Bishop Wright: 0:00
What is Jesus to us, lord and Savior, and why is guide for us? And so, by choosing Jesus today, we have some ideas about how we can actually parse the gray and how we can parse the confusion, and what I want to say, as a person of faith, is that we have more resources available to us, even now, in this disconcerting time, than perhaps we are willing to take up this is For People with Bishop Rob Wright.
Welcome to For People with Bishop Rob Wright. I’m Melissa Rau and this is a conversation inspired by For Faith, a weekly devotion sent out every Friday. You can find a link to this week’s devotion and a link to subscribe in the episode’s description. Good morning, bishop.
Bishop Wright: 0:55
Good morning Melissa.
You based your devotion this week off of Joshua 24 and you called it clarity. You say life is complicated because this is really about the time after Moses dies and Joshua kind of takes over and Moses never got to take the people into the promised land, right? And so tell me what’s hitting you today.
Bishop Wright: 1:20
Well, I tell you, what’s hitting me today is that it feels like two things are coming at us real fast complexity and velocity right. It seems like when I talk to people or just look at my own life and my own calendar, there’s a real temptation to be really disoriented. Right, we look at the news and we’re disoriented. There’s a rush of emotions. You know what to do, how do we choose the best course? You know, I meet a lot of people right now who are at intersections in their careers. They’re not exactly sure what they want to do, but they don’t want to do what they’ve always done, right, and so what to do? And so, you know, I’m looking at this lesson from the Old Testament through that lens, right, and Joshua offers his people, you know, an amazing, you know question, really an amazing choice. He brings them to the intersection of choice, but before he gets there, he does, I think, what’s really important for us people of faith, and that is who has our God been? So we might want to start with our education, our gifts and etc. And all that’s fine and all that has its place. But Joshua starts with God. Who has God been to his people? So he tells them, he reminds them who God has been, you know, to Abraham, you know selecting Abraham and Abraham’s faith. And we forget to say Sarah enough. And Sarah’s faith launches this whole enterprise right. And then he reminds them of what happened most recently, and that is how has God intervened most recently? Well, god has freed you from 400 years of bondage. In Egypt, you saw an empire overthrown, and so now here we are, and so I think one of the things we have to remember is that God is not bigger than our disorientation. God is bigger than our disorientation. God is bigger than our disorientation. So there’s clarity available, right. And then, you know, joshua goes right into the question, right into the choice. So choose today whom you’ll serve, and I think that that gives us more clarity than we actually really want, because, you know, I find that if you start off with that, lots of things fall into place downstream of that Right. One of the best pieces of advice I ever got as a young person being ordained was by my very wise senior pastor, rector, who was sending me out, and he said look, remember this God, remember this God, family work, god, family work. Remember that, god, family work. And that was important for him to say to me, because so many people lose their families in my business serving the church, and what he was saying is, if you can keep that, those three things, in line, you’ll be just fine. And and so I see Joshua doing the same thing right here with this fledgling nation.
Yeah, I, living in the complicated and the complex world that we’re in, I can imagine having that choice being asked of ourselves every single day. Like what a powerful practice.
Bishop Wright: 4:52
That could be who are we gonna choose today? Or you know what, like what are we gonna choose? Who are we gonna? You know, like I just say, a powerful choice.
Bishop Wright: 5:04
It is and it brings. It brings a startling amount of clarity. And so you know, if, if we happen to be married, I mean you know what is marriage, but you know, you know successive amounts of Choosing your spouse Right, and so I think, I think the data shows very clearly, when we don’t choose the spouse, we choose another, we choose work or we choose other things, then you know the marriage suffers immensely. I mean, I think, I think we there’s so many examples of this, it’s extraordinary. You know, I’ll take a little bit of a risk here and say you know that you know the state of Georgia, for instance, right now, has posted an amazing, amazing surplus, nearly 11 billion dollars, right, and and, and we would say in Georgia that we are, you know, a Christian state, largely in a Christian nation. I think that’s what we would say, I think most Georgians would agree, and I don’t disagree necessarily. But I think you know what we do with the surplus, what we choose you know to do with this excess. You know we’ll, we’ll, we’ll say a lot about our degree of depth To that commitment, I mean. And so it goes. And again, if who we choose Is at the very top, then downstream, you know you move straight through Really a list. So if God is first Right in the state of Georgia and we find that we have a surplus, then God is pretty clear both in the Old Testament and the New Testament, as well as the Quran as well, as well as well as the you know, the Hebrew Bible and the prophets, that we ought to relieve the burden of the poor and we ought to care for the sick, etc, etc, etc. So so I think what we don’t want sometimes is the clarity that Joshua is offering. I think we want our cake and our, and we want to eat it too, and so you know, I think it’s not enough to just answer the question one time. I think we’ve got to almost get up every day and say, okay, well, you and I are recording today on October 31st, on Halloween, and so it’s almost like we got to get up every day and say, okay, it’s October 31st. The good Lord has given me strength and kept me safe through the night and as I put my feet on the on the floor, who do I choose? Who’s first?
