Bishop Rob Wright For People Album
For People

About the episode

Ever wondered how faith can transform even the hardest of hearts?  God cracked open a rock to deliver water to people in the desert. God can crack open our hardened hearts and deepest wounds, allowing healing to flow forth.

In this episode, Melissa and Bishop Wright have a conversation about hope found amidst devastation, exemplifying how Jesus offers hope and comfort even in our darkest hours. Listen in for the full conversation.

Before listening, read For Faith.


Bishop Wright: 0:00

What are the rocks right now that could be cracked open so that we could get what we need for our journey? And it occurs to me that we are the rocks that need to be cracked open. I mean, think about it. Our hearts can be hard sometimes. Sometimes we can have been wounded so much and so thoroughly that we are impenetrable. And the great sort of counter cognitive work of God is is that? What do you do with your wounds? Right, we’ve got to find a way to move through the wounds. We are more than the wounds.

Melissa Rau: 0:30

This is For People with Bishop Rob Wright. Welcome to For People with Bishop 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. How’s it going, bishop Fabulous? This week’s devotion is based off Psalm, chapter 105, verse 41. And the Psalmist is honoring the time his ancestors were in the desert after fleeing Egypt, when God cracked open a rock that flowed with water. And your reflection prompts us to remember who God is and what God has done, and what God can do in and through us. Yes, yes, you got it.

Bishop Wright: 1:23

I mean. So here’s the bottom line, right, we understand backwards as we believe forward, right? So this is one of the great gifts of scripture who has God been? And therefore, since God has been, that we ought to believe accordingly, going forward. This is the great gift of scripture, this is a great gift of the Psalms, these wonderful God poems.

Melissa Rau: 1:53

Yeah, and we have a rich tradition, right, and yet sometimes I worry. Maybe I’m just too anxious about it, but it seems like tradition, and not just the Christian tradition, but I think tradition might be falling by the wayside a little bit. Any thoughts on that?

Bishop Wright: 2:14

Well, I mean, I think traditions are being refined, I think traditions are always being rethought. I think this is what people do, and this is one of the ways that. And so I remember a wonderful quote by someone who said absolutely read the Bible, absolutely know the Bible, digest it, swallow it right, and then, in a matter of speaking, and then put it down, in other words, don’t hold it so tightly, right. And so, in our church, we don’t command biblical literate, we don’t command biblical literate. Hold on, we gotta redo that. In our church, we don’t commend biblical literalism right. And so, because we understand that the Bible is many things, it’s history, it’s hyperbole, you know, it’s poetry, it’s a lot of things. But at the center of all of that, and what is redeeming and what transcends time, is this wonderful character sketch of who God has been. And so, since God has been ex, we can still believe going forward. It gives us a sense of how God has shown up and will show up and may show up. And so that is what’s redeeming. And so, even as our cultural traditions, you know, sort of change and we move into new dimensions of things, you know, I think we ought to take this with us, you know, if you go up to Harvard Kennedy School and you study leadership, what they will tell you is the work is always to figure out what is precious and what is expendable. Right, that is always the work in tradition. What is precious, what do we need to always keep packed with us, and what can we lay by the wayside? Now, that’s a difficult discussion, always difficult, and of course, there are always varying interpretations of that and varying opinions of that. But what I would say, as it regards scripture is, is that we need to always carry with us, right, because we’re not the Jews of 6,000 years ago, right, we’re not. So what can we travel with now? And I think we can travel with now. God’s character sketch is laid out in scripture who God has been, how God operates, how God thinks. As much as we can discern that through scripture and allow that to be our traveling companion.

Melissa Rau: 4:44

So, bishop, you wrote, sometimes even rocks refuse God’s opening act, and then you go on and say that’s ironic, considering the first, the thirst quenching won’t come until the rock opens, and one of the scariest prayers that I sometimes pray is God, crack me open and break my heart for what breaks yours. That’s dangerous, it’s scary because vulnerability and I have like a really funny relationship. But what are you trying to get at there? Are you actually making a parallel between rock and people?

