Guinness and God

Drink more beer. That’s what I said when the bishop asked what we could do to create a climate in which we might better hear God’s word to us. The idea came from something Martin Luther said: “While I drink my little pint of Wittenberg beer, the gospel runs its course.”

It’s what the Taoists refer to as practicing non-action, or “doing not-doing.” Stephen Mitchell, in the foreword to his translation of Tao Te Ching, described how “a good athlete can enter a state of body-awareness in which the right stroke or the right movement happens by itself, effortlessly, without any interference of the conscious will. This is a paradigm for non-action: the purest and most effective form of action. The game plays the game; the poem writes the poem; we can’t tell the dancer from the dance.” As Lao-tzu wrote, “Less and less do you need to force things, until finally you arrive at non-action. When nothing is done, nothing is left undone.”

Some people in the church have reservations about Eastern philosophy, but I think there’s a link between what Luther and Lao-tzu say. What God is doing is powerful stuff. Maybe the best thing we can do is quit trying so hard at what we’re trying to do and learn to relax into what God is doing. The Chippewa had another way of saying it. “Sometimes I go about pitying myself, and all the time I am being carried on great winds across the sky” (Robert Bly’s translation). John Wesley described it as grace – prevenient, justifying, sanctifying, perfecting – all of them ways in which God acts on us and on the world, before we know of it, in ways more powerful and effective than anything we can do.

Don’t get me wrong. What we do is important, vitally so, and opportunities to act, once squandered, can never be recalled. But I know I try too hard, try too much to control methods and outcomes. It’s a self-imposed, perennial burden. I do better when I trust myself less and God more.

I think it’s time for a pint of Guinness.

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