By Pastor Wes Poole
A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. NRSV
You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness. NRSV
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. NRSV
2nd Corinthians 12:9
“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. NRSV
A New York family bought a ranch out West where they intended to raise cattle. Friends visited and asked if the ranch had a name. “Well,” said the would-be cattleman, “I wanted to name it the Bar-J. My wife favored Suzy-Q, one son liked the Flying-W, and the other wanted the Lazy-Y. So we’re calling it the Bar-J-Suzy-Q-Flying-W-Lazy-Y.” “But where are all your cattle?” the friends asked. “Well”, the would be cattleman sheepishly replied, “None survived the branding!”
There is no denying right now that we live in fractious times; the pandemic, the election cycle, financial stresses, international unrest and the conflicts that ensue. Anxiety, unfortunately, abounds…and everyone has their own opinions about what is wrong with the world. Like many folks these days, one of the first things I do every morning when I wake up is look at my phone. Do I check my email first? Do I look at the news to see what’s happening in the world? Maybe I should check social media and see what my friends are up to. (Hopefully not arguing politics!) Any of these choices bring with them their own share of stress and angst. Strife, contentiousness, arrogance, self-righteousness, Xenophobia; those unfortunate and destructive elements of human nature that Scripture tries to help us guard against, they always seem to find their way back into the light. No one and nothing seems to be immune, up to and including the Church. How do we, as modern day believers and disciples of Jesus, do our part to bring peace and hope to a world that sometimes seems averse to those very things?
Well, if we take the witness of Scripture seriously, (and of course we should!) the first thing we must try to do is to make our very best effort to let go of the one thing we convince ourselves we need the most…control! What?! You mean I don’t know everything!? You mean I’m not in charge?! You mean I can’t force my truth on others?! Oy vey! Whatever should I do?! Whatever indeed. When we open our Bibles, we see almost immediately what we need: kinder words, more listening, less “righteous” anger, peacemaking, and most of all…reliance on God’s grace. God has given us all that we have. This amazing world, its diversity of people, and the resources it provides are gifts to the humanity God loves so fiercely. St. Paul reminded those early Christians at the church in Corinth that God’s grace is sufficient for all of the troubles of this life. When we manage to relinquish control, and the closely held belief that we always know what is best, we start to see the strength in weakness of which Paul was speaking. To be fair, it’s one of the most difficult things we’re called to do. We in the West are born into a culture that values self-reliance and self-determination. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but too much focus on the self can blind us to the perspective and needs of the other. The “weakness” Paul lifts up for us isn’t about relinquishing power over our lives, but rather gaining the infinitely greater power of God to address the challenges we face. Yeah, the world sometimes seems like it’s spinning out of control, but make no mistake, God is still God. He is in control, and His grace is sufficient! Hallelujah for that!!
Let us pray…
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love. Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith. Where there is despair, hope. Where there is darkness, light. Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood, as to understand,
To be loved, as to love. For it is in giving that we receive, it’s in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it’s in dying that we are born to Eternal Life. Amen – attributed to St. Francis of Assisi
Be well, be kind, be safe, and trust in God always!
Pastor Wes †