Many of us are active in responses to the world’s needs, wounds, and injustices. We resonate with Frederick Buechner’s often-quoted phrase, “God calls us to where our great joy meets the world’s great need.” If we’ve stayed around awhile, we have found this to be true. To be sustainable, our presence in hard places cannot be spurred merely by dogged heroism in the pursuit of righteous causes. Or worse, an asceticism that imagines if there is deprivation somewhere, we have no business enjoying anything anywhere. We have found joy in our difficult places of need, and the joy sustains us.
We are not simply given to the world to be used up, consumed. We know people (and maybe even been people) who have “burnt out” in our settings and it’s not a pretty sight—no gift to anyone at all. Surely this is not the way of the meal of blessing. In the way of the Eucharist we are given in a way that nourishes all.
As important as Buechner’s observation is, there is a much deeper truth to our calling. Our most important formation is not around need. Rather, it is around abundance. It is around delight. It is around peace. It is around freedom. It is around beauty. It is around freedom. It is around fullness. It is around yes.
The Hebrew Scriptures refer to all this as shalom. Sometimes translated as peace, shalom carries a far richer meaning than simply the absence of conflict. In fact, its essence is not rooted by the absence of anything. Shalom does not come into being by correcting any deficit. It is more than simply a remedy. Shalom exists prior to lack, pain, injustice, or no. It is the Yes of creation. It flows from the I AM before anything was not.