For People
For People
Unimpressed
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About the episode

What does God take pleasure in? At some point, we have to move in a direction that says I am in relationship with all that is – meaning we aren’t in the driver seat! A huge appetite for control tells us God is not a part of our lives – and we are afraid of something – why not give up some of that?

In this episode, Melissa and Bishop Wright have a conversation about what God is unimpressed with, and it is our ability to love and have compassion that truly captivates God’s admiration. In simple words, “healed people heal people”. LIsten in for the full conversation.

Before listening, read For Faith.

Transcript

Bishop Wright: 0:00

What does God take pleasure in? And at some point we’ve got to move if we want to mature a relationship with God, if we want understanding, spiritual understanding. We’ve got to move in a direction that says I’m in relationship with the creator of all that there is, and so I’m not in the driver’s seat here. I think what a sort of huge appetite for control tells me a couple of things. It tells me you don’t have nearly enough God in your life. It tells me you’re terribly afraid of something. Why not give up some of that this?

Melissa: 0:40

Welcome to For People with Bishop Rob Wright. I’m Melissa Rau, your host, 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: 0:57

You named this week’s devotion Unimpressed, and you based it off of Psalm 147. It’s really kind of talking about what does or what doesn’t impress God, and you say what doesn’t impress God is a number of things right. So I’m curious though because you choose your passages in order to write your devotion what made you really hone in on this one?

Bishop Wright: 1:25

Well, you’re asking me about process and I imagine that people wonder that. So in our tradition, of course, we have four pieces of scripture that are possible on any given Sunday. We call that the lecture area offering and I read through them all. I typically read through them all on a Monday and just sort of sit with them and just let one over the others speak to me. I suppose, and it doesn’t sound very scientific, but it’s sort of an intuitional thing kind of maybe more art than science. And I’m a person like everybody else. I’m watching the news and I’m living my life and everything. And sometimes just reading the paper and things occur to you. And I think what helps me to try to choose the texts is that when I see society or even the church heading in a direction that seems like it’s a departure from the biblical understanding. And it’s not that I have some sort of all-seeing eye over here or anything, but I notice things that get conflated and I notice sometimes the church trying to be like the world, and there’s no better corrective for that than the Word of God, than holy scripture that tries to bring us back to this unique understanding of love, of generosity, of forgiveness, of sharing and of power. And so when I read Psalm 147, it’s just so interesting that God seems to have a different idea about power than we have in the world and that we strive for in the world, and I just try to take a stab at that and try to bring that to people’s attention and let them do their own meditations.

Melissa: 3:15

Sure and Psalm 147, I think this is the quote from the scripture directly is God is unimpressed by the might of the horse or the strength of a man.

Bishop Wright: 3:26

That’s right.

Melissa: 3:27

And so you’re saying OK. Well, I guess my question is like yeah, we know what unimpresses God. It means our strength isn’t strong enough, and I imagine God saying oh bless your heart Right, right, exactly, exactly. And yet I can’t help but wonder about that power differential, and I guess where’s the gap? I don’t want to ask you why, because I feel like I don’t know that you actually know why I don’t know why.

Bishop Wright: 3:53

I’m a traveler, just like the rest of it.

Melissa: 3:54

Exactly. I wonder where does love show up in that power differential?

Bishop Wright: 4:01

Well, I mean, that’s a great idea to tie together here. So I think what the Psalmist is trying to help us to understand is, number one who is this God anyway, and what appeals to this God? I think that’s one thing. Number two, I think the Psalmist is trying to help us understand that there are destinations that you’re unable to arrive at by a worldly definition of power, and I think that’s the biggest piece. And so I think what the Bible will tell us is that God is love, and so if God is almighty, that means God has all power, and God is not just loving, but God is love. So, therefore, the logic would tell us that God is abundant in love, and that is the most durable, you know, a force in the universe. So I think that’s the power piece, and so I think that’s why we’re always invited into, you know, to understand the depth of the power of love. You know, love is the most adaptive force, it fills all the cracks, it finds a way to fill things that we can’t fill with clumsy attempts at human power. And so I think what the psalmist is trying to invite us into is to think about our understanding of power. Look, you know, as we said last week, you know, what we tend to want to do with power is to dominate, and what God seems to want to do with power is to build and make whole and forgive and equip and heal, and so that makes it different. And so you know, I like that. The psalmist says you know, because who doesn’t like some? You know, I was looking at some video the other day of these gigantic draft horses, and of course, I grew up in the days where, during the Super Bowl and I imagine it’s that’s gonna be true coming up for us now, as you get to see the Budweiser, you know horses, you know, pull the big wagon. I mean wow. I mean think about, though, what an amazing creation, big and strong and muscular across the chest, and they’re able to pull great weights. And of course, we think of the strength of a man, the strength of a person, by, you know, physical attributes, maybe even by the power of their intellect. But there’s another quality that we’re invited to think about and even aspire to, and I think that’s what God wants us to spend some time on.

