Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Summer of the Soul

    Having played a video clip from Sir Lawrence Olivier’s portrayal of King Richard III this past Sunday has it is fresh on my mind. “Now is the winter of our discontent, made glorious summer by this son of York; and all the clouds that lour’d upon our house.” Made in 1955 by one of the greatest actors didn’t keep this particular supposed historical depiction from being rather overplayed and cheesy. “A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse!” We can thank Bill Shakespeare for the lines.
    Unless you’re a history buff and/or an ecclectic reader, you are probably not aware of the recent news regarding Richard Plantagenet, a.k.a. King Richard III of the House of York. His remains were discovered under a parking lot last September providing us with the only proof of his physical appearance. Polidoro Virgili said he had “the one shoulder higher than the right”; Thomas More described him as “little of stature, ill-featured of limbs, crook-backed.” It has only taken 528 years from the time of his death to set the record straight. He suffered from severe scoliosis (curvature of the spine), not kyphosis (humped back) as he historically has been portrayed. I don’t know about you, but 528 years is a long time to me.
    Whether we are reading about the results of archeological or Biblical history, few things are revealed quickly. When I teach the historical sections of Scripture, I attempt to point out the absence of detail regarding time. To the casual reader, events transpire within brief, reasonable time frames. “And it came to pass” sounds like “the next day”. But when you analyze the known facts, you discover that “and it came to pass” can translate into decades. We don’t even have to engage the debate over the meaning of the Hebrew word commonly translated “day” in Genesis to discover that “next” can be a long way down the road.
    I suppose that it can be looked at in the same way in which we view the horizon. I have read that when we stand on level ground, the horizon is ten miles away. To us it appears flat. We are literally incapable of discerning the earth’s curvature. Unless we know what lies beyond that line that separates earth (or sea) from sky, we are left to our imaginations. “Flat Earthers” are a product. 24,901 miles: that’s the circumference of the earth. The relationship of distance to time is what creates the illusions of what “next” means.
    It may be a product of increased knowledge or it may simply be the result of getting older. Without launching into philosophical ramblings regard how much faster “time flies” as we age, suffice it to say, “It does.” Ground covered, measure either by distance or a clock, gives us a perspective on what is behind and by extrapolation, what may be ahead.
    Such is one of the challenges of church planting, church growth and God’s answering when we pray. If you haven’t figured it out yet, save yourself some anxious moments. God is never in a hurry. The preponderance of evidence in Scripture is that waiting is a part of the equation. Whether the scenario is of Elijah waiting for God’s judgement on Ahab and Jezebel, or the disciples asking Jesus about the advent of the Kingdom, it doesn’t matter. The current Charismaniac “name it, claim it” gospel reduces God to a cosmic bellhop. When we invoke the story of Elijah on Mt Carmel as proof of a rapid response, we overestimate our spiritual importance. Only when we can bring someone back from the dead should we embrace such an analogy. My advice to the aspiring spiritual leader is to plan on faith requiring time to bear its fruit. There is a summer of the soul between sowing and harvesting that doesn’t involve watching the clock. There is more work to be done while we wait on God to produce a harvest in His good time.