A couple years back I’d written a letter to the State Journal lamenting that more stores were choosing to open on Thanksgiving Day to get a “jump” on Black Friday. And I noted how many national holidays had become little more than excuses for shopping: Big Savings This Memorial Day! Great Labor Day Deals! Save Some Presidents on Presidents Day!! It made me wonder when someone would do a campaign on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day with Rev. King proclaiming, “It is your Civil Right—to save money with these deals!”
Yikes. Which brings me back to Presidents Day, celebrated now the third Monday of February, combining the observance of Washington’s (Feb. 22) and Lincoln’s (Feb. 12) birthdays. I don’t know if any schools do special units on these men or their times or whether any community would have a program in their honor as many still do for Memorial or Veterans Day.
But as we enter this first month of a new presidency, it would seem the diminishment of old-fashioned honor and respect for holidays and institutions and principles has brought us to new lows. Now, there were never some Good Old Days when everybody got along happily, and it is our right to promote agendas we wish to see enacted and to protest those which we oppose.
Yet the incivility and rancor and baiting and contempt to which all parties are resorting is deepening a noxious environment (an environment, I submit, that slowly began festering through several presidencies now) that makes it increasingly impossible for alternate sides even to listen to each other, let alone work together and accomplish something for the common good.
Now I don’t have some “solution” for Washington or Madison or the UN or the EU or elsewhere. But I do suggest a “resolution” that starts with the Church, among us here as God’s people. Our heavenly Father has formed us into a family, Christ invites us into his peace, the Spirit empowers us to act in righteousness and harmony. And in such rancorous, fractured times, it is all the more crucial for us as the Called Out Ones (remember, that’s what Ecclesia means!) to live in our community, our nation, our world, as models of a different way of relationship, one not based on selfish personal interest, but on a Godly vision of renewal and redemption and love for a divided world.
Some of you will recall my mention in a sermon of a magnet message, printed below. It’s not Biblical, but its sentiment is one of grace as we see in it both our commitment to trust in God’s presence, even in this wounded world, and our call to be God’s presence wherever those wounds cry out for healing:
in the world.