Melissa: 6:30

You know, I am thinking about the idea of. It’s not an idea, it’s real. The power of love is the most powerful force. Right, that’s what we’re saying, right? If we believe in what we say every Sunday and we believe in God and we believe in the power of love, we know that love wins. And so I guess I’m just wondering here, goodness gracious, what is it about human beings who feel like they need to use the domination and the violence and the corruption and all of that stuff to control, rather than leaning in on the power of love? You know, it’s an interesting thing right.

Bishop Wright: 7:10

So we, you know people doubt God, and of course many of us have come through, and maybe even still in seasons of doubt, and I get that. But one thing that is really hard to doubt is sin. All you gotta do is read the newspaper, all you gotta do is scroll. We find a way to hurt one another, even when we don’t intend to. We find a way to diminish one another. We find a way to lie, cheat, steal. You know harbor, grievance, malice, et cetera. We find a way. So the newspapers tell out, you know the sad news that there is a thing called sin and that human beings are highly susceptible to it. And so I think that’s what it is. That is just our feature. We have 10 toes and we are people who miss the mark. You know, st Paul says in one place you know, I don’t do the good I want to do and I do the bad that I don’t want to do, you know. And then he cries out who will save me from this body of death? And then he answers his own question Jesus Christ will Right. And so I think you know, even in that little bit of scripture. So then what would impress God? What impresses God is that we find the strength, based on the encouragement that we are loved by God, to face our own shortcomings and are absolutely, you know, being tantalized with power over one another, of greed, of all those things I mean. Think about the Ten Commandments of bearing false witness against each other, coveting other people’s stuff. I mean, that’s just that’s who we are, and it’s not that we’re just totally depraved, it’s just part of the human condition. Call it a design feature. Now, the good news about that design feature is that we have medicine, there is a resource, and so I think the psalmist is trying to point us to God, that strength in God, and trying to describe for us what our strengths might be, and they are number one to have to catch sight of myself. Right, lent is coming up, the season of Lent, and so one of the great gifts of Lent is that I take some time, bring some intentionality to it and I catch sight of myself, I look in the mirror, and so where do we find the courage to actually confront my shortcomings? Well, we find it in the abundant knowledge that we are loved by God. There’s nothing you can do to make God love you more right now, and there’s nothing that you can do to make God love you less. Right now you are loved, you have dignity and worth. You’re made in God’s image and so, based on that assurance the song Blessed Assurance we can look at our weaknesses, because that’s the only way we can heal and we can admit that these are the things that seduce me, whether you want to call it. That came to us through family of origin issues or other fears and deep-seated insecurities, whatever you want to. However, we get to these places. Now we have an opportunity to confront that, and that’s a strength. That’s a real strength. Think about it. You’re not always externalizing. You can find the depth and the quality of reflection to notice your gaps and to give them to God. That is a strength. We say in our baptismal covenant when you fall into sin, will you repent and return to the Lord? That’s a strength, that’s a competency, that’s a capacity. Apparently, according to the biblical record, that impresses the hell out of God. Right, god is like wow. Now here’s one who wants to worship, reverence and revere me, and so God is like wow. King David has a really checkered record there in the Bible, but the Bible tells us that King David was the apple of God’s eye and David did his thing. I mean I’m not sure why people haven’t made for Netflix or Hulu show about David. I mean, what better tragic character than this guy? I mean, he’s got all the charisma, all the charm, all the courage and all the sin All the sin. But at the critical moment, when he is confronted with his shadow side people like to talk about now, his dark side or his own sin he does the trick, he says forgive me. And I think this is what impresses God Not just clumsy physical strength, but a strength of spirit and a strength of humility I mean, we don’t usually put those words together either to be strong enough to be humble. So, as I say in the meditation, it’s a heightened awareness. And so as my awareness of God increases who God is, god’s character sketch, as told to me in scripture and in worship, and in worship music and in nature and in fellowship one with the other, then I get a sense that I can come out of my scared little corners and move towards God. And when I do that, I’m really exerting strength. And I’m exerting strength based on the strength of God loving me and inviting me into the near presence of God. It’s an extraordinary look. These are spiritual realities that we’re trying to talk about now. As I like to say, this is about spiritual maturity, and so if we’re going to be moving out of sort of generally familiar with some ideas in scripture and into a deep and real relationship with God, we’ve got to go this way and we’ve got to ask ourselves so then, what does God take pleasure in? And at some point we’ve got to move. If we want a mature relationship with God, if we want understanding, spiritual understanding, we’ve got to move in a direction that says I’m in relationship with the creator of all that there is, and so I’m not in the driver’s seat here. I get to respond to this, and so, as I’ve said, and other opportunities to speak, it’s more surfer, I’m more riding a wave than I’m controlling anything. I think what a sort of huge appetite for control tells me a couple of things. It tells me you don’t have nearly enough God in your life. And, number one, it tells me you’re terribly afraid of something, and so you know why not give up some of that? And I understand that this is easy to say on a podcast and all this sort of stuff, but I mean that is the journey of growth personal growth, growth with God and therefore think about the positives that will accrue to everybody you encounter. You know, as you and I stand more steady in who God is and want to please God, we release into the world something that the world is in desperate need of.

