“Which Path Will You Take?”

A Meditation for 2 August, 2015, the 10th Sunday after Pentecost (Year B), based on 2 Samuel 11: 26 – 12: 13, Ephesians 4: 1 – 16, and John 6: 24 – 35

When the first “Cosmos” television series concluded, Carl Sagan suggested that society was at a crossroads. One path lead to the exploration of the universe and beyond; the other path lead to death and destruction through violence and war. At that time, we were still technically in the Cold War and President Reagan’s rhetoric did not help an image of some sort of nuclear exchange between the United States and the Soviet Union.

Of course, shortly thereafter, the Cold War ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union and Soviet-style communism. Much to the dismay of many, I don’t think that we can create President Reagan for this outcome. Oh, I don’t doubt that he had a part in it but I don’t think that increasing military spending will ever be the answer because, sooner or later, you end up having to justify all that spending and that means going to war.

It is now some forty years later and we are again, I think, at another crossroads. And while one path perhaps leads to new discoveries, the other is still a path that leads to destruction. We are a society that still believes that the answer to violence is violence and we are becoming a society where concern for the other person is minimized. It seems to me that the rich and powerful will do whatever is necessary to hold onto what they have and to continue getting more, no matter what the consequences of their actions might be. And if we continue on this path, if we continue to hold onto the notion that we must hold onto what we have and gather more, then there will come a time, when there won’t be anything left.

Think about it; if one person gathered up all the resources in the world for themselves and allowed no one else to have anything, either nothing would get done or the other people would rise up in revolt.

The time is now to make a decision, not to try and gather everything we can for ourselves (and Jesus told at least parable about the outcome of such actions) but rather to insure that everyone has enough. And we have to realize that all the material stuff that you gather but will never use can never provide the solace and comfort that your spirit and soul needs.

And if your spirit and soul are not comfortable, there is no way that you can discover new things or seek new ideas.

Jesus spoke of the Bread of Life, the food that would feed your spirit. What we have to do is find ways to feed the spirit and soul of the people. We don’t have to lead them to Christ but show them the way. We cannot force people to follow Christ but we can show them the way.

So, as we come to these crossroads, we have to make a choice. One will give us a good life but it is a life that will be limited; the other choice will lead to a good life that goes beyond what we can see or envision. Which path do we take?

Monthly Clergy Letter Project Newsletter

The new issue of Clergy Project Newsletter is now available on-line at http://www.theclergyletterproject.org/Resources/July2015newsletter.html. I urge you all to check this out as it has information related to the teaching of science and academic freedom.

No matter whether you are clergy or laity, I urge you to check it out and get involved in the project.

“The One Person”

A mediation for the 9th Sunday after Pentecost (Year B), 26 July 2015 based on 2 Samuel 11: 1 – 15, Ephesians 3: 14 – 21, and John 6: 1 – 21.

A few years ago I found a thought by Willie Nelson, “one person could not change the world but one person with a message could.” But what perhaps is the message?

Uriah could have easily done what David wanted him to do and no one would have said anything. But Uriah knew that his men didn’t have the opportunity for the comforts that David was encouraging him to enjoy. I am sure that other generals and military leaders would have done exactly that. I think that leadership sometimes requires that leaders understand what is taking place in the field.

A number of years ago there was a movement in business to seek excellence. Two of the outcomes of this movement were 1) most innovations occur at the basic level and not in the upper levels of management and 2) good leaders managed by “walking around” and studying what was happening at the basic levels of the company. In one sense that is what Uriah is saying, “my men do not have these privileges so I will not enjoy them.”

Of course, in this particular case, Uriah’s insistence on holding onto his vision of what was right lead to his own death as David attempted to cover up his own problems. But David paid a penalty for his sins and errors in the cover-up and we need to keep that in mind.

In the Gospel reading for today, Philip (and probably the other disciples as well) does not immediately see the solution to the problem of feeding all the people on that hillside. Now, John the writer notes that Jesus already knew what He was going to do but He wanted Philip to begin to see the answer. And, of course, the answer was provided by the young man who had brought a lunch of bread and fish.

There seems to be a problem in society today. Faced with numerous problems, we tend to think in terms of traditional answers. And we bang our heads against the wall time and time again trying to make the traditional answer work. The traditional answer for Uriah would have been to take advantage of the benefits of his position but that would have done anything for his men. The traditional response for the disciples would have been to tell the people to get their own lunches but while that may have worked, it would not have not opened the minds and spirits of all the people, including the disciples, to what God can do in their lives.

I have said it before, your encounter with Christ is likely to change your life. You will see the world in a different way. In one sense, that is what Paul told the Ephesians. You cannot lead the same life you were living after you encounter Christ (as he well knew).

One person with a vision can change the world – I don’t know if Willie Nelson was thinking of Christ when he made the that comment but I do know that Jesus Christ saw the world in a different way and He worked to make that vision a possibility. Our response today is to hear the call that Christ is making and understand that in accepting it we can change the world.

