Every now and then I come across a passage or prayer that grips my heart and soul that stops me in my tracks. This prayer, A Step Along the Way, by Bishop Ken Untener of Saginaw, is one of them. Such inspirational pieces, when they appear, just seem to cut through the chatter and chaff of the all too frequent religious dogma and instead release and lift us to a lighter and gentler new place.
If you struggle with the weight of the Judeo-Christian traditions, I encourage you to park all that (as I frequently need to do) and just take in the words and messages in this prayer. If you do, if you can, I’m confident that you will feel the better for it.
A STEP ALONG THE WAY
It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent
enterprise that is God’s work. Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of
saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the Church’s mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an
opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master
builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.
– Bishop Ken Untener of Saginaw
*This prayer was composed by Bishop Ken Untener of Saginaw, drafted for a homily by Cardinal John Dearden in Nov. 1979 for a celebration of departed priests. As a reflection on the anniversary of the martyrdom of Bishop Romero, Bishop Untener included in a reflection book a passage titled “The mystery of the Romero Prayer.” The mystery is that the words of the prayer are attributed to Oscar Romero, but they were never spoken by him.
This prayer came to me and other resource leaders in our Staff Notebooks at the start of a retreat led by Gretchen Baker Smith, JYM/JHYM Retreat Coordinator for New England Yearly Meeting of Friends. The takeaway here is that the Spirit moves and delivers on its own terms with a little help from Spirit-centered people along the way.
– K. Lee