Sunday, January 5, 2014

And He saw . . .it was good. Epiphany Sunday ramblings.

Wow. It is cold.

It does not matter how you feel about the science of global climate change.  You may believe that the changes created in the atmosphere caused by nature and/or man have caused the jet stream to shift farther south resulting in this year's arctic blasts.  Or, you may believe that all that kind of talk is just a fairy tale, a hoax perpetrated by those who stand to gain by such a ruse..  But whatever you believe about all that, for the next few days, does not make a lick of difference. By the way, don't lick anything outside. Your tongue will stick. I think we can all agree on that scientific principle.  For research purposes I refer you to the cinematic authorities A Christmas Story and Dumb and Dumber.  With that kind of sourcing I feel confident in the proposition. And then there was the personal experimentation with an ice cube tray as a child. But that is another, painful story.

Climate change believers and non-believers alike will bring pets and plants inside (hopefully), will stock up on firewood or some alternative heat source, will check on those friends, relatives, and all those who may need help, will put on layers of clothes and attempt to cover all exposed skin, and, here in the south, will buy milk and bread to appease the gods of winter, because we simply do not know what else to do.

I bring up this particular issue because I am about to put on my coat, hat and gloves, go outside and cut a little more firewood from the dead hickory and oak trees that lie in heaps just inside the woods around my house, victims of the series of storms we have had the last couple of years. It doesn't matter right now whether those storms were the result of climate change or just natural climate cycles. Right now I just need something to burn.  Yes, I probably should have already done that. But it wasn't cold enough.

Till now.

Lest you think I'm a heathen this Sunday morning, let me say that I attended early church at Lester Memorial UMC, downtown Oneonta, Alabama, services at 8:30, 9:02 and 11:00 every Sunday.  I believe that Jesus thinks it is okay that I go out and gather some tares to cast into the fire.  After all, storms are considered acts of God.  He knocked 'em down.  I'll gather them up. It is a spiritual exercise.  I hope.  The scripture comes to mind about cutting off my hand if it causes me to sin, which is a bit worrisome. On the other hand, when the shepherds and the wise men heard about Jesus they came and saw. Get it? Saw?  Sorry, it seems the frigid air has given me brain freeze.   I'll be extra careful.

As I start the new year there is a notion that strikes me. Many are cold. Hungry. Hurting. Frustrated. Oppressed. Lonely. Sick.

In this moment, it does not matter why.  Scholarly or spiritual debates as to the why of it all do nothing for the immediate pain. Word and argument will not fill a belly, warm a body, stop the pain, or soothe the soul. Somebody has got to get up off the sofa, go outside, and do something. It's not rocket science. It's not science at all. It is simply a command of Jesus. And morally right.

Don't get me wrong.   While hunger, poverty of body and spirit,  sickness, loneliness, oppression, are horrible, real,  right-now conditions that must be met head on right now, are they the real problems?

Or are they symptoms of the real problems? While we deal with these immediate symptoms, is that enough?

It is kind of like the flu, to name another seasonal headache.  When I get the flu, I want relief from all the aches and fever.  It is too late to avoid the problem. The symptoms are with me.  Aspirin, Tylenol, Ibuprofen, Tamiflu, chicken soup, liquids, wedding cookies, ripe olives and orange juice frozen into cubes (those last three have worked for me since childhood), and sleep seem to help relieve the pain in the moment.  The symptoms must be treated immediately or I may die, or perhaps just wish for that relief.

But, next year, I'll take the vaccine, and hope that it works.  I'll be more careful about washing my hands. I'll do what I can to avoid allowing that evil virus from invading my body. I will attempt to address the real problem, and not wait for the symptoms, wait until it is too late.

We have become gifted at argument and debate about solutions. Who is right, who is wrong.

But maybe we cannot get it right, maybe we cannot solve the problems until we actually see and experience the symptoms first hand. Hit the streets. Talk with the lonely. Touch the sick. Eat with the hungry.  Sit down on the curb and drink coffee with the beggar. Hear the stories of the veteran. Learn the wisdom of the lonely elders.

Listen to those with whom I disagree as if they actually may be good, smart, decent human beings as troubled as I about our problems, and our solutions.

And maybe I need to resist the temptation to label people as problems.  Because when I do that, the best solution seems to be to diminish, silence or even destroy them.

On this Epiphany Sunday, I was thinking of resolutions for the new year. Some of the old ones are re-adopted. More exercise, reading, writing, prayer, healthy eating.

But I've got a new one. With the Christmas story still ringing in my ears I want to be like that. I want to be like the God who comes.  The God who heard the cries of his children and instead of standing off far away, got up, put on his earthly clothes, and came to see for himself what the problems were, and what he could do about them.

Even God realized that it was necessary to come and see.

And he saw.

And so must I.

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