Is anyone else reeling in confusion right now? I am sitting here looking out the window at the most beautiful snow fall I have seen in a long time. Big puff balls of flakes coming straight down, falling gently…gently falling… The trees are all heavy-laden; each branch supporting several inches of white creamy frosting, a scene that makes me just want to run outside and hug the universe. It’s a snow day deluxe! Schools and businesses are closed, and the world sits quietly, resting, knowing that everything is staying put – for now.
But then I open my news feed. Why did I open my news feed? I am confronted by a series of atrocities. I should be used to this by now. Not surprisingly, the list is even longer than that of yesterday. It is only 8:05 in the morning. Why did I open my news feed? Today, January 25, 2017, five days after the installation of DJT, and already a whole slew of radical departures from existing policies. The EPA has been gagged and bound. Communications blackout for US scientists. Twitter accounts disabled. Forward movement with The Great Wall of America. Forward movement on the Dakota pipeline. A new voter fraud investigation to be launched – really? Isn’t winning enough? The Dow Jones passes 20,000 for the first time in history – some folks are happy…
I went to DJT’s Facebook page. One of these happy folks wrote: “Trump put a freeze on all new federal regulations, many great nominations, the repeal of Obamacare has begun, along with the pipeline, next is lowering taxes, the wall, getting rid of common core, conservative justices and everything else. Every single day we have something to cheer for. Let’s hear it for our president. ”
I look at my own Facebook wall and it is laden with pain, grief, and anger.
One country, one world, one human race – yet it feels like two alternate realities. Maybe that’s why “alternate facts” became necessary. The world has gone batshit bonkers. It’s as though two dimensions have somehow overlapped. And we are only in the first half of the first week.
I am a Christian. I follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. That is what I believe Christianity is about. Following the teachings of Jesus Christ. But from where I’m sitting, it looks as though Christians have divided themselves into two groups of followers going in the opposite direction with each group believing that they are the ones following Jesus while watching the other group go astray. One world – two realities – each pushing against each other – hard! One reality sees the ghost of Hitler past rising out of the ashes. The other reality, the reality of “alternate facts,” see the reinstatement of our great and glorious country. Both realities believe that we can only occupy one reality. Both realities are at war with each other. Neither reality is willing to make room for the other; we have reduced ourselves to an either/or world.
I clearly see the perspective of my own reality, and I can honestly say that I do not believe the other to be faithfully following the teachings of Jesus. I read the bible, and it’s all right there in front of me: You’re blessed when you’re meek, you’re blessed when you mourn, you’re blessed when you can’t get enough righteousness…you’re blessed when you’re merciful, pure in heart, a peacemaker, and persecuted because you stand up for what is right and what is just. For me it is as plain as the nose on my face that building walls, closing borders, polluting the planet, and denying food and healthcare to people goes directly against the teachings of Jesus. For me it is just as plain as the nose on my face that we, as followers of Jesus, are called to stand up, speak out, and push back against any policy that enriches some while crushing others.
But I’ve also been around long enough to know that God’s universe is a both/and universe, and that this either/or world that we are trying to hammer out is going to end badly if we don’t start finding our way toward some sort of unity and wholeness. I’m all for standing up, speaking out, and pushing back, in the face of injustice, but I am not for running about helter skelter and putting a megaphone on everything that comes across my newsfeed. I am a pastor; I am called to be a prophetic voice, but I am also called to be a pastoral presence – which means I am called to listen.
Many of us are speaking out. Many of us are feeling that call to prophetic witness. But speaking strictly for myself, I know that I have to reign in that impulse sometimes in favor of more facts and greater understanding. Walls are destructive, but it’s not enough to just protest walls; we have to build bridges. And in order to do that we need materials and tools that can only be acquired through listening.
I know a lot of people who believe that this is the dawning of a new era of prosperity and abundance for America. What sort of frustration and fear leads people to believe that purging the country of everyone who is of a different nationality will lead us in the right direction? What sort of frustration and fear leads people to believe that denying others healthcare is a logical move? People like DJT fuel and play on those fears – through listening. Why can’t we build a better world using that same strategy?
So here’s my new strategy. Listen. Stand up. Listen. Speak out. Listen. Push back. Listen, listen, listen.
A Sermon based on Isaiah 6:1-8 Today my job is harder than at any other time since I have been preaching. I have written and rewritten this sermon so many times, yet the right words continue to el…