How to Be Remembered

When you’ve worked on something for a long time and it seems threatened, life can be confusing and frustrating. All this work and what do I have to show for it?

I have been in the middle of some turmoil in my church where it seemed everything was coming apart. Without going into details, people are feeling hurt and ready to take offense at actions or words offered with no intent to offend.

We have had a wonderful group of people and a great new building in which to worship. One of the ways people supported the community and the church was to put on an annual multi-ethnic cultural festival. In the past few weeks it has seemed at times that it has all been at risk.

In other areas of my life, I have been personally fortunate in the face of a declining economy. But, since I am, I hope, nearing retirement, I am worried about inflation and all the apparent changes in medical care. I am one of those people who can find something to worry about with the best of them. Given the current news, it is truly a wonderful time to be a pessimist.

But, I am reminded that life goes on. My niece Carrie is going to marry a wonderful young man, Sean. Everybody in both families is delighted. It brought me back to the reality that with all its turmoil, life goes on. Whether it is the “Circle of Life” from The Lion King or “Sunrise, Sunset” from Fiddler on the Roof, life continues.

This couple is to be married. A co-worker and his wife have a new son (who is the only one in the house getting any sleep). And life continues.

Last night I was looking at YouTube clips of President Reagan telling jokes. My father had enough Irish in him to tell jokes with that same twinkle. I learned from him that you can say almost anything if you have that twinkle.

The wedding and the church festival are both happening this weekend. When, and only when, the wedding celebration is complete, I will head to the festival.

I have decided how I want to be remembered at the wedding. I have a friend Carl whose jokes can sometimes be worse than my father’s. But one thing I have learned from both of them: it is much better to be remembered for bad jokes than a sour puss.

My father -that’s “Pop” to you, Carrie, always said he wanted to live to be 105 and to be shot by a jealous husband … with cause. Pop didn’t make it.

I have a humbler goal for the weekend; I want to be remembered for telling the worst joke, the biggest groaner, at the wedding. I want it to be so bad that Carrie and Sean shake their heads over it when they remember it when they are planning their grandchildren’s weddings.

I may not accomplish that, but I have decided that laughter, even at a bad joke, is better than anything (Oops – I forgot about a honeymoon … Oh Well …)

So! Did you hear the story about ….


Who Do You Trust?

The essential question about our spiritual journey is "Who do we Trust?" We can say we are trusting God, but our actions may show something else.

The easiest trap is to believe that because we are "doing something for" God or our church, our community or even "the good of the world" we are helping our salvation. God wants us to trust in Him. Our "good works" (the Jewish term is Mitzvahs) are something that should flow from our trust in God instead of being a way to "earn" his love.

There are many ways we can get distracted from focusing on God. Many of them occur in the context of a church or other place of worship. Sometimes we let our task become the most important thing and argue with other church members about how things should be done.

Yet, the workings of a house of worship are where we learn to practice love. The problem with every church or church hierarchy is the same: It is filled with human beings who have faults and issues. If we are truly following God’s direction, our time with our fellow sinners will give us more trust in God and a better understanding of His love for them.

There are many temptations outside of church which try to present themselves as an object of trust. Money, cars, homes, IRA’s and jobs can all be false sources of security. In tumultuous economic times it is easier to see how this security is false. Yet we want to cling to that hope.

There is another group which more actively competes to be our focus of trust. This is governments and politicians. Jesus’ famous direction to "render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and to God that which is God’s" becomes at some level a threat to Caeser.

It is becoming more obvious by the day that some political groups, from the local level to the international level are becoming more opposed to churches and traditional morality than they have ever been.

Robert Nisbet, in an out of print book called The Quest for Community, talks about the role of "intermediate associations" and how they cause problems for any political entity which seeks to totally control its citizens. These groups come between the individual and the state. They offer a different focus of loyalty. The two major "associations" are the family and the church, or other religious group.

In Liberal Fascism, Jonah Goldberg talks about Otto von Bismarck and the German Catholic Church. Bismarck was a Prussian, from the Northern, largely Lutheran section of Germany. He was concerned that Catholics in Southern Germany, particularly Bavaria, would focus on the religious differences and delay the coming together of the German state. The German word Kulturkampf or what we call "Culture Wars" is part of this effort. It is an attempt to push the churches aside to prevent their interference with either the goals of the politicians or the loyalty of the people to the governing class.

Let me de direct. No political party or political leader can save us. The bible is clear:

(Psalm 146) "Put not your trust in princes, in sons of men in whom there is no salvation."

It is our duty as citizens to look into the various candidates, parties and programs and vote our best judgment about the better path. But no party or politician can save us. Heaven on Earth will not happen because someone is elected to or voted out of office.

Even if we are highly committed to a service group, a charity or any group trying to help the world, that group can’t save us.

We eventually realize that no person, group, policy or action will save us or protect us. It the end, when we tire of searching anywhere us, we can turn to the only One who can be trusted, God.