A pondering from the Rev. Lynn White

Anger

“Who considers the power

of your anger, and rightly

fears your indignation?” (Psalm 90:11)

Anger is omnipresent. Daily we read or hear words about anger from the various forms of media in our purview. In the last ten days, it marched across our country from California, to Texas, to Chicago to Ohio. It’s not a new happening. We read vestiges of it from ‘The Beginning.’ In Genesis, Esau was angry with Jacob who stole his birthright. Anger flows through Scripture, and we find that Jesus became angry with the money changers outside the Temple and tossed their tables aside. Throughout the ages, we find one example after another, how anger altered our world, and if we look closely, how anger can alter ourselves.

Francis Scott Key is the author of the famous words, “… the land of the free and the home of the brave.” Key penned those words in 1814, and today they conclude our national anthem. Currently, might I also suggest that our nation, in addition to being known as the land of the free and home of the brave, is also a land of divisive anger. Anger is an emotional response that can cause one’s blood to boil, and in the worse of circumstances, it can cause blood to run river-like out of others. Almost like visitors to a zoo, we stand and watch wide eyed what seem to be a multitude of violent acts against humanity, for that matter, creation. We watch and hear with shock and horror as the acts multiply.

I suggest that anger is omnipresent, part of who we are, as Yeats would say, part of our “Unity of being.” We tend to be single minded in our goals, inclined to put self ahead of the many. Bees don’t like to be swatted away from sweetness, babies don’t like to be awakened from their naps, animals don’t want to be interrupted during their meals, for that matter, we don’t like to be interrupted mid-sentence. Of course, some anger is righteous, when evil overpowers good. We are called to be indignant, angry, when someone is bullied, or worse. However, some anger is selfish. Some don’t like to share, even when there is more that any one individual might need.

I believe that anger, by itself, is neutral, neither good nor bad. It’s what we do with it that matters. If something angers you, do you let it fester inside, rotting away your soul, like a cavity can destroy a tooth? Or, when you become angry, do you use it for good, motivating you to change a situation, or yourself, for the better?

Juvenal wrote in the first century, “Whatever men do – prayer, fear, anger, pleasure, joys, comings and goings – that is the stuff of which my little book is made” (Satire). Perhaps Juvenal was paraphrasing God in scripture. Our emotions and acts are a part of who we are created to be. God knows/considers them each and the power of them. Nothing is hidden from God. While we ought consider/fear the potential negative power of anger, however, we are to remember our call to embrace the power of anger for good.

As the late author Toni Morrison wrote, “If you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else.” If we are Christians, then we ought to respond to God’s call to love and care for our neighbors, rather than being angry with them. In so doing, perhaps our whole world might become Our country/earth tis of Thee, sweet land of liberty, of Thee we sing.

To God be the glory!

Amen.

A pondering from the Rev. Lynn White

Thoughts

“This world is not so bad a world

     As some would like to make it;

          Though whether good, or whether bad,

  Depends on how we take it.”

The World As It Is by Michael Wentworth Beck

It’s all a matter of perspective isn’t it? Do you see the world in black and white, or grey?

 The world as we know it today, often through the media, is filled with weaponry, both good and bad; substances used both for attack and war and as well as defense and peace. We hear about all types of destruction; guns, nukes, political prisoners, germ warfare, walls. Even the words we use can cut to the bone. “Go back where you came from,” misogynist, belittling and racist words, leave deep scars. We also hear about beauty, peace treaties, negotiations, and attempts to find common ground/good.

 In the July 20th edition of The Economist magazine there was an article about “The poetry of emoji.” It suggests that the internet is revealing the nature of language more than changing it. We are inundated with tweets and pictures that express our feelings in staccato-like, rapid fashion. In fact, humans have used short-hand symbols for as long as we have recorded history. Think of the snake and the red apple, an emoji for temptation; the bread and wine, emoji for body and blood; the hijab, an emoji for modest female Muslim women; the light bulb, an emoji for an idea; or the white flag, an emoji for surrender.

 Early Christians, at a time when they were being persecuted, would be fearful to speak aloud about their beliefs. Instead, in a kind of covert language emoji, they would draw a half circle in the sand, (looking for another Christian). If the individual they met was a Christian as well, he or she would know to draw another half circle making the shape of, not a circle, but a fish, an early Christian symbol/emoji.  

