Monday, May 12, 2008

Bono , Theodicy, Jimi Hendrix

Here's Bono the theodician pastor paying a pastoral call to a Tanzanian boy who has been through tragedy (1:15ff....not to mention the intriguing connections to Jimi Hendrix and the stained glass window of the church he's visiting)

I have been asked to guest teach a session of a Fresno Pacific University philosophy class.

The topic: theodicy/the problem of evil.
The professor thought it would be good to have a pastor's perspective.

Yet the only thing pastors really know is they don't really know why God allows suffering and evil.
Of course we know all the classic arguments/theodocies, but like St Ethel confessed, ("COFFEE, NOT JESUS"), aren't we all "occasional atheists"?

“I’ve got nothing left to give,” the professor said.

Several years ago some other pastors and I had responsibility for a pastors retreat. We decided to bring in a deep, profound, distinguished man of God; a professor renowned in the field of spiritual formation.

We were busy pastors, some of us bordering on burnout; we badly needed retreat…and training in the meat spiritual formation .

So there was indeed a huge hunger and holy hush in the room, when after weeks of waiting, the respected PhD, whom we were thrilled had said “yes” to flying out the 3,000 miles from his seminary to enlighten our relatively small but serious group, opened his mouth that first night.

Bibles and notebooks in hand , we leaned forward to receive what the master would say; what gleanings the guru had studied and prayed hard to impart.

His opening line broke the silence, the mood, and all the “rules” of grad-school-level spiritual formation 701:

“I have nothing to give.”

“Excuse me?,” I am sure we all collectively thought.

He continued, oblivious to our headscratching; indeed not even acknowledging the question marks hanging over us.

“I almost didn’t come. I almost cancelled, but I figured this retreat was booked, and I had better keep my commitment.

You see, the other day, I woke up to my wife saying ‘I’m leaving you.’

And she did.

I was so distraught that all I could do was immediately, and in a daze, drive the thousand miles to my best friend’s house.

When his wife answered the door, she could only manage: ‘How did you know?’

‘Know what?, I asked.

‘He just killed himself!’

I could only jump shellshocked into my car, drive all those miles back home..

..To find my house had been struck by lightning and burned to the ground.”

The question marks over our heads were gone.

He matter-of-factly concluded:

“So all I could do is keep my commitment and make this retreat where you want me to teach you spiritual formation. I’m sorry if I’ve made the wrong choice in coming; if I’m wasting your valuable time and money. I am here to teach spiritual formation, and maybe I can do that…

The only problem is I’m not sure I have anything left to give.”

That was the most profound lesson and lecture in spiritual formation that I have ever received.

As you can tell, I remember every word of that opening lecture.

-"The Lord Be With You...Even When He’s Not"

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