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Our Intractable Society

Washington Post columnist Michael Gersen recently described America's gun debate: "It is one of the dirty habits of our political discourse that so many people use thermonuclear rhetorical weapons as a first resort.  It is not enough for defenders of gun rights to be wrong, they must be complicit in murders. It is not enough for gun control advocates to be mistaken. They must be jackbooted thugs laying the groundwork for tyranny."  Because people in congregations have to figure out a way to be with one another through the thick-and-thin of life, we often find a way for folk to meander through ideologies and manage to care for souls, despite our opposite conclusions about data. This caring for souls is a face-saving characteristic of congregations in general. And it gives me hope for our facing difficulties in the body politic.  How often have you thought about a problem at work or in your family with a question about us: "Now, how would we at church go about working through such a disagreement or conflict?" 

A Mutual Blessing

In life I have had the fortuitous experience of liking every job in which I've been employed.  "Is that possible," I ask myself, "or do I have selective memory?" It is the truth of my experience.  I was first employed as a janitor cleaning commodes, ashtrays, and waste paper baskets at a little radio station in Normal, IL.  As a teenager off the farm, I thought working at a real radio station was a dream come true.  I was never reborn in Christ as a kid, but I was reborn and already in heaven the day I got to rummage through wastepaper baskets, scrounging around for news copy to read and discarded vinyl records that ended up in a collection that I treasure to this day.  While 40 years in the parish ministry has been my longest engagement, there were most certainly several career tracks in my life; one most notably with a medium-sized radio station, WROK AM-FM in Rockford, IL, whose owner told me to return if "this seminary-ministry thing didn't work out."  I smiled then as I smile now just thinking about Mr. Nolte's send-off.  Sure, he might liked to have had me back. I made a lot of money for him, but with commissions from his employment, I got a 4-year, graduate school education.  Plus, what he said was a great thing for a twenty-something to hear.  It was a blessing and a release –a nice send off.  How does this memory appy to us? A mutual blessing is what I imagine for us to give one another –sincerely wishing each other well in the next chapters of our lives. "Then he said, 'Let me go, for the day is breaking.' But Jacob said, 'I will not let you go, unless you bless me'." (Genesis 32:26)  

Blast from the Past

Here is an excerpt from a prayer delivered at church in January of 1993, just as President Bill Clinton was beginning his first term in office:  

"Dear Mostly Non-Partisan God who aims not to take sides except when push comes to shove and has to be supportive of those who are not powerless but have very little power compared to most of us:  We pray for the Haitians who don't have oil and who don't have money to invest here if they did come to live in the U.S.A... 

Dear God of Change, Changes, and Changings: Some of us are tempted to pray to keep things the way they are, and if there should be change, make it small, loose, hardly noticeable change. Even those who don't pray much are tempted to say a prayer on behalf of their lifestyles, tax brackets, perks, entitlements, and the privileges of the righteous, middle class . . . 

Dear God of Justice:  We want justice served to us but with dessert and with a tasty appetizer—to make it all go down a little easier . . .

Dear God of Reality and Quiet Revolution:  Press upon us the fact that things can't go on as they have gone on before because change is your essence . . .

Thanks for listening to this prayer, humbly submitted on the occasion of the Inauguration of our 42nd winning, energetic, and fallible President of the United State of America.  Amen. So Be It."