Browsing From the Pastor's Desk

Solving Problems and Taking Action

Oct 2, 2017

So often we think… There’s no days like the old days, no songs like the old songs…like “The Message” by Grandmaster Flash.
Don’t push me ‘cause I’m close to the edge
I’m trying not to lose my head
It’s like a jungle sometimes
It makes me wonder how I keep from goin’ under
A child is born with no state of mind
Blind to the ways of mankind
God is smilin’ on you but he’s frownin’ too
Because only God knows what you’ll go through.

What’s got you close to the edge these days? There’s quite a bit of edginess going on in our world that could put a lot of people under. There’s hurricane damage, leaving people homeless, without power or food, and dams about to burst… and the government seemingly less than interested. There are two more months to hurricane season, so more disaster is possible. Then there is the threat of war. North Korea says we’ve already declared war on them; I guess they take verbal threats seriously. Iran is testing more missiles. The Russians say they will shoot down our aircraft in Syria if they don’t act right. There’s a lot of racial tension and immigration unease in the U.S. right now. Venezuela is in meltdown, and we are turning up the heat. Congress is as unproductive as ever, barely able to raise the limit on our national credit card… their only accomplishment this summer and fall…and they are about to “fix” our tax system. Some say the stock market is overvalued and about to “adjust.” And in the midst of all this, the White House directs our attention on the NFL.

When I worked in Washington, I preached to my employees that Americans had a big problem with maintaining consistent quality because our religion and value system was rooted in football. We lionize winning athletes and teams. There have been Super Bowl champs whose season win-loss records have been 10-6 or 9-7. That’s a 60% success rate. If my business only satisfied 60% of my customers, it would be out of business in no time flat. In fact, with a 90% success rate it would fail. While sports teaches some important values about character, it misses an important point on success.

So turning our attention right now, with all our real problems, to the momentary behavior of highly paid athletes in the 3 minutes before a game starts… that is a real distraction. It certainly is for us in the trenches, and if that is what our leaders are focusing on… we’re in trouble.

Last week I took a class to visit Covenant House, a refuge for homeless teenagers in north city. The staff person there rattled off to us what I thought was an incredible statistic… that 30% of public school children in the City of Saint Louis were homeless. In class the next day, I asked a student to fact check that. He came back with a figure of 25%. Incredible but true. It’s well nigh impossible to do homework without a home. Unlike North Korean missiles, or earthquakes, hurricanes or an ineffective Congress, this is a problem we could do something to solve. But we don’t.

We do want America to be great… whether it is again, for the first time or to maintain our greatness… it doesn’t matter. That greatness is not in our flag, although we pledge allegiance to it. Our greatness is not in our national anthem, whose tune is an old British drinking song. Our greatness is in our faith… “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed… to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
That’s no easy task, getting the governed to agree on what to give consent. And a lot of people have turned their backs on their Creator, which makes it even more difficult.

On the night Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed, Robert F. Kennedy said: “What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence or lawlessness; but love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or they be black… Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.”

And as for action, he said in South Africa in 1966:
“It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”

Upon what oppression and what resistance should we focus to sweep away? Resistance to the Way and the Truth. Oppression of Life. That is still the most noble cause for us, and if we succeed, we will indeed be a great nation. In God we trust.

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