Ponderings for February 6 2020

Time to dust off the old pen…again! It is a joy and a privilege to write these thoughts to you on a regular basis.
 
Sometimes the thoughts don’t come. Or at least they don’t come in an organized or interesting fashion, so I scrap them. You have no idea how many Ponderings I have started only to send them into the trash because they did not meet my criteria of excellence.
 
In all of my work (and life), I live by this mantra: “Be hard on yourself and easy on others.” Hence, there is rarely a job that I do or message that I give or a Pondering that I write that truly meets my satisfaction. Enough leak out as “acceptable” that enable me to have something to show for the effort.
 
Not sure how, but I am feeling that the Ponderings are overdue for a makeover. We’ll see what we come up with.
 
Wow, that was a long explanation as to why no Ponderings have come out lately! 
 
“A house divided against itself will not stand.” Those words from Jesus were part of a passage in the Gospel of Mark which we discussed last Sunday. As an aside, I mentioned that those words were as applicable to America today as they were when Abraham Lincoln applied them to Civil War America. And I truly do fear for this country and the poisonous polarization and partisanship that is rampant in our land. It could be clearly seen Tuesday night during the State of the Union address on both sides of the aisle. I recently read of a study published last year which found that “just over 42 percent of Democrats and Republicans view the opposition as ‘downright evil.’” So uncivil and unhealthy!
 
The house is creaking.
 
For some time now, our leaders are spending time vehemently arguing their positions while persuading no one except the troll-ish colleagues and masses who share the exact same opinions that they do. And the news media is exactly the same. Those on the right and left follow the very same script and formula; they have their narrow talking points, they give their unchallenged and one-sided opinions, and they invite guests in who completely agree with them. Case closed. Occasionally a dissenting person is invited in—not so that insight may be gained, but so that the other side may be ridiculed and shot down. The incivility and unhealthiness grows.
 
The house is trembling.
 
So where does the Church sit in all of this national polarization and incivility? Well, I have seen too many ministries and churches divided by the unhealthy marriage of faith and politics. Not Trinity. And I have heard too many Christ-followers mimic the unhealthy and uncivil discourse they hear on the airwaves and in Washington. Not us. We will indeed “render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” And we will always appreciate the distinction and allow the latter to inform the former. And we will love and respect those in our body with whom we differ politically yet have a deeper commonality found in the person and Gospel of Christ. 
 
Our house is standing.
 
Remember the painting at the top of this Pondering? To contradict Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” church with its lights off, we will in fact allow our faith to transcend our culture and its politics. We will praise and champion the good wherever we see it. And we will shine the light on the darkness wherever we find it. We will be defined, not by our political alliances nor by the social issues of the day, but by the person of Christ and his Good News for the whole world.
 
Our house is shining.
 
2020 will be a pivotal year. We will pray for our nation and its leaders. And we will focus on Christ—that we might know him more intimately and make him known more clearly.
 
See you Sunday,
Pastor Paul