Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Unenthusiastic...

One of our young women from St. Paul's UMC--senior college student--posted this the other day on Facebook: "I am very unenthused about the world right now." Of course I offered her some words of personal encouragement, but I have to admit, sometimes it IS very hard to be "enthused" about the world.

I'll bet the "old world" isn't too happy about us sometimