What Can We Yet Become?

How sobering that it all came down on Epiphany Day, January 6. Last Wednesday we celebrated the story of the Wise Men, who came from the East to worship the Christ Child because they saw a star in the sky. Having been warned in a dream not to return to King Herod, who ordered that all children ages two and younger be killed, Mary, Joseph, and Jesus went back a different way and settled in Nazareth.

The New Year has certainly kicked off in a different way because on January 6, we observed not only the Slaughter of the Innocents, but we witnessed the occupation of the Capitol Building in Washington D.C., our iconic symbol of democracy. This was the first large-scale assault on the capital since 1814. No one ever dreamed that this could happen. As a child I remember reciting every day, with my hand over my heart, “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Hymn-writer Carolyn Winfrey Gillette penned these words after the 2020 elections:

God of love, we’ve known division and we’ve seen its awful cost.
We have struggled as a nation, and there’s much that we have lost.
We have been a house divided – and, divided, we can’t stand.
May our nation be united; give us peace throughout this land.

Copyright © 2020 by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette. All rights reserved.
Tune suggestion: Beech Spring

At a time when daily COVID-19 deaths would reach an all-time high of over 4,100 the day after the attacks, the Capitol building was besieged around 1 p.m. by a chaotic mob smashing windows and ransacking offices. Legislators were quickly escorted out of their chambers to places of safety. The U.S. Capitol Police were overwhelmed, and federal law enforcement was absent. Rioters and looters had free reign, with lawmakers forced to shelter in place for hours. Six people have been killed, including two of the Capitol Police. Many others were injured, and over 100 people had been arrested as of Sunday, including a man absconding with Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s lectern. It was painful to see some rioters waving the “Christian” and “Confederate” flags.

What have we become? It was truly shocking, but we should have known. These were not mere protestors. This was, in effect, an insurrection urged on by President Trump and others who were livid that legislators were about to certify the election of President-elect Biden. As senators and representatives were carrying out the constitutional process of certifying the winner of the presidential election, a violent and menacing crowd disrupted this most basic functioning of our democracy. Zip ties were carried to bind congressional leaders, and a gallows was constructed outside the capitol. Insurrectionists chanted “Hang Mike Pence!” The acts of these people demonstrated a profound disrespect for and attempted subversion of a cherished American institution. In addition, they put lawmakers, staffers, and many others in danger.

Turn us, Lord, from what divides us – fear that drives us far apart,
greed that leads to great injustice, racist ways that break your heart.

May we seek what brings together – hearts that bear each other’s pain,
care and mercy toward our neighbors, love that welcomes strangers in.

After previously promoting the January 6 protests and tweeting on December 19, “Be there, will be wild!” President Trump addressed the rioters on Wednesday afternoon in a brief minute-long video. “We had an election that was stolen from us. It was a landslide election. And everyone knows it, especially the other side. We love you. You’re very special. You see the way others are treated that are so bad and so evil but go home and go home in peace.”

What have we become? Have we forgotten who we are as Americans and as human beings? How could we not have seen this coming? Since January 6, more than a dozen White House staff and Cabinet members resigned because of the President’s actions in inciting the riot and refusing to accept his election loss.

May we all, in conversation, speak the truth and listen well.
May we hear, across this nation, stories others have to tell.
May we learn from other cultures and be blessed by their worldview;
May we serve with one another – loving others, loving you.

More important, who can we yet become? In the Christian year, the season of Epiphany reminds us that Jesus is the light of the world who commanded his disciples to preach the gospel of faith, hope, and love to all the nations. What epiphany is God teaching us right now in the midst of a presidential transition? What sudden revelation have we received as we ponder our responsibility to be good neighbors and responsible citizens? I believe God is calling you and me to speak out, as our membership vows affirm, “against evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever form they present themselves.” As Jesus is the light of the world, so we need to allow Christ’s light to shine through our words and actions.

Photo via https://www.goodfreephotos.com/

Together, we have the privilege and the responsibility to proclaim the sacred worth of all people. Lamenting the violence of this week, we remember Abraham Lincoln who, in his 1864 address on the battlefield of Gettysburg, said, “It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us – that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion – that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain – that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

You have challenged us to goodness; you have shown a kinder way.
It’s your love that now inspires us as we seek a better day.
May we end our harsh division; may we stop the hate and fear.
Make us one, Lord, as a nation; may we be united here.

Alex Trebek, the beloved host of Jeopardy!, died on November 8. As the final episodes of Jeopardy! were released last week (taped in October), Trebek shared some final thoughts. He reminded his viewers to give thanks for all their blessings. Then he said, “I’d like you to open up your hands and open up your heart to those who are still suffering because of COVID-19, people who are suffering through no fault of their own. We’re trying to build a kinder, gentler society, and if we all pitch in a little bit we’re gonna get there.”

By God’s grace, who can we yet become? We’re gonna get there together.

 

30 thoughts on “What Can We Yet Become?

  1. Beautifully and sensitively written, Laurie! The poem/hymn woven throughout invites us to live our faith–or, at least, it does that for me. You are a gifted writer! Thank you for encouraging us readers to be faith-full in all of life!

