Friday, December 17, 2010

One More Stocking for Jesus, Mr. Chairman!

This is a busy time of the year. Nevertheless, I take the time to check in on what the so-called "lame duck" session of the 111th Congress is doing. There is rhetoric and indignation that numerous significant matters are still on the table with a little over two weeks left, if you count the two holidays! Oh there are good reasons for not having done the nation's work sooner. They put those reasons out with straight faces and expect us to believe that all of them have had the nation's best interest at heart all along. Any thoughtful person would know better. We have our intelligence insulted by those who claim they are doing their best, but some other member or some other party is "blocking" the actions that could change the world as we know it.

Criticism has been stern and steady from all political persuasions for the fact that Congress is still wrestling with issues that could have been decided months ago. Yet many who are critical also know well the problem of putting off decisions that can have long-term impact - indeed decisions that could change the world. Decisions made in haste often are faulty, and decisions made at the 11th hour are more susceptable to error than those thought through and arrived at through prayer and counsel. When we try to postpone the important decisions of life, no decision becomes a decision in itself. Even when we are paralyzed by indecision, that inability to act becomes the effective answer to the issue at hand.

Some decisions are more consequential than others. Ratification of the START Treaty and action on taxation levels for 2011 and beyond are arguably more important that energy subsidies and earmarks that appeal only to small segments of the population. Extension of unemployment benefits may be the most important issue to those who have lost jobs, but that could all change when they land that new and maybe better job. Perspective depends on where you are and what is important to you now. Our perspective may not be a thoroughly thought out decision point but rather a set of ideas that are appealing which we could not defend if we had to.

When people of faith procrastinate on decisions of faith, the results are almost never good. We are at the end of the year almost. What have you and I done this year to make the world a better place? What have we done to make God more real in the lives of others. How have we encouraged others? How have we met the financial and spiritual needs of those around us? What?! You don't like the answers? You wish we had done more earlier? I expect many in Congress feel that way about their situation, too. But doing the right thing late is almost always better than never doing it at all.

Whether we revisit this tardy dilemma next time is a product of our commitments to the responsibilities we have assumed and will assume. I wonder if church members and leaders were rated like Congress and the President, how high would our approval ratings be? What would be the criteria? While we are critical of our political leadership, let's stop and ask if we have done better as people of faith. Are we willing to go on the record with our faithfulness decisions. Can we defend the decisions we have made to give or not give, serve or not serve, care or not care, love or not love. We don't often consider the options to be so clear cut, but they must be. When we are tentative, it changes our world but not for the better.

A colleague, Rev. Chris Bryant of City on A Hill United Methodist Church, posted the following comment on Facebook today:

"What if we hung up 1 more stocking... for Jesus? What if before we opened presents we first gave a personal gift to him? What if we put in the stocking a small piece of paper sharing a committment to God? No one ever need see it. The small pieces of paper would stay in the stocking year after year, piling up and with it so could our commitments. What if our whole family did this? What might happen? What if...?"

What if, indeed! Decisions made for a higher purpose and faithfully lived out can change us and truly change our world.

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