Have you ever been in the midst of an all-consuming pursuit, determined to mold the world around you, only to realize that you're not the potter, but the clay?
In this episode, Melissa and Bishop Wright have a conversation about his illuminating journey to Nepal, where he experienced the impermanence of life firsthand and reflected on the importance of graciousness and giving in our everyday environments. They discuss being stewards of our own lives, overcoming our ego-driven tendencies, and the turnaround God finds pleasure in if we lay it all aside to pursue God. Listen in for the full conversation.
Before listening, read For Faith.
you and I can decide that we're going to harbor no arrogance, no contempt. We're going to work our work, starting with ourselves, to make our workplaces, our homes, et cetera, et cetera, more gracious, more giving. We can decide all of that today, and so it's a cumulative effect. We didn't get here right by ourselves, but we can get to a better place with each one of us taking up our pieces of the work going forward, and so it's a daunting thought, and yet somehow God says there's a tailwind.Melissa:
If you go my way, this is for people with Bishop Rob right. Welcome to for people with Bishop Rob right. I'm your host, melissa Rao, and this is a conversation inspired by for faith, a weekly devotion sent out every Friday. You can find a link to this week's for faith and a link to subscribe in the episode's description. Hey, bishop, you've just returned from what looked like an incredible trip to Nepal.Bishop Wright:
It was. It was an amazing trip.Melissa:
What was the most surprising thing you experienced?Bishop Wright:
Oh my gosh, I mean we could devote the podcast to that entirely, I guess, really quickly, I guess, um, you know, you really do get a sense that we are a world community. I mean, we were there and we were in the hands of men and women in the Paul and we got a chance to meet women who are working their way into financial empowerment, economic empowerment, um, who are creating spaces for one another, um, where they could be affirmed and another generation could be invited into sort of a new kind of agency in that culture. Um, we met women who were sort of fending off these ideas of inferiority just because of their gender and, uh, and finding their way forward. It was, it was inspirational, um, it was humbling to be the guest, uh, when you're always used to being, uh, sort of the person who provides the hospitality, uh, to be a guest of really robust, rich, deep, lovely, wonderful, gracious hospitality is really humbling. So I felt very humbled by the whole thing and then, um, you know, we spent some time there, uh, you know, just sort of getting a sense of the culture and one of the things that practices that they take up in that culture is, uh, uh, you know, is, um, how they dispose really to use that word how they dispose of of the dead body, and so along the river there, there are all these cremations that are happening in real time and so, uh, you know, without the funeral home and a funeral home director, and all the things that we lay over the notion of death, uh, so you've got a real sense of of the impermanence of life. Wow, and that was really built into the way they live. So you live and you love, and you, you do whatever you do, and then you die, and uh, and then the cremation happens right there, uh and uh, and then all the ashes, uh, are pushed into the river, uh, and where we were, it was a sort of at the, where a tributary of the Ganges was, and so, um, it's a very sobering thing to think about the impermanence of life. And you know, there are monkeys everywhere who live around the temples where you do these cremations and uh, you know the monkeys are overseeing all the process. And so, there, there we are, and your family loves you and cares for you even at that moment, and then you're covered by straw, dry straw, and then the cremation takes place right there, um, so, so that may sound morbid to some, but I think one of the things that that faith invites us to think about is is that fact is the impermanence of life, and so not as a morbid sort of reality, but the fact that we have given life. And so, if we have life, you know, cherish life, live life, um, because you know, like we say in our own denomination, we say, you know, ashes to ashes, dust to dust and so to see that, um, you know, without all of the draping that we lay over it, um, here in the West was really, I think, was, uh was extraordinary for me to to stop and sit and see and think about.Melissa:
Well, welcome home.Bishop Wright:
Thank you, I'm glad to be home.Melissa:
So this week's devotion is called pleasure, which is really ironic Because it wanted to make me cry. Bishop, like this is serious, like I. I read, then I read. After reading the devotion, I read Ezekiel, chapter 33, verses 7 through 11. Yeah and then I felt like throwing up.Bishop Wright:
Honestly yeah, honest to God, because I was imagining God crying out to God's people who oftentimes just can't get out of our own way, while God pleads on, turn back to me.Bishop Wright:
And so what do you think is the truest thing sticking out to you today concerning this passage?Bishop Wright:
Oh, my God. I think that. I think that what we have to say, you know, if we're not careful, we will. We will round off the edges of scripture If we round, so that they fit neatly into our modern life. And so we end up being the potter and not the clay. The Bible says that we are to remember that we are the clay and God is the potter. And so, if God is the potter, god has a particular way and understanding and framework. And that framework is this you and I fall short. You and I go on these ego driven megalomaniacs sort of endeavors, with arrogance taking us over and ego taking us over. And you know the big fish and the little fish, you know, and all that sort of thing. We do this to each other, we do this systematically, we do this to the environment, and God does not sit idly by. There is a direction, there is a course that we're on, a trajectory that we're on, and all along that trajectory, god is that mother, god is that parent, god