  2. Thank you for your as usual insightful thoughts. They are deeply appreciarted. For those who stormed are nation’s capitol, especially those who claimed to be of our faith, I would simply ask them, WJPH? Sad to say, some might just say “yes”! Not my Lord. “Would Jesus Pack Heat?”

  3. Just another one of the many reasons that I am leaving the United Methodist Church. you have no grasp on reality and about what Injustice really is. President Trump said nothing in regards to rioting at the Capitol unlike the Democrats that told the BLM and antifa people to protest and loot and kill people. isn’t it funny how you speak out against things that go with the narrative that the liberals spew however you say nothing about human trafficking or abortion. You should be ashamed of yourself. Thank God that we still live in the country so far that allows freedom of speech of course that’s not going to last too long and neither is freedom of religion.

    • Thank you Kathy.
      Each time I choose to read something published by our Bishop (which is not often, as I usually try to avoid), I am saddened that she chose to bring her newspaper and cable news into her office rather than leaving them on her kitchen table when she leaves for work each morning.
      I also find myself questioning my membership in The United Methodist Church.
      May God Bless Us All!

    • Amen- this point of view had no place in any church that follows Biblical doctrine- which the UMC fails at miserably! The United Methodists would be well served to follow the EUB doctrine , which held fast to Christian values, not worldly opinion and diluting moral/Biblical teaching. The UMC is dying, because it thinks it has to appease the world instead of our Heavenly Father. Only through repentance snd salvation can you enter Heaven, good works are fine but without Gods grace, forgiveness and mercy, we as sinners are doomed! It’s a very sad day that a “Christian “ leader deems it more important to voice opposition to our POTUS than the millions of innocent babies murdered every year! ( among many other things) You cannot serve 2 masters …. it’s either God or man, it appears UMC has made their choice.

    • Agreed Kathy. After our Bishop has called some of her flock “racists”, I am also leaving the Methodist Church. The Bishop has knelt before the one sided news gods and is pushing one sided views without showing equal respect or allowance for other’s views.

  4. Thank you so much for your sensitive, caring and thoughtful message. Our hearts have been aching for our nation, our families and for our sisters and brothers in Christ. Your words lift us up and bring us together. We are blessed to have you as our Bishop of the Iowa Conference.

  5. In America we have freedom of speech. I respect that. I know it is easy to allow our emotions to influence our judgments. I just wish people (especially Christians) would really wait to make judgments about a situation or access blame on someone or group of people for that situation until all the facts surrounding the issue is known and they can look at the issue from an objective and Christ-like perspective. As a Christian , I believe I especially need to carefully choose my words and not make political based statements that further cause division among people before all the facts are known. Are we a church of God who loves all people or a platform to promote our personal political views? I believe each adult is responsible for their own actions. Why do we blame someone for the actions of other adults. To me, to blame someone for my actions is an insult to my intelligence to make my own decisions. God gave me the power of choice and I pray my choices praise God!

  6. Explain to me how the persecution of Julian Assange is different than the persecution of Julian Assange. Then explain to me why neither the Bishop, nor any other Pastors I am aware of, preach on this or even talk about it.

    Tell me why the Methodist leadership think their role is political spin and narrative control each trying to word it more cleverly than the other. Tell me why each so called progressive cause is affirmed and reason and logic is never part of the process.

  7. Laurie Haller perpetuates the degradation of faith via the virtue signaling of mankind.

    Clamoring for the acceptance of humanity rather than faith in our King, Laurie twists the propaganda of Godless elitists into a cozy package of false prophecy to “feed” a flock of heathens in their insatiable lust for retribution.

    Is bearing false witness now considered acceptable in the Methodist church? Are not leaders of faith called to at minimum be catalysts of polarizing negativity which that would divide their flocks?

    I would assume the former as Ms Haller lacked enough courage to list my comments in December. I would also assume the latter given a moments understanding of scripture.

    Perhaps Ms Haller requires a reminder: God requires faith, not works. The fruits of the spirit say nothing of supporting Godless government, elitist proponents of world domination and depopulation, or spreading the lies of their media puppets. Perhaps thats falls under “self control”….

    Like many that believe half of the American people require “re-education”, I wonder who shall re-educate THEM?

    Ms Haller, I forgive you for your Godless subscription to the false idols of mankind and your lust for recognition. Yet a question lingers:

    Will you censor my speech like you did in December, Ms Haller? Will you have the courage to post my comments THIS TIME? Or does my counterpoint require a more public approach?

    Your silence has thus far, deafened me.

  8. Seven decades of being a member of the Methodist Church and because of your ideas and rhetoric, and the practice of preaching politics by so many Methodist ministers, I have pulled my membership. I listened to you several years ago and decided, yes, like you just judged, I judged that I could not in good Faith take communion from your hand. As usual, you judged without waiting for facts. At the time the Speaker was acting without consideration by impeaching our President the FBI was announcing the timelines of riot and speech. Perhaps you should check that out before you get so dramatic and act on your political bias.