FISH Jesus symbol.jpg

As people of The Word, the poetry of Scripture and symbols of faith (think fish, cross or triangle), the article caught my attention.

 Ecclsiastes 3 begins, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven…”  It goes on to say that there is a time to break down, and a time to build up, a time to keep silent and a time to speak, a time for war and a time for peace. What time is it? What time do you have??

 How do you/we take/understand what is happening in the world? Are we spectators, merely reading about what happens around the world, or are we activists, ready to do what we can to make our world a better place? I would agree that there is a time to discontinue something which has been found harmful and no longer meaningful, but I would also suggest that it’s always time to become more kind, good, peaceful, and loving, always time to be open to wonder and to God. On the one hand, the internet is a passive piece of electronics, without soul. On the other, the messages we receive can charge one into reflection and/or action. They can touch our hearts and souls. As Christian people may our perspective always be to see, to take the opportunity to move ever more continuously toward the awareness of God’s presence. Might we each become an emoji for love, and practice making the world more loving and good. 

 To God be the glory

Amen.

A pondering from the Rev. Lynn White, Priest Associate

Neighbor

“In the field of world policy, I would dedicate this nation to the policy of the good neighbor.” — President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Inaugural Address

 When our children were young, they used to watch a TV program called Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. The neighborhood was composed of all shapes and sizes of muppets/puppets who represented a range of some of the different people a neighborhood, both people of proximity as well as the world of humans, might contain. It was a way to see both the differences as well as similarities we share. In my memory, the program contained a place for Mr. Rogers to sing a song which contained a verse, “I want you to be my neighbor.”  

 Mr. Rogers and Franklin Roosevelt are not the only ones who have focused on the action of being a good neighbor. This past Sunday, we heard The Parable of The Good Samaritan from Luke as our Gospel reading. We listened to a dialogue between a lawyer and Jesus. The bottom line of their conversation was that we are each called to be good neighbors and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, a truth for us and for nations.

 Coincidentally, as I read the July 7th Sunday edition of The New York Times, I came across the obituary of “Robert V. Levine, 73, Professor Who Quantified Kindness,” a social psychologist. Levine studied cultures, trying to make sense of the world, “constantly trying to repair pieces of the brokenness all around,” and specifically how they perceived time. In one of his books, A Geography of Time, I found his statement that different cultures place different values on time. He pondered: is the pace fast, think New York, or wasted time, think hammock, valuable? Sometimes, he suggested, the most valuable, kind, thing one can do/give is to stop, do nothing, quiet time, perhaps to simply listen, making sense of the world one place and person at a time. In my mind, Levine is scripture based, whether he knew it or not. “As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience” (Col.3:2).     

 Roosevelt and Rogers, also a Presbyterian minister, were not original thinkers.  Rather, I believe they drew their wisdom from Scripture. We are given guidelines for our living in Lk. 10:27. “You shall love the Lord your God with all with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” And, “Each of us must please our neighbor for the good purpose of building up the neighbor” (Rom. 15:2). Sounds simple and direct. 

 The idea sounds uncomplicated enough, kindness and love are to flow, but in the story of the Good Samaritan we see that even those who would be most likely to care for another, to be a good neighbor, sometimes fail, as do we. Two men, a priest and a Levite, men who are called to serve in The Temple, passed by the wounded man, no time to spare. What we are told is that it was the Good Samaritan who made time stand still, went beyond the call of duty, and cared for the wounded traveler/his neighbor in a way that blessed the beaten soul. What we also know is that the person Jesus praised is the one with mercy, the one who gave time and care, who is the good neighbor.

 What is your personal policy, your rule for living? Does it come from God? What time do you have? No need to ask for a neighbor, they/we are all around you, as is our brokenness. We are called to take the time to listen to God, to look for and dedicate ourselves to and for our neighbor. Remember to look beyond the people next door and consider what your neighbors around the world might need. The choice is ours.

 To God be the glory!  Amen. 

