If We Can't, We Won't

You probably won’t believe it, but my kids spend too much time on their phones.

I have a love-hate relationship with this technology, mostly because it demands vigilant supervision from me

But even I had to laugh the other day when my son showed me a meme from the internet.

It was entitled “Advertising Placement Fail,” and pictured the back of a panel truck with its right door open.

All you could see what the left half of the back of the truck, containing half of their motto, which read:

“If We Can’t, We Won’t.”

It was good to laugh this week; it felt like a little respite from the weight we have all been carrying.

We have elected a new president, but our country remains as divided as ever.

Some are hopeful that this president will make good on his populist promises;

others are protesting.

Over half the popular vote did not go for our president elect.

Some people appreciate Mr. Trump’s disregard for political correctness,

many minorities are afraid they will not be welcome in this country.

This election season I have felt like I am reading the back of that truck.

I feel like I am only getting half the message, and it’s the negative half:

If we can’t agree, we won’t talk;

If we can’t get our way, we won’t play fair.

I take strange comfort in Jesus’ apocalyptic words this week from the Gospel of Luke.

It seems like so much calamity and destruction: wars and earthquakes and famines and plagues.

And indeed, Jesus was entering the final week of his life.

He and his followers after him would be persecuted and arrested; families would be divided.

By the time Luke wrote Jesus’ words down, Christians had died for the faith

and the temple in Jerusalem had been destroyed by the Romans.

But all that suffering is only half the message.

Jesus says that his followers should not be terrified.

There is a ‘fear not’ message in this passage, for despite the dire predictions

and the terrible things that had already come to pass for Luke’s people,

Jesus has already been there before them.

They are not alone.

Furthermore, God has a plan, much larger than anyone can see from a human vantage point.

God has ongoing work in the world, and Jesus is saying that even this time of turmoil is part of it.

But Jesus doesn’t stop there-- Jesus takes it s step further and says there is a purpose in this time.

The purpose is to testify to God’s work in the world.

The danger and hardship Jesus’ followers would encounter was an opportunity

To show what their faith was made of:

caring for the poor and dying in a society that wouldn’t touch them;

willingly facing death; forgiving their enemies instead of rising up in violence .

When confronted, they would be given the words to speak.

I take Jesus’ words to heart this week

because I have to believe that like back of that truck, I am getting only a partial view.

There must be a bigger picture out there,

A larger framework from which to derive hope for our country.

But not only that, I have to believe that God has placed within our midst an opportunity--

an opportunity to turn away from the bitterness and name calling that characterized this campaign

to turn away from vilifying our neighbors because of their political or social views

and instead to draw upon our distinctive Christian practices of loving our neighbors,

serving the most vulnerable, and forgiving our enemies.

This Thursday I caught a glimpse of what this looks like.

It was our usual bible study time, but not many of us were feeling very ‘usual.’

Doug C started us off showing us the book he had of the names on the Vietnam Memorial in DC.

The book was over an inch thick, with small print— over 58,000 names.

“It tears me up to think about the sacrifices these people and their families made,” he said,

“and to see our country so divided.”

Then people, one by one, began to share their feelings in the wake of the election.

There were some raw feelings, some tough words shared, and the group was hardly unanimous;

but everyone listened to each other, and afterward, we all shared hugs.

The truth is that no matter who was elected this week, the fault lines in our society have been exposed.

Our political system has pitted people who used to have a place and now are displaced

against people who never had a place.

The rhetoric pits people who are emigrating from places of little opportunity, looking for a better life

against people whose forebears did exactly the same thing.

But that’s only half the message.

That’s the “If We Can’t, We Won’t” message, and it isn’t the truth.

In Jesus, we hear the whole message.

It does not pit one group against another, but includes all people.

It is not based on fear or anger, but on love and sacrifice.

It isn’t a pessimistic view of the future, but a hope filled one.

We have an opportunity in this moment to be obviously and intentionally the Body of Christ—

We are called to be Christ’s representatives in this world—“little Christs” to one another, as Luther called it.

We have the opportunity to testify, to put into practice a new motto with a positive twist.

It might sound something like this.

If we can’t agree, we won’t demonize our opponent; we will listen.

If we aren’t the same, we won’t fear our differences; we will appreciate diversity.

If we can’t win an argument, we won’t take our ball and go home;

we will find a compromise that will do the most good for the most people.

Whatever our motto, whether the times be favorable or unfavorable, certain truths remain.

As people of God, we are not called to cower in fear, lash out in anger, or retreat in defeat.

Instead we are called reengage with our sisters and brothers in communities like this one

and in the world at large

and to demand from our elected officials the same courtesy and care for the common good

that we give one another.

Jesus said, “By your endurance you will gain your souls.”

That’s what Jesus calls us to—a soul-filled lifestyle where love endures

where courage endures

where faithfulness to one another and to God endures, despite the forces that test us.

Jesus promises to be there with us, to lead the way.

We can trust him.

We can follow.

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