Living in Hope

20190214_121630The past three weeks have been challenging.  We’ve had snow, ice, a polar vortex, more snow, more ice, and far too many school closings.  Everyone is getting tired of it.  The mounds of snow may be growing, but our patience with winter certainly isn’t.

Today, we received the first phone call of the year asking about a plot in our community garden.  Right now, our garden boxes are lumps of snow in the parking lot.  The woman who called was wondering when planting would begin. She can see beyond the snow and ice to spring.  She is living in hope.  In the midst of winter, that can be hard to do.

What about us?  Are we living in hope?  Do we see beyond the current challenges to better days ahead?  We live in a society that tells us we need to be afraid—of climate change, of the deficit, of antibiotic resistant bacteria, of people from different cultures, of what is going on in the government, of financial security, of the possibility of needing nursing home care, of terrorist attacks, and the list goes on, and on, and….

In the midst of our fear, it can be hard to remember that the Bible repeatedly tells us not to be afraid.  It can be hard to remember that our security comes from God, not from the government, or our finances, or anything else society tells us is important.

Christian hope is a gift we have to offer in a hurting world. It is the confidence that God will win.  Julian of Norwich (born around 1343), describes a vision she had as she struggled with despair.  In Revelation of Love, she writes what she came to understand God was saying to her, “It is true that sin is the cause of all this pain, but all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”  Let us set out to show the world what it means to live in hope.

Changing the Question

Have you ever noticed that when something bad happens, we immediately look for someone to blame?  We look for someone to blame for traffic accidents, for confrontations, for wildfires, and for government shut-downs.  We look at societal issues and argue over whether they are real, and if they are real, over who is to blame.  We study poll numbers, looking for ones that support our perspective.  We like it when we see the majority of people agree with us.  We like it when we can blame those we see as different. We want to find easy answers, answers that don’t require us to make changes.

I suggest we ask ourselves a different question.  Rather than who is to blame, let’s ask ourselves, “What can I do to help in this situation?  How can I bring healing?  What can  I do to make it less likely this will happen again?  How can I be a partner for change?”

These are uncomfortable questions, because the focus is on changing ourselves, not someone else.  We are comfortable, and we don’t want to think of ourselves as sharing responsibility for the challenges we face as a society.

Here’s a hard truth:  the only person we can change is ourselves.  By blaming someone else as the cause of the problem, we are able to avoid doing anything to address the problem.  There are so many challenges we face today, and as long as we can blame someone else, we are absolved of  any responsibility for them.

Delta Presbyterian Church is beginning a series of community forums to address some of these issues from the perspective of the question, “What can I do?”  Rather than assessing blame, we want to look together for solutions.  Rather than focusing on our differences, we want to find common ground.  The first one, which takes place at 4:00 on Sunday, February 10, will focus on bullying.  We will watch a video, and then hear from a panel that will include school administrators and students.  I encourage you to join us as we seek solutions together.


Of Words and Bombs

When I began writing this, pipe bombs had been found, but who had made them and what the motive was were unknown.  We now know who did it, and we have also seen an attack on a synagogue in Pittsburgh in which 11 people were killed.

Violence seems to be growing, and these two incidents seem to have motivated by hate and fear.  These are fed by the current divisions in the country, and by the words we use to describe those with whom we disagree.

Here is what I know:

  • Words matter. When we refer to those with whom we disagree as the enemy, it matters.  When we refuse to show respect and listen to other perspectives, it matters.  Those words led the bomber to think it was appropriate to send bombs through the mail.  Encouraging violence is never okay.  Applauding someone who decks a reporter or who runs an official out of restaurant is not okay.
  • We need to avoid jumping to conclusions. At this point there are suspects in custody for both the bombs and for the shooting in Pittsburgh.  While we have ideas about what motivated them, we can’t be sure. Jumping to conclusions and casting blame makes the divisions within our country worse.
  • There are people out there actively encouraging the divisions within our country. Both Facebook and Twitter have found automatic systems that have been posting propaganda created by people from Russia and China.  When we share an incendiary post, we are aiding them in their efforts to damage our country.
  • We need a free press. The founders recognized the importance of a free press to assure that we know what is going on in our government and are able to make informed decisions when we enter the voting booth.  In this digital age, we have more news outlets than we ever thought possible.  Some of these are legitimate sources that value truth.  Others spin the news to support their own biases.  We have a responsibility to read critically.  We need to be willing to fact check stories before we share them.
  • We are all in this together. This time the targets were Democrats. In June of 2017 the target was Republicans practicing baseball.  The divisions and heated rhetoric put all of us in danger.

As Christians, we have an opportunity to show a better way.  Here are some of the things we can do:

  • We can stand above the divisions and listen to all perspectives and model respect for all people.
  • I have my thoughts on what is best for the country, but the reality is that I could be wrong. Any of us could be wrong.  We need to step back from our certainty to consider other perspectives.
  • Ultimately, our security comes from God, not the government. We know that God will win.  As hard as our current situation is, we know that we can trust God.
  • There is power in prayer, and we need to be willing to pray for those with whom we disagree—not that God would stop them or make them see things our way, but that God would guide them and bless them—wherever that may mean.
  • Pray for victims of violence. Pray for Democrats and Republicans. Pray for the faith and courage to stand for Christ in a hurting world, not in a partisan way but in a loving way.

Let’s show the kind of love that is stronger than fear and hate.  Let show the power of Christ in a hurting world.MLK