A pondering from the Rev. Lynn White, Priest Associate

Vacation

“He had the appearance of a caryatid in vacation; he was supporting nothing but his reverie.”—Les Misérables by Victor Hugo

A caryatid is a supporting column often seen in Greek architecture, having the form of a draped female figure, motionless and leaving the cares of the world at bay. The confluence of Scott, Charles, and their family’s being on vacation, summertime being the usual time period for vacation, and columnist Mary Schmich’s article, “Make your vacation better”, in the June 12th issue of The Chicago Tribune, all made me ponder vacations. The word vacation comes from the Latin word vacatum, meaning being empty, free, or at leisure.

 Everyone at one time, or perhaps many times, pines for rest and relaxation, time to slow down and to put the too often frequent stress of everyday life aside. Mary Schmich’s answer to making vacations more valuable was to take a better look at oneself by asking questions, such as:

·         What book influenced you in your childhood?

·         Who do you talk to in your inner monologue?

·         Which of your behaviors do you wish you could change?

·         Are you afraid of dying?

·         Who among your friends makes you laugh really hard?

·         When was the last time you danced?

·         (I would add, who do you love and who loves you?)

Mary’s list goes on, but the takeaway is to think about who we are, what we are doing, and what gives meaning to our lives.

 While the word vacation does not appear in scripture, we find the word “rest”.  God is our model. “Thus, the heavens and the earth were finished…On the seventh day God finished all the work that he had done and he rested on the seventh day…” (Gen.2:1-2). The Eighth of the Ten Commandments is to Keep holy the Sabbath Day and rest from your labors (Exo. 20:8). Psalm 37:7 says, “Rest before the Lord and wait patiently for him...” In the New Testament Jesus said, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest awhile” (Mk. 6:31). Jesus, himself, withdrew from others to be alone with his Lord and to pray (Lk. 5:16). 

 My sense is that we are not called to be caryatids, vacant, motionless, or even empty. Rather, vacations offer us the opportunity to recharge our batteries, to rethink our values, to refocus on our path and journey, to take up our staff and follow the One who always leads to goodness. It’s a time to dance, a time to pray, and a time to ponder what gives meaning to one’s life. It’s a time to slow down and listen to creation’s breath and song, to receive the gift of awe for life all around us. It’s a time to dream how wonderful life could be when one follows Jesus. It’s a time to experience the reality of happiness that we are loved.

 To God be the glory!

Amen

A pondering from the Rev. Lynn White, Priest Associate

Chew

Preachers often begin their sermons with these words. “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be always acceptable to you, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer” (Ps. 19:14).

How much time do you spend thinking about/meditating upon the words you read or hear and the realities in the world? Do you accept what others tell you, or do you think about, chew on, what you have heard or seen? (False truths is a phrase which has become common lingo).

Recently, I learned about a prehistoric sea dragon, the ichthyosaur, a kind of fish lizard with characteristics of both reptile and mammal. Its 200 million year remains were found on the Jurassic Coast of England. Of course, its amazing age is surpassed by God, who was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Nevertheless, I was awed by this discovery. Sea dragons don’t chew, rather they use their teeth as a kind of cage to snap around its prey and swallow it whole.

Much more current, my cousin sent me an email about tigers whose tongues are so rough that they can lick the paint off buildings and strip the skin from the bones of an animal. The roars from their throats send fear-quaking chills down to the depths of their prey’s beings. Because tigers are carnivores, they only have 500 taste buds compared to humans who have about 9000. Seems to me that they miss a lot of joy. They can even eat rotting meat without any ill effects.

As I thought about mouths, chewing and swallowing, the image of a two-way street came to mind; one direction goes in, the beginning of the digestive system to feed the body and delight the taste, and/or to take a gulp of air. In the other direction things come out of a mouth; sounds and words, a primary form of communication, breath, and saliva. Creation itself was spoken into being by God in Genesis, “God said, let there be light…”, and the apple became the first well known food and bite.

The need to be fed by food is universal, and as animals we also need to be fed by affirmation and love. Without both foods, we wither away. The more we chew on things, the better we understand and are able to take delight. Our mouths and chewing are powerful gifts to be used with care. A rough word or comment can cause hurt, stripping away our esteem to the bone. Swallowing whole can be dangerous. We are called to respond to the world as well as loving the Lord with all our hearts, minds, and souls. 

It is not only a preacher who ought chew upon, remember, and use these words from Psalm 19:14, as their mantras. Each one of us might use the words to be better Christians, better people.

To God be the glory!

Amen.