the random pastoral review conducted in the Wal-mart bakery section. I don't have the time to explain the importance of my family life to ministry. I don't have the space to illustrate the connection between a golf swing and spiritual growth. Nor is Wal-mart the place to articulate a grand vision about our future economy, driven by autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

In Wal-mart there is one value: cheap. Always low prices... even on Labor Day, when pastors dress down and cook out.