Bishop Wright: 5:19

Yeah, of course. So what I’m saying is that the Psalm, psalm 105, verse 41, remembers for the people how God met people wandering in the wilderness, how God intervened, how God exercised God’s sort of mightiness, if you will. And they found water, they found their nourishment, they found sustenance, they found their own survival in unlikely places. At the hand of God, god broke open a rock and out came the water, the very thing that the community needed to continue to survive. And what it’s interesting to me is that while we can just look at that one dimensionally again, the gift of scripture to look at it multi-dimensionally, we can say, okay, god is a providing God. God found a way to make a way out of no way in the wilderness. God fed us, god hydrated us, if you will. So we can look at it that way. That’s sort of phase one. But phase two is to wonder, poetically, what are the rocks right now that could be cracked open so that we could get what we need for our journey? And it occurs to me that we are the rocks that need to be cracked open. I mean, think about it, our hearts can be hard, sometimes awfully hard, you know. Sometimes we can have been wounded so much and so thoroughly that we are impenetrable. And the great sort of counter cognitive work of God is is that, what do you do with your wounds? Right, we’ve got to find a way to move through the wounds. We are more than the wounds, and so somehow we’ve got to decide to put ourselves in the hands of the one who cracks rocks open, so that we can actually get what we want, because we won’t get what we want by armoring up, we won’t get what we want by moving from a limestone rock to a granite rock. We just we won’t get what we want, and that’s, you know. I like to say all the time that God is good, that God is not nice, and what I mean by that is that the goodness of God is counter cognitive for God’s creation, for you and me. And so this is why, you know, the beginning of wisdom is to realize the limits of our you know, our intellect, our cognition, and take that great leap which we have to, and that is to trust. And so, god, I’m a rock, you know and maybe there’s some rocks listening I’m a rock, lord. I know that I can be hard and impenetrable. I know I can be that way as it regards my neighbor, I know I can be that way. As it regards my particular behavioral patterns, I know that I can be that way. With regard to sharing, I know that I can be that way. With regard to grudges, lord, I know that I’m a rock, and so you know, as you pray. As you pray your dangerous prayer, so must we Because, lord, I know, until I’m cracked open, you know I won’t know you in your fullness and I won’t have what I need.

Melissa Rau: 8:22

Okay, great. Well, let’s come right back after a show.

Bishop Wright: 8:28

Hi listeners, thank you for listening to Four People, a space of digital evangelism. You can keep up with us on Instagram and Facebook at Bishop Robbrite. And now back to Four People.

Melissa Rau: 8:47

Welcome back to Four People, bishop. The theme of gratitude keeps coming to mind and, as I was listening to you before the break, at the end of the day it’s, you know, we can recount what God has done and what God can do, and sometimes we miss for what we are grateful or what we could be grateful in the here and now, and I don’t know what to do about that. I don’t. Is it God break in so that I can be grateful, or am I grateful? And then God will, like you were talking about, you know if we want what we want, like if we want to get what we want. You know what I mean and I don’t know where does it begin? Where does it start?