Melissa: 14:17

Well, I want to talk more about that after this very short break. Welcome back to For People. Bishop, did you get to see a case for love?

Bishop Wright: 14:44

You know I’m just recovering from the flu and on the night we were supposed to have I’m very disappointed. On the night we had our Atlanta premiere. Of course, for those who don’t know, a case for love is a movie featuring our own presiding Bishop, bishop Michael Curry, and friends Becca Stevens of Thistle Farms and et cetera, really just making a case for love. I mean, it’s aptly sort of titled. I didn’t get to see it. I’ve seen some pretty significant clips but I haven’t seen the whole thing. But that’s what I’m talking about.

Melissa: 15:13

Well, there was this one. You said something before break. You were talking about having to face your woundedness like name it in order to heal, like we need to name it. And my very favorite quote in the movie was you know, we often say, hurt people, hurt people. I hear that all the time, yet one of the people in the documentary said, almost even under his breath healed people, healed people.

Bishop Wright: 15:39

Exactly. Heal people make room for people. Heal people bring gentleness. Heal people. Heal people bring kindness. Heal people move. They refuse indifference. Heal people look at people like siblings rather than opposition or enemy. I mean there are any number of advantages and you know it’s interpersonal. Here’s the thing about this whole God business. You know we think about these. I’m reading the brand new biography of Dr King. It’s released by a guy by the name of Jonathan I and it’s now been put forth as the definitive biography. And you know, before Dr King, you know, gets to the steps of, you know, on the Lincoln Memorial, on the mall in 63 August of 63, there are any number of interpersonal betrayals and encounters that he has to navigate. I mean his house has been bombed. At that point he’s almost lost his wife and first daughter. At this point he’s been betrayed by other black clergy in Montgomery, jealous people. I mean we are looking at someone who’s soaring rhetoric is grounded in the day-to-day life, injury of forgiveness, of, you know, attempting to do better, you know of a real person’s life. And I think we’ve got to remember that when we’re thinking about these sort of what we’ve some people would call spiritual super athletes or, you know, elite spiritual athletes. It’s all grounded in interaction with human beings. Why does God take on frail flesh and come among us? Because that’s where it is, you know that’s where it is. I mean God would be a lot less persuasive to me personally, you know, speaking for myself, a lot less persuasive of God state in God’s high heaven and just watched us suffer. But to come among us at a great power differential, to place limits on God’s own power, to come among us so as to show us a way forward, to me is why God is worthy of praise and adoration, because that’s a great exertion of power, I mean. So it’s no wonder, then, tying this back to the Psalm, it’s no wonder that that’s what impresses God is to do what God did, which is to put constraints on our appetites for power for the benefit of the whole. That’s the greatest exertion of power. Is that I use my power for mercy.

Melissa: 18:35

You know, I’m thinking of net carbon neutral.

Bishop Wright: 18:38

Sure.

Melissa: 18:39

You know, is there a sin neutral response? You know, can we just focus on doing those random acts of kindness during the day and, you know, just chip away at all the bullshit.

Bishop Wright: 18:55

I don’t know if there’s that’s an interesting idea. I’ll have to think about sin neutral, you know. But I think what we have to realize is that you know what impresses God also is the very opposite of what I call religious entertainment. You know, it seems like what impresses God again is the heart. And out of the heart, you know, the Bible says, out of the abundance of the heart, doth the mouth speak. Good old King James language, doth the mouth speak. Right. And I think you know, from the heart flows. You know our better actions, and so you know what impresses God is if we, so to speak, take our heart in hand and hold it up to God. And you know, the truth of the matter is that we have such great blind spots I speak for myself we have such great blind spots and we don’t even know the places where we need healing. And so you know, what impresses God is, it seems, is to be able to do that act, that gesture. Here’s my heart, god. There’s a great song by a gospel performer by the name of Lauren Dingle, and that’s her song here’s my heart, lord. And I think that’s what we’re really talking about. Because, you know, think about the power, then, right. So the power is in my submission. These are bad words in modern culture. These are words that we modern people, you know, we expel from our conversations. Obedience, humility, submission and you know the truth of the matter is is that we can get real cute with religious language if we want to. But, as they say, those are the fundamentals. And it’s not about a lack of self-worth. In fact, it’s exactly the opposite it is. I find my self-worth in the gaze of the Creator. I find my best sense of myself in the love and the gifts and the mercy and the forgiveness of the Creator. So why wouldn’t I submit to that? And you know, and in the areas that I am rebellious against that, those are the areas that I need healing. So to be a strong man as the world defines it, to be a strong horse like the Budweiser Clydesdales, you know God is like, yeah, that’s cute, that’s cute. But you know I’m in the soul-making business, you know I’m in this changing the spiritual temperature of the universe business, and so strong horses come and go and strength fails us all eventually. But what seems to be a participation in eternal strength seems to be, you know that we would say God, how might I please you today?

Melissa: 22:05

Thanks be to God.

Bishop Wright: 22:06

Yeah.

Melissa: 22:07

Bishop, thank you and listeners, we’re grateful to you for For People to . 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.