The Bigger Picture

Sometimes we get discouraged when we see how huge is the task of doing the work of the kingdom of God and how small our efforts are. The remedy for such discouragement is to look clearly at God’s larger purposes and see oursleves in light of those purposes.

This is what is expressed the statement that follows.

The statement is sometimes called the Prayer of Archbishop Oscar Romero, which is understandable, because it fits so well his approach to service and his untimely death.

As you may know, Oscar Romero was Archbishop of the Diocese of San Salvador in the nation of El Salvador. He spoke out against economic and political oppression. While performing a funeral mass in 1980, he was shot and killed by a paid assassin.

As I said, the following statement is often attributed to Archbishop Romero, but, in fact, it was never spoken by him. It was spoken, instead, by John Cardinal Dearden in 1979, being drafted by Bishop Kenneth Untener.

It is referred to as a prayer, which is interesting; it does end with “Amen.” But you will notice it is addressed, not to God, but to the assembled church. It is, therefore, more like a reflection. It presents a wise and liberating perspective on the work we try to do with God and for God.

We Are Workers, Not Master Builders (my title)

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 fully expresses 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 not be complete, 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.

What are your thoughts as you read this reflection?

One Response

  1. Sometimes I wonder if we have misunderstood the word kingdom and I think the above post does quite well in describing our misunderstanding. Especially in our modern age, kingdoms often seem akin to networking or social justice, but this is not the meaning of a kingdom at all. Dallas Willard describes kingdom as the place where the will of the king is carried out. Kingdoms, in all actuality, carry very little autonomy with them. To enter into a kingdom means, first and foremost, to be under the tutelage of a king or a vassal. There really is no example of this in the modern Western world.

    We are so used to autonomy that we forget kingdom really means doing one’s part in the larger kingdom under the orders of a king. We are not meant to change the world, we are meant to live in it. I wonder what implications this has for the modern world and any eschatological beliefs we hold about the return of Christ.

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