A Relevant Message from Our History

second-inaugural-address-quote

 

I’ve had several post-election conversations with people on both sides of the political divide.

One of the more intriguing elements of the conversations is the “God” part.

“What role did/does God have in  elections?”
“We prayed and our prayers were answered.”
“We prayed and our prayers were not answered.” 

“The answer to the ‘God-part’ question is in the Bible!” I’m told.

“By me kings reign” (Proverbs 8:15). 

“…he removes and sets up kings” (Daniel 2:21).  

But what about this one?

“They set up kings without my consent;  they chose princes without my  approval” (Hosea 8:4).

“Hmmm.  I didn’t know that was in there.”

This contest of Scriptural “one upmanship” is tiring.

I received some comfort and direction from another time in America’s history.

It was inauguration day, March 4, 1865.  The nation was fractured.  Some people were hopeful.  Some people were fearful.   620,000 men had died in the Civil War.

Between 30-40,000 people had gathered at the east entrance of the Capitol.  In the crowd were Frederick Douglass, the African American abolitionist and newspaper editor, and the actor John Wilkes Booth, a Confederate sympathizer, seething with hatred.
President Lincoln stepped to the podium.  With keen theological and political insight, he said, “Both sides read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other…”

The 56 year old President helped the nation focus on what mattered in the days ahead,

“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

Good words then.  Good words now.

Advertisements

A New Way to See

col-sanders

What do you see when you look at the pic of Col. Sanders?

1.  The KFC founder with a cool “Western” or “String” Bow Tie? or,

2.  The KFC founder with a big head and a tiny stickman body?

The original KFC logo with the pic of the Colonel came out in 1952.

I was born in 1956.  Until today, I have looked at that pic and seen option 1 – The Colonel with a cool tie.  Today, someone pointed out to me option 2!

Now, it’s all I see.

I can’t unsee it.

What that person did with Col Sanders, Jesus does with life.  Jesus didn’t draw pictures but he told picture-stories. We call them parables. Jesus used parables to not only help us see things more clearly; but more often than not, his parables were told to help us see things differently!

When Jesus finished his stories, people found themselves slapping their foreheads and exclaiming, “Wow!  I’ve never thought of it that way!”

Let me give you a “for instance.”  It’s recorded in Luke 10:25-37.  Jesus is in a conversation with an expert in the Law of Moses, who asks Jesus a fundamental question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life.”  As far as questions go, it doesn’t get any bigger than that!

The answer given by Jesus isn’t found in most “Gospel Tracts”:  Love God and love your neighbor as yourself…Do this and you will live.”

Out of this came another question from the Lawyer: “Ok, then, who is my neighbor?”  

Luke says the Lawyer was trying to “justify himself”  – “looking for a loophole, he asked, ‘And just how would you define neighbor?’” is how The Message puts it.

The religious expert was trying to determine who he did and did not have to love.

So, Jesus told a story.  We call it “The Parable of the Good Samaritan.”

Isn’t in interesting that, in answer to the question, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus does not give a straightforward answer?

He could have handed the lawyer a list of people to love.

He could have given a catalogue of characteristics to look for in people whom he should love.

He does not.

Instead, he tells a story.

A story is ambiguous.

A list is straightforward and simplistic.

These are interesting times.  Some familiar landmarks have shifted and some people are anxious, worried, scared, angry. They want unambiguous, straightforward answers.

And Jesus tells us a story.

It’s a story that presents another way of looking at things…

At people.

At religion.

We don’t always like to look at something in a new way.   We like the old way.  The way it looked before.

And so we shut out people.  We shut out ideas.

The original hearers of Jesus’ story were not just surprised.  They were shocked.  The hero of the story is not a person of their own race or religion.  He’s a Samaritan!

“What?  Did you hear that? Can you believe he said that?  A Samaritan?!  Come on now!  This is too much.  He’s really crossed the line this time.  He’s been in the sun too long.  He stayed too long with the wine at that wedding.”

But, I think Jesus knew exactly what he was doing.  With this story-picture, Jesus is saying, “All people even people you don’t like, you don’t understand, who don’t share your values, who don’t vote like you, who don’t look like you, who don’t love like you are your neighbors.”

It was a new way of thinking and seeing for them.

It’s a new way for us.

But it’s His way.

I hope I will never unsee His way.