In hard times, seek power for present

12/2/2008

By Rev. Rob Gill
Guest Columnist

When I was 10-years old, Hurricane Camille ravished the Gulf Coast. She was pale in comparison to the destruction of Hurricane Katrina, but she was the biggest thing that had hit our state in years. 

My most vivid memory of Camille was not her destruction, though my grandparents’ home was destroyed. What I remember most was an event after the storm. It was a nationwide telethon from the Mississippi Coliseum hosted by Woody Assaf, WLBT weather man, among others. As you may remember, this event lasted for several hours, maybe even 24. Money came in from all over the country to aid in the recovery for those who lives had been devastated from the storm. All through the day there was anticipation about a guest who would be arriving who would be the crown jewel of the event. There were musical groups and entertainers of both the local and national variety. But everyone was waiting the special guest. 

He had at the time been one of America’s most famous ambassadors of goodwill. He had entertained for presidents, troops overseas and through motion pictures and televisions for decades. When Assaf introduced him to the nation that day, I will never forget what he said: “Where’s there’s Bob there’s always hope.”

For an hour or so Bob Hope told stories and jokes and sang and danced with other guests and brought a presence of grace to a community desperate for hope.

Don’t you wish Bob could dance down Wall Street today and do the same thing? Wouldn’t it be great if something so inspiring could happen today to instill some hope in millions of people across this country and world? 

Over the past several weeks there have been some strange behaviors by people affected by this financial crisis. Panic and fear have held many persons in emotional grid lock. I do not intend to minimize the circumstance. I don’t have any idea how many zeros are in 2 trillion, but it is more than I can fathom. 

When is enough, enough? In Shane Stanford writes in his April 25 blog: “We live in a world of discontented accumulation. No matter how much we acquire, it never feeds the real hunger of our lives. The answer is more spiritual than financial.” He claims that there is a principle based on Hebrews 13:5. It is called the Principle of Enough: Regardless of the ebb and flow of the world’s gifts, God’s gifts will never slip, rust, or fade away. 

God is, always has been and will be a God of abundance. We, the created ones of God, have one major problem. We live in fear and not in hope. The fear has caused both an over achiever and a slothful extreme. Greed and lust for more have driven us to the edge of self destruction.

Recently, I was standing in line at a local restaurant ordering some coffee when I spoke to a man who owns his own business. He and I have become acquainted with one another over the past couple of years in such early morning conversations. He asked how I was doing and I replied, “Fine”

“Now Preacher you wouldn’t be fibbing a little would you?”

“Well, I could always be better”

“Yep, but with these dadgum Democrats and these dadgum Idiots on Wall Street and these dadgum Welfare deadbeats nobody is going to be alright!”

And with that he went on his way to leave me to ponder about the sense of loss he was feeling and anger welling up inside him.

All this talk about loss and fear has dulled our memory. God has always provided for his people. In our short history of 232 years, God has seen us through many highs and lows. He has seen his other children struggle in other times and places for centuries. We have lost our way in the past but by his grace we have come back towards a place of honor and respect. 

Today is dark. Our country finds itself in a critical moment. Lost is a sense of personal responsibility for being a good neighbor and good steward, but it is not the time to give up and to point the finger at Washington and Wall Street. It is the time to look to God. It is time for a faith that has an assurance that all things work together for good to those who are called according to his purpose. 

Some of you may be thinking “That’s fine, Preacher. Jesus didn’t have to worry about his 401k or his savings account going bust after 40-plus years of work.” All Jesus chose to do was to face Calvary and take on the sins of the world, greed and lust and power stuff like that. He held it before the Father so that he could make it right and the books would balance once and for all. That’s all Jesus chose to do.

We may have to do some adjusting. But this is not the time to forget our honoring of God of our talent, service and giving in support of his ministry. It is time to seek his wisdom and seek ways to honor him so that he will mature us and lead us closer to him in the midst of the struggle. God is faithful. Being present to God in prayer, in worship and witnessing each day is way to honor God that sustains our spirit when we have no control over Wall Street. We do have control is practicing our faith. We can choose faithfulness.

We Christians have an inheritance that can not be stolen or pilfered away. We have a mansion that is not made by hands but by the builder of the universe. Remember the words of Isaiah, “Have you not known, have you not heard, the Lord Everlasting God, creator of the ends of the earth? He gives power to the weak and him who has no might, he increases strength. For even if the youth shall faint and the young man shall fall exhausted, they who wait for the Lord, shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings like eagles and walk and not faint.” Faith bears hope and hope springs in us an abiding desire to move out in trust.

When there is no hope in the future there is no power in the present. We are not a people without real hope. Temporal things may satisfy for the moment, but the new car or gun or outfit or video game will one day lose its luster. Hope in God may not always be seen but when faith is allowed to guide us we are not left to false promises. Things may get worse here in the states but this is not the time or the day to give up on God. 

A song from Broadway keeps coming into my head. I believe it is from the musical Carousel. You may recall the words:

“When you walk through a storm hold your head up high and don’t be afraid of the dark.
At the end of the storm there’s a golden sky and a sweet silver song of a lark. 
Walk on through the wind, walk on through the rain, though your dreams be tossed and blown.
Walk on walk on with hope in your heart and you’ll never walk alone. 
You’ll never walk alone.”  

And then this other song burst forth in my heart and drowned out Broadway tune. You know these words I am quite certain:

Because he lives I can face tomorrow. 
Because he lives all fear is gone. 
Because I know, he holds the future
And life is worth living just because he lives.”

We can stand on God’s promise. We are not left alone to our own devices. To those who are faithful be practical and wise but do not loose hope. Where God is hope, faith and love are possible. Walk on. Live in the present with power and trust that God is able to see us through the darkness into his light.   

Gill is pastor of Poplar Springs Drive United Methodist Church in Meridian.