Sunday, September 18, 2016

Intersting times

Timothy 2:1-6 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) 

2 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity. 3 This is right and is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 

5 For there is one God;
    there is also one mediator between God and humankind,
Christ Jesus, himself human,
6     who gave himself a ransom for all
—this was attested at the right time.  


The first text message came at 9:23 Friday evening.  "There was a drive-by at the high school.”   Within minutes my neighborhood was filled with the sounds of sirens rushing to and fro.  A helicopter was circling over head.   Before long my phone was blowing up with text and Facebook messages. There were rumors.  “The coroner’s van is there!” one person said.  “This used to be a nice town,” someone else said. “I’m moving to Utah!” said another.    For those who don’t know - at the time of these wild rumors Selma Fire Department paramedics were on scene, but no coroner’s van.  No one was hit by any bullets.  Our Selma High School band kids and football players and fans and everyone from Coalinga High School are ok.  Upset, but ok.

At 7:35 Saturday evening an email came from Reuters News Service. “25 injured in an explosion in Chelsea District of Manhattan.”  That number has risen to 29.  A second bomb was found.  The NYPD is calling the bombing intentional.  People on Twitter are having no problem assigning blame.  “It’s the Muslims!” says one.  “Kick out all the illegals!” says another.   But the fact is, no group or individual has claimed responsibility and the NYPD hasn’t yet said anything about who might be responsible.

”May you live in interesting times.”  Everyone says this is an ancient Chinese curse, but as is fairly common with things that everyone says, there is no proof that any Chinese source, ancient or modern, exists for this saying.  It is, however, a potent curse.  It is one that seems to have attached itself to the poor young man in the image we’ve used today.  Very much like the character Joe Btflspk from the old Lil’ Abner cartoons, Wizzard Rincewind only has to step outside onto a quiet street to provoke a sudden invasion of barbarian hordes in the middle of downtown where ever he might be, even if the nearest barbarian horde is thousands of miles away.   Rincewind is a character in the Discworld series of books by British author Terry Pratchett, who imagined a world that was flat, and carried on the back of four elephants who are standing on the back of a giant tortoise swimming through space, and all the insane things that might occur on such a world where science doesn’t exist and logic isn’t terribly well respected.  

It’s kind of an odd curse, when you think about it.  Do we want to live in boring times?  In times when nothing ever changes, nothing new and exciting happens, no new ideas or new scientific breakthroughs or new inventions come into our lives.  I might get annoyed when my phone blows up with all kinds of data flowing in, but would I want to live in a time when nothing new or different ever happens?  Hardly any of us actually attract barbarian hordes, or find ourselves escaping from some insane accident on a living piece of luggage, or walking around with a storm cloud over our heads.  For most of us, unlike Wizzard Rincewind and Joe Btflspk, life is fairly mundane.  For most of us, life is a steady round of routine events broken up by occasional excitement.  

And when there are terrible things happening, what we get to witness is heroism.  We get to see and hear about the people who go above and beyond to help, to make positive changes, to reach out to the people who are affected by whatever the terrible thing is.   Sometimes we get to be the ones helping.  

We have all probably heard it said that this year, this particular election year, is more heated, more divisive,  more violent, and more nasty than any other election year in our  history.  That’s not, actually, a true statement.  From the time of the first elections in this country there have been horrible smear campaigns coming from both sides.  Some of us are old enough to remember when rumors of mental health issues leveled against one Presidential candidate led to his defeat.   Andrew Jackson’s wife was horribly vilified in the press, and when she died in his arms of a sudden heart attack just days before his inauguration, he blamed his opponent for hounding her to death.  Abraham Lincoln’s opponents were particularly vicious, not that it kept him from being elected.  We have all heard that candidates are told by their campaign managers that they have to go on the attack, because they will lose if they don’t.  We have all heard that nice guys finish last.   We may all have strong feelings for or against a particular candidate.  

And none of that matters, because we are told to pray for all of them, for all of those in high places.   We are told to pray in thanksgiving and supplication and intercession for all of our leaders, whether we like them or not.  Whether we agree with them or not.  Whether we think they are doing the best they can or not.  

It’s one of those pesky “Love your neighbor” things.  I know.  Annoying, isn’t it?  But that’s the difficulty we face in being Christian, in behaving like Christians.  We have to follow that pesky Love Commandment whether we want to or not. It is not a suggestion.  It is a commandment.  We have to love our neighbors, all of them. Not just the ones we like or agree with or find attractive in one way or another.  All of them.  

Interesting times, as we tend to think of them, are exactly the opposite of the hope expressed in 1st Timothy, which is “that we might live a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity”  Not in violence.  Not in anger.  Not in heated accusations and arguments. Not in rumors and wild speculation. But in godliness and dignity.   

I think we can live that way during interesting times.  Even when we are surrounded by anger and violence and disagreements and rumors and wild speculations, we can be the voices of reason. We can be the calm, collected, loving people who step in to stop the violence, to bring peace into a situation.  We can be the ones who can be depended upon to keep our heads no matter what is going on around us.   I think that we, through our determination to live in such a way that Christ’s love pours out of us onto everyone we meet, can bring godliness and dignity into every situation we face.

“For there is one God;   there is also one mediator between God and humankind,  Christ Jesus, himself human,  6  who gave himself a ransom for all —this was attested at the right time. “   And we are his hands, and feet and mouth.  it is through our efforts, our prayers, our actions, that the world can truly be saved.

It won’t be easy, but we have a secret weapon. We have something stronger and more powerful than wealth or weaponry or anger or even armies.  We have the power of prayer.  If we pray for peace, our hearts will know peace.  If our hearts know peace, we will project peace.  If we lift up prayers of gratitude for everything we have, gratitude will guide our living.  If we pray prayers of thanksgiving, even for the things we do not especially like in our lives, our thanksgiving will bring blessings, not just to us, but to everyone around us.    

We are living in interesting times.   May our prayers and supplications, may our words of thanksgiving and praise, may our desire to love and care for all of our neighbors, fill the world with the love of Christ.  Let us pray continually for our leaders, for all of them, lifting our voices in thanksgiving and supplication and intercession, that they might also know the Lord’s peace in their hearts, so that we might all live in godliness and dignity, in Christ’s name.  

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