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A Letter from the Pastor to Presbytery

What Do We Want Most?
August 11, 2011

Last week the children and grandchildren converged from Kentucky and Virginia to spend the week with Tammy and me. We did some really big and important things: building a fort in the woods, frolicking in the neighborhood swimming pool, walking and riding bikes around the neighborhood, and watching the Pirates hit home runs for hunger.

The week’s delight had nothing to do with how big a fort we made, how many miles we walked, or even whether the Pirates defeated the Cubs (thank goodness!). We needed nothing more than being present in order to count the week a smashing success.

Alas, we have been well schooled into thinking that things would be better for us if only… if only we are able to do this or to change that. Whatever our situation, we all too easily believe that having or doing something more, or something different, is the key to our finding satisfaction. And in the process we miss the joy of what we already have.

1 Timothy 6:6 reminds us that “There is great gain in godliness combined with contentment.” Contentment derives not from changing our situation so it is better fitted to our needs, but from adjusting ourselves to be better fitted to our situation.

I was prompted to think on these things when earlier this week I ran across an old Calvin and Hobbes strip:      

 Calvin want Most.gif

The same day my psalm reading included a verse that always evokes in me a longing for holy peace within: “Return, O my soul, to your rest, for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.” (Psalm 116:7)

The book of Hebrews urges us to “make every effort to enter into the rest” that God wills for us. What an oxymoron – striving to rest! The writer is either crazy, or knows something critical about our nature. I suspect the latter. We must be vigilant at every turn to keep faith that, in the immortal words of Julian of Norwich, “All is well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”

Such a perspective is especially difficult to maintain at a time when our economic world is being threatened anew. Here we thought we’d weathered the big storm, and now it appears that we still have some tough sledding before us. And, for Presbyterians, we are at the same time facing all sorts of changes in our Book of Order. Really, one could hardly blame us for succumbing to anxiety. Being at rest is truly a spiritual discipline, especially in times like these.

How would it shape our lives and witness, both individually and as the church, if what we wanted most is what we already have?

With gratitude for God’s goodness,

The Rev. Dr. Sheldon W. Sorge, Pastor to Pittsburgh Presbytery

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