Recently I was knocked out with a bout of stomach flu. While recuperating, I skipped a couple days of the news cycle. When I tuned back in, I couldn’t believe what I was reading: Record highs in the east, blizzards in the west. The oceans rising faster than expected. A third of the birds in the U.S. gone in the last 50 years. The president was being impeached. And the #1 song in America? “Chicken Noodle Soup (With a Soda On the Side).” Were hallucinations a side effect of stomach flu?
We’re living in a crazy world. There’s just too much going on to comprehend it all. The temptation is to cocoon, to placate one’s self with a new season of TV and to let our news stories be commercials: Burger King has an impossible Whopper!
I realized that what I’m looking for is stability. I miss having stability, or at least I miss the illusion of having it. I used to think that I had all these things: a stable government, a stable country, a stable world, a stable church, a stable family, all adding up to a stable mind and a feeling of peace. But I didn’t really have any of these things, because nothing is stable except God.
The United Methodist funeral service contains this comforting phrase: “When all else fails, you still are God.” Our Scriptures tell us that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow” and that “God does not change or cause shadows by turning.” The Christian pop group All Sons & Daughters sings, “You cannot change, yet you change everything.”
In relationships, it’s often said that dependability is boring. But in my relationship with God, I want dependable. God tells us, “I’ll always be there. I will never leave you or forsake you. Call and I will answer.”
So I started to think about our government, and I realized, we have a stable government.
A child is born, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, an on his shoulders the government shall rest. He shall reign forever and ever. He will be just and fair, and watch over widows, orphans and the poor. There is no corruption in this government, and there are no special privileges for the rich; if anything, the opposite is true. There are no exclusions on the basis of race, gender or national origin. In Christ there is no east or west.
I lament the fact that my health is not stable. No matter how strong I am, I can be struck down by a single bug. On top of this, I don’t understand my health care plan, but I can’t get out of it without paying twice. Part of my health care plan is like the gold star plan at Starbucks: “take this health survey in the next 48 hours and earn 200 bonus points!”
But I have another health care plan. In this plan, I’m asked to treat my body well, and when it wears out I will be given a new, imperishable spiritual body. I like this plan. It doesn’t mean that I’m going to ignore my health – quite the contrary – but when I’m sick, I remember the stability of eternal health care, and I relax a bit.
The church is not healthy. It’s painful to admit, but the church universal has not taken care of itself. It’s been hypocritical, hoarded many, participated in crime and covered it up. The United Methodist Church may split in the next five years because some people want to love who they love and others say, “Not in my church.”
So now my job is not stable. The UMC is a mess, and no one seems to know how to fix it. Our bishop has just rolled out a tentative plan, and guess who he picked as one of the leaders? Me! My new position is Cooperative Parish Coordinator, which is just a bureaucratic way of saying, “Person Who Helps Churches to Play Well Together.” The irony is that a decade ago, another bishop wanted me to step down, and now this bishop has asked me to step up. They must be desperate! This has caused me a great deal of anxiety. Actually, now I know how I got the stomach flu.
Jesus tells his disciples about a man who built his house on sand. The winds blew, the waves came, and the house fell ~ and a terrible fall it was. But another man built his house on rock, and when the storm came, the house held. We cannot build our lives on money, property, jobs, or anything material. Even family sometimes fails. And our friends, God bless them, are just as fragile as we are.
On Christ the solid rock I stand; all other ground is sinking sand. Jesus is a rock in the weary land, he’s a shelter in the time of storm.
How am I going to do my job? I know only one thing, in two parts: God is stable, and a life built on God is stable.
The church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ our Lord. Not a version of Jesus Christ our Lord. Not an interpretation of Jesus Christ our Lord. Not an opinion of Jesus Christ our Lord, but the actual Jesus, the Living Word.
In the movie Searching for Bobby Fischer, a teacher played by Ben Kingsley is trying to train a chess prodigy, but the prodigy is stuck. Kingsley sweeps all the pieces off the board, then asks the prodigy to make the next move. The teacher insists that he should still be able to see the game; in fact, he should be able to see clearer.
When we sweep all the politics off the board, we should be able to see Jesus clearer as well. Day by day, three things I pray: to see thee more clearly, love thee more dearly, follow thee more nearly, day by day.
In summary, we have a stable government. We have a stable health care plan. God is stable, and a life built on God is stable. This knowledge can restore our stable thoughts, our stable mind. Fix your thoughts on what is good and true and pure and right, and the God of peace will be with you. Amen.
The Reverend Richard Allen