There’s an old story about a famous minister, a lion of the great Social Gospel movement who once said that he prepared his sermons with the Bible in one hand and the daily newspaper in the other. Aside from the difficulty of writing anything down under those circumstances, it’s a good strategy for times like these. But it’s not quite enough.
As I plan for one of our Sunday services, I hope to maintain the delicate, dynamic balance of grounding ourselves in the deepest and most profound realities of our existence—what I call the Sacred, which is not restricted to the pages of the Bible or any other single sacred text—while always staying aware of the demanding events of the world that we’re living in. At the same time, I try not to forget that along with the swirling turbulence of the public square, we are all trying simply to live our real, sometimes wonderful and sometimes messy lives with integrity, joy, and love as best we can, a task which continues at all times and in all events.
That’s as it should be. It’s not a burden, but a wonder and a gift that ours is a faith explicitly devoted to the wholeness of life. There’s no aspect of human existence that we think is unworthy of thoughtful, compassionate, and even reverent consideration. There’s no division between sacred and secular, divine and mundane. All life is infused with holiness, if we choose to recognize and embrace it.
A commitment to the wholeness of life feels very important right now. One of the strategies of authoritarians (domestic as well as public) is to create such constant chaos that people find themselves looking at the dominant personality all the time, interpreting every experience through the lens of the authority figure. The foundation of all resistance is refusing to let the authority figure dominate our attention. We work for what we know is right; we resist what we know is wrong; above all, we live our whole lives as if they matter—because they do. Walks in the rain, the laughter and tears of children, the opening of an art exhibit, the delight of new love or the warmth of long companionship, the pleasure of good food, the comfort of long-held traditions—all this and more is the real fabric of our life. Just as with any kind of terrorism, if we let the richness of our lives be diminished and directed by those seeking power, we have surrendered.
Our whole life is precious and deserves our devoted engagement—our relationships, our work, our pleasures, our struggles and losses, the beauties we find and the hurts we sustain and seek to heal. The justice and compassion we seek to advance in the world is worthy too, and it is part of our one and precious life. May we celebrate all of life’s wholeness together.