By Barrett Owen
“Be strong and bold … for it is God who goes ahead of you.”
— Moses to Joshua in Deuteronomy 31:6
I love Moses’ phrase, “God is gone ahead of you.” Rob Bell talks about it in his latest book, What We Talk about When we Talk about God. Bell (and Moses) is arguing that God is simultaneously in the present and in the future pulling us into a better tomorrow.
The Greeks had a word for this: telos. It means God’s dragging, enticing and luring us into the Great Unknown.
Ministers must be people who believe God has gone ahead of us. That’s the deep, sacred work of vocational ministry. We listen and discern, hope and hold on, pray and believe that God’s in what we’re doing, and we can be unafraid and undismayed for God is gone ahead of us.
I’m a NEEDTOBREATHE fan. In their song Keep Your Eyes Open, the chorus says, “If you never leave home, if you never let go, you’ll never make it to the Great Unknown … so keep your eyes open .”
We ministers must be people who keep our eyes open. We stand on the precipice of what Diana Butler Bass calls the Great Spiritual Awakening, and we’re the ones people look to in order to see it, to interpret it. So keep your eyes open.
Or you’ll miss it. You’ll miss what God is doing in and around your community. You’ll miss how God is translating life’s moments for a better tomorrow.
People show up at church every Sunday looking for a better tomorrow. They believe God is ahead of them, but they can’t see where or how to get there. They need help deciphering the Divine. That’s our job.
People need ministers translating God’s power, analyzing life’s movements, and listening to the spirit of the living God. When we believe God has gone ahead of us, then we’re on the right road to helping these people experience a better tomorrow.
And despite reasons not to be, we pastors must remain hopeful, for the story we tell is that we worship and serve a God who isn’t done with us yet. There’s more to come, more to the story, more to see. There are new beginnings to experience. We just have to look up on the horizon and believe that as we go, God is ahead of us preparing the way.
If and when we do this, we give people eyes to see the spirit of the living God. We give them eyes to see injustices flying all around. We give them eyes to see despair in the midst of fear, brokenness in the midst of insecurity, and shame in the midst of regret.
That’s the message of the gospel. That’s God’s hope for humankind. That’s the definition of metanoia. That’s the whole issue with forgiveness, and that’s good news worth sharing. If we want to see God, then we need to start by looking ahead.
Here’s to believing God is not done with us yet.
Here’s to helping others see God.
Here’s to a better tomorrow!