- The Ponds – Mary Oliver (fireflydance.net)
A pastor once told a story about a visitor to a heavy-duty grease factory. When they arrived they were ushered into a large room, and a tour host introduced them to the company history and the number of employees at work producing the best machine lubricants in the world. They toured the noisy factory with lots of machinery and wheels whirling, mixing, and packaging. This place was full of activity.
As the tour ended, one of the visitors said, “I didn’t see a shipping department.” The guide responded, “Well, we don’t have a shipping department because it takes all the grease we make to lubricate our equipment and keep the wheels turning.”
If you were asked, you would likely say that was a waste of effort. We all know that goods are manufactured to be distributed. The purpose of a factory is to produce goods to be used by people outside of the plant. The church, however, is a grease factory of its own. Year after year we turn inward and forget that the purpose of the church is the transformation of the world. We spend the bulk of our resources keeping the wheels turning. Jesus sent us into the world to make a difference, and we must turn away from ourselves to be effective.
There was a time when we used to go to our neighbor’s house to borrow things. My mother would send me next store to get a cup of sugar or flour. I can also remember times when our neighbors did the same. Today we get in our cars and drive to the nearest store, and just buy it. We wouldn’t think of asking a neighbor.
In doing so we have lost a sense of an interdependent community that helps one another. We have replaced it with a strong notion of being self sufficient. Perhaps we are too proud to ask for help when we need it. Rather than being indebted to friends, we are indebted to credit card companies.
In the same way, we have left God and prayer out of our lives. After all, if we acknowledge that we might need something that the world cannot provide, we are a failure. The mere acceptance that there are things completely out of our control is an anathema to us, and should be avoided at all costs. I would suggest that it is in our need for God that true strength is found. We are not created to be alone and isolated, but to be in community with each other and God