The events of Wednesday in Washington, DC were deeply disturbing. As the joint session of Congress fulfilled its constitutional duty to certify the vote of the electoral college, the Capitol was breached by rioters (a term which I use definitively: “a group of people who meet in a public place and behave in a noisy, violent, and uncontrolled way, often as a protest.”) The lawful machinations of the federal government were halted by the acts of a disgruntled few. What are we to think of these developments? What are we to say to our children? What do these distressing behaviors indicate about our overall societal condition?
The words that I preached upon last Sunday came back to me as I watched the special reports:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Luke 4:18-19
As Jesus began his earthly ministry in the countryside synagogues of Galilee, he started by drawing the attention of those who gathered toward the words of the prophet Isaiah, declaring that, under the Spirit’s influence, he had been commissioned to share the good news with the oppressed, as well as several other dismissed and discounted groups. This term, oppressed, is used only once in the original languages of the Bible, and, as a perfect passive participle, truly means “the ones who have been broken or shattered.”
The good news of Jesus Christ, the historical ‘evangel’, is that the day of the Lord has come which will bring about the restoration of the broken. The sad news of our present-day, displayed earlier this week, is that many are seeking wholeness and repair through human might or mental gymnastics. The startling reality is that we all are, to some degree, broken people: sin has caused its damage, fracturing relationships and corrupting worldviews; society has wrought havoc, deepening divisions and disenfranchising the marginalized; selfish ambition has severed many conduits for compassion and care. Therefore, we all, in our brokenness, need someone to share the ‘evangel’, the good news of the Lord’s favor through Jesus, in ways that we can understand.
Join me in grieving the human condition that motivates a vocal and violent minority to take the measures that were broadcast earlier this week. Join me in grieving the despairing brokenness that leads some to seek personal restoration through raucous and reckless behavior. Join me in praying that those who know the truth would proclaim the truth to those desperate to hear it.
Your plight – your poverty, pain, and penitence – is not imperceptible to the one who is in power. The one who governs all of creation cares about your brokenness and has brought you a cure. The salve for your shattered self is the Son of God, who came to announce God’s grace for the captive, the blind, and the oppressed. Jesus came to make you whole again.
As I think of the broken glass that fell upon the floor of the House chamber, I assume it will be replaced. That is what we do; we replace what has been broken and make it all better. That is not what God does. God repairs the shattered panes that litter our lives. He reassembles every piece, perfectly fitting each shard and sliver together until we are whole. That is good news indeed for all those who are watching the daily news with dread.
We, as a family, had a busy weekend.
Despite the fact that we were still under a ‘stay-at-home’ advisory, we were blessed on Saturday to attend the college graduation my daughter, Rebekah. We listened to a powerful commencement address by noted scholar and Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. (live from his home in Cambridge, MA) and witnessed the conferral of degrees by American University President Sylvia Burwell. We even saw our daughter’s name printed on the screen as her school and degree program was listed. After the digital festivities, we enjoyed cake and dinner as a family. While it was much less than we all dreamed, it was wonderful in its own right.
Sunday was Mother’s Day and we celebrated the mother of 19 Vassall Street, Jeanine, with our family’s tradition of feasting on Chinese food (although this year it had to be take-out). This was followed by phone calls to the grandmothers, Carolyn and Pauline (both being hundreds of miles away), and then we concluded the day playing some family games (namely, Clue and Jackbox). It was a blessing having all six of us together for both these special occasions.
Before I go on, know that I want life to return to some semblance of normal as soon as possible. That said, I am going to look back at these days (at some point in the distant future) and miss some of the repercussions of sequestered living. I am going to miss the sheer amount of time I am engaging with those I love: I am seeing my children and wife more and making more calls than usual. I am going to miss the collective compassion of the community: we are supporting charities and offering kindnesses to a greater degree than any other time I can remember. I am going to miss the ingenuity of so many in celebrating life: the creativity exhibited through the ideas, activities and resources that are being initiated (drive-by birthday parades, apartment complex concerts, miniature golf courses in hallways and back yards, proms / graduations / weddings / recitals held together at home) is staggering.
And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good. 2 Thessalonians 3:13 (NIV)
Can we agree today, before we move on from this horrible season of death and disease, that we will continue to do what is good. Will we agree that we will still check on the vulnerable among us when we no longer need to? Will we agree to prioritize time with loved ones once we can devote our attentions to professional sports or work obligations? Will we agree that we will remain creative and unique in our expressions of joy even after we can once again host a party at “Chuck E. Cheese”? Will we agree that walking and hand-washing is beneficial in every season, not just now?
I am sure I will once again cringe at the suggestion of ‘F.G.N. (Family Game Night)’, a particular delight of my youngest child; but for now, I hope they regularly occur forever. While we await the world to get back to its regular cycles, let us also remember the good of these days and commit to continuing these blessings when might be tempted to do otherwise.