Because we are so far from living out Jesus' dream for the future, does that mean both we and Jesus have failed? As if anticipating that his followers might be tempted to think so, Jesus spoke often of inconspicuous beginnings — the small amount of leaven that produces fifty pounds of bread (Matt 13:33), the tiny mustard seed that grows into the largest shrub (Matt 13:31) or the few seeds that land in good soil and produce an astonishing hundredfold yield (Mark 4:1-9).
Archbishop Oscar Romero, who (like Jesus) was killed because he dared to challenge the domination system of El Salvador, understood Jesus' trust in small beginnings. The following prayer, "Prophets of a Future Not Our Own," was written by Ken Untener in 1979, but is commonly known as "Oscar Romero's Prayer":
It helps, now and then, to step back and take the long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is beyond our vision. . . .
This is what we are about: We plant 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 effects 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 well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for God's grace to enter and to 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. Amen.