Our Interconnected World

When the crisis began, we were told that “supply chains would be unaffected.”  This statement was quickly proven untrue by a run on toilet paper and sanitizers, followed by a meat shortage.  We learned that many of our sanitizing products come from China, and that some of the most vulnerable immigrant populations staff our meat processing plants.  Maddeningly, farmers are destroying crops while others are hungry, because distribution – the middle link of the chain – is broken.  Affect one segment of the supply chain, and the rest is affected as well.

This week’s Time magazine describes the fragility of one such system: our overburdened food banks.  The article explains that the food banks are stressed because demand has increased at the same time as drop-offs have decreased (due to people staying in), restaurant donations have dried up (due to restaurants being closed) and volunteer numbers have diminished (as the majority of volunteers are retired and vulnerable).  We are connected in ways we had seldom noticed, even though Martin Luther King picked up on it way back in 1967:

It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. We are made to live together because of the interrelated structure of reality. Did you ever stop to think that you can’t leave for your job in the morning without being dependent on most of the world? You get up in the morning and go to the bathroom and reach over for the sponge, and that’s handed to you by a Pacific islander. You reach for a bar of soap, and that’s given to you at the hands of a Frenchman. And then you go into the kitchen to drink your coffee for the morning, and that’s poured into your cup by a South American. And maybe you want tea: that’s poured into your cup by a Chinese. Or maybe you’re desirous of having cocoa for breakfast, and that’s poured into your cup by a West African. And then you reach over for your toast, and that’s given to you at the hands of an English-speaking farmer, not to mention the baker. And before you finish eating breakfast in the morning, you’ve depended on more than half the world. This is the way our universe is structured, this is its interrelated quality. We aren’t going to have peace on Earth until we recognize this basic fact of the interrelated structure of all reality.

What should the takeaway be?  Each political party has one part of the answer.

We should try to produce as much as possible in our own country (and every other country should do the same) ~ for example, it’s not healthy for any country to need to buy ventilators and masks from overseas during a crisis that affects shipping.  If we can make our computers and cars and grow our own papayas and mangos, we should.  But sometimes we can’t produce the best or most inexpensive version of a product (for example, coffee), which is where trade comes in.

This leads us to a larger issue: an appreciation of other cultures and nations.  When we are grateful for our interconnected world, we develop a twin sense of community and cooperation; when we are resentful, we develop xenophobia: a dislike of people from other countries, even if they are already here.

This is probably a good time for me to interject that I am British, Ukrainian, Polish, Russian and (possibly) Chinese.  How did that happen?  People from different countries and cultures fell in love with each other over the course of generations, and one day, I popped out!  Your background may be similar.

In Christ’s eyes, the immigrant living in a multi-generation household, going to work because he has to feed his family, despite the risk, is as important as the billionaire executive who will still be a billionaire after the crisis.  The child living in squalor in a Bombay slum is as important as the suburban child complaining that they can’t play video games all day.  The family in mourning in Wuhan is as important as the family in mourning here.

Jesus tells his disciples, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the Kingdom of God” (Luke 6:20, NIV).  Paul writes, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28, NIV).  In describing heaven, John writes, “After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands” (Revelation 7:9, NIV).

Social class doesn’t count.  Nationality doesn’t count.  We are united by sin, and we are united by grace.  Isn’t it time to realize that we are the world?

Bird’s Eye View

Most of us remember this trick-of-the-eye test: Which line is longer?  I’m going to spoil it for you: they are the same length.  A similar brain tease took place earlier this month in Orange County, CA, a place I’ve been watching with great interest because ~ and I hope I am not alone here ~ I really want to go to the beach this summer!

Here’s the original photo that led to the beaches being shut down:

Looks pretty crowded, right?  Now here’s a photo taken the same day from a plane.
The caption of the photo:  “Beach Crowds.”

Wait a minute … that second photo doesn’t look bad at all!  It’s all in the angle of the camera and where the photographer chooses to focus.  After their beaches were closed again, Orange County beachgoers complained (rightfully so) that the first photo was taken at the busiest segment of a large beach, at an angle that exaggerated lack of proximity.  In short, it wasn’t a bird’s eye view.