is that father Pleading. Why would you choose death? Why don't you choose life? Why don't you come home to yourself? Why don't you come home to me? And so what I was trying to do with this meditation was to talk about the ways in which we're on the wrong path, individually, at our own addresses in some time, in some cases, and systemically, nationally, internationally, and that God takes pleasure. Some people will see the irony in that, but that's what Ezekiel says. God takes pleasure in the turnaround. God does not take pleasure in you and I getting the consequences of our wrongheadedness, of our sin, of our arrogance, of our ego. God does take no pleasure in that. God takes pleasure in that you and I would sort of come to an awakening, we would realize that the path that we're on is wrong and we've got to come home. You know metanoia. We're talking about redemption, we're talking about reconciliation, we're talking about return, and so I think we do one another, and especially those who are in my line of business. We don't do anybody any favors by candy coating the consequences of our present behavior, and I know that nobody wants to be Debbie Downer, and everybody ought to be on alert for trying, you know, for being condemnatory and shame inducing. Yes, we shouldn't be those things. Jesus is not those things but we ought to give people some sober ideas from the scripture about the consequences of our present action. We ought to let people know what the sticker price is so that it creates a moment of earnest reflection which we hope will positively accrue to redemption and reconciliation and metanoia. That is, the turning around from our present ways so that God takes pleasure in the turnaround, I think should stir our hearts in an amazing way. Some of us, our parents, we all love somebody. To see our loved ones turn around from a course of action which we know is detrimental should give us joy. Right, and that should be our pleasure, is to see a child turn around, a spouse turn around, a loved one turn around and find themselves, find vitality and love.Melissa:
Well, on that note, we'll be back after a short break.Bishop Wright:
Hi listeners, thank you for listening to Four People. A space of digital evangelism. You can keep up with us on Instagram and Facebook at Bishop Robbrite. And now back to Four People.Melissa:
Bishop, I have to say this devotion this week, though a little disturbing, it's also quite a piece of art. I really appreciated some of the words you used. What I think you're saying in a nutshell is that we've become gluttonous in doing our own thing and yet God, like when God calls us back and we listen. God delights in what you called new obedience. Can you unpack this statement? There's pleasure in the undoing.Bishop Wright:
Yeah, I mean again, we're just simply using the scripture to and using the scripture as word. I mean, the scripture gives a beautiful character sketch, excuse me, of who God is. And as we live with God through worship and through scripture, in nature with one another, we ought to get some sense of who God is, and maybe we will fall in love with that. And so Ezekiel is holding that up. Is that? What kind of God do we actually serve? What kind of God is the author of all that? There is Well, a God that doesn't take pleasure in condemnation, right, a God that doesn't take pleasure in the destruction of the things, but rather in the turning around of things. And so for me, always, I wanna just sort of drill down on who God is in any particular. You know a Bible verse, because I think that's where the energy is, that's where life is. Look, nobody. I mean we can guilt and shame people if we want to, if that's gonna be our preaching project, right, and you might get some immediate results there, but ultimately that's not the gospel. The gospel is a good news, invitation to come home to yourself. You know, there's a wonderful, wonderful scene. I think I've used this before. There's a wonderful scene in that movie to help Much talked about movie, and where Viola Davis turns to a character who's just being evil and mean and mean-spirited and she says ain't you tired? And I think what I loved about that is that sometimes we have to get in touch with all the energy we're using to be something other than ourselves, to be something other than what God would have us to be. We have to get aware of that. You know, all these defense mechanisms and all these sort of compensate, overcompensations, and we do this individually and we do this as a system and it's causing us to pour out ourselves towards something that is not life. Ultimately, she could have said anything to that character about her mean behavior, her nasty behavior, her lies, all of that. But she asked her as one human being to another ain't you tired? And you know, and it's interesting in this Ezekiel text, you know, ezekiel gives God's word his own voice and says that God says why would you choose death?Melissa:
Right, and so I, hey, god is saying, hey, I take pleasure in the turnaround. And oh, incidentally, I've got a question for you. Yeah, maybe God is trying to understand human logic here, right, why would you choose that?Melissa:
Can we talk about that? Because you know, you, I it's, it's. It's not lost on me that this passage itself doesn't actually talk about life. Yeah Right, it doesn't. It's an allegory of death, yeah, and, and, and, and. I think it's juxtaposed by the idea of what life is, and so I'm wondering what this passage could mean if it actually boils down to a choice between the two life or death.Bishop Wright:
Yeah Well, I mean, scripture gives us an opportunity again and again, and always right. And every day you and I have a choice. Which one will you choose Right? Which one what? What will you feed today? Will you feed grace, mercy, forgiveness today, or will you continue with grudge and arrogance and all those sorts of things hurt, you know, and there's always the choice. And here's the thing about the scripture, and here's the thing about the God that we know in scripture that this God is saying give me the mess and I know how to make it, I know how to process it, give me the mess Right. So so we think we know how to process things adequately the pain, the shame, the guilt, you know the arrogance, the sin. We think we know how to handle it, how to hold it Right, and we may know how to do it for a little while, but ultimately those things end up being corrosive when you give them to God. Somehow God makes as I say all the time God makes gold out of garbage Right, and so we give our garbage to God and God takes pleasure in that. How about that? We have a. We have a recycler. Our God, a cosmic God who lives low and next to us is a recycler and knows how to do these things better than you, and I know how to do these things. I mean, isn't that what we're talking about when we're talking about certain states in our nation who want to lop off some parts of American history and only tell one half of American history? Isn't that what we're talking about? I'm not talking about being a Democrat or political. I'm not talking about partisan talking points right now. I'm saying that what we are saying when we lop off parts of our American history is we're saying we don't know how to hold together our glorious days and our shameful days, and so what we are saying is well, let's only talk about our most glorious days, which?Melissa:
is a lie.Bishop Wright:
Which is a lie, if it's a half truth. And a half truth is a lie. God is saying I can look at you, my people, my nation, my state, my county. I can look at you and I can hold both of those ideas together. And if you go my way and hold them both together, ultimately they'll be a better product, and that's why God is a genius, right. And then Ezekiel would say and God takes pleasure in that Well, and I think many times.Melissa:
I think people are looking at this life and death and they think after life or after death. They think beyond our living on earth and I don't know that that's true. Actually, when we make bad choices, we're dying on the vine.Bishop Wright:
Well, you know, I've got children, many people have children. I don't have grandchildren yet, but one day God may bless me with grandchildren, and I think about what will the water be like for them. I think about what will the zoos have left to show them. I think about you know those sorts of things, you know, in some Native American cultures they make ethical and moral decisions based on what's good for seven generations. So it's not the immediate profit incentive, it is what's the long haul, you know. And so I think about that. And you know, and it is true, that when Ezekiel is talking, he's talking about a society, he's talking about a culture, he's talking about norms, right, and these norms have been established, but these norms have departed from the covenant way that God wants to live with God's people. And so there we are again, we're taking our own path. We're telling God hey, thanks for the advice, we're going to go our way, right, we're going to abuse the environment, we're going to abuse one another, we're going to do all of that. We're going to make violence entertainment and entertainment violence, right, and you know, that's all good. And then now, what have we done? We've become more coarse, we've become more callous, and now violence. Violence has moved out of the movie theater and out of the video game and into real life, and our children have been fed constant diets of violence. And then we wonder where did this violent spirit come from? Right Now, I'm no prude right, and I'm not exactly a fool, but I mean. Actions and choices have consequences, and this is what Ezekiel's saying. So new choices are what God lights in an assessment and an audit about. Do you like the way life is going? If not, give it to the one who authored life and decide with God about your next set of steps and your next direction. This is what God takes pleasure in. I don't wanna lose that. We can lament, and we ought to lament. We ought to lament what we're doing, I mean, doesn't it? It gives me more than pause to think about that. There is an island of plastic floating in the Pacific, an island of plastic, and what is that causing? Now we're understanding that plastic is making its way into the animals and we ingest the animals, and this is plastic is into us. What will that do for us in the long haul? Right, and so there is these long, and so one can get completely depressed and overwhelmed by this and choose hedonism or consumerism or I meism as a way to sort of negate or at least mitigate reality. And God is saying no, stare it right in the face and give it to me, work with me, let's make our way, one step at a time. Now, you and I can't solve plastic in the Pacific, but we can do something today. We can make better choices today. You and I can't solve violence in the streets of Atlanta and beyond today, but you and I can decide that we're gonna harbor no arrogance, no contempt. We're gonna work our work, starting with ourselves, to make our workplaces, our homes, et cetera, et cetera, more gracious, more giving, more gentle. We can decide all of that today, and so it's a cumulative effect. We didn't get here right by ourselves, but we can get to a better place with each one of us taking up our pieces of the work going forward. And so it's a daunting thought. And yet somehow, god says there's a tailwind. If you go my way right, it's like those wonderful moving sidewalks in the airport you get where you're going a little faster versus the people who choose not to walk on those things. This is what we call grace, and the good news about any and all of this is that somehow God is tilted towards the turnaround.Melissa:
Yeah, it's not a magic prayer, it's not a magic bullet, it's nothing like that. It's just making one small choice, one small decision at a time.Bishop Wright:
We didn't get here by magic.Melissa:
So magic won't save us. We got here by choices, right, and so let's get somewhere else by new choices.Melissa:
Well, it was a pleasure talking with you today.Bishop Wright:
It was a pleasure to be with you.Melissa:
Thanks for listening to Four People. You can follow us on Instagram and Facebook at Bishop Rob Wright. Please subscribe, leave a review and we'll be back with you next week.