Daily Reflection
October 27th, 2007

David Gardiner

English Department
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One of the lists that Tom & I used to banter around after football or basketball practice respectively were “God’s mistakes.” (A bit of explanation here: as a Theology-History double major & English-Philosophy double major, this was an inevitable list for the two of us.) Aside from the fact that it might be heretical to consider something like this (and briefly leaving off obvious things like avocado pits and platypuses), we would most often come back to St. Paul.

I was convinced that Paul was the victim of a celestial mob hit gone wrong. That, in fact, he was not supposed to have been converted, but to have been—like one of my Old Testament heroes Absolom—done in on that road for his persecution of the early Christian church. How else could you explain all the schisms which had resulted simply from the readings of his letters? Or, as I would frequently argue in my coup de grace, how else could you explain the difference between the renunciation of the flesh in the letters to the Romans and the embracing of flesh and spirit in Jesus of Nazareth’s sacrifice.

Well, karma is a funny thing.

As we volunteer to write the Daily Reflections, we offer dates and take what comes. When I saw that I was to reflect upon the very message that years ago would end early morning conversations and still, to this day, stymies me, I thought: so this is my test?...Why won’t this go away!

During a late October lightening storm the other evening, I was reflecting again on this question—how Paul could state so categorically to leave the flesh behind in favor of the spirit within. When I looked at the trees in Dundee blowing in the unexpected storm, that’s when I really heard the parable from Luke in today’s work.

Anyone who works in gardens knows that there are no easy, quick answers. Five years isn’t too long to wait for a wild rose bush to decide about what it’s going to do. Each spring as people buy their annuals in local shops, there’s something ironic about the fact that they’re buying plants with a year’s lifespan based upon how many months those same plants have already grown towards their end. The most impatient among us buy the annuals closest to death.

Things that make sense take time. We won’t understand them right away and maybe as Luke 13 states, we don’t understand the timetable that they’re on. The fig tree has not born fruit for three years, the person complains. So wait another year. At the same time, don’t be complacent. Cultivate, fertilize, and till the soil. But don’t expect things of the greatest importance to run on your schedule.

I don’t think God keeps lists. And I don’t think that as clever as we think we are, we’ll understand all that we want to. I don’t understand Paul, or what people throughout history have done with his message. I understand his love of the word and his passion. But the rest, that’s ground that I’ll continue to water and watch while I keep lists that God probably doesn’t pay much attention to.

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