Monday, April 10, 2006

Finding God on the Mississippi

Many of life’s pursuits begin as labors of love, and end as mere labors.

Young Mark Twain loved working on the steamboats back in the mid-1800’s. As these industrial marvels moved down the Mississippi, Mark Twain spoke of the rapturous beauty he experienced: “The world was new to me, and I had never seen anything like this at home.”

But as his knowledge grew, his enjoyment diminished:

“A day came when I began to cease from noting the glories and the charms which the moon and the sun and the twilight wrought upon the river’s face; another day came when I ceased altogether to note them. Then, if that sunset scene had been repeated, I should have looked upon it without rapture, and should have commented upon it, inwardly, after this fashion: The sun means that we are going to have wind tomorrow; that floating log means that the river is rising, small thanks to it; that slanting mark on the water refers to a bluff reef which is going to kill somebody’s steamboat one of these nights, if it keeps on stretching out like that…”

He concludes:

“No, the romance and beauty were all gone from the river. All the value any feature of it had for me now was the amount of usefulness it could furnish toward compassing the safe piloting of a steamboat.”

This is most deadly, it seems to me, in Christian service. As a pastor, nearly everything I enjoy about the Christian faith can be utilized in some form of “ministry.” This is true for all believers to some degree. Therefore, I was grateful for an exhortation I received from a fellow pastor yesterday. He urged me to always remember what Jesus said to the disciples when they rejoiced in their success:

“Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:20)

No matter how useful the river becomes, may we always strive to appreciate its beauty.

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Quotations are from Mark Twain’s Life on the Mississippi.


Jeff said...

I suppose my flying buttresses weren't too controversial. I'm preaching tommorow (wednesday) for a special lenten service at church. Help!

Anonymous said...

You must have slipped something by the watchdogs. I would've expected your flying buttresses to be controversial because one interpretation was "spirituality: it's all about me."

Watchdogs? You out there?

Ken (Anonymous because I forgot my own password!)