Pastor’s Ponderings

We Shall Endure

Proverbs 1:2-3,5 “For learning about wisdom and instruction, for understanding words of insight, for gaining instruction in wise dealing, righteous, justice and equity……let the wise also hear and gain in learning, and the discerning acquire skill.”

As a voter I have the right to know which candidate’s views reflect my best interest. Unfortunately, so much of what I’ve heard during the beginning of the presidential campaigns is how the other candidate is unqualified rather than what the candidates will do for me. This thought has been reflected by many of us who look at the time between now and November and are uncomfortable with the upcoming presidential election which dominates the news. Not only will the candidates go up against each other day after day, with the media recording and commenting on every word, but social networks now provide a platform for anyone to weigh in, offer unfiltered opinions, and at times cast out ill will. Politics can easily degenerate into an unfortunate game where money, power and influence eclipse the sole purpose of government, which is to serve the public good.

While I don’t participate much in posting on Facebook I do monitor Facebook periodically where so much negative is being said about the candidates. When candidates focus on slandering their opponents rather than offer well thought out perspectives on the issues, the political process is diminished. At times, when the primary criterion of voters is how the candidates will make their own lives better, liberty and justice for all is brought into question.

When students receive degrees in higher education, the president of the college or university usually says these words, “I confer upon you the bachelor degree (Masters, Dr. of Philosophy, etc.) with all the rights and privileges thereof.” Rights and privileges go together and are earned as a result of achievement. Sometimes, however, we hear another word slipped in with deliberate intention, “I confer upon you the bachelor degree with all the rights, privileges and responsibilities thereof.”

What a difference a single word can make. The purpose of an educational degree is not to receive but to give back. A degree holds little value if the recipient does not use it to make the world a better place. Likewise, a vote means nothing unless it is cast with the desired outcome of creating a country and a world where every person has enough food to eat, shelter over their heads, clothes to wear, the opportunity to receive a good education and a rewarding job.

“Responsibility” means “The state or fact of having a duty to deal with something.” Public service is not about becoming rich or catering to the powerful and influential. Nor is it about increasing the ever widening gap between the haves and the have-nots. Political leadership is a responsibility to govern in a way that levels the playing field so that all experience wholeness and peace (shalom).

In some way, voting is not about casting our lot with politicians who cater to our own self-interest. Voting is a corporate responsibility to select leaders who demonstrate the qualities of compassion, honesty, respect and a passion for service.

We can wonder what would happen if we took responsibility seriously in the church. What if we taught our children, young adults and adults that each one of us is a “Little Christ” and therefore responsible for carrying on God’s redemptive work in the world? What if we tried to actually live as Jesus lived by pointing away from self to the common good? What if we were always conscious of how our thoughts, words, deeds, attitudes and motives represent Christ? What if the church insisted that everyone has a right to be loved by God – enemy and friend, lost and found, rich and poor, forgiver and forgiven, leader and follower?

Actually, becoming a Christian will not give us any rights that we do not already have, except perhaps to vote on church business if we are a member. However, being a disciple of Jesus Christ will confer upon us great responsibility. How might our churches look if we acted upon our responsibility to throw open the doors of grace and hope to her hurting world?

*Our major focus would be to share the good news of Jesus Christ and make disciples.

*We would have many opportunities for spiritual growth.

*The goal of every single program activity would be to connect people with God through learning, service, community and outreach.

*Worship would become an exciting experience where the Spirit moves mysteriously and freely in our hearts, convicting, converting and encouraging.

*Servant leadership would be then standard.

*Our church buildings would become a launching pad for outreach and mission to neighborhoods, communities and the world.

*The broken and outwardly successful, the confused and the called, and the searching and the sure would experience healing and begin to look beyond self to a hurting world.

*We would pledge responsibility to support the breaking in of God’s kingdom in our world by prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness would become the most important promise we ever made.

Abraham Lincoln in a speech given once said, “Let us hope, that by the best cultivation of the physical world, beneath and around us; and the intellectual and moral world within us, we shall secure an individual, social and political prosperity and happiness, whose course shall be onward and upward, and which, while the earth endures shall not pass away.”

It is not completely possible for the President or Congress alone to “Fix” our country. However, it is their responsibility to create systems and structures that provide sustainable foundations for individuals, social and political health and happiness through an equitable distribution of wealth and resources. Our public servants are charged with calling out the highest and best in each citizen to embrace their rights and privileges by assuming responsibility for each other’s welfare. Currently our United Methodist Church Annual Church Conferences are being held. It is not possible for district superintendents, bishops, general boards and agencies, and annual conferences to “Fix” our denomination. It is their responsibility to create systems and structures that foster the health and vitality of our local churches. Our leaders are also charged with calling out the highest and best in each local church, pastor and layperson to embrace their rights and privileges by responsibly transforming our world into the kingdom of God.

The next couple of months will, indeed, be interesting as we prepare for another presidential election. The good news is that each one of us has the right to let our voices be heard. But as disciples of Jesus Christ we also have a responsibility to frame political discussion in the positive light of the gospel and to act in Christ-like ways towards one another. Remember, this election is not about what is best for us personally. It is not about the candidates. Nor is it about our country. It is about Abraham Lincoln’s hope, “That by the best cultivation of the physical world, beneath and around us; and the intellectual and moral world within us, we shall secure an individual, social and political prosperity and happiness, whose course shall be onward and upward and which, while the earth endures, shall not pass away.”

(Some quotes and thoughts taken from an article written by Rev. Laurie Haller and the blog postings by many followers including myself on her posting.

Pastor Gary

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