Summer 2020 Pastor’s Message
The Summer of our (Dis)Content
Some things are obvious. This is a summer like no other any of us have known. We live in the midst of a raging Covid-19 pandemic, a sustained uprising for racial justice and against police brutality, surging unemployment, protracted and pyrotechnic political partisanship, and they all feed on each other. We are anxious, angry, outraged, and exhausted. No matter how many times I, or someone else, reminds me "this is a marathon, not a sprint," I find myself trying to sprint this marathon.
I am discontented, I am dissatisfied with fragmented, nearsighted national leadership in this pandemic. I am discontented, I am dissatisfied with centuries of systemic racism quilted into the American fabric from its founding and police brutality deeply rooted in its slave patrol origins. I am discontented, I am dissatisfied with an economic system that places profit above people at all costs. I am discontented, I am dissatisfied with perverted political purity on both sides of the aisle that paralyzes and punishes us all.
In this summer of extreme discontent I am struck by how much content, how much substance, how much work there is to engage. In fact, there is no more work than usual before us, we've simply had our eyes forced wide open. Many commentators in many places have noted that our present pandemic has not really created any new social, economic, or political issues, but it most certainly has placed a number of existing ones in stark relief. In this sense we actually do live in apocalyptic times for the late Greek origins of the word apokalýptikos, equivalent to apokalýpt(ein) means to uncover or disclose.
As our most recent confirmand Gus and his family recited, on our behalf, the UCC Statement of Faith in the form of a Doxology during our Children's and Youth Sunday earlier this month, I was once again seized by the phrase, "You call us into your church to accept the cost and joy of discipleship." The "cost of discipleship" is also the English title of Dietrich Bonhoeffer's 1937 classic Christian text. Bonhoeffer was a German Protestant theologian and leader in The Confessing Church, a movement that opposed Hitler's "German Christians" and was forced underground. The German title of this book is simply, Nachfolge, literally: "following," or, "the act of following."
The essential question of this summer of our (dis)content for each of us, I believe, is, how will I follow Jesus now?