God has a bird’s eye view; in fact, God’s view is much higher than that of a bird!  Down on the ground, we think things are horribly out of control.  Above us, God sees that everything is still in control.  We see what’s only right in front of us; God sees behind us, before us, to our right and left, below us and above us, farther than the eye can see.  We see our present and part of our past; God sees our complete past, present and future.  We see a piece of the picture; God sees the big picture.  In the words of Paul, we see as through a mirror dimly; God sees everything with complete clarity.  We want to see all of God’s plan, but we can’t; we can try to see like God, but don’t have his vantage point, so we are asked to depend upon His word.

In all his wisdom and insight God did what he had purposed, and made known to us the secret plan he had already decided to complete by means of Christ.  This plan, which God will complete when the time is right, is to bring all creation together, everything in heaven and on earth, with Christ as head. ~ Ephesians 1:8-10, Good News Bible

Some people see the glass as half empty; others see the glass as half full; God sees our cups as overflowing.

Maybe it’s time for a change of perspective?

Are We There Yet?

Many phrases can be used for where we’re at right now: turning a corner, headed in the right direction, looking ahead, seeing the light at the end of the tunnel (and hoping it’s not a train).  Of course we’re not there yet, wherever “there” may be.  We may have to wait for a vaccine before we reach anything resembling stable.
But there is value in the direction we face.

Psalm 27:9 reads, don’t hide your face from me.  But Numbers 6:26 offers the blessing, The Lord … turn his face toward you.  We feel blessed when the Lord is looking our way (unless we’ve just committed a major sin!).
But we also receive a blessing when we turn toward the Lord.  Consider these verses:

Turn to me and be saved. ~ Isaiah 45:22
All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord. ~ Psalm 22:27
Once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers. ~ Jesus to Peter, Luke 22:32
A large number who believed turned to the Lord. ~ Acts 11:21
Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. ~ James 4:8

When we turn in God’s direction, God turns in ours!  That’s not the end of the story ~ Paul writes, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,  I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:12-14).  Paul is not perfect; like the rest of us, he never gains perfection in this life.  But perfection is not required; he simply needs to be on the right path, headed in the right direction, keeping his eyes on the prize.  As God tells the Israelites, “Stay on the path
I have commanded you to follow, then you will live long and prosperous lives” (Deuteronomy 5:33).

I can see at least three parables can be found in our “gradual reopening:”

1) If the prize is “health + prosperity” (physical health + economic recovery), then we have to be careful not to reopen too quickly; to stay the course with these goals in mind.

2) Whenever we turn from despair to hope, impulsiveness to patience, complaining to helping, withdrawing to caring, we are headed in the right direction emotionally and spiritually.  God’s face shines upon us.

3) When we turn from sin ~ when we leave our old lives and old habits behind in order to follow God ~
we receive the biggest blessing of all, the call to the life above.

None of these journeys proceeds in a straight line.  We’ll stumble along the path to reopening.
Some days we’ll still feel anxiety and impatience, and be tempted to turn inward rather than outward.  And even though we’re Christians, we’ll still sin (sorry).  Just remember, God would like us all to be perfect, but God will eventually make us so in His heavenly Kingdom.  For now, God is asking us to turn our faces toward him:
toward kindness, love, and faithfulness ~ and in doing so, to be blessed.

 

Welcome to the Sayville United Methodist Church!

IMG_3614The Sayville United Methodist Church is a community of faith that celebrates the Good News of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Our church welcomes people of all ages and stages of faith.  We offer many Bible studies as well as programs for youth, senior citizens and everyone in between. We are located at 164 Greene Avenue in Sayville, NY, at the intersection of Greene Avenue and Montauk Highway, across from Dunkin Donuts.  Parking is available in the lot across the street on the Greene Avenue side.  The church also has a small lot reserved for our seniors and others who may need assistance.

Main Street entrance.To the left is our annual Clamfest, part of Sayville’s Summerfest. On this day, we get together to raise funds for local and global outreach. To the right is the Main Street view.

You are invited to join us Sunday mornings at 10:00 a.m. (9:30 from July 1 through Labor Day Weekend).   Our average attendance is 100.  Be sure to pick up a visitor’s packet while you’re here!  Feel free to call us at (631) 589-0624 or email us at umcsayville@optonline.net with any further questions!  May God bless you this day!