Saturday, November 21, 2015

Peace on Earth

One of my favorite Christmas carols is "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day," mainly because I like that last verse about "God is not dead nor doth he sleep."  But, after hanging out on facebook for a little while, I'm stuck in an earlier verse..."Then in despair, I bowed my head. "There is no peace on earth," I said, "for hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men."

If the terrorist intent is to divide the rest of us, they are doing a fine job. Quite frankly, we ought to be ashamed.

I have seen such ugly things posted and re-posted.  I have seen ugly comments between "friends."  I've seen the media spin stories - with little regard for truth, it seems to me - to appeal to their viewership or their readership or whatever.  It feels like we've lost all decency...not to mention integrity.  It feels like the "sides" are using great tragedy to benefit themselves...and that is shameful. Are we even capable of feeling shame anymore?  Are we even capable of feeling embarrassment?  Are we even capable of recognizing our own participation in "mocking the song of peace on earth, good will to men"?  Or, are we mainly interested in being right and making our point?

I don't know.  I don't mean to post something so negative.  I guess that today, I felt overwhelmed with the heartlessness I believe I am witnessing.  I just cannot believe some of the things that are being written and spoken.  Today, I feel as though we are so far away from the higher good that faith calls us to.  In fact, I feel as though we are not interested in the higher good.  We are content to wallow in the basest parts of human nature.  In essence, we are content to let terrorism define how we feel and how we treat each other, and that just makes me sad.

As soon as we can define someone as a "liberal" or a "conservative" or a Republican or a Democrat - and we are doing this constantly in response to the terrorist attacks, I guess, because it makes us feel like we have some control if we can name who we don't like and who we ought to blame - as soon as we can stick a label on another person, they cease to be a person - they are a category - either a friend or foe.  And, we are getting into trouble with that.  People are getting angrier and angrier and meaner and meaner and we cannot find any common ground.

Somebody needs to do something.

Somebody needs to demonstrate a better way.

Somebody needs to "fear not" and "behold the good tidings of great joy which shall be for ALL people."

That somebody is us.

I don't know how to do it - but I am going to start by being careful about what I post.  I am going to start by praying for people I don't like and with whom I disagree.  I am going to start by reviewing my day every day and assessing where I've participated in "mocking the song of peace on earth."  Then, I am going to ask for forgiveness and I am going to do better.  I am going to put my trust in God and believe that Jesus was serious about loving God and loving neighbor.  I am going to read a gospel - probably Matthew - to see if I can jog my memory as to what Jesus actually said about enemies and strangers and peace and friends and God and all that stuff.  I'm not relying on someone else's editorial to do that for me - I'm relying on the Holy Spirit and my genuine effort.

I can't fix the world, but I can improve my corner of it.  I will not let my faith be defined by fear or anger.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

A Day that Counts

Every day counts, but some days, that truth seems especially salient.  Today was one of those days. Early this morning (OK, it was 8:15 AM but that counts as "early" on a Saturday), I met several of our "church ladies" in the church parking lot.  We were heading to Raleigh to walk in the LUNGe Forward Walk.  We are not normally a group that is too keen on community fitness events.  However, today was different.  We were walking for our friend, Sheree.  So, we had on our active wear, our walking shoes, and our church t-shirts...and our coffee was already in "to go" cups.  We prayed a short prayer on the side porch and loaded into our cars for the drive.

Just when we thought the rain might hold off, the bottom fell out of the sky!  Rain came down by the buckets!  Visibility was bad, and we started to have second thoughts on our very noble plans of walking.  But, the parking garage was easy to find, and more importantly, a parking space was easy to find!  We put on our ponchos and jackets, and with umbrellas in hand, we walked out into the rain to find the registration tent.  After getting our free t-shirts and race numbers, we stood around...still raining.  We visited the porta-potties...still raining.  We found Sheree's team tent and put our new shirts in a bag to keep them dry, and then we stood some more...still raining.  It was then that Sheree's sister walked over to say "hello" and to give us the surprising news that Sheree had come to the walk.

That news was like a break in the clouds and a bright ray of sunshine for us.  It was the boost we needed to stop feeling sorry about our sopping socks!  We immediately left our puddles and went to find Sheree - she was hanging out in the survivor's tent, and she looked great and even seemed happy to see us with our bad hair and muddy shoes! So we posed for pictures and visited for a little while, and then the walk started.

Still raining.

But, with Sheree there, we felt a particular determination and we didn't mind the rain.  In fact, it almost felt cleansing.  In fact, it felt like an honor to walk for our friend.  In fact, it felt

Church is a beautiful thing.  Church is standing out in the rain and being soaked by friendship that is spirit-driven.  Church is your heart being lifted simply because someone else's heart is lifted.  Church is stepping out of your comfort zone to do good in the world.  Church is the healing that comes from laughter and knowing you are loved.  Church is the connection we have with each other through God that starts before birth and never ends.  Church is the presence of God fully recognized in each other's eyes.  Church is all that and more.

So, we had church in the rain today.  We "passed the peace" as we walked with each other.  Although we had no Table, we still managed to experience communion with pizza and bottled water.  And, believe me, the Spirit was there.  Yes, the Spirit was there.