When Things Are Awful
September 7, 2017, 9:00 AM

From the Rector

Do you ever feel like the world is going to [ahem] “in a handbasket” as my grandmother used to say?

’Cause it feels like that now.  So I want to remind you that this is not the first time people have felt like this!

Now for some, the obvious parallel is the 1850s – when the country is divided along political theory lines, and folks are struggling to make a living and  no one seems to care if they do or not.  There are families in south Alabama that are living with hookworm because the county requires them to install their own septic systems, but they can’t afford them. That would be like the 1850s right there. 

Or we could talk about feudalism – where the serfs are dependent on the nobility – and compare that to some of the labor arrangements in place here today.  In some states, it is actually allowed by law for a company to outright prohibit people from taking better jobs in competing companies, so once you’re in a job, you have to stay and stay and stay…

We could talk about the Roman Empire, when the networks of family connections were the only things that provided support for individuals, so if you had a falling out with your pater familias, you might starve to death.  And today, we hear about families kicking out their kids who come out as LGBT, and the children wind up homeless on the streets, and even take their own lives because of the rejection.

So, yes, we can find parallels in history to the way things are now – and we can choose (yes, we can choose) to see those parallels as signs of our human depravity or as signs of the continuing need to pay attention to what is important:  connection, community, care, and … what was the other thing?  Oh yes, GOD.

Because these systems, these patterns, these divisions are all man-made.  God’s systems and patterns and connections (not divisions) are all the other way

I read somewhere that there are something like 95 or 97 or 98 or so passages in the Bible that tell the people of the covenant (Israel) to welcome foreigners and aliens.  These instructions are often accompanied by the reminder that the Israelites were once aliens in a foreign land, which did not treat them well, so they ought to remember what that felt like and strive to do better.

God through the scriptures is always calling God’s people – us – to a higher standard, a standard of caring for one another, of praying for enemies, of doing good, and not counting the cost.

The question is, how do we do that in the face of so much tribulation?  Does it help to know that tribulation seems to be the usual state of humanity?  Whether personal to “me” or universal to “us,” I think it may – because we’ve survived this far; we’ve fought these battles before; we’ve climbed out of the muck and the mire – and the fire – more times than we can count … and all because of the grace of God.   Willie James Jennings, an African-American theologian, recently wrote, “The prophetic word always comes at the times when hope is drained, because God will not allow hope to die in this world.”

I don’t lay claim to being a prophet, but I will say this:  God desires us more than we know, and will never stop and once we accept that, and really accept that, and finally accept that, we can do what we need to do and live without fear!  Those who are unafraid can stand up with and for those in need; those who are unafraid can stand up and with those in trouble; those who are unafraid can speak hope to a despairing heart, not because they are untouched, but because they are in touch with the source of all things.