Bishop Wright: 9:31

Well, it’s cyclical, it is not linear, it can begin anywhere. I mean, let’s begin where the psalmist began. The psalmist began with the story, and you know, I was just leading a clergy conference here in the Diocese of Atlanta, and one of the things that I was talking about, based on the text from Hebrews, is the sort of the first way forward is to sacrifice a lot of the narratives that we walk around right With, and so we’ve got to disclose that we couldn’t have gotten here all by ourselves, right? So we got here because of the faith and the generosity, the intellect, the grit of other people, and so I have got to sacrifice. You know my cherished narrative, and so you know Desmond Tutu asks you know, what do you have? That is not gift, and this is what the psalmist is always keeping in front of us what you have, everything you have, your intellect, your trust fund, your good looks, your healthy body, you know the grit that you had to stay up all night, burn the midnight oil into work hard All of that, at its core, is gift, and so maybe that’s a place to start. And you know, and that’s why the psalmist starts by recounting the story, Isn’t it interesting that Israel develops as a nation, Right, it’s best theology and its best liturgy and its best temple worship points backwards. Remember who you were. Remember those days when you were vulnerable. Now you’re fancy, you’ve got castles and you’ve got, you know, economic strategies and all of that, and now you’re a nation among nations. But I want you to remember don’t you find that curious? I want you to remember when you were wandering around the desert, groping for water, groping for food. I want you to remember that you know, when you were in bondage for 400 years, I intervened through a guy by the name of Moses, a little adopted kid, who was a felon, Right. And so there is something life giving about sacrificing our big and fancy narrative on the altar of God’s goodness. And so I am a recipient. That’s how I understand myself, first and foremost, and if I do that, then that’s going to interact with the narrative that I tell myself and that I tell the world, which is you know, I did it my way. You know I’m all sufficient, I’m all powerful, I’m absolutely, you know, omnicompetent. The truth of the matter is that even those gifts are all gifts, right? Even those attributes, achievements, are all gifts. And so what would it be like if we started holding ourselves and holding, you know, the things that we encounter day to day as gifts. So I’m talking to you, but I’m looking out my front window and I’m seeing the green, I’m seeing the cool morning that’s going to turn into a wonderful sunny day. And you know, all gift and all I have nothing to do with it, not a blessed thing to do with it. All I get to do is enjoy the cool morning. You know, and I think that’s how we start and that’s just a practice. You know, I’m a great car tinkerer. You know, not a mechanic, but a great tinkerer. And as I’m interacting with some of the old cars that I have and the projects, I’m realizing that, you know, I am inheriting the benefit of others’ ingenuity. I have nothing to do with it. I mean I could sort of play with it now, but you know, this is, I think, what the Psalmist always wants to keep at our center, and that is is that, yes, we make contributions, et cetera, but we add, you know, to a long list of people who, at the very beginning of that list, you know, were birthed and the whole story began out of the gracious and merciful act of a loving God. And if I can, if I can really let that crack my rock, if you will, you know, then water pours out, and you know. Last thing I want to say about that is that what is the water? Well, when the heart softens and gratitude, you know, sort of washes over us. We’re different in the world qualitatively. Our spiritual temperature changes right, and so we have the resources at that point, through the one who poured into us, to actually engage some of the most difficult situations that we encounter at home, at work, you know, for us in the church, you know, and beyond, Think about it If the rock doesn’t crack open, then all we are is just sort of a pile of gravel.

Melissa Rau: 14:06

Yeah Well, and even when we’re grateful, pile of gravel. Just yesterday I posted on Facebook, I think on Instagram it was just a picture of a rainbow, and it was yesterday morning and I took a picture of it because I was. It was the first time I was ever struck by the fact that when I see a rainbow as beautiful as a rainbow is half the sky is gorgeous with sun and yet half of the sky is still dumping somewhere and so I’m thinking, you know, this is great and beautiful for me, but what about? the people? Are still going through it.

Bishop Wright: 14:37

Yeah, absolutely. And you know, and that’s one of the reasons why I think these kinds of stories, these songs, are important, because they bring us back to our time of vulnerability, they give us, they bring us back to our time of storm and they refresh our notion of how God can intervene. Look, we have to remember that the rain pouring somewhere, there’s some farmer somewhere, you know, wanting to do a cartwheel through the middle of his or her fields. Right, and so you know, in God’s economy, you know God is working it out, and so what we’ve got to be able to do, I think, is to figure out how to hold ourselves so that we can be available to God sort of, you know, really wondrous and mischievous genius. You know, god is working out a story in us, and we can get overwhelmed by what’s happening in Washington DC and what’s happening in Libby and Iran and Hawaii and all those that we have. Some of those things, obviously, those things demand some part of our heart, but if we can stay present to the goodness of God in our actual locale, that’s where change can happen.

