For those of us who were mandated to take a course in Logic, we were taught the fallacy known as “post hoc ergo propter hoc!” In other words: just because something (B) occurs after an event (A) does not prove that B was caused by A – e.g., I get up at 5 am and decide to wear jeans and a N.Y. Mets sweatshirt instead of black suit and clergy collar. At 7 am a tree falls down over the Saw Mill River Parkway and backs up traffic for hours. Unless one were a deluded NY Yankee fan, you cannot argue that what I chose to wear earlier that morning had any impact on whether a tree would fall sometime later!
This week’s readings from Scripture brought to the surface some of the more demanding teachings of Jesus: about loving even those who cannot abide you, and not seeking revenge, and most importantly going beyond the demands of “the law.”
In the past weeks I have been watching with a mixture of grave concern, fascination and perhaps loathsome disdain how political discourse has not only degenerated into excuses for posting hateful communications, but it seems that it is becoming “fashionable” again to spew venom at any occasion. Even at clergy gatherings, debate regarding different ideas can devolve into name calling and shouting sessions intended to vilify anyone who does not agree with your position. I’ve watched behaviors on the subway show more flashes of anger and impatience than in years past. (I remember “bad old days” and I do not want them back!) There are now forbidden topics to discuss even in a family setting because of who will take offense at the very thought of thinking about a given issue.
Have we let the anger of political life seep into our daily lives, or even our lives as Christians? Has the political climate infected how we choose to treat “our neighbor” whom Jesus commands we are to love as much as ourselves. I don’t know what the cause of this change of attitudes that seems to be sweeping public and private life is, but I believe that if we stop listening to the voice of Jesus and making Him our priority and His life as our life, then I truly fear that we may be looking ahead to a culture dominated by anger and victimhood. Christ’s command to love the “other” may be seen as a hopeless ideal or even a joke. But I choose to walk His path! And you?
It is Sunday morning, and I have made it to the Church to fend off anyone who might wish to challenge the evil wet winter elements like I did. The ice/sleet is changing to snow even as I am writing, and it is getting harder to see out the window. Also, it is now very, very quiet. No sound of pinging off the windows, no sound of traffic … utter beautiful silence.
Sometimes it takes a morning like this to put on the brakes and be still. All the running about we do! All the programs, committees, assignments, projections, plans, papers, promises that fill our days come to a silent sliding halt on a day like today.
The psalmist wrote: “Be still, and know that I am God.” For all the “seeking” that our peers do (or claim to do), the simple unpleasant and unpopular truth is that unless one takes the time to be quiet, one is not capable of finding God. We do-do-do and forget to “be” – as in be silent, be open, be attentive, be watchful, be in the presence of the Divine One (in Three) who loves us and wants to be in relationship with us if only we would be still long enough to listen for the invitation.
Even if no one makes it this morning, I may stay awhile, and be still, and enjoy the silence, and be in the presence of God.
Last Sunday I used a few props to try to make the point that Jesus taught us, as his followers, to be like “salt” – a contrast to the norms and expectations of society or culture at large. Watching our evolving (devolving?) political life being played out in various news as well as social media, I can’t help thinking back to my early years as a priest in the 70’s when I was taught that, as a church, the message of the gospel had to be more “relevant.” This was a term which in effect meant that antiquated ways and traditional messages needed to be updated so that the message of Jesus would be heard by and be more at ease with contemporary culture.
But “being heard” does not equal “agreeing with,” and that is the point of being “salt of the earth” or “light of the world.” You have a couple of well used “church talk” metaphors which we often forget were part of the substance of the ongoing teachings of our incarnate God. Salt gives flavor. Salt changes the taste. Salt brings healing and purity. Salt is antiseptic as well as spice.
I don’t believe we as Christians are ever supposed to be totally comfortable with our culture, society, political systems – or any of the powers of this world (to use another church phrase). We are supposed to be different, better, almost a subversive force within “real life.” When church and state are too much in sync, maybe that is not always a good sign. Maybe we are supposed to be at odds with society’s usual expectations because the way of Jesus is not always the way of our political or business or social leaders – no matter which “side of the aisle” they reign from. If you are not comfortable, as a Christian, with your place in society, maybe that is exactly where the Lord needs and wants you to be!