Wednesday, December 6, 2023
Psalm 12: 1-3
1 Help me, Lord, for there is no godly one left; the faithful have vanished from among us.
2 Everyone speaks falsely with his neighbor;
with a smooth tongue they speak from a double heart.
3 Oh, that the Lord would cut off all smooth tongues,
and close the lips that utter proud boasts!
“A flash of sanity: the momentary realization that there is no need to come to certain conclusions about persons, events, conflicts, trends, even trends toward evil and disaster,” Thomas Merton wrote, “ as if from day to day and even from moment to moment I had to know and to declare (at least to myself) that this is so and so, this is good, this is bad.” [The Intimate Merton, 271.]
What makes us wish so much to decide “This is good” or “This is bad?” What might happen if we did not do it? What will happen if my team loses? How will the world change if I do not speak about a politician whose policies I abhor? What will my action or inaction achieve? Even devout Christians get caught up in the need to make statements. What do their proclamations mean? Who is right, the Methodists who abhor homosexuality and seek to cast such practices from the church or those who believe in love and unity and acceptance of all? What if both are right and each is wrong? What if their disunity is the greater sin?
Will my mouth, open or shut, erase evil from the face of the universe?
Our minds and mouths lock us in prisons of conflict. Who knows which side is right? Our knowing statements achieve only one thing, a state of disunity, brother against sister, church against church. Chaos. Lovelessness. Our certainty concerning causes and beliefs bows before only one altar. The altar of self. Self lies at the center of every conflict. “I” am right. “You” are wrong.
We lose sight of the truth. We are all “wrong” at one time or another.
I found myself unable this year to rake all the leaves from my lawn. The disorder bothered me. In earlier times, I always made one final pass with a lawn mower, gathering up the leaves and leaving only short-cut grass. Neat. Clean. The man who helps me with such work did not show up to clear them away this year. He is from another country, a different culture. He sees beauty in the fallen leaves, I suspect. Knows they are a useful part of the natural order.
Today, snowflakes arrived, and if enough of them fall, they will cover the mess in pristine whiteness. A sense of beauty.
What if I was wrong most of my life? What if the leaves protect my brothers, the insects? What if the cold whiteness of the snow, blanketing the whole, protects them even more. What if the leaves give back their nutrients to the earth beneath, feeding my sisters, the worms? These things I deemed “bad,” the messy leaves and the icy, slick snow, may well be for the best.
Who knows? Was I wrong all my life?
I know I must stand for good and against evil. But not at the cost of blind eyes and deaf ears. I dare not blind myself to the humanity of those I oppose. I need to listen to their pain too.
Who is right? Israel or Hamas? Who is wrong? I suspect both equally. If I choose sides, I make things worse, not better. I feel sympathy and love for each, for I hear their cries and see their pain.
“… the judgments and mercies of God will clarify themselves and will be more clear to me if I am silent and attentive, obedient to His will, rather than constantly formulating statements in this age which is smothered in language…” [Ibid.]
O Lord, help me to obey, to love, to forgive. Help me reject the altar of self. Cleanse my soul!
I know only You are truly holy.
Hymn of the day: Silent Night. Online at Rossford UMC - Media.
Rev. Lawrence Keeler