Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. – 1 Timothy 6:17
Too often, wanting to post a few thoughts for the day on this blog, I sit at my desk with my hands hovering over the computer keyboard and I find myself struggling to even begin. I understand that writing is a discipline, and I know it is important to go through the process even when it’s a struggle; but at the same time I understand this venue is a direct line from my soul to whoever chooses to read, and I do not want to spin my wheels on your time.
Then I thought about some of the good conversations that have come out of this blog in recent days, and I am reminded that God can – and will – always use what I offer, just so long as what I share is my authentic best. My calling in this venue is not to write Pulitzer Prize winning material so much as it is to present, faithfully, a window into my life as a disciple.
In a recent post I used the phrase “its collective soul” when talking about our country. Here’s the context:
“And if this world, and in particular the United States, needs one thing to be stronger in these unsettled and unsettling times, then that is its collective soul.“The “Why” of Church
One of my preacher friends asked me to unpack the idea a little more. I tried; and so I’m thinking, with nothing else clamoring to make its way onto the page this morning, I could share my response to his question. Here it is – raw and unedited (other than paragraph breaks):
Good question. It is not unusual for us writer types to get caught up in phrasemaking and then write something beautiful having no idea what we actually mean!
Fortunately that is not the case this time. Or at least I think not.
I understand myself as making the observation that – as a nation – we have more than a constitution, more than a (fluid) culture, more than a “way of life…” we have a soul. This is something all Americans are a part of.
It’s not a matter of some living up to an ideal and some not; some being “real God-fearing Americans” and some not; some loving “traditional American values” and some not…. Instead our collective soul is something more reflective of our character as a nation.
I think we all have an idea of “The spirit of America” – but it’s not set in stone so much as it is the product of the hopes and dreams of all of us, the yearnings, the behaviors, the love, the inventiveness, and how we put the ideals on the Statue of Liberty into practice, and how we sometimes love freedom and sometimes mistake it for license, and how we sometimes embrace multiculturalism and sometimes try to repress everything that isn’t white and European and straight and conservative, and how we respond to the reality of challenge and oppression and war and pandemic – all of that.
So I think that, yes, when I wrote about The Church having the opportunity – the responsibility – to be a means of grace, yes that is how we are called to interface with and to help mold our national soul. So much of what it means to be a Christian calls for disciplined choice so that – feel like it or not – we intentionally carry that light with us, having so filled up with light and love and compassion (“Something powerful is always about to happen,” Rebekah says, “when Jesus has compassion”) and grace and mercy that it just spills out all over the place. Jesus, I like to preach from my small WordPress pulpit, is God’s invitation not God’s gatekeeper (remember the Woes of the Pharisees, slamming the door shut in people’s faces? Matt 23:13)….
I could go on (hey, you asked). But I think that’s how I would unpack that idea. As a nation, I worry about our collective soul. Not that it’s not Christian per se, but that we have lost our sense of who we are and who we could be for the world.
– email from Derek Maul to Rev. Mac Schafer
So maybe I had nothing new to write this morning because I was supposed to think about this a little more?
I do worry about America, and I really am concerned about our “collective soul” as a nation. If you would, please pray with me:
“Loving and sustaining God, we live in a nation that has become in many ways a beacon of hope to this broken and struggling world. But we are broken and struggling too. Please help us to remember that our hope is in Jesus, and that every nation under heaven is invited into a shared experience of grace and promise. Turn our arrogance into advocacy, our bluster into beneficence, our hubris into humility, and our greed into generosity. Amen!”