Being Significant not Successful


The other day I was talking to a colleague about how our goals often change in the second half of life. He mentioned a book he had read a few years ago that talked about how in the first half of life we strain to be successful, and in the second half we let that go and live to be significant. In the end, being successful is so much less than being significant. To be significant you need to have a much bigger appreciation for what your life might be about, and then be able to pay attention how you live that out in the smallest of ways.

I suspect that having too small an appreciation for what life might be about colours how we all live our faith. We too often miss the invitation to grow big in our vision and to embrace much bigger implications for our faith.

We can see this tension in scripture itself. We see the writers of the First Testament struggling out of their limited understanding of God as their tribal God who protects them alone, to the God who is creator of all creation and all people. With this change came a need for a bigger understanding of what it means to be the people of God. The Law moves from rules one needs to obey to earn God’s favour, to rules that allow the people to live as beacons of God’s generosity and mercy, both in how they treat each other, and in how they treat all others.  We can see this struggle in this morning’s reading from Jeremiah with the covenant being reframed from obedience of the people so that God will reward them to people shaped by God’s generosity and mercy already experienced, and offered to all creation. So are we people driven by obedience to earn our reward, or shaped by our experience of God in whom there is only love?

That same invitation is at play in John’s gospel. John portrays many of those who come into contact with Jesus as getting stuck on the signs themselves, and forgetting to look beyond them to the God revealed in the signs, and in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, the ultimate sign. When they look beyond to God John hoped their imagination would be blown apart and they would begin to see the world and all that is in it in a new light, God’s light. Their sin is that that they kept limiting all God offered to their needs and hopes and they reduced God to a force they could bargain with and be rewarded by.

As Jesus the Christ is lifted up in the crucifixion we too are exposed for who we are and what we have forgotten and how small our thinking has become.

As we prepare for our AGM I wonder if we are motivated by success or significance. I wonder how limited our imagination is, and whether we are willing to allow it to be blown apart by God’s generosity, mercy and love for all people and all creation.

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