And on that note, we’re gonna be right back after a short break.
Bishop Wright: 7:55
Hi listeners, thank you for listening to For People. A space of digital evangelism. You can keep up with us on Instagram and Facebook at Bishop Rob Wright. And now back to Four People.
Welcome back to For People, bishop. I’m really mindful of the juxtaposition between clarity and fuzziness and what it takes to kind of wipe the blinders away, and so I’m curious what your thoughts are on how we might have clarity and then lose clarity. Are there things that we can do that contribute to losing focus?
Bishop Wright: 8:40
Yeah, I mean, yeah, I have no magic formula. I mean I’m just a human trying to figure this all out myself, really, and I think it’s part of the human condition, right, that we get distracted. You know, it’s like it’s like walking the dog and you see, in the dog sees the squirrel. You know it’s like you’re walking along peacefully, you know, and then all of a sudden you see something bright and shiny or it’s a squirrel, and off you go. I think that’s sort of the human condition. We do that as a general matter and this is why I like Joshua’s question is that he’s trying to limit the amount that we do that by reminding us you know what’s first. And so I think that you know, as we go along in life, you know that’s part of our life with God, is part of our life with family and all that sort of stuff, and say what really is the most meaningful thing for me? What do I really, you know, what do I really want? What do I really care about? Jesus asked a man a question in John’s Gospel, the fifth chapter what do you want? I think those kinds of annoying and yet profound questions are the stuff that help us to move out of the fuzzy and into the more clear. What we’re talking about is focusing our energies right, and I think that you know, maybe nowadays, with the advent of technology, perhaps we are more fractured than we’ve ever been. One of the most daunting things that happens to me every week is that it usually is on Sunday, so there’s something there. Apple sends me a little notice in my phone that tells me how many hours that I have, you know, been on the screen right, and that’s fine in dandy. But then one has to look at how many hours did you also spend doing the things you say are the most important to you. Like I wish that they would come up with some kind of technology that would say, oh, you spent, in relationship to your, five hours or six hours of screen time daily. You only spent you know.02 hours in service to neighbor, or, you know, you know, 13 minutes in prayer for the whole week, or something like that. I think it would be jarring and I think it would be a great, you know way to reflect on what we say is first and what is actually first. Now, I’m not giving anybody trouble about their life with technology, but I do think it needs to be reflected upon. I’m always, you know, sort of taking it back when I get that report, because it’s not a feeling, it’s not an emotion, it’s an actual fact and you got to work with that.
Yeah, so think of the word clarity, the word vision comes to mind.
Bishop Wright: 11:26
And I love the fact that you highlight, like in the disorientation of our modern life. Disorientation to me is such a Walter Brueggeman word to choose from, but I’m thinking of okay, in order for me to orient myself or reorient myself, I need to know where I am. So, Bishop, as it relates to disorientation and reorientation outside of the question, I mean, I love the question the daily mantra of choose this day whom you will serve. I think that’s really helpful. I’m wondering if there’s any extra advice or any extra things that we may or should or could be doing in order to not just know where we’re going, but to remember where we are and who’s we are.
Bishop Wright: 12:12
Well, yeah, because you know that choice choose this day whom you will serve is poignant. It’s a generative question. It can be a generative question for us, it can be refocusing, reorientating for us. But remember that that question, even though it’s sort of way up, is really downstream of one other sort of set of thoughts, and that is who am I Right? So, yeah, you could say, well, I am the servant of the living God, therefore, this is what I choose. But you could also say I am Rob, I am Melissa, I am someone who has enjoyed the benefit of God’s blessings and so I am, in response to a good God, going to choose to stay with God today or work for God, or work with God today. So you know, what Joshua was doing was trying to remind the people that, hey, look, you guys are a bunch of ragtag folks, and you know the word Hebrew really means no people. You are no people. You are just a ragtag bunch of day laborers, turned slaves, right Turned, enslaved people. And then, through the passage of time and this intervention by God, look at you now, look what God has done with you and through you and for you. And so you know, on the way to saying, I choose to serve God. Today, I might take a pause and think about who has God been to me, because that’s the order of Joshua’s question who has God been? And if God has been, this you know, and not out of guilt or obligation, but how might I respond? Well, the highest we talk about worship all the time. One of the highest pieces, best pieces of worship, is that today, in my real life, on this Tuesday that we’re recording, I choose as best I can to give my energies and my focus to the things that are your priorities, god. I choose to handle conflict today the way that you have taught in your word. I choose to use power, which we all have, as mercy. I choose to give it an expression of mercy. I choose to name the grudges and the biases I have and offer them to you, god, in prayer. I offer to you, god, the legitimate disagreements I have with brothers and sisters, and I endeavor not to be disagreeable even as I disagree. I mean, there are all these sort of cascading ways to be if we choose God, because if we choose God, god has some clear ideas. What we don’t like about God is that God has clear ideas. You know I always say that the biggest critics of the Bible are not necessarily the people who read it and found some sort of things that they call inconsistencies. It’s that they have read it and they know that it’s going to call them to change their life, and they don’t want to. Therefore they have to delegitimize it. That’s a whole other way to hold the thing, but I guess what I really want to say here is that there is more clarity available to us than perhaps we know. What I think we’re doing now is we’re developing sort of support groups for disorientation and living in the gray. I understand that to an extent. What is Jesus to us, lord and Savior and wise guide for us? And so by choosing Jesus today, we have some ideas about how we can actually parse the gray and how we can parse the confusion, and what I want to say as a person of faith is that we have more resources available to us, even now in this disconcerting time, than perhaps we are willing to take up.
Okay, well, I think I’m going to throw a curveball here. To be disoriented means that we were once oriented. That’s good. I’m curious what our message could be or might be for either unbelievers, non-believers, people who have stepped away and stepped out I would say they were once oriented but people who may or may not know God, who might be just feeling completely overwhelmed by what’s going on in the world today and they don’t know the questions to ask, right. I’m just wondering is there something, is there a message for them one? And is there a message for people who find themselves oriented towards God, maybe a little equally disoriented, but still have been oriented? Is there a way that we can help people who may not have the bearings?
Bishop Wright: 17:30
Yeah, see, look, I think one of the things we do, especially church folks, is we make all of this stuff so ethereal, we make it so philosophical, so intellectual. Look, god is infinitely practical, right and so infinitely practical. I mean, god is in the mundane right. God is in the dandelion right, god is in the spider hanging off of my front door. God is infinitely practical. And so when we’re talking about orienting and disorienting, what we’re talking about as an example might be if we meet a brother or sister who doesn’t know much about our Christian faith or any faith for that matter what we have to offer is some our coordinates. So, for instance, I was sitting at the bedside of someone who recently died. I was with the family, and what was amazing to me that this family I know this family for a very long time is that this family very easily moved into both the grief and the joy the grief, obviously, of a family member who a long time family member, who was very well respected and much loved, just a lovely, lovely man. And so there were tears there. And so my wife and I we walked in, we sat at the bedside and sometimes people walk into those rooms and they over function and what we realized was, no, just soften into the silence and let’s see what happens right, and to be there as a resource and a support. But what was phenomenal was to watch these people lean on their faith and lean on their sort of spiritual maturity, and so they did it all and it wasn’t. We were sat there for almost two hours before I was asked to pray, which I thought was one of the most incredible indicators of health. They had enough resources, that they had enough faith, enough familiarization with the coordinates of their faith, that they knew what to do. They knew to cry, they knew to hug, they knew to celebrate. This guy was a Philadelphia Eagles fan. They even sang the Philadelphia Eagle fight song because the Philadelphia beat Washington DC, which was their arch rival. It was an amazing thing to behold, because they had an orientation about how to meet those moments, moments that are complicated emotionally and spiritually, where there’s grief and at the same time, there’s Thanksgiving for the man’s life. I give that as an example to say. But there are people among us who don’t have those resources in those moments and I think, rather than talk in terms of believer, non-believer, I think what we have is resources. Perhaps I hope we do. We have resources to offer at critical intersections like that, and so you know what we might orient people, you know, by offering those resources at critical intersections in their life, so that they may say, hey, there’s something to this. You know, I’ve also walked into other rooms when the people knew nothing. They had no idea what to do with all of that in the moment. I mean, some of these folks had been to church all their life but they didn’t know what to do. And I think the proof is in the pudding when we find these intersections in life that just come our way, if we have some gold and thread through it, if we have some reliable coordinates. So that is true also for lots of other things, you know. I think that you know we ought to think of ourselves, wherever we are at work, at home, at school as people who have resources to offer right. And so, because we ourselves have chosen God and we ourselves have known God over a season of life, some learning has accrued to us, some best practices have accrued to us, and so the trick would be to how to gently offer that to people at their intersection. That’s all I wanna do. I don’t wanna browbeat anybody or be manipulative and really emotionally vulnerable moments to sort of try to wrangle people to my way. What I wanna try to do is resource the moment with something that I know is a way forward. You meet people all the time who are not churchgoers, they don’t go to the synagogue or the mosque, and they find themselves, if you talk to them, they find themselves stuck really in unforgiveness, right. And so how to resource that? How to resource that we have a way forward. It’s a way that we ourselves are struggling to adopt, but nevertheless, at least we have a roadmap.
Indeed. So choose this day whom you will serve Indeed. Thank you, thank you and thank you, listeners, for listening to For People. You can follow us on Instagram and Facebook at Bishop Rob Wright. Please subscribe, leave a review and we’ll be back with you next week.