As probably many of you have felt, I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed by the ever continuing cycle of news that comes my way. The war has continued to drag on in the Ukraine, and now we are hearing of the many atrocities perpetrated against its civilians. There are all sorts of stories circulating about how Mr. Putin might start using nuclear weapons to achieve his goals, and what that might mean for the wider world. China’s rising influence in the geopolitical and economic realms causes concerns among many. Devastating storms have raged across the south of the U.S. causing property damage and human losses. We continue to witness the acrimony and division among our political parties, which lessens the ability to put forth and pass any meaningful legislation which could better all of our lives.
I was at a meeting this week where I heard an update on the impending split in the United Methodist Church and the beginning of the Global Methodist Church. Our leadership is trying desperately to keep the whole thing together, but there are those who want to part ways.
As I said, I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed by all that is coming at me at this moment in time. I’m left feeling at a loss to know what to do and where to turn. If even the Church can’t seem to solve their differences and begin to try and live in harmony, what hope is there for the world at large?
I remembered a piece of prose that I was enamored with many years ago. As I re-read what was penned in the 1920’s, it occurred to me, the times we are living through are nothing new.
“GO PLACIDLY amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism.Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment, it is as perennial as the grass.Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.
By Max Ehrmann © 1927Original text”
Yes, the times we are in are variations on themes past. Yes, there are wars and rumors of wars. Yes, there is divisions among many people. Yes, there seems to be little place for peace and harmony in the world we live in. But just when I began to think that, it occurred to me, I have all that I need to be at peace within myself. God has blessed me with a mind and spirit that can choose to love, choose to be at peace, choose to seek harmony. These things are not dependent on the vagaries of the current times, they are dependent on me. I’m the one who can choose.
I’m also reminded this coming Sunday is Palm Sunday. Jesus knew where he was going, what lay ahead, who would betray him, who would desert him, who would one day cry “hosanna,” and the next day cry “crucify him.” All of this Jesus would have known. Yet and still, Jesus chose to ride into Jerusalem anyway. Jesus was at peace in himself.
The bishop this week reminded the clergy that he has had a life-long “lovers quarrel” with the church. At times they have been on good terms, other times, not so good. But being lovers, he has continued to stay in the relationship. The church isn’t perfect, and it won’t ever be. The church will at times break our hearts for not being who we believe it should be. Isn’t this true of all institutions and even people? We make our own decisions about how we approach our lives. We are gifted and unique in the kind of mind and soul that has been placed within us. We can choose how we approach every situation in our lives. If we are looking for something to be angry about, we can find it. If we are seeking a fight, there is no lack of opponents to be found. If we want to feel dejected and sad, there is no end to the misery we will see. But if like Jesus, we know what’’s beyond this place, we can face today with peace and a settled spirit.
As we ride into today, tomorrow and beyond, we do so knowing there are any number of reasons we could use to dissuade us from being who we are called to be. But beyond those reasons lies another that’s more compelling than we can imagine. The peace, the love, the harmony we project as we ride unafraid into what lies ahead will catch the world on fire and it can spread faster and farther than we know. Jesus knew this to be true. As he rode into Jerusalem, the immediate future looked dim indeed. But beyond that, he could see the message of peace and love would triumph in the end.
God who loves us all,We do feel overwhelmed at times by what’s happening. Our spirits can get down, and our souls get weary. We see wars, anger, violence, inhumanity, incivility, division and a bleakness beyond our comprehension. We seek your light, your love, your peace. Help us to feel your presence beside us, assuring us we are not alone. Well up in us a desire to seek your light, love and peace, knowing they come from within us. You have already planted them there, let them grow in us. Make our lives a projection of your intended kingdom here on earth. Amen.
Your fellow traveler on the Way,