Sunday, March 23, 2008


In the comfortable Western church, Easter can be a rather formulaic, even twee, affair. "Living outside the box" can be a matter not so much of life-and-death as 'feeling a bit pepped up'. It is salutary to be reminded that for many, many people in a world torn apart by violence, despair, sickness, death and injustice, the stakes look (and are) incomparably higher. On Monday we mark the 28th anniversary of the death of Archbishop Oscar Romero, gunned down by El Salvadorean death squads for his stand alongside the poor. His prayer/poem Prophets of a future not our own remains, for me, an extraordinary declaration of the Easter vision - hopeful and yet profoundly realistic about limits. I'm doing the intercessions at St Stephen's in Exeter today, and will use it as a preliminary reading.

It helps, now and then, to step back
and take the long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is 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 another 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 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 effects 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 be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
an opportunity for God'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.

(c) literary estate of Oscar Romero

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