Saturday, July 26, 2014

Never Be Late Again!

When you are expected at a meeting or an appointment do you normally arrive early, on time, or late?  How does that make you feel? Your perception of the importance of the event and who you are meeting with probably changes your answer.  Most people nowadays know that if you show up late for a job interview you won’t get the job. 
When you are the person who is leading a meeting or gathering do you normally arrive early, on time, or late? How does that make you feel? How does it make the other participants feel?  I would guess that if you are perpetually late the people who are waiting for you are not happy when you do arrive. In fact, they probably feel insulted; that you have concluded your time or your schedule is more important than their own. And yet, if you are a boss or superior the participants won’t complain to your face.

In a recent study on the subject of perceptions of time it was “discovered” that people with status and power have a different perception of time. (WSJ 7.22.14 Robert Lee Hotz)  It seems that “the boss” might be late, not because she wants to appear more important,  but because she actually thinks she had more time to get to the meeting than in fact she did.  That may be what the study says, but I still think there is an element of rude behavior in the practice of “running late.”  Let me make a big confession here: I am pointing my finger directly at me as I write this. I am an “offender”!  I cannot tell you how many times a week I need to phone and say “I am running late” or I need to apologize for being late on arrival.  I am always trying to do one last email or phone call before leaving for a meeting, so I am late. 

After I read about this study I asked myself, “I wonder if Jesus was ever late?”  My first conclusion was that since there were no watches 2000 years ago, no one worried about 10 minutes either way. They had some system of knowing “the hours”, but I am guessing no one stressed about showing up late because how would you know if you were 5 minutes early or 15 minutes late?  But that isn’t the real point. The real point is that Jesus, the most authoritative, powerful human to ever live, viewed himself not as the “boss” but as the “Servant.”  Every meeting he attended was one in which he viewed himself as the Servant of everyone else, serving food, washing feet.  So, no, Jesus, the author of time itself, was never late.  So, the next time we’re supposed to meet, I am going to try to show up on time because, friends, you are more important than me.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

"Help, I Need Somebody!"

Throughout recorded time one of the hardest words to speak is “help.”  Maybe that is just my American world-view, but I think most people have a hard time asking for help. It is a difficult word to speak because we somehow feel that we should not need help; we should be able to solve our problems on our own.  Sometimes hearing the word “Help!” also creates a visceral negative reaction in the listener. It seems to depends on who is asking. But when need is real, asking for and giving help is right.

According to some sources, John Lennon claims that he wrote the famous Beatles song “Help” as a self-expression of his cry for help through the trauma induced by his singing group’s sudden, amazing rise to fame.  (Wikipedia “Help!”) Whether that is true or not, the lyric is popular because it speaks for the inner-cry of humans: “Help me if you can I’m feeling down/And I do appreciate you being round/Help me get my feet back on the ground/Won’t you please, please help me.”  Who among us has not cried out that phrase, probably to ourselves, in the middle of the night.  But we have such a difficult time speaking it out loud.  So sometimes the community needs to say it for us.

The idea of a community helping each other goes back to at least Moses. When raising funds to build the Tabernacle people “who were willing” gave so much that Moses eventually had to issue an order that people could give no more. (Exodus 36:6) Now that is honest fund-raising: we will tell you to stop when we have enough.  The idea of giving help as needed was a hallmark of the first church when the members sold what they had “to give to anyone who had need.” (Acts 2:45)  You don’t need to ask for help in a community because everyone can see the need; they offer what you need just because you are a part of the community.

Which leads me to let you know that a family in my church community lost their house and worldly possessions to an accidental fire last week. The initial response of their friends and family has overwhelmed them, but the need continues.  The husband, wife and two daughters, each a special part of our community, need help to get their feet back on the ground. It is hard for them to ask for help, and it is even harder to receive so much love and the outpouring of support.  But that’s what communities do for each other: we do the asking and the giving, and when you are the one in need, you receive until you can say with Moses, “Stop, we have enough!”

If you would like to help this precious family of Hope Church, you can send your offering to: “Hope Church, Birkey Family Fund” Hope Church, 612 Ontario Ave. Sheboygan, WI. 53081

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Would You Sign the Declaration?

Because the Fourth of July, a national holiday in the United States, is a slow day around my house I have time to read the Declaration of Independence.  What struck me in this year’s reading is how politely the Founders worded their radical manifesto.  Then I began to wonder: would our present day Congress be able to write and sign such a strongly-worded call to arms today? Would anyone sign it today? What if the signers refused to sign? Would the U.S. exist, or would we be an English colony? Or Iran?

Political speech today has fallen on hard times. Character assassination has become so common that the sharp words fall on deaf ears.  We have heard so often that every politician is a lying, thieving cheater that we no longer can know a real criminal politician from a good one.  What we perhaps need is a return to political speech which states the most radical message (“we are starting a revolution to overthrow the king!”) in such polite words as these: “When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume the powers of the earth…”  I long for a politician who doesn’t feel compelled to speak and act to the lowest common denominator. Of course, that won’t change until the people stop responding favorably to negative messages.

But even if we could write such words, would anyone sign it? The Founders writing included these religious words: “the laws of nature and of nature’s God”; “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights”; “with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence”.  I wonder if there is any way that our government today would agree to insert such language in any document which would get even a majority to sign, much less a unanimous approval.  (The Declaration was not unanimously approved, and thus the seeds of the later Civil War were planted.) In our nation today there are so many “gods” and so many voices declaring there is no God, would the calculating politicians be able to put their names to the Declaration today? Or would they take a poll and decide the politics of signing the Declaration were too risky to their office?

The signers also said “we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.”  Who would pledge their life and fortune and honor for America today? Who would publicly show their trust in the providential care of Divine Providence with such a bold pledge?  Would you?  Praise God those 56 signers signed.