Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Purpose and Meta-Purpose

Mark Zuckerberg spoke at a Harvard graduation where one of his points was that finding our purpose in life is not good enough - especially for the so-called Millenials.  (Read here)

Today I want to talk about purpose. But I’m not here to give you the standard commencement about finding your purpose. We’re millennials. We’ll try to do that instinctively. Instead, I’m here to tell you finding your purpose isn’t enough. The challenge for our generation is creating a world where everyone has a sense of purpose.

If I look at the places where I work as a church minister, I think that is a pretty good analysis. In a country where unemployment is high, purpose is hard to find for a lot of people. Telling them to 'catch a wake up' and find purpose in their lives is not helpful. They are too disillusioned and often not adequately prepared by their education and upbringing to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps, even if opportunities did exist . But asking those who have momentum and are progressing successfully through life to help create a world where everyone has a sense of purpose is meaningful.

It is the old fashioned Christian idea of taking the focus off 'me' and putting it onto 'you' or others. Yes, I want to understand that I have a reason for existing, a benefit to offer - but I also want to insist that you should have a reason for being and if that reason seems to be denied by society, something needs to change.

There is this idea of purpose and meta-purpose which sounds pretty profound - if I could just figure out what it means!

Practically, I want to challenge the young people in the confirmation class to find purpose in looking to the needs of others. To learn to be empathetic. To be active in helping. And possibly they will discover that sometimes the need of others is to find purpose. Then they can invite these others to join them on the journey.

Power of prayer

Zackie Achmat, who found himself sharing a protest outside parliament with a group from some churches, said that he wasn't interested in praying. I guess in his mind praying is at the least passive and at the worst ineffective.

I have found that when I pray for a community from the pulpit, and the congregation is obviously part of this, change happens. I'm sure it is not only as a result of prayer - activism is also often needed - but it seems to me that there is a link between prayer and change.

We have prayed often and earnestly about the violence and gangsterism in the Elsies River community. A new, additional, satellite police station has now been opened in the area. It would be fair to say that this was triggered by the tragic death of a child, but I believe that both prayer and protest paved the way for this solution. We will continue praying - now for the success and effective operation of the satellite station.

The question I had was how it happened that when I prayed so seldom the prayer was still effective - as I have not been in the pulpit in Elsies River every week. I think I found an answer today during a prayer meeting at 'my' other church. I heard congregants praying with the same sort of words with which I lead them and I realise now that when I pray I also model praying and this is picked up, probably subconsciously, by the people listening. This means that many people continue praying in the week, and weeks, what they have heard in church.

So prayer in the pulpit is multiplied many times and God is invited to work in our world over and over again. Pretty powerful!