Tuesday, October 26, 2010

give peace a chance

Give Peace a Chance
Today I am going to do something a bit cowardly.  You might even call it a “cop out”.  I am going to ask a question… a really hard question… and I am going to HOPE that somebody can come up with an answer by next Sunday.

Filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen have said that one of the devices they use, when writing a screenplay, is to write themselves into a corner.  They say the most amazing things happen when they start telling a story and find themselves and their characters in a situation they have no idea how to escape.  Today’s talk is a bit like that.  I know where I want to go… I know what seems most present in my soul at this moment.  I just have no idea how to end it.  No idea how to answer the question… or even whether I believe the question CAN be answered.

So… Greg or Jerusalem… you might want to pay attention because one of you is going to have to finish this next week!  It is possible, I suppose, that I will receive some new wisdom or revelation but, just in case, you guys might want to take notes because one of you is going to have to get us out of the corner I am about to paint us into.

Matthew 6:25-34 (New Living Translation)
 25 “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? 27 Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?
 28 “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, 29 yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. 30 And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?
 31 “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ 32 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. 33 Seek the Kingdom of God[a] above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.
 34 “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

Now I can imagine that, at first glance, this verse sounds an awful lot like an answer.  Like a solution.  If it does, you may not be listening closely enough. 

Think about this verse.  Think about how you felt when I read it.  Think about how you have felt when you have heard it read before.  Does this verse comfort you?  Does it make you feel better?  Does it bring you peace?

Be honest…

This verse makes me… angry.

Flowers don’t have mortgages.  Birds don’t worry about their kids… they don’t fret over getting them into a decent, or at least a safe, school.  And this lack of worry has never been able to protect the birds from the neighbor’s cat  - or protect the flowers from drought or hail or a pair of size two sneakers that have been repeatedly warned to “stay out of the flower bed!”

This verse reminds me of dozens of father’s days or mother’s days… trying to pick out a card that honored my parents without being laughably untrue.  “Dad… You were always there for me” (except for that time when you missed my graduation… and my wedding).  This verse kind of hits me that way.  It is the worst sort of “hallmark” platitude because what it asks is impossible and unreasonable.  And… it’s hard to see it play out in real life.  I didn’t really start worrying about my son going to concerts until AFTER he took a beating that sent him to the emergency room.  It is a verse most often quoted by upper middleclass types and quoted TO the unemployed or the struggling.  Maybe where we fall on that continuum has a great deal to do with how we hear this verse.  Sometimes it’s hard to hear the tone of this passage as anything but smug.

Anybody hear ever had your electricity or water shut off?  Anybody ever stop answering the phone because the calls always seem to come from bill collectors?  Any parent ever have to say “no” to your child when your heart desperately wants to say “yes”?  If you have lived through these moments – how would this verse have hit you then?  If you are living through these moments now – does this verse bring you comfort?  Peace?

It isn't the experience of today that drives men mad. It is the remorse for something that happened yesterday, and the dread of what tomorrow may bring.  ~Robert Jones Burdette

We all know how it is to get a song stuck in our head, right?  It is, more often than not, a song we are not particularly fond of… in fact, it is usually the most annoying things that get stuck.  But sometimes, for me, something else will happen.  Sometimes a song will sort of implant itself in my… soul.  Not so much my head but in my soul – my spirit.  It works the same way.  I catch myself singing it in the shower or while I am driving to work.  Sometimes I wake up singing it in the middle of the night.  But it does not annoy me.  It speaks to me.  Deeply.  It resonates.

I have been having this experience this week.  It is what mostly led me to this talk.  When something implants in that way… I have learned to listen.

I'm So Tired
The Beatles

I'm so tired, I haven't slept a wink
I'm so tired, my mind is on the blink
I wonder should I get up and fix myself a drink

I'm so tired I don't know what to do
I'm so tired my mind is set on you
I wonder should I call you but I know what you would do

You'd say I'm putting you on
But it's no joke, it's doing me harm
You know I can't sleep, I can't stop my brain
You know it's three weeks, I'm going insane
You know I'd give you everything I've got
for a little peace of mind

That last line is where I keep getting stuck.
“I’d give you everything I’ve got for a little peace of mind”
In fact, it is quickly becoming a prayer.
“I’d give you everything I’ve got for a little peace of mind”
A desperate prayer
“I’d give you everything I’ve got for a little peace of mind”

Don’t answer… this question is rhetorical… do any of you really know peace?  Is anyone here free of worry?  Do any of you truly give no thought to what you will wear or what you will eat?  Or, and this is even harder, to what your children will wear or what they will eat?

If you can answer yes… you should know that, to paraphrase Anne Lamott, the rest of us don’t like you very much.

I have had moments.  I have tasted moments of peace.  But… when I look over my life, and not just my adult life, there has not been that much peace of mind.  Not even in childhood.  Maybe even less peace then.  How do you tell a child in an abusive home not to worry.  Where does that kid find peace?
When has humanity EVER known real peace?

Not since the Garden, I suppose.  Our story, from the fall, through the establishment of Israel, the Gospels, right up until today, has been one long search for peace.  Peace between one another but also peace within our own souls.  Peace of mind.

We long for peace.  We search for peace.  We search and sometimes we settle for substitutes.  We find no peace and so we reckon that maybe numbness is the next best thing – a reasonable facsimile.  We numb ourselves chemically.  We numb ourselves with busyness.  We numb ourselves and we call it peace… but it is not peace.  It is merely distraction.  It is not peace.

If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.  ~Mother Teresa

We find no peace.  We DO worry about tomorrow.  About our future… about our children.  And we usually worry alone.  We worry alone because we are ashamed or because expect ourselves to be stronger or to have it more together.  Or, tragically, we worry alone because we are rejected when we worry, when we struggle.

But we do belong to each other, don’t we?  I am not sure this gets us out of the corner but maybe it is the beginning of a path.  Maybe it is the crack in the door.  Maybe this is why so many traditions “Pass the Peace”

“The Peace of the Lord be with you…”

“…And also with you”

We belong to each other… and our burdens and our joys belong to each other.  Maybe peace comes when we are one as Jesus and the Father are one.  Maybe peace is a product of being part of the larger ONE and peace is lost when we disconnect.

I don’t know.  I still haven’t found it.  I still don’t know peace.  But I continue to pray… to beg… to plead…

“I’d give you everything I’ve got for a little peace of mind”

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