Mismatched

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Last Sunday I put on a stunning outfit–an expensive hand me down top (from a friend) with a pair of pants from my closet–and I walked out the door proudly. I taught adult Sunday school at church, and even led the children’s sermon. It was not until coffee hour, when I realized that my top did not match my bottoms. The mismatch was glaringly obvious in the sunlight.

My spirits dropped. How could I have been so blind? I recalled how dark my bedroom was. It is safe and comfy—my favorite place of refuge. But the light has never been adequate. I had never noticed how that affected my vision until then.

A very sweet woman came up and said that I looked beautiful. I thanked her, and said, “Even when my clothes are mismatched.” She laughed and said, “I do that sometimes too. The light in my room is totally different than the light outside where I see the true colors.”

That event has stayed with me all week. It started me thinking…how many other times in my life have I been blinded by the dark cozy security of my room? And I’m not just talking clothes.

I select the right top (thought/belief system) for each occasion. And then I put on the bottoms (actions) to match. Now, on most days, the window’s light in my room allows me to look good. I am well integrated—what I say I believe matches how I act. But on other days, wow! I really blow it. When I walk into the sunlight, it’s disturbing how mismatched I am. And people can see it.

It’s like what I see happening in our present political situation. If our top is being a good Christian American, then our bottom needs to match. If we say we are a Christian nation, then we need to stay consistent. Jesus’ words in Matt. 25:34-40 clearly say, “I was a stranger and you welcomed me. Whatever you did to the least of these, you did to me.” The scriptures are filled with decrees about the poor, alien, stranger, and oppressed (all which apply to refugees and immigrants) (Jeremiah 22:3-5Zechariah 7:8-10Isaiah 16:4Matt. 25:34-40Heb. 13:1-2James 2:5).

Now, I know it’s hard to determine what the “Christian” thing to do is in certain circumstances. The Bible can be complicated. But perhaps its because we are dressing in inadequate light. So let’s simplify it. Let’s keep the words and actions of Jesus as the light to guide our way. We say he is our savior. We say our lives should be a reflection of his, so at the risk of being called a Bibliologist instead of a Christian, let’s keep Jesus at the center.

I understand we need to take measures for security. But at what cost?

Make no mistake: the world is watching. Our children are watching. Our nation has always been a beacon of liberty, freedom and justice for all people. Our statue of liberty holds a torch that illuminates the world. Her bottom has engraved “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses….But let’s admit it, at this time in history, our clothing is ill-fitting, mismatched and filthy. We may feel safer, but is it at the cost of thousands of lives fleeing retribution and injustices from the same people we are fighting? At the cost of alienating our allies or creating even more enemies.

We have lost the basic thing that made us who we are—a land of immigrants, a melting pot–where all are treated equally, with the same unalienable rights by our Creator for the pursuit of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Our court system’s foundation is “innocent until proven guilty”.

We have lost the very compassion and embracing arms of Jesus who said in Luke 4:18 “The Holy Spirit has anointed me

to bring good news to the poor,

freedom for the prisoners,

recovery of sight to the blind,

to set the oppressed free, and

to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

That sounds pretty close to refugees and immigrants to me! Those are who he came to free. And if we are not standing for them, then we are not standing for Jesus.

If we are more concerned about our own survival, security and comfort than we

are for the very people that Jesus says he came for, then our clothes are horribly mismatched.

The wardrobe we choose right now as a nation will represent us beyond our lifetime. I see us putting on suspicion, division, hatred, and bullying, and I ask: Are those our true colors? When we build walls to imprison others, are we doing that to Christ? (Matt. 25:40) Again, I ask you, do you think our America’s wardrobe is matched? Are we dressing in adequate light?

It seems to me our new administration is choosing the wrong wardrobe for all that I believe Jesus and our Constitution hold dear. I’m not sure how to proceed. I’d like to be graceful like the lady after church and say, “You look beautiful today.” But frankly, I can’t keep quiet anymore. We do not look beautiful or radiant.

America, our children are watching. Our world is watching. We may be working toward someone’s definition of “Great Again.” But at what cost? I say it’s time to shine a light in our closet.

Let’s come to the table to discuss Jesus’ words. Let’s analyze our mismatched clothing, admit our distorted vision, and make some changes. I’d love to come to a Table of Hope to discuss these things civilly, and I encourage you to do the same. But please, with the guidelines we use at our Table Talk Theology program at our local pub. 1) Listen more than you speak. 2) Seek to understand more than to be understood, 3) Speak as if Jesus is in the room, because he is.

Perhaps we need to take off some garments first (and be vulnerable). Let’s lay down our animosities. Let’s walk into the light and humbly ask how Jesus would proceed. When asked what the greatest commandment of all was, Jesus said, “Love the Lord, God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.”

I believe Paul said it best in Col. 3:12-17. “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. “

When we put on love as our clothing, our vision changes. Our bottoms match our tops. And when they match, the people/communities who wear them bring light into the dark closets of life so others can find their way (and appropriate clothing). That’s what the statue of liberty’s torch stands for…illumination for the world.

Perhaps if we step into the sunlight, we can see the true colors that our country was built upon. Perhaps we can come to the table with new ideas like: instead of building walls and keeping people out, we could be using the same money to hire more INS workers to vet and process all the ones who want to come in. The sooner they are processed, the sooner they can become part of this already great nation–paying taxes in exchange for a rich community just like we enjoy.

Let lady liberty’s light shine. Let Jesus’ light shine. Walk into the sunlight, America!

Look Up!

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look upI’m going to let you in on a big secret I re-learned this week by taking 14 youth to Montreat Youth Conference. Whether they act like it or not, our youth look to the adults in their families, churches, and communities for hope. But it is not easily found.

American families are teetering on the edge of financial and emotional instability. Our communities are embroiled in bitter battles over flags, guns, and equality. And our churches—which should be offering a sanctuary of hope, guidance and purpose during these turbulent times, are splitting (and even closing) over issues of doctrine and dogma. No matter where they step, the road seems to cave in on our youth—leaving them alone and hopeless to face a multitude of questions about faith, identity, and purpose.

So what can we do to get us all back on track? Let’s keep it simple. Offer them time, hope and a purpose. It works on a multitude of levels. It’s easy to say but very difficult to do because it requires us to LOOK UP. Look up from our phones, our calendars, our social media, and acknowledge that there is something to look up toward. When we look up and engage in our surroundings, we become surprised and grateful for the force that offers a way out of our misery and confusion. There is a force offering love, joy, peace, patience, kindness and goodness. We just have to move our eyes toward it.

When we look up, we give others a sacrifice of time. One hour. (One day, if you really want the world to change!) Turn everything off. Be grateful for what you see. Ask questions about another person’s story, hopes, and dreams. If it sounds too touchy feely for you–take a walk together. The words tend to flow more easily as your feet move. Take a drive together with the radio off. Wheels will turn inside and out, if you let them. The more you engage with others face to face, the more connected you’ll feel and the more optimistic you’ll become.

Unfortunately, America prefers lighted boxes over community. These “devices of delusion”– TV’s, smartphones, computers, and gaming devices–dole out isolation, fear, violence, and greed. Our devices are distracting us from the true community God intended us to live within.

Our Eastminster Power and Light Youth Group watched this you tube video together   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z7dLU6fk9QY   Since then, when we see anyone missing out on community, we say, “Look up, friend. There’s a world out there.” I think the video says it best. “Go out into the world. Leave distractions behind. “ Time, hope, purpose—pretty simple things to offer our children. All we have to do is look up. Who knows, we may just find that in doing so, it brings all of us closer to our purpose.