November 5, 2020
I’ve been deep in prayer and thought for the last 24 hours regarding our national and local elections. I’ve had slogans and commercials dancing around in my thoughts. I’ve watched a good bit of news, which you know I am reluctant to do under regular circumstances. I’ve thought of many conversations I have had with people I love and trust and with whom I both identify and differ when it comes to politics. I have felt hopeful and troubled. I have read your thoughts on social media and listened to pundits toss their claims and ideas back and forth, waiting for something to take root and give them more airtime. I’ve read the psalms—a favorite pastime of mine when I find myself wondering about the state of the world. There is comfort in knowing that we are not the first human generation to experience unrest and upheaval. We are not the first to wonder what the future will bring and how it could be worse than what we are living through now.
I find it both interesting and a little frustrating when we see patterns of history repeating themselves. I was very interested, therefore, to find a book recently in my parents’ library that gave me a window into an earlier time in our history as Methodists in North Georgia: Letters Written In Turbulent Times by Bishop John Owen Smith and edited by Rev. Herschel Sheets. The book is a compilation of letters written by Bishop Smith in response to a variety of letters he received over the years he served as our bishop in the North and South Georgia conferences. The letters cover topics like “Dealing with the Communist Scare” and “Facing the Racial Crisis in Georgia.” It is quite fascinating to read about the church wrestling with issues of the day from another time in our history as Methodists in Georgia.
One particular letter has caught my attention. It seems to be a response to a letter Bishop Smith received regarding something he has said or written about civil unrest related to the Civil Rights Movement, which was an important part of the social climate of his tenure as Bishop in North Georgia. Seemingly in response to some kind of challenge to his assertion that personal and social holiness must exist in partnership in the life of a Christian, Bishop Smith has this to say regarding reflection on the state of the world:
“The simple truth is that we are always facing something that would, in all probability, be a much better story if we who call ourselves Christians had been a little more alert and diligent with respect to our mission. Can it be that this tremendous fact is now pressuring us more than ever before?” (p. 51)
This is what I will be asking myself as we move out of this election season: would the challenges we face as a society and as people of faith be a much better story if we were a little more alert and diligent with respect to our mission? Can the pressure and anxiety we feel now move us out of our complacency and into a new place of diligent commitment to the call to participate in what God is doing to transform the world?
What do we have to lose? Whatever it is, it may be what is keeping us from being able to tell a “much better story.” So, let’s let it go and join in wherever we can find God at work in the world. Now that will be a good story!