Where to begin this morning?
With the newspaper in one hand and the Bible in the other?
Struggling as so many of my colleagues are who, this morning, are standing in front of congregations trying to pull some sense of understanding out of the headlines in the news? If that is where I am to begin then it would have us be heartbroken and sad alongside God. Not that the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin was incorrect. I honestly don’t know enough about the nuances of Florida law or enough about the legal strategy of either side to evaluate this case, but I do know this. I do know that if Trayvon Martin had been afforded the same presumption of innocence which George Zimmerman enjoyed, Trayvon Martin would probably still be alive today. And, if George Zimmerman had listened to the police when they told him to “stand down” and to let professional law enforcement officers respond, Trayvon Martin would probably still be alive today. And, if George Zimmerman had not walked into the confrontation with a gun, Trayvon Martin (and George Zimmerman) would probably still be alive today. And, as someone posted on Facebook this morning, “My prayer is to live in a world where George Zimmerman offers Trayvon Martin a ride to get out of the rain.” To the extent that fear and prejudice and race and pride and violence ruled that day, God weeps.
Maybe I should just stop there and either let you respond or close with a prayer and send us on our way, but having said what I have what I wrote on Thursday seems to make more sense today than it did then.
Here is what I mean.
Each year as I get ready for our summer work trip to Buchanan County, VA, besides making sure we have plates and bowls and health forms and first aid kits, I take a few minutes and put together a couple of pages of quotes that we use as the conversation starters for our evening reflections. I take the time collect those quotes because I believe that as important as what we do is, thinking about why we do it is equally important. With each quote I chose I spend a couple minutes thinking about it and about how high school students might hear and respond to it and about how it’s message might add to the experience and the learning that takes place on our trip. One of the quotes I added to our page this year from the poet Maya Angelou, who writes:
”Each of us, famous or infamous, is a role model for somebody, and if we aren’t, we should behave as though we are — cheerful, kind, loving, courteous. Because you can be sure someone is watching and taking deliberate and diligent notes.”
And, while this quote was not one of the ones the students chose for our quote of the day and our evening discussion, a handful of the kids did read it as they selected a quote to share, and I knew it was there. I found myself thinking about it in terms of the example I was setting in how I interacted with the students and with the families on whose homes we were working and the example we were setting within the larger community around us.
Someone was and is watching.
That is what I want to remind you of this morning.
Someone is watching.
I am not talking about the NSA or video cameras in stores or on stop lights or about Google or Facebook.
I am talking about your children and your grandchildren.
I am talking about your neighbor and your co-worker.
I am talking about the person in line behind you at the grocery store and the wait staff who serve you at the restaurant.
They are watching.
Probably not taking notes with pen and pad, but taking the measure of who you are just the same. In the same way we all do with those around us. As they watch they are gauging who you are and what you value by what you say and what you do and how you work and how you treat others. And, while I started this morning with the quote by Maya Angelou, knowing just a bit about her background and what she values, maybe she started here…
With Jesus and this familiar verse from Matthew’s gospel:
You are the light of the world.
Let your light shine before others that they might see your good works and give glory/give thanks to God.
I am literally preaching to the choir this morning.
I am not telling you anything you don’t already know and don’t already take to heart and don’t already put into practice in countless ways each and every day.
But, maybe the reminder doesn’t hurt.
Because we all get tired.
We all get distracted.
We all make mistakes.
And, there are times when we all want to turn away or turn our backs. Or, when the last thing we want to do is to cause trouble or to make waves. Or those moments when we find ourselves going too fast from one thing to next that we fail to see the moment and the person and the circumstance right in front of us. When we are blind to who and what is around us. Blind, too, to who we are and to who we are called to be.
So, this reminder…
Doing my best to hold the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other.
Character is not something we teach. It is something we show.
Faith is not just something we talk about, but something we live.
Right now. Just as it is.
May be the only gospel…
The only glimpse of that which we know and name as God…
That another will ever see.
You are the light of the world.