Saturday, September 17, 2016

17 September 2016
Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. Matthew 11:11-12 (NRSV)
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Matthew 5:9 (NRSV)

            Good morning, welcome. Yesterday I inadvertently included today’s Gospel lectionary reading in the blog. That’s ok because now I have the opportunity to talk about a story in today’s local paper, and discuss our response.
            According to the story a Bible was removed from the waiting room of a clinic on a local military base in response to a complaint lodged by a retired vet. The clinic in question provides medical care for active duty and retired vets, and any other vet that may be eligible for benefits. According to the story, our vet emailed the Military Religious Freedom Foundation to express concern that everyone in the waiting room had to stare at the Bible. The end result was the Bible was given to the Hospital Chaplain who will ‘place’ it in the chapel.
            My first thought was why a Bible in a waiting room would make anyone uncomfortable. There are as many answers as there are people in the room, but this particular retiree felt compelled to take action. The whole incident has high conflict potential which we will get to in a minute. For now, let me ask you this-regarding the complainant, what was your first response?
            While you’re thinking that one over, let’s move on to the removal itself. Again, the question-what was your first response? Let’s consider our options. Some will interpret this a blatant denial of their religious freedom. They are the ones who operate in the realm of imposition; the realm where the Kingdom would suffer the violence of those who would impose their views by force. For others, like our retiree, this is an affirmation of their right to be free from any religion. Do you see how the violence of the one incites violence from the other (I am using violence metaphorically here)? In this battle of rights, who is right?  So let’s reframe the question-what response do you think would best demonstrate the Kingdom presence?
            Considering the complainant first, I believe our first response should be prayer for his conversion. We don’t know his circumstance; we do know God desires all men to be saved so we can start here. Not some half-hearted prayer but persistent petitioning for his eternal destiny. Ask God to lead you in this and be open to His response. Maybe He will show this is not to be your concern; that’s ok too.
            Now concerning removing the Bible itself. My first response was the Bible really can’t be removed from anywhere. If you have a smartphone you have access to the Bible. If you want to read it in the waiting room no one would even know, much less attempt to stop you. Which led to this thought-why would you want to isolate yourself from a room full of people in the first place? This is a big part of our problem as a society-we are constantly connected but never related.
             A room full of people-especially in a hospital or doctor’s office-literally begs for the presence of Jesus. I am not talking about preaching here, I’m talking about conversation. Listening. Comforting. Sharing experiences. If you can focus on Facebook for ten minutes (Facebook-social media-how ironic is that) you can listen for five. I mean really listen. If you’re not the outgoing type, that’s ok-you can pray. No one will ever know (although you might be surprised). Except God.
            So I’ll ask again-how do you respond to all this? There’s an opportunity here. Something to think about, next time you find yourself in a waiting room. Any waiting room. Don’t forget to worship tomorrow. Monday Lord willing we get back with the regularly scheduled program.
May the Lord bless you and keep you this weekend. JRG


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