Dear Hyde Park Family,
These have been very difficult days, on top of very difficult weeks. We join lamenting the tragic death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, along with Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and the countless other African Americans and persons of color who have suffered under further evidence of systemic racism and violence in the country.
My attempts to give language to the moment have come in the form of this statement I shared at the top of the worship service last Sunday, which includes a prayer you might offer today. Last Monday, my Facebook devotional offered a time of prayer and reflection.
Ultimately, it is appropriate to feel at a loss for words – not just because of the gravity of the moment, but because we also ought to be speaking less and listening more to the voices of the oppressed. I invite you to look for ways to do that in the weeks and months ahead.
PAST OR FUTURE?
A few days ago, as my daughter Grace and I were processing all that was happening, she asked me, “Dad, if you had a time machine right now, would you choose to go back in time, or forward into the future?”
It was such a simple question, and I was surprised at how hard it was to answer. Would we want to go back in time, before this pandemic started, before all of the sadness and unrest of this past week? Or would we want to skip past it all and get 2020 over with already?
I suppose one could make the argument both ways, but neither option is really better. Why go back to the past, when things weren’t all that great either, only to have to relive what we’ve been going through? And why skip to the future, which likely has its own unique struggles to face?
How would you answer that question?
Eventually, I concluded that as hard as this present might be, the best option is to stay in the moment and live fully into it. It means leaning into both the beauty and the pain, especially when the two are one and the same. It means choosing to live the wise life, with integrity, courage, humility, and wisdom.
Even in uncertain times, we can remain certain in our commitments.
WISDOM LITERATURE IN THE BIBLE
I think that’s why the Wisdom Literature in the Bible comes to us at such a perfect time.
The books of Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon are not about the past, nor are they about the future. They come after the historical books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles, and they come before the futuristic visions of the prophets. They are about how to live right now, amid the difficulties of the present moment.
As we read through Proverbs and Ecclesiastes this month as part of our ongoing Bible Project 2020, we have been given the perfect gift at just the right time: insight into how to live fully in the present moment. With all of the pain and suffering and heartache we are experiencing right now, it is good to hear these words.
- “Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance.” (Proverbs 1:5) These words encourage us to educate ourselves about systemic racism and injustice to persons of color.
- “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.” (Proverbs 18:2) Let’s remember that it is better to speak less and listen more to people who are different from ourselves.
- “Leave the presence of a fool, for there you do not meet words of knowledge.” (Proverbs 14:7) Choose reputable sources for your information. Separate fact from opinion. And seek knowledge with curiosity and humility.
- “Better is a little with righteousness than great revenues with injustice.” (Proverbs 16:8) Wealth is meaningless unless it is balanced with a commitment to justice, equality, and human dignity.
These texts are all part of our new worship series, “The Wise Life,” which starts this Sunday. Join us as we read through the powerful words of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, which also happens to be my favorite Old Testament book.
These are indeed difficult days. But the Wisdom Literature comes to us at just the right time. Let us rely on God’s strength and courage to live fully in the moment, together.
Grace and Peace,
The Rev. Magrey deVega
Senior Pastor, Hyde Park United Methodist