This is one of those mornings where I know what I want to say, but was not sure where to begin. Or, even how to get there.
The first thread I began to tug on grew out of reactions and reflections about our recent high school work trip to Colcord, WV. After 30+ years of working in Buchanan County, VA where I knew the people and they knew me and I knew my way around, Colcord was completely new. A new location. New people to get to know. A new style and expectations to get used to. Maybe that newness helped me to see where I was a bit more clearly. In our reflections one evening, Kathy and I asked the group to share their reaction to what we were seeing and doing. Their reaction is what you might expect. A number of them were troubled by the poverty. All of them were glad they could help. Most were surprised by the warmth and hospitality of the people and the community. What I saw was the incredible beauty of the mountains and and what I felt was the deep sadness of the people. Despite all the political posturing and slogans, the coal industry was gone and is not coming back. And, because the coal industry was gone, the young people were gone. And, because the young people were gone the community was growing older. I saw again the great disparity in our country. It is a long way from the New York metropolitan area (or any metropolitan area) to Colcord, WV. A distance measured not only or even primarily in miles. As a Christian. As someone who talks about and does his best to follow Jesus, how do I care about and live with and respect those whose perspectives and views are so different than my own?
And, then there are the conventions.
The Republican Convention just finished.
The Democratic Convention about to begin.
I am already tired of the rhetoric.
And, I cringe at Christian pastors who stand up and call those with whom they disagree “the enemy.” I watch as young adults who are the age of my children shake their heads and turn away and say, in effect, if that is religion…if that is Christianity…I want nothing to do with it.
Can you blame them?
In the midst of all that I found myself again wondering…
As a Christian…
As a person of faith…
As someone who talks about and does his best to follow Jesus…
How am I to respond?
Especially when what I see and read and hear feels so wrong and sounds so offensive and reflects values so counter to what I believe and to how I read and understand the Bible. And, given the climate in our country and the political season in which we find ourselves, I cringe because all this is going to get louder and meaner and more divisive.
So with that, here is what I would like to share with you.
Not as an answer, because I don’t have an answer.
But three verses from Christian scripture which have been running through my mind this week. Verses which I am going to do my best to remember and use as guides as I as I move through the coming days and continue to wrestle with the questions and disparity around us.
The first is this. From the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Galatians.
For as many of you who are baptized into Christ have clothed yourself with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek. There is no longer slave or free. There is no longer male or female. For all of you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3: 26-27)
Maybe these words are among the most radical and most hopeful in Christian scripture. Those divisions which we create and build up and do our best to maintain…
Gay. Straight. Queer. Transgender.
Are not what God intends and do not have the final word.
The witness of the Bible is that in our shared humanity there exists a common bond even if I cannot see it. Can I hold onto that promise?
And this. These two verses from Matthew’s Gospel.
I am sending you out as sheep into the midst of wolves.
So, be as wise as serpents and innocent as doves. (Matthew 10: 16)
Go ahead. Be political. Be strategic. Advocate and work for the positions and causes and values which are important to you and which you think are in the best interest of our communities and our country and the world. Bring all your political savvy to what you do and how you do it. Be as wise as serpents and be innocent enough to believe the impossible is possible. But never forget this, because this may be the touchstone verse in all of scripture. In everything, do to others as you would have them do to you. (Matthew 7:12)
I guess what I am trying to say is this.
New York City.
Remember who you are and who God calls you to be.