by Pastor Mike Middaugh
Some of you this morning are finding yourselves in the midst of an unplanned, unpaid vacation. I am sorry that your ability to do your job has been hurt because of our national inability to find common ground. I am guessing it is hard to be joyful about your vocation right now.
This shutdown epitomizes the polarity of our national dialogue. When it comes to politics, and a number of other issues, we are unwilling to listen to, and be sympathetic towards, the other side. To quote researcher Brene Brown once more “because of vulnerability and fear, we make the uncertain certain; I am right, you are wrong, shut up. The more afraid we are, the more vulnerable we feel, the more afraid we are. This is what politics looks like today, there is no discourse anymore, there is just blame…. which is described in research as a way to discharge pain and discomfort.”
No matter which side of the aisle you are on, you probably feel pain and discomfort just by watching and reading about our political mess. I know that I do, especially because I know those personally affected by it.
Admittedly, I cannot offer a solution to the issues at hand. I am also glad in many ways that I am not the one making those decisions. But perhaps the one good that comes from this is that it makes me more thankful for the Church. Unlike anywhere else in our culture the Church is a place where we can gather together and walk alongside each other through life, in spite of our difference.
Sometimes, when traveling to another part of the country, I am asked where I work. I generally say, “I am a pastor at a church in the DC area.” The usual response I get is “ohhhhh, well those people there really need you.”
I cannot fix the challenges we face in Washington, but if the churches here, Calvary included, can be places of open discourse and compassion, forgiveness and grace, especially when we know we have a diversity of backgrounds and opinions, then the Church does make Washington a better place. I also believe that our faith in something much greater and far more constant allows us to put political battles, and other disagreements, in perspective. We can allow governmental rulings to become our only source of hope and security, but we don’t have to. Dare I say that when we stand before the throne of the Eternal King, these debates, and even the outcomes will long be forgotten.
I am aware that in the here and now political decisions have serious consequences, but as a nation, as a people, as a community and especially as a church, my prayer is that we would seek out opportunities for compassionate dialogue.
Attending a panel discussion last night about Pope Francis, and what has made him so popular so quickly, I heard journalist Mark Shields sum it up: “he has shown that his priority is welcoming converts, not hunting down and banishing heretics.” This does not mean dumbing down our beliefs, but it does mean approaching each other with humility and care.