Monday, February 16, 2015

Bishop Jim Gonia: Public Servants as 'Stewards of the Divine Zoom Paradox' (Part 2)

(Bishop Jim Gonia of the Rocky Mountain Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) delivered the keynote address at the luncheon sponsored by the annual bishop's luncheon sponsored by Lutheran Advocacy Ministry -New Mexico in Santa Fe on February 10, 2015. In Part 1 of this series, we published his message to justice advocates. The message is similar for legislators and public servants) .

LAM honored Sen. Peter Wirth for his work in the Legislature
"If you are a public servant, you too are a steward of the Divine Zoom Paradox.  As Lutherans, our way of understanding God's work in the world is not limited to people of faith or activities of the church. In fact, Martin Luther was very explicit that government itself was one tool through which the God of the Universe was active and at work among us in very specific and particular ways.

That may not be something you hear very often, but it's how we understand what is taking place in the Roundhouse and in all the work you do, whatever your role might be.

There are at least two ways that being Stewards of the Divine Zoom Paradox applies to those of you called to public service in government. The first is pretty simple, but it's easy to overlook.As you tend to your work, keep in mind the benefit of  zooming in and out often.  It's called perspective. As you attend to the specificity of a bill or a measure or a law, it would be easy to get caught up in the minutia. But if you can stand back far enough to recognize how your work relates to the common good of all the people you serve, remembering that the welfare of any community is ultimately measured by the well-being of those who are most marginalized or who are in the situations of greatest hardship. This gives necessary perspective to all your efforts.

Photo: Karen Navarro
A question of Perspective
And as you keep your eyes on that larger landscape, you may discover new insights that inform and guide your work on the specific measures before you. I recognize that it's not always easy to know when to hold the line, when to compromise, and when to capitulate. But keeping your eye on the bigger picture can provide important perspective.

Sometimes it's simply not the right time or condition for change to happen or for it to happen in the way we think it should. It may be that your task in the moment has to do with planting seeds rather than harvesting the fruit. As you well know, there is value in such effort, even if others can't see it. We want you to know that we in the faith community appreciate your efforts on behalf of the poor and marginalized, even when the time is not right for specific changes that we hope to see.

It is in the willingness to zoom out and in and often over the long haul that we begin to gain the wisdom that is not only a divine gift, but so necessary for faithful public service.

There's another significance to understanding yourself as a Steward of the Divine Zoom Paradox if you're a public servant. It's rooted in the fact that the work of governing is hard, and it can often be thankless. Zooming out to see the larger vision of a God who is utterly committed to the well-being of the whole world and its people. This can offer hope and strength to run your race with perseverance. Zooming in to claim what you do every day as your vocation, as your God-given calling, this can be a source inspiration and motivation.

One of my spiritual directors once told me, "Jim do what you're call to with all your heart, but don't attach yourself to the outcome."  That is great insight for anyone who is a Steward of the Divine Zoom Paradox, whether your service is through the church or through the public sector. Serve with passion in the specificity of your context. Trust the ultimate outcome to a God whose vision of what will be and whose commitment to bring it to reality far exceeds anything we could possibly imagine.

Next: Part 3: The Divine Zoom Paradox in images and music

No comments: