Friday, September 2, 2011

But I Can Explain...!

There is a lot of talk these days about talk - the gist of it being that we tend to be people who talk a lot about our problems but do little to solve them. Oh, we certainly want our problems solved, and most of us are not opposed to being a part of the solution, but maybe later. It's easy to see in the work of churches and other volunteer organizations. People want good programs and good work, but they want it to be provided by someone else. Even in response to something as simple as teaching a Bible study class, we often get a litany of reasons why the persons being asked cannot do it now. But they might be able to do it later. The persons saying no have "reasons." We might call them "excuses." What's the difference? Often very little except in the perspective of the one who is speaking.

We have similar circumstances on the national stage now. The economy created no new jobs in August for the first time since February 1945 - the month my parents married! Everyone knows our economic situation is very serious. Many have ideas to help lift us from this downward spiral, but nothing is being done with these ideas. Everyone is awaiting the President's address next week to see if there are new ideas people can agree upon. So far, we have heard a lot of excuses from each side as to why the ideas the other side espouses will not work. We observe from the sidelines and are compelled to scream: "Try something!" And preferably something that has not already been proven to be ineffective.

Moses found himself in a spot like this in Exodus 3 and 4. You will recall he had grown up in the court of the Pharoah and held the title Prince of Egypt. We find him in Exodus 3 tending the flocks of his faither-in-law, Jethro. God visited Moses and spoke to him through a burning bush commanding him to go back to Egypt and tell Pharoah to let his posple go. Moses did not want to do it, so he came up with a host of excuses. He was not eloquent. He stuttered. He would not know what to say. No one would listen to him. I don't even know your name, Lord! Every excuse Moses came up with was dispensed with quickly by God. Finally, Moses said, "Lord, please send someone else!?"

That is what it usually boils down to. Solving problems is hard work. Creating that which will make differences in the lives of others takes time and effort. The fact is that most of our excuses are masks covering up the reality that we just do not want to be bothered. We do not want to join the controversy. We do not want to risk the displeasure of others. We would rather be comfortable that productive. We would rather see mediocrity than invest the time and energy necessary to do great things. The problem is that God never calls us to mediocrity, and God never settles for it. Churches, governments, and individuals struggle because we are content with half-baked plans that really don't work. And they don't work because we don't want to leave our comfort zone to be part of the solution.

Problem solving is easy to talk about but is usually difficult to do. We start by agreeing to find and identify those areas where there is little disagreement. When there are ideological and theological divides, it is more difficult to identify those areas of commonality. But what excuse do we have for talking at one another rather than with one another? It may be that we will not agree, but in many areas, we have never tried. Moses went as the Lord commanded after he ran out of exucses. Most of us do better than Moses when it comes to making up excuses. Yes, most are made up, so we don't have to take time to do what we don't want to do. We deceive ourselves, our follow citizens, and often try to deceive God as well. But God knows our hearts, our motives, and our end game.

Excuses are dishonest whether they come from the President of your Sunday morning Class or the President of the United States. If we spent as much time, effort, and resources on solving the problems of life as we spend on our excuses, the world would look different and so would the Kingdom of God. Examine the excuses you are giving for not being involved. Be honest with yourself. Put aside your excuses, and realize that there are some things upon which all of us can agree. We can work from there to build a new understanding. Or we can do as Moses wanted to do: We can stay with the sheep and just make noise.