Melissa Rau: 15:39

So can you say more about that? Like I feel like there’s like where does the rubber meet the road? Like this really is about God’s goodness, looking back at what God has done, what God can do, but what are we to be?

Bishop Wright: 15:52

Well, I think what we’re to be, first and foremost, is hopeful, right. So what I would say is, if God ain’t dead, then there’s good reason to hope. And so we believe that God is living, and we believe that God is loving right, and we believe that God, as I like to say, makes gold out of garbage. We believe that God can breathe life into all kinds of situations. Won’t look exactly how we want it to look, but God will bring life, you know, out of what looks like death so often. And so I think we start with gorging ourselves, absolutely gorging ourselves, on the stories of the ways that God made a difference in people’s real life, and that needs to dance in our imagination, because I think if we don’t do that, what we are highly susceptible to is to despair. My daughter always wonders out loud to my wife and I why the hell. She doesn’t say hell, but why the hell do y’all watch, you know, the 630 News? Because her experience of the 630 News is is that it’s just one bad thing after the other, and oftentimes the news looks like that, with one little cat or puppy story at the very end. Right, you know? And, and you know, I don’t feel so bad about watching news. I need to be abreast of current events, I need to know what’s going on in the world, and I can live with that, that bad news, because I have so much good news. But there are a lot of people who don’t gorge themselves on God’s intervention, you know, in people’s lives over the last six, eight thousand years, and so they’re highly susceptible to despair. What is despair? The absolute absence of hope. Right, and so you know, one of the great gifts that we get through water and the spirit, right is, is that, though we face difficult days, though we face catastrophe and extraordinary circumstances, still we believe, right, that God is. We just experienced that. We just celebrated 9-11, you know that, that terrible day in Manhattan. I was in Manhattan that day, that terrible day when what I like to say is God’s angry children killed some of God’s innocent children. Right, and and and, and I mean all the horror, the fire, the doubt, you know the thing that we felt like the whole world was just coming unhinged, all of that. And I was had the privilege of being at ground zero just a day, one day after you know this, this, this event, and was there with members of my congregation, from the Cathedral of St John the Divine. Some of the buildings were still on fire and steel was wrapped around trees like ribbons. And I remember that somebody in the midst of that hell, that nightmare, had the presence of mine to write in the very thick dust, dust of pulverized concrete and pulverized people. Someone wrote in the dust on a building, on the side of a building that was being used as a makeshift morgue. They wrote, I still believe, right. So where did this somebody get the ability to see you know, on that Good Friday, you know an Easter, you know how did they do that? And I’ll never forget that, that moment, what I saw, and I’m sure it encouraged me and I can just imagine that it encouraged so many. Maybe, maybe this person knew what the Psalmist knew, that God can bring, you know, water out of rocks. Ron Hyffitz, a great teacher up at the Kennedy School, was a great friend of our now deceased presiding bishop guy by the name of Frank Griswold. And Bishop Griswold took his friend, a Jew, ron Hyffitz, down to ground zero in a little chapel that was there and this Jew and this Christian went walking, you know, into this chapel sounds like a joke and there over the altar was this wonderful statue of Jesus with his arms outstretched. And this Jew, ron Hyffitz, said to this Christian, frank Griswold, I don’t know, maybe your guy is the only person who can get his arms around all of this Right. And so there’s a then in the nowness to that If somehow Jesus can get his arms around all humanity and say I love you, even as we were crucifying him, then maybe he can get his arms around. You know our worst days, our worst decisions and all of that, and maybe maybe for us right now, practically that’s enough for hope.

Melissa Rau: 20:59

And thanks be to God. Bishop, thank you and listeners, thank you 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.