It is sometimes difficult to know how to respond to national news items without fanning flames of division. This month we have had so many things going on nationally. There were terrible shootings, the January 6th enquiry and now the overturning of Rowe vs. Wade. How do we deal with these big areas of public policy and decision?
One of the things which stuck with me from the hearings was the amount of people who said they would not break their constitutional oath. This might seem like an obvious thing but it also came at a personal cost for each of them. Jobs were lost, lives disrupted and fear was all around, Yet, people stuck by something which was more important than partisanship - they stuck by the Constitution which is the bedrock of American freedom.
Whilst the Constitution came after America declared its independence, its very opening declares interdependence, “We the people….” Interdependence is something which we find difficult because we are led to believe that self-actualization and self-fulfilment are the zenith of human experience.
If we go back to the Bible we will see that interdependence was always, always a theme. Community and family are at the center of life. I don’t want to romaticize things, you only have to look at the first chapter of Isaiah to see how fed up God seems to be with the people’s lack of ability to even look after the vulnerable. In Jesus' time there was the same problem. The elite feasted whilst the poor begged for a crust of bread.
But Jesus still presented a way of life based in a community in which each person was of equal value. Even the widow, the poorest of the poor, had her mite offering blessed because of its generosity. She gave all she had, Jesus tells his disciples.
There is no simple sermon or blog post to sort out everything which is happening around us. As a nation we value independence both nationally and individually. However, when that independence begins to rob us of our vision of interdependence we end up with a crumbling edifice. In Jesus day the Temple had become too big, too corrupt, too blind to people.
For Christians our baptismal vows are our constitution. It is where we make promises, where we turn “I” into “We”. We are asked:
Will you continue in the apostles' teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of the bread, and in the Prayers?
Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?
Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?
Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?
“I will with God’s help,” we reply. These promises are profoundly uncomfortable as they cut across the individualism all around us and make us a part of something much larger, much more daring and, ultimately, much more fulfilling.
In these times we would do well to return to these promises frequently. Are we willing to truly stand up for what we believe and for these promises which we have promised to keep? When we puzzle over these complex issues, are we asking how our responses are answering all of the questions - loving, proclaiming, serving, seeking dignity and justice. We will find ourselves with difficult decisions and more questions than answers. We will still disagree but with an understanding that that is what human beings do in order to truly learn to be around each other.
We have problems. We know that. Children should be safe to go to school. Our system of government should be safeguarded and amended only by Constitutional paths. Some will feel that Rowe vs. Wade went too far but what we now have in a free-for-all States’ legislation war will cause suffering all around.
Refuse to give in to the voices which demand your loyalty over your loyalty to the promises you made when you became a Christian or when you affirmed your baptism in confirmation. That is hard, it means risk in an angry world. It means that we will have to admit we are wrong from time to time. It is a risk we have to take because we said yes to all these things.We renew our “yes” at least once a year.
Sit with God, sit with these vows. Into this place bring the hard stuff and listen.