  9. How can anyone not believe that Trump is behind a lot of what is happening to our nation. His bullying, disrespect for anyone who doesn’t follow his crazy thoughts,
    his lack of leadership, etc. I have not lost anyone close to me due to the pandemic but have had 4 members of my family been infected with the virus. When is the last time we have heard from the President about his plan for getting the vaccines out to
    people so we can cut down on the deaths and infections in our nation. He has alienated our allies, our standing in the world as a nation people respect and want
    to move to the USA. To think that terriosts at the capital that have been arrested
    believe Trump is going to pardon them better think again. He doesn’t care about them
    but only himself. Yes there are things that need fixed in Washington so get out and vote to change them. Trump’s own party has not found any evidence of fraud in the election. They are investigating 2 cases of votes from dead people in Georgia. I wonder who they voted for?? I hope they find and charge the ones who
    voted for the dead. I usually am not vocal about my feelings but I couldn’t
    keep my feelings quiet. I am glad to be a member of a Methodist Church and hope as Christins we can get past this.

    • Drink some more koolaid….Trump doesn’t care about us? You think a man that had everything took on the establishment for kicks and giggles? He’s risked his health,wealth EVETYTHING for us and our country, to expose the corruption!! The vaccine only gets distributed as fast as the states government gets it done-its up to them, not the POTUS!! Too bad you get your news 2nd hand and not from the “horses mouth”

  10. I too, find it quite troubling and surprising actually that you would state your political opinions on this Methodist Church page. I think it is appalling coming from our Bishop. Personally I dont think politics had any place in the church message. Maybe you should start listening to Fox news to get another opinion of what is really going on as opposed to listening to the crooked MSM.

  11. I meant to ask how the persecution of Julian Assange differed from the persecution of Jesus Christ. Both were speaking truth to power. Both were willing to risk grave personal consequences to inform the world of injustice and to attempt to change that injustice.
    This, it would seem to me to be the kind of issues our leadership should lead on and not writing editorials that could just as easily appear in a newspaper. Virtue signaling rather than contemplation, insight and courage seem to be the order of the day.

  12. I am very disappointed by this article and feel that there is no room in religion to bring in politics. People look to ministers etc. for guidance to God not for a Bishop’s personal opinion on politics. I am a christian and wear that name proudly. God will judge me as he will all of us…Lumping all people together is not what GOD has taught us. There are bad apples among us all in congress and yes even in religion. I have faith in GOD. All those PROTESTERS were not bad and millions had no intention of any violence they just wanted to be heard. The capitol was the correct place to hold this intended peaceful protest. They all can not be judged as EVIL nor the president, as the devil is famous for attempting to undermine all good intentions- as we have seen. I am expecting a whirlwind of responses from this comment and numerous will be mean and evil in nature. That saddens me as well. In closing the UMC has many cracks and an undetermined future, unfortunately this letter will have several ramifications on many of it’s members and all it did was essentially divide the church even more. Until the vote is taken I will not be supporting the UMC. Peace be with us all.

  13. I believe I commented in January 2016 after Bishop came home from the Womens march one day after Presidents Trumps swearing in. During his swearing in
    Six police officers were injured and 217 protesters arrested after a morning of peaceful protests and coordinated disruptions of Donald Trump’s inauguration ceremony gave way to ugly street clashes and distruction in downtown Washington. Do I need to bring up the speeches given by the women in that march. The language being used was not one you would want your children or spouse to hear, but our Bishop was there.. I think the Capital hill mess was terrible and I l also thought the burning in Minneapolis, Chicago, Kansas City, Federal building in Portland Oregon St. Johns church in DC were also terrible yet those were peaceful even when they burned and looted small and big businesses.

    • Jon, Thank you for your response. I was not a bishop in January 2016 but was serving as a local church pastor in Michigan. I was not at the Women’s March, either. God bless you.

  14. The facts of the Jan 6 events as Bishop Laurie describes are correct, according to numerous media sources, both liberal and conservative. Regardless of party affiliation, the protestors, turned mob, turned rebels did in fact invade our nation’s Capital with the apparent intent to disrupt a Constitutional obligation and possibly do bodily harm. And it appears that the President incited this, warranting impeachment. Remember, impeachment is an indictment, not a judgment. The trial by the Senate will determine fault. And although the trial may result in acquittal, it is evident that President Trump must bear some degree of responsibility. Words mean things. This would not have happened had it not been for the things he and others said that encouraged an already livid crowd to insurrection. And yes, Methodists, for that matter, Christians of conscience have always spoken out on social/political matters, including times when politics gets sick. But whether or not you agree with our bishop, she always has and always must speak to the times in the context of our faith. Thank you, Bishop.

  15. Ever since the horrific events of the insurrection on January 6th I have wondered where the UMC stands regarding the blatant desecration of Christianity and the violence that occurred there. You have been accused of bringing politics into the church. Christianity has been hi-jacked by Trumpism and the chuch cannot afford to be silent. Thank-you Bishop Haller for speaking the truth.

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