This week, three notable events will occur within a span of four days: my sixty-fifth birthday (okay, that one may be notable only for me) and Thanksgiving Day in the US (both on November 27) and the first Sunday in Advent, which is the beginning of the new church year (on November 30). Combined with something that happened last Saturday, this “triple conjunction” of events gives me an opportunity to say something I have been pondering for some time.
First, the Saturday occurrence. Following dinner at our house in honor of his mom’s birthday on November 17, my grandson, Parker, asked if he could borrow a pencil and a sheet of paper from a notepad near my computer. I asked what he wanted to write and he answered, “A speech.” Ten minutes later, he handed me the “manuscript” you see below
In case you have trouble deciphering the penmanship of a seven-year-old, here is what he wrote: I want to be rich. Not with money, with love. And make the world a better place. Thank you, God. Thank you!
I have no idea what prompted his composition nor where he planned to deliver his “speech,” but I could hardly take issue with its content. It made this grandfather’s eyes well up with tears and my heart overflow with gratitude. And it provided me an opportunity to share what I’ve been thinking about for awhile, waiting for the most appropriate context in which to write it.
I want to declare publicly that, while doctrine is important and tradition has its place and order is helpful, nothing trumps love and compassion and understanding and acceptance. In the past, I have been known for my commitment to truth. In the future, and for the rest of my life, I want to make it clear I now believe that, if something does not exemplify and manifest the loving, compassionate, caring spirit of Jesus, it is not the full truth. Moreover, if I must err, and sometimes I will, I hope to err on the side of love and compassion, even if that appears to run counter to the letter of “truth.”
A friend once told me, “The person with an experience is never at the mercy of the person with only an argument.” He made that point in defense of his experience within the charismatic community which my theological arguments could not explain. It has broader application, however, and I think it warrants inclusion here.
That’s it. That’s all I wanted to say. That is my birthday wish, my Thanksgiving prayer, and my resolution for the (church’s) new year. I am prepared to be criticized and castigated by those who misunderstand my intentions or disagree with my resolve. I think Jesus understands.
And so, Happy Birthday! to those who, like me, were born on November 27. Happy Thanksgiving! to my friends in the United States. And Happy New Year to those who, also like me, have come to appreciate the blessings and benefits of the church year calendar as an aid to faithful discipleship.
Grace and peace to you all, and, of course…
Soli Deo Gloria.