Wednesday, November 21, 2012

It's Over Let's Begin

It’s Over Let’s Begin

The costliest election in our history is over so can we now begin? After watching the movie, “Lincoln” I am reminded that divisions within our country that again surfaced in the midst of the vitriolic rhetoric used by both sides in this recent political “fight” are not new to our land. Lincoln tried to lead a nation that was separated by ideology and strongly held beliefs in the rights of people.

But now our election is over so can we begin? The movie ends with the haunting words of Lincoln’s second inaugural address. Sadly these words echo in the theatre just after the scene where this tall man with big ideas is reduced to a dead president surrounded by shocked leaders who tell us that, “Now he belongs to the ages.”

Well, we are part of those “ages” and we need to listen to his words that he spoke to a broken and divided people at the end of the Civil War;

“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right
that God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we
are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds…”

As a working pastor let me humbly offer a few thoughts on how we begin after this recent war of words:

Since we have work to do let’s quite bringing up the Bible like it was put together much like a brick is created. A brick is created by mixing together a prepared substance and pouring it into a mold in order to make a solid piece of building matter. A brick is the same all the way through because it is made of the same stuff.

The Bible is not a brick. It is not made of the same stuff. It is more like a woven garment that is composed of many different threads woven together over thousands of years by many different “weavers.” To take it literally means that often it cannot be taken seriously. In our need for a new beginning there is much in the Bible that needs to be taken seriously.

The woven garment of the sacred text known as the Bible is meant to be more like a family quilt pieced together by a loving grandmother from patches saved over the years rather than to be viewed as a solid block that can be thrown toward the person who does not seem to cherish the brick. A quilt on the other hand can surround the recipient with a sense of security and warmth even though you know it did not come from a factory and is quite home-made. The tatters around the edges of the quilt and the seams that are not quite perfect are what make the hand crafted creation so special.

My particular tradition states that the sacred text should be studied in light of experience, tradition, and reason. It is important to not just know what the Bible says but to know what it means. Quite frankly, the Bible says a lot that deserves study so that isolated words and phrases will not be thrown around like so many bricks.

So with malice toward none I offer the observation that to take a couple of bricks that seem to indicate who can marry who or to establish exactly when life begins as the only foundation blocks upon which to create a holistic world view might be more harmful than constructive. In the sacred weaving there are many more threads that portray the need to care for the sojourners and marginalized than there are threads about marriage and rights.

And in terms of the “street talk” theology that gets thrown around in election cycles let’s take off the street that often used expression, “God will never give you more than you can handle.” As a pastor I deal with countless people who come my way who are broken and beaten by life. These hurting people sometimes lift up this platitude that is, by the way, not found in the Bible. You might say they’ve been hit by a factory made brick when they need to be wrapped in a hand-made quilt.

Life will sometimes give us more than we can handle. Ask a man, who while hung out to dry by life and suffering, once uttered, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Yes, he was quoting scripture because you can find that line in the Psalms, but you can be sure he was not tossing bricks. He was offering some threads that the rest of us could weave together when we are given more than we can bear.

And finally, being quite aware that I am a pastor and not a politician let me say it’s time to begin again in the face of the Washington rock throwing scene about our economic “cliff.” I’m nearing the finish line and await the benefits of Medicare so let me be the first to say, “If you need to take a little away from my Medicare and Social Security benefit in order to fix this mess then for God’s sake and ours do it. We are in this mess together and we need to redefine what community means…and that is in the Bible.”

And so I will say to whoever are the rich…and they seem a moving target… now that I’ve “moved” you can move. Hopefully if all of us move a little bit we will not have to jump over the cliff together. That is sure no way to come together.

There is a sad and tragic scene in the movie when Lincoln slowly rides through the carnage of bodies after the battle of Petersburg. Those images of the vacant stares of the casualties of war must have been on his mind when he uttered his words of healing a few short days before he became one of those causalities.

I hope we can now begin and come together as a kind of wonderfully different community of people who know we need at times to be wrapped in quilts so that we can quit throwing bricks. We need to hear again the words of a man of great vision who learned from his pain:

“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God

gives us the right to see, let us strive on to finish the work we are in;

to bind up the nations wounds…”

It’s over, it’s time to begin.

Jody Seymour

Sr. Pastor

Davidson United Methodist Church