Purposeful not Parasitical

21 11 2017

In the card catalog or hard drive of my mind is a quote stored and attributed to  Nelson Mandela. I wish I could recall the source. I have Googled it with no success. If I am wrong and/or you have the source, please share.

My memory records the quote as, ” It is not that we are afraid of dying but dying and never have made a difference. ” Another quote from Mandela seems to support my memory.”What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”

This past week I was in a Continuing Education event. It was focused on addressing poverty. We were a diverse group and I may have been the only clergy person there.  I usually do not disclose that I am clergy unless asked.  Often folks have some negative memory attached to religion and I would prefer not have the past effect the present. They can decide about who I am based on what is happening not what has happened. Eventually, I was outed.

While there,  I met some folks with whom I shared a passion and purpose for making a difference while on the planet. I left hopeful.

They ones I am thinking of now were Millennials,    They are the age group that seem to have given up on the church. Also in attendance were Boomers and Gen-X members. I was the old man in the group having made the Boomer class.

Many articles have been written about how the Church should adopt the strategy that appeals to Millennials. Some  seem like  the man proposing to his bride, who says ” I love you for who you are; strong, independent and beautiful.  Please marry me and let me change you into who I want you to be.”.  An old quote is, ” When the Church marries one generation, it is a widower in the next.”

I wonder,  what if the Church might be changed by and when embracing the diversity and passion the Millennials bring? In short, what if they changed us? Or better yet, what if we changed, married and  grew together?

So what could be done? From the Church’s stand point, my first thought is to get over ourselves. We are not the Savior, we follow one.  While we sing, ” Where ever he leads I’ll go”, we  often ask our Maker to go with us where ever we want to go.  Jesus called us to follow in places where we would often rather not be. It is a place of stained lives beyond stained glass, gutters beneath glory, hopelessness’ discord over  hymn’s harmony.

Maybe the first step in that parade is to celebrate that we can share a passion and purpose that is greater than our faith or absence thereof. What if the mission was more important than mantra, dedication than dogma and purpose that is  not limited to parochialism. What passion and purpose do we share? Not how do we disagree.

I am not suggesting that self absorption is limited to religion, or as the Christian Church is called, the Body of Christ. Parasitical behavior seems universal as the host is consumed by the voracious appetite of the worm within. Government, institutions, corporations, and the people down the street or across the  globe might be amoral, but regardless of the size of the host, self- absorption moves to self-survival  and the worm within is hungry. Eventually, feeding on oneself  ends in a slow death, beginning with the first bite. The only patient that can be healed is the self-aware one.

So, …about that Continuing Education Event?!   One of my takeaways is  that a purpose bigger, beyond and believable keeps one from being a parasite. A focus on what is outside and not what is sucking life from within.

I was so encouraged about the world in which my children and grandchildren might live.  These who have more actuarial years left than I who want to make a difference, not just show up, lifted my spirit.  They see beyond, they believe in the vision and the have a hope for the future. I found them with and without religion.

I have but a few acorns left in my planting bag and the tip of my shovel is dull , but I am hopeful these few yet to be  planted will grow into mighty oaks. But the people I was around this week have bags full of acorns and they are purposefully digging in the soil of their neighborhoods; from Alaska, to California, to Canada to West Virginia and all beyond and between.

Something is growing.  Purpose not parasites, life not death, hope not despair. A Future Story stretches out before us. Can you see it!?

And who knows, maybe an acorn or more is in your planting bag and soon an oak will be sprouting where you are.  One looking for shade and one yet unborn says,

” Thank You.”

Agree or disagree, I’d love to talk with you about this. Please comment or be in touch.