Catching a glimpse of something is part of our human experience. My hunch is that each of us have had glimpses of the terrible and wonderful in our lives. Once in a while, perhaps we even catch a glimpse of how things should be in this world.
Like parents at a playground with no phone in sight pushing their girl on a swing. Or a couple speaking words of understanding and compassion finally forgiving each other for hurts long held within. Or a deep depression lifting following years of despair. Or a one year anniversary of having had the last glass of scotch.
There is a great tune from the country singer Lee Ann Womack titled, “There is a God.” Here are some excerpts. “Try and put your arms around a 100 year old tree. Climb up on a horse and let it run full speed. Watch a flock of birds against the morning sun. Close your eyes and listen to the river run. Catch a firefly in your hand or a raindrop on your tongue. Plant a seed and see what comes out of the ground. Find the heartbeat on your baby’s ultrasound. Hear the doctor say he can’t explain it, but the cancer is gone.”
While there is more, these lyrics express not only the presence of God, but they give us a glimpse of how things should be, should always be. Once in a while, if we pay attention, we get glimpses of the good, the right, the just, the peaceful, and the loving. When Jesus walked the dirt roads of Israel, he too gave us glimpses of how things should be.
I invite you to immerse yourself in Jesus’ words in the Gospels, teaching such as, “Love your enemies; forgive everyone; when you lose yourself, you find yourself; let go of power and ego; treat others as you want to be treated; what matters most is where you heart is; nobody is better than anybody else; real wealth is a life grounded upon a relationship with God; give all your burdens to God; do not fear…”
Jesus said and taught so much more, and if we listen, really attend to Jesus’ words, they all reflect how things should be. But in the midst of all that is right, we live in an era in which there is extreme division, contentiousness, hostility, and ugliness. As Jesus followers, we should never enflame, encourage, or intentionally participate in such things. All of this, I believe, is an invitation to ask ourselves, “How am I to live as a Christian right now in the midst of it all?”
Perhaps what we are called to do in our good and bad and certainly divided culture, is to give everyone around us a glimpse of what things are supposed to look like through our words, our actions, our silences, and our inactions. Maybe we are to tend to our hearts, first and foremost, so they don’t become hardened or harsh or critical or mean or venomous or divisive or reactive or paranoid, but rather so they become more and more like the heart of Jesus.
Could it be that the rubber-meets-the-road point of this is to understand that we are in a tough rough world and that has been the case since the beginning. To know that while this is the case, there is a point to our journey, meaning to being alive at this time, and a purpose to which we are each called. That one purpose we each share is to give people around us glimpses of how things should be and will be when it is all said and done.
So how do we give people glimpses of how things should and will be one day? I believe we have to keep our eyes on Jesus, internalize his teachings, however imperfectly we do so, and be intentional about how we show up in the world each day. We need to act, sometimes not react, speak up, sometimes hold our tongues, and take an honest look at what our lives are giving people a glimpse of.
If we are giving people glimpses of how things should be and will be one day, then the essence of who we are and how we show up will reflect joy, peace, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, self-control, and love. It means our lives will not be full of conceit or envy or anger or judgmentalness or division or put downs. It means our lives and actions and words will reflect Jesus and all he taught and said.
So I leave us with some questions today. Questions we can only answer for ourselves. Here are those questions. Does my life and how I show up give people a glimpse of Jesus? Does my life and who I am give people a glimpse of how things should be and will be when it is all said and done? Fundamentally, does my life give people a glimpse of the love of God?
Hard questions, yes. Essential to think about if we want to take our walk with Jesus seriously, without a doubt. Certainly this gives us much to think and pray about and ultimately act upon. And I believe giving others a glimpse of Jesus will change everything, one person at a time.
Aesop’s Fables were part of my childhood. To this day I remember my mom and grandmother reading them to me.
In the fable of the North Wind and Sun, as I remember it, the north wind and the sun get into an argument over which one of them is the strongest. In the midst of their debate, a person traveling strolls by wrapped in a cloak. In response, the sun and the wind agree that whoever can strip the traveler of his cloak must be the more powerful of the two.