“Are These The End Times?”

I will admit that I do not believe in the “End Times” prophecies promulgated by Christian fundamentalists (and I wish that they would at least document that much of what they profess to be the outcome came from a 19th century pastor and not from John the Seer or Daniel). But I keep wondering if we aren’t somehow doing it to ourselves without the need of a Biblical reference.

  1. Another shooting in a group environment – let’s not go into whether this was a terrorist event or not. One person took a gun into a theater and killed people! And yet we are afraid to even discuss the issue of reasonable and common sense gun control. Are we so afraid that Wayne LaPierre is going to grab his flintlock rifle off the rack above his fireplace, jump on his horse, and warn us that the British are once again coming to take away our guns?
  2. How many people have died because the police over-reacted? I don’t even what to break down the deaths by race because that’s another issue that we don’t seem to want to deal with. The only benefit that I can see (and I am being sarcastic) is that we will all drive much more safer now because we don’t want to be stopped by the police.
  3. The House of Representatives just passed a bill that would allow employers to fire any employee they wish because that employee does something which goes against their religious beliefs. Even if the Senate passes it, it will be vetoed by President Obama but you can bet it will be introduced again if a Republican (heaven forbid, please) is elected President. By the way, if marriage is defined in terms of having children, then my second and current marriages might be considered illegal.
  4. Perhaps the worst of all is that we seem to be getting dumber. Our educational processes seem more attuned to developing “worker bees” rather than thinkers.

I cannot help but think that we began this path towards self-destruction when Richard Nixon was elected to his second term. At the same time that everyone was affirming his status as one of the greatest Presidents of all time, he was involved in one of the greatest political cover-ups of all time. The most interesting thing about the elections of 1968 and 1972 were that there were entirely based on dividing this country by race, sex, and economic class.

At what point can the people cry out and say enough! Or are we in the “End Times” and it is too late!

“Random Thoughts On A Wednesday”

I find it very amazing that we as a society seem headed towards a life of mediocrity and we seem quite happy to be headed in that direction. I supposed there is nothing wrong with mediocrity; after all, a mediocre life would have no challenges and there would be no need to worry about things because they are going to same as they have always been. And life is always good when tomorrow is the same as today and you know what to expect.

But there is no challenge in living a life which is essentially the same every day. There is no drive, no push to seek things, and in the end, life becomes very stale. And when life becomes stale, mistakes are made.

One can make mistakes because one is in a hurry or is not careful; those mistakes can be fixed. But mistakes can be made because life is routine and you do the same thing over and over again. Those, I think, are the worst mistakes because they come without warning. They come because you no longer stop and think about what is going on.

We have been understandably upset because of many of the comments that Donald Trump has made recently and we should be upset because he is not challenging anyone to a better life but merely echoing thoughts that others have expressed.

And while we should be angry at what Mr. Trump has said, we have forgotten what people said about Max Cleland when they questioned his heroism and patriotism in Viet Nam or when they questioned the heroism and patriotism of Tammy Duckworth in Iraq. And no one seems to remember how many of the same Republicans who have decried what Mr. Trump said recently supported wholeheartedly the efforts to discredit the patriotism and heroism of John Kerry, simply because he chose to protest the war in Viet Nam.

We hear so many people calling for a war, against countries, religions, and nationalities but these same people found ways to avoid serving their country at a time when their service was needed. (For the record, I received one student deferment and one medical deferment during the Viet Nam War. I don’t remember what my number in the lottery was and might very well have gone to Canada or jail in 1971 if I had not failed my draft physical.)

We hear people say that forcing them to serve members of the LGBT community against their religious beliefs but they seem to forget that the same words were used to justify segregation and, before that, slavery. And there were those in 1960 who said that John Kennedy could not be President because he was Roman Catholic and everyone knew that Roman Catholics were really not Christians. And while President Kennedy decried the use of a religious test in politics today, we seemed to have created such a test in politics today.

And in the end, those who proclaim that they are Christian seem to forget that Jesus Christ Himself was criticized time and time again for embracing the outcasts of society. When you leave a mediocre life, content with each day being the same, you don’t pay attention to things and you are not open to the minor details which make each day new and exciting.

We rejoice in the healing that Jesus did (and which the disciples would later do) yet we forget that each time He did heal someone or a group of people, He became an outcast in society. Each time that he spoke to a woman in public, he went against societal norms. We forget that were it not for the provisions of the Old Testament that 10% of the fields be left for the poor and needy, Ruth might never have married Boaz, which in turn would have meant that there would be no tree from which the branch of Jesse could arise. If there was no branch, there was no David, and there would have been no Christ.

In one sense, we like our lives to be simple (the old Quaker song speaks of the gift to be simple being a gift to be free) but we also must be aware that each day is a new day and that we cannot do what we did yesterday.

There is a challenge in each day and you cannot meet the challenge by being mediocre. In some way, you must push the envelope.