Pastor's column: Exactly what is needed in our time
Two church ladies were having a fight. Their fight was dividing their church. Their fight was so big their founding pastor decided to write the church a letter, inspired to call the church to be what Christ called us to be. His letter was so full of wisdom the early church recognized it as Christian scripture. You can read it yourself. It is the book of Philippians. The pastor who wrote was St. Paul.
I sometimes read Paul not for content but as an example of good writing to imitate.
Rereading Philippians I found it curious that Paul buried the cause for this letter, the fight between Euodia and Syntyche, deep in the letter (4:2) dedicating only a short sentence to their
dispute. Paul said more to the church leader, "I ask you also, my loyal companion, help these
Paul then began his conclusion, a summary of all he had written in the body of his letter. "Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." (4:8)
Wow, what an inspired yet challenging command for Christians to live into! Many Christians have memorized this verse and highlighted it in their Bible—I know I have. But still how hard it is to live into. Particularly now as fear is running amuck. I assume you may share my struggle.
In my professional reading I have seen several current articles by neuropsychologists arguing our current public dialog is driven in large part by the hard wiring of our brains for self-protection. The resulting fear is a very powerful emotion. Then thinking over this morning's broadcast news, fear seemed to be at the root of most of the stories: fear of prosecution, fear of racial difference, fear of hate, fear of being made a fool. Anyone who is fearful will find it hard to think as God inspired Paul to tell us to think.
It is hard, faith-driven work to override fear with calm reflection on what is true, honorable, just, pure, pleasing, commendable, or excellent. Yet that is exactly what is needed in our time. It certainly is the theme the royal wedding preacher with his new-found fame is taking up. According to WEAU in Eau Claire on Monday, June 25, Bishop Michael Curry preached into Paul's same theme in a sermon celebrating 168 years of ministry by Episcopalians in La Crosse. Bishop Curry was video clipped saying there has always been a "sane center," people of faith tracing back all the way to Abraham, who are trying hard to override our impulse of fear for thought and action leading to the common good. He believes we all can become one of those folks.
In my one-on-one conversations both in church and around town, many of our neighbors here in Hudson are thinking like St. Paul and Bishop Curry. The catch is only that it is up to each of us to do this inner work of reflecting on what is true, honorable, just, pure, pleasing, commendable, and excellent. We can't ask someone else to do it for us, or even before us. However, with each of us who takes on Paul's challenge, we will find our way to God's heart healing the fights that divide us.