A Little Nostalgia and a Lot of Thoughts

RCL – May 20, 2012 – Seventh Sunday of Easter

Acts 1:15-17, 21-26
Psalm 1
1 John 5:9-13
John 17:6-19

This week I’ve spent a lot of time looking back (yes, I will soon experience a birthday that feels rather significant), marveling at all the changes that have occurred in my life time. There are the obvious technological changes – from clunky rotary phones to the wonders of the smart phones, from heavy black and white televisions to flat HD and 3D tvs, from transistor radios to MP3s… And so many other things that came into everyday existence such as microwaves and computers. Then I think of things like men on the moon and the space race that seems to have culminated in the international space station and I’m even more amazed. When I turn my memories to politics and world events, some things are hazy like the Vietnam war and Watergate. But other things are more clear – the Iran Hostage Crisis, Bosnia, the Space Shuttle explosion, the Cold War, the tearing down of the Berlin Wall, the break up of the Soviet Union, Ruanda, Desert Storm and, of course, the more recent wars.

There has been social change, too. In my elementary school there was a boys’ side and a girls’ to the playground. The feminist movement was in its infancy. Communication has been increased – both in frequency and speed which makes it easier to stay in touch with people who are scattered all over the globe. Speaking of the globe, it was that round thing in the classroom that seemed not to relate to my world at all. If anyone would have told me that I would know and care what was happening in Kenya, or Bosnia, or the Philippines or hundreds of other places, I would not have believed it. I had trouble finding places on the globe, let alone believing that there were people living their everyday lives in those places.

What has my nostalgic trip down good old memory lane have to do with the scripture readings? It’s about change and people living here and there. Psalm 1 speaks so poetically about the ways of the wicked and the ways of the righteous and it made me wonder how we can tell which is which. All the technological, political, and social changes must lead one way or the other, right?

Happy are those who do not follow 
   the advice of the wicked,
or take the path that sinners tread, 
   or sit in the seat of scoffers;

but their delight is in the law of God,
   and on God’s law they meditate day and night.

They are like trees 
   planted by streams of water,
which yield their fruit in its season, 
   and their leaves do not wither.
In all that they do, they prosper.

The wicked are not so,
   but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

Therefore the wicked will not stand 
   in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation 
   of the righteous;

for God watches over the way of the righteous,
    but the way of the wicked will perish.

I don’t know if it is so easy to tell the difference between these paths. Technology is pretty cool. I mean how awesome is it that you can have live chat or Skype with someone on the other side of the world. Or that there is a robotic arm that responds to thoughts. Or the stunning and seemingly miraculous improvements in medicine. Surely, these things are on the path of righteousness. But what of the ways these same technologies are used in weapons and war? Or when information access serves not to connect one person to another, but to disconnect that person from the world and people around them?

Technology might be the easiest change to consider here. When we look at politics and social change what’s good and what’s not is a matter of opinion, and I’m always surprised by those opinions. People attribute the “downfall of society” to a whole variety of things that have happened in the last 30-40 years. Everything from the Feminist Movement to immigration policy to the internet have been blamed for social changes that they disapprove of. Of course, these days, marriage equity, is both a cause and a symptom of all that is wrong with society. There is always something that is leading the American people, if not the whole world, astray.

Astray from what is often my question. I have no interest in reverting back to the 1950’s (before my time for the record), thank you very much. I appreciate the strides that have been made in most aspects of society and I look forward to the days when there are even greater strides toward equality and justice for all people. Sure, some sacrifices have been made. People don’t go to church quite so much anymore. People don’t stay in their hometowns their entire lives. The makeup of the American family is not as predictable as it once might have been. There are benefits and drawbacks to all of these things.

But what changes of the last few decades would you give up because of its costs? I don’t think I’d want to give up the wonderful diversity of society for more people in church on Sunday morning; I’d rather keep making things change until church meets the spiritual needs of today the way it seems to have met the needs of yesterday. I’m not willing to exchange the freedom to pursue work and life where I feel called in order to preserve a notion of duty that doesn’t make sense to me; I’d much rather use the improvements in communication to stay in touch with people from other places. And  I am certainly not willing to sacrifice the benefits of the Feminist Movement to guarantee a lower divorce rate or some such.

It isn’t always easy to tell which path is which. And though I know this might not be a popular idea, the paths might be different for different people. What I do to honor God, may not be what you do. The things that cause me to lose my footing may not be the things that cause you to stumble. The things that strike my passion and lead me to speak out against injustice, may not be the same for you. Maybe that’s the point. Maybe if we all decided what is good for us and honors God and then use it against injustice, that’s all it takes. We can marvel together at a smart phone and share the horror of a recalcitrant Bosnian warlord. But we can stop arguing over what is “righteous” or “Christian” or “good” and just do something that is righteous, or Christian, or good.

“Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.”

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