January 29, 2017
Letters Home (from a retired pastor to his family, the Church)
Like many of you I grew up in an era when it was easy to believe. The time and place was the 1950’s USA. I know this is a generalization. All we have to do is remember the air raid drills of our youth, and the civil rights demonstrations of the time. While these things were real, they did not take away from the underlying fabric of hope and trust of the times. Our mothers taught us to respect and trust those in official positions. We looked to the police as our friends, firefighters as helpers, teachers as having our best interests at heart, priests and pastors as guardians, and the president as someone to look up to and support. These were good years in which to form our basic view of the world around us.
For many, things began to change during the conflicts of the 60’s and 70’s. From that chapter forward many baby boomers have believed in only one thing; doubt. The doctrine of doubt now lies close to the heart of America.
This last week has been the first full week of a new Presidential administration. Few may agree with what I am about to write. The elections of presidents Obama and Trump may hold something in common. Setting the office holders aside and looking solely at the electorate, these two elections could be signs of a resurgent desire of the American people to once again find something they can embrace and believe in. The challenge is that the futures signified in these elections are polar opposites. Despite this contrast, the desire to again believe in something is the same. The tragedy is that these two expressions of hope do not seem to be interested in communicating with each other.
Over the years I have been engaged in an ongoing conversation with a friend of mine. We have spent what might amount to weeks of constant conversation on the state of the world, our government, and those of other people around the globe. I cannot begin to tell you how many “solutions” to the problems of injustice, poverty, and sound governance we have floated between ourselves. And almost every conversation ends with one conclusion: as long as these systems depend on the unruly human heart for its ultimate guidance, we are all lost.
This Sunday many of our churches will pray a prayer that makes a simple request. That request will be based on an even simpler assertion. We will ask for God’s peace, because we know that God is the ruler of all things. If I were a skeptic, I could look around our nation and world and say that if this is how God rules, we are in trouble. Before we jump to that conclusion, let’s try to remember how God chooses to rule. He is not a dictator, CEO, or obsessed with control issues. God chooses to govern in collaboration with each of us. That is why He gave us free will. The Scriptures teach that God placed the human family in creation with the command to care for God’s creation. In the Gospels, Jesus shared His power and authority with His friends. God rules all, and He chooses to rule through every fallible human heart. Consequently the messiness, fits and starts, of any progress we might make.
The peace our prayer seeks is much more than the absence of conflict. It is a request for the reconciliation of all things with itself and its Creator. This includes the coming together of every one of God’s children, with all our differences. When this finally occurs, our nation and the world will know God’s peace, and experience something worth believing in.
In the meantime, we are called to remember that our particular dream of a land and government we can believe in is only a fraction of God’s possibilities. We know this because the person next to us cherishes a dream different from our own. Our call is to enter into a dialogue with each other in an effort to discern God’s fuller dream for His people. This dialog requires respect, openness, and honesty. It also depends on our interpreting the other’s motives generously. When we do this, this prayerful dialog will be none other than an expression of God’s governance of all things. The time is now.
Almighty and everlasting God, you govern all things both in heaven and on earth: Mercifully hear the supplications of your people, and in our time grant us your peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (BCP 215)