March 1, 2022

From The Rector…

“Work hard in silence, let your success be the noise.”

Frank Ocean is an American hip hop artist and song writer and author of that quote. He is a creative force who came on the LA scene working in fast food restaurants and ghost writing for pop stars. When he first arrived on the scene, he was unheard of, but his talent (coupled with a drive to succeed) has landed him a record contract, kudos as a graphic designer and photographer and a recognized contemporary cultural icon. He is not afraid to experiment and try new approaches to traditional material. He doesn’t live “loud” but his life is full.

Frank’s understanding of silence and noise is a bit along the lines of what Jesus tells us to do in scripture. In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus tells us to “give alms” but don’t “sound a trumpet”; “when you pray, go into your room and shut the door”; “when you fast, don’t look dismal.” Basically, when you are doing what you need to be doing—just do it and release the need for others to know about it or praise you for it. Do the work and others will know, not because you made sure they saw you doing it, but because the fruit of your labors will be the sign of your efforts.

What Jesus is speaking to is the transformed life. It is not simply that we give, pray, and fast or that we do these three things without anyone else knowing that we are doing them. It is about learning to live in such a way that all of our life becomes reshaped—sometimes in ways we are not even conscious of.  

When we put our heads down and get the job done, we are living into a way of life that doesn’t require accolades because praise and appreciation for our work is not what fulfills us. Our reward is simply in the work itself and knowing that we have accomplished what we set out to do and worked the purposes of God. We may celebrate that work every now and then, but when the work is the focus and God is at the center of it, we don’t need an “attaboy” to get the job done. We simply trust in the depths of the thirst-quenching, life-giving, joy-seeking labors for the Lord.

I have often heard people shy away from anything they think of as a discipline. It is as if they believe that in some way their freedom will be limited or that God should be easier than that. But discipline is about commitment and growth. It is about intentionally participating in a particular action in order to achieve a desired outcome. Sports analogies are always easy when trying to explain spiritual discipline, but where they fall short is that when you commit to a discipline of exercise—you and others can physically see the transformation. That is not exactly the case with spiritual disciplines. In the practice of spiritual exercise, you and God clearly see the transformation—but others may or may not.  God knows our hearts, sometimes better than we know them ourselves, and God knows the transformations—the deep purposes and foundation of all our yearnings, thoughts, and actions.  

I encourage you this Lent, to examine your own spiritual disciplines and recommit to the deep intentionality of them in growing your heart and mind and body into the purposes of God. Maybe you do that by taking on something, but I wonder if the practices in your life might be better served by giving up something that distracts you from them? For the next forty days, might you let go of the need to do more and simply be more? We are human beings after all and not human doings.

Maybe you do your job, cook dinner, take out the trash, feed the dog, call your mom, give time to the church, read the Bible, run an errand for a friend without advertising that you are doing it. Or complaining about it. Or using it as an excuse for why you’ll be late or can’t do something else. Simply be a focused and intentional person—doing the work you are called to in this world and letting go of the commentary, complaints, and criticisms we so often find ourselves embroiled in at home, at the office, at school, at church, at anywhere we seem to find ourselves. I wonder, if in so doing, we might find an invitation to look upon the world anew and be transformed.

Light and Life,