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    Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022

    Psalm 39: 6-8

    6 You have given me a mere handful of days, and my lifetime is as nothing in your sight;
    truly, even those who stand erect are but a puff of wind.
    7 We walk about like a shadow, and in vain we are in turmoil;

    we heap up riches and cannot tell who will gather them.
    8 And now, what is my hope? O Lord, my hope is in you.

     

    Vanity (n): excessive pride

    The Teacher told us all is vanity. (Ecclesiastes 1: 2) It was a hard lesson, oft ignored, and even in old age with the wisdom of a lifetime behind, one still frets and embraces turmoil, seeking that which seems unobtainable. The American dream – work hard and get ahead, a chicken in every pot, a car in every garage, safety and security for all – stands at times in direct conflict with reality. This cultural backdrop embodies vanity.

    We Americans tend to think we are in charge. In control. Capable of shaping destiny. A positive force in history, indeed capable of remaking the world in which we live. With that goal in mind, we have over the centuries sent tens of thousands, the flower of our nation, to fight and die.  

    This is vanity. Excessive pride in one’s self and one’s nation.

    Yet even in old age, my heart twists as I see the flag, hear the anthem, and witness the return of armies, for I know we hoped for the best, fought to save ourselves and others, died and killed for the sake of peace. Strange, how God created us humans. We can in one moment embrace war, even as we see the human ugliness it casts over the earth. We’re exactly like the Pharaohs, the Babylonians, and the Romans. Mighty forces bringing our version of peace and justice. Capable of enslaving Israel and killing Jesus in the name of peace.

    Vain turmoil. All is as it was and as it will be.  Remember the secondary definition of the word “vain:” Producing no result, useless.

    I’ve reflected in recent days on two words, yeast and peace. I spoke during communion Sunday about the illusion many hold dear, that Jesus failed to bring peace on earth. It’s an illusion because he really did show us how to find peace. It is available to all. One needs only to understand how. When we take Jesus into our heart, into the very center of ourselves, we may indeed suffer and struggle as he suffered and struggled, but we will be at peace. He found himself capable at the height of his suffering of loving those who harmed him. Father, he prayed, forgive them. He was at peace because he trusted his Father to carry him through.

    When we discover this, we find ourselves transformed. We become yeast. Like tiny particles of living love, we leaven the world, which continues to struggle in vain. It becomes trite, I suppose, to recall heroes who discovered and lived this. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, for example. He lived in the worst turmoil of the 20th Century, found himself in Hitler’s camps, and was executed for believing in love. Or perhaps Dr. King, who marched into the face of evil without lifting a hand in anger and was murdered for his love. Both of them at peace.

    Yeast. Temporary occupants of a troubled world. Changing the face of the world without inner turmoil.

    Those who find themselves transformed have discovered two things. Trust and patience.

    They live in eternal hope. They overcome evil peacefully. Like Jesus, they change the face of the earth, using the most powerful force of all. Love.  

     

    Hymn of the day: O Little Town of Bethlehem. On Youtube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1GPEfVsDryk or click media link on rossfordumc.org.

     

     

     

    Rev. Lawrence Keeler