I Could Be Wrong

(Or:  We Certainly Have to Live with Some Uncertainty)

I like certainty.  Don’t tell me my frozen pizza is going to take 23 to 28 minutes – give me an exact number!  I don’t want to have to check the oven again and again.  And speaking of numbers, nothing makes me more anxious than being at the deli counter when they’re not using their take-a-number machine.  How will I be certain to get my turn when I should?

Because we believe in an all-knowing God, I think we Christians believe that the answers for all our questions are there for us to find somewhere.  But I think we need to manage our expectations when it comes to getting clear and definite answers from God.  After all it was the tree of knowledge that God warned us against eating from.  In all his covenants, God never says, “I want you to follow me, and I will tell you everything.”

God is an ongoing revelation to us.  In Psalm 19 it says “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.  Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.”  There is always new learnings for the community of believers.

So, there are certain things we can be certain of, yet other things we should expect to remain uncertain about, even if certain people say we should certainly know.  And even what we think we are certain about, we need to take care how we demonstrate our certainty.  There was only one person who could know all things with some certainty, and how did he act?

When Jesus encounters Zacchaeus, he knows that Zacchaeus is misbehaving – maybe not by the standards of his society or profession, but by God’s standards.  And this is what Jesus does to convince him he’s wrong:  he invites himself over for dinner.  There is no scriptural recording of a lecture that Jesus gives him.  All he does is be present with him.

We seek tangible knowledge of all things, definite answers to life’s thorny questions, when seeking knowledge rather than trusting in God is the original sin.  We cannot set people right by telling them they are wrong, when we may be wrong ourselves.  We can only bring Jesus Christ to them, and let the presence of Christ convince them of what they need to do.

Oh, and let the presence of Christ convince us of what we need to do, too.  Because we might not be doing the right thing, ourselves.

So, the next time you are convinced you need convince somebody of anything other than the basic fact that Jesus Christ loves them, begin by telling yourself “I could be wrong.”    Seek to be Jesus for them, and let Love’s revelation, God’s wisdom guide them.

When I went to VBS as a kid, one of our craft projects was an ashtray.  An ashtray!  To encourage smoking!   We Christians do not always know what’s right.  All we know for sure is that God loves everyone.  Everyone.

 

Our Complicity in Charleston

It’s an inflammatory thing to call someone a racist, and we probably don’t have a shared understanding of what a racist is; but if you are a white person reading this post, you are probably a racist.

Please keep reading.

As a white male, I know the immediate response to the accusation of racism is to quickly categorize all the ways we are not:  we have friends of all races and cultures, we treat everyone the same, we own a Chris Rock dvd, etc.  But,  set aside your defensiveness for a moment and hear me out.

Racism is a human-created evil that begins with one race or culture believing it is superior to others, and then using the power structure to establish and perpetuate that belief.  For example, whites in America justified enslaving Africans by saying they weren’t as intelligent.  Then whites, who had the power, limited African-Americans’ access to education, so that they would continue to appear to be less intelligent, to justify their continued enslavement.  This is only the most obvious example:  a close look at most of the structures of our society (housing policies, location of highways, etc.) shows a perpetuation of self-justified oppression.

And once evil has a foothold, it doesn’t need a lot of help to grow and entrench itself.  It’s like a canal:  once the opening is made to the river where it can draw water from, the water just flows down the canal on its own.

And that is where we find ourselves today:  somewhere far down the canal, miles back from where some people ( scared and greedy, probably, who didn’t trust in God’s abundance for all) deliberately carved a path out of the river of life, where they believed they could ensure prosperity for themselves at the expense of others.  We were born into a boat on this canal, and that isn’t our fault, but as soon we became aware that this isn’t the river of life, and we didn’t begin doing the hard work of carving a path back to the river to prevent the canal from going any farther; we became complicit in its perpetuation.

So, what is that hard work?  Racism thrives on self-deception, so it begins with honesty.  If you actually do have deep relationships with people of color, get to a place where those friends can share painful truths with you.  In your relationships with other whites, do not permit untruths to go unchallenged:  why is a crime or act of violence committed by a white person always “an isolated incident”, but any wrongdoing by a person of color is demonstrative of true nature of millions of people?

Honesty is just the beginning – it must then move us to action.  We aren’t responsible for how and where we found ourselves in this world, but we are responsible for how we leave it for the next generation.

I learned a long time ago that we can be one of three things:  an active racist who engages in actions to keep other races oppressed; an active anti-racist who engages in actions to help liberate the oppressed; or a passive racist, who does nothing and allows racism to perpetuate.  There is no fourth option of being a passive anti-racist.  To do nothing, to throw up your hands and say there is nothing you can do, is to allow society to continue to flow farther from life as God intended it.

And that makes you a racist.

So let’ s drift no further, but get out of the boat, that we might find our way back to what God intended, instead of what fearful man created.

If you still feel defensive, ask yourself what you are doing to actively end racism.  If you are actually doing something, invite a friend to join you in that work.  If you aren’t then this message was for you.

Congratulations, Graduates!

Our congratulations and best wishes go out to all those who have graduated from high school and college this spring.

We will be recognizing our graduates this Sunday at the 10:55 service, and it is also Hymn Sing Sunday, and the Quarter Ringers will also be playing and it is also the last Sunday that the Senior Choir will be singing until the fall.

We hope you will join us.  As always, there is also our informal service with Communion at 8:30am, and Sunday school for all ages at 9:45am.