The wind went first by blowing a hard cold fierce wind on the traveler. The wind howled and howled and the stronger the blast, the tighter and tighter the traveler clung to his cloak. No matter how hard the wind tried, the wind could not strip the traveler of his cloak.
Then it was the sun’s turn. He shined warm gentle rays down upon the traveler. The traveler was engulfed in a pleasant feeling and soon he loosened the cloak he was wearing. Over time he became so comfortably warm that he removed the cloak completely. Hence, the sun won the debate with the wind.
One moral of the story is that gentleness and kindness are often far more powerful than force. This may be why the following quote is attributed to Aesop. “No act of kindness is ever wasted.”
This fable came to mind the other day due to a simple act of kindness by a stranger toward me. I was busy and had to run errands when I noticed my gas gauge was nearing below empty. Despite my pressured schedule, I pulled into a station and filled my car up, after which, I went inside to buy a cold iced tea. After waiting for a few moments in line, I approached the woman at the register. She smiled and said, “no charge today for you.”
I replied, “Really?” She said, “Yes.” After thanking her and complimenting her for her kindness, I got into my car and went about my day. Her simple kindness remained with me. Indeed, Aesop was right, “no act of kindness is ever wasted.”
I know this may seem to be a platitude or overly sentimental, but I believe there is great wisdom in Aesop’s fable of the North Wind and Sun, as many have said over the years. I have a strong suspicion that if more and more of us engaged in intentional kindness, much would change in our lives and in our nation. We certainly have plenty of evidence of what things are like when we are anything but kind to one another.
Perhaps this is why Paul wrote in his letter to the people of Ephesus, “Be kind to each other.” Simple, of course. Challenging at times, certainly.
The Rev. Dr. Robert de Wetter
This last weekend, yet again, horrific shootings happened in Dayton and El Paso. While I believe there are broad based steps that can be taken which will necessitate everyone yielding something, I remain saddened by the fact that we live in a country in which right decisions are subservient to partisanship and pressures for re-election. Our nation’s inaction since Columbine, in my view, does not reflect any faithfulness to Matthew 22: 34-40, which is the foundation of our faith and lives. This is not a partisan statement, but rather one that comes from a pastor, not a polarized politician.
El Paso has been part of my family for a long time. It is where I feel most grounded, largely because of the multiple generations of my family that have called the city home. It is a special place filled with great and humble and family oriented people, despite economic challenges. It also remains one of the safest cities in the US regardless of the events of last weekend and despite the fact it is on the border. Citizens of El Paso and Juarez have never viewed the border as a problem, but rather as a unique blessing to be celebrated. Indeed the two places are interdependent in most definable ways.
This week I was asked by a leader of the city to write a letter to the editor of the El Paso Times. I have done so. Being limited to 220 words was not easy, especially for a preacher. Anyway, I have included my letter, not because it is a magnum opus of thought, but rather I just wanted to share what has been on my mind and in my heart. Love and prayers to each of you.
Dear People of El Paso:
As my family has been part of the community for over 120 years, I know well the soul of the city. El Paso is the place it is because of its people. I believe the kindest, most generous, resilient, humble, loving human beings anywhere call El Paso home. Yesterday members of our congregation joined me in continuing diligent prayer. We pray for strength, healing, peace, hope, and the will to overcome. Growing up, I remember the Rio Grande River flowed freely without cement banks or walls. The spirit of the time was one of a giant abrazo. There was a sense of joy, unity in diversity, acceptance instead of division, a celebration of intertwined cultures, gratitude for international interdependence, words that built-up instead of tore down, and a shared commitment to make El Paso a great place to live. I believe such things remain part of the DNA of the El Paso/Juarez communities and the future is bright. While I grieve, cry, agonize, and rail against voices and acts of hatred, it is apt to remember that El Paso is the Sun City. I believe light overcomes darkness. Love, not evil prevails.
With love and gratitude to all El Paso –
The Rev. Dr. Robert de Wetter (son of former Mayor and Mrs. Peter de Wetter)