RCL – Second Sunday in Lent – March 4, 2012
Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16
I have an odd mix of events swirling in my head this week. Monday’s school shooting in Chardon, OH and how little this actually made the news (at least here in the Northeast). Santorum wanting to “throw up” in response to JFK’s words on the separation of church and state and how much this has made the news. Iran’s threat to close the Strait of Hormuz and how little I understand about Middle Eastern politics. The bizarre discussion of birth control in state and national politics how disturbing and backwards it all seems. Lastly, the rare February tornadoes that tore through parts of the country in the last 24 hours and how scary this strange winter weather really is.
As I place these events next to this week’s lectionary readings, I cannot help but think of what it takes to follow God – promise, covenant, sacrifice, faith…
It seems that the school shooting in OH was a random act of violence perpetrated by a disturbed young man. But it does beg the question how he was able to get a gun and use it before anyone noticed it was missing. I am not an expert on gun laws nor am I completely opposed to people have the right to have guns in their homes. But it should not be so easy. Surely, those who wish to have guns for legitimate purposes, would be willing to have a longer waiting period or something in order to protect innocent lives. Whose freedom and rights are protected when a child murders other children? How many more children must die before laws change to protect innocent lives? The lives of children are not the kind of sacrifice faith might require.
Santorum professes faith often enough. It’s funny, though. He makes faith an issue and he is the only candidate that I would not vote for because of his faith. Of course, there are other candidates that I wouldn’t vote for, but not because of the faith they profess. Santorum took issue with JFK’s speech to Protestant clergy advocating for a separation of religion and politics. In those days, it was tough to be a politician and Catholic. I don’t know of any American president that didn’t have some kind of faith. Personally, I find this comforting. Maybe those big decision are prayed over and reflected on in deep ways before they are made. I would like to think any world leader is sometimes kept awake at night waiting for that “still, small voice” of his or her God. My concern with Santorum is that his faith ignores any faith that does not match his and he seems to think that removing prayer from public schools unleashed untold evil on society. It is so much more complicated than that. If Mr. Santorum would shoulder his cross and follow Jesus, he might find himself traveling in a different direction, perhaps one that would include compassion and justice and a whole lot less condemnation and judgement (and maybe less vomit).
Speaking of condemnation and judgement, what is happening in Iran? Violence, threats of war, and other threats that bode only ill. What would a faithful reaction to this situation be? And if a faithful response can be determined, can it mesh with a political one? I wonder what an average Iranian would say to these questions. Why is it that there always seems to be an “enemy” somewhere in the world? If Abraham and Sarah gave “rise to many nations,” why is one valued so much more than another? What makes a Christian (of any stripe) more valuable than a Muslim or a Jew or a Buddhist or a Hindu or Zoroastrian or any other? And, yes, I do know that the situation with Iran isn’t all about religion, if it’s about religion at all. This doesn’t negate the question, though.
And the question of birth control coverage… Why is this even a question? Birth control is cheaper than babies. We don’t need to populate the planet. The human race is not going to die out through lack of reproduction. As much as it is hard for me to fathom a religious objection, okay. If you object, don’t use it. But if you are an employer providing insurance, cover the darn things. It’s cost effective. It’s smart. No one gets hurt. If you refuse birth control, you set reproductive rights back a few decades for no good reason. And if your fool enough (like one NH politician) to suggest abstinence even in marriage as a birth control method, the world is going to be a crankier place and the divorce rate is likely to increase. This just seems ridiculous and probably has nothing to do with the lectionary at all. Except, there is purpose to the sacrifice of following God – somebody benefits, sometimes whole nations. If birth control is sacrificed to appease a few, who benefits?
And the last of the events of the week to get stuck in my brain, tornadoes. No matter how many times I heard somebody who knows something about weather say that tornadoes happen sometimes in February, it’s scary. Combine that with the fact that we in the New England are awaiting the first major snow of the season, it’s unsettling. I’d like to say that this relates to the readings directly. I’m not sure that it does. But if we were to put ourselves in Abraham’s and Sarah’s sandals for a minute, this is not the world they would be pleased to have their descendants inhabit – kings or no.
I guess what all this boils down to for me is promise, covenant and sacrifice. I want the promise of God’s presence now and in the future. I want the covenant made with Abraham and renewed in Christ to continue for generations to come. I am willing to sacrifice a bit of my comfort and complacency to make it happen. I don’t want kids murdering other kids and if that means that people who like to have guns get angry about it being more difficult, fine. I don’t want a president who thinks he is better or more “righteous” than any other human being. If that means someone thinks I’m not Christian, I’ll live with that. I’m willing to admit my ignorance of Iranian politics and seek to educate myself while I advocate for a peaceful solution with Iran. I’ll risk the judgement if those with power will work to avoid more war and violence. I want a world with equal rights for all human beings and I’m more than willing to say that the birth control issue is a foolish one in 2012. There are better things to spend our time and energy and resources debating; this gets nothing for anyone. And, lastly, I will gladly give up some of my easy, lazy ways if it will help preserve the planet for those generations yet to come.
It’s all about the promise to follow God, to honor the covenant begun so many, many years ago, and to make sacrifices that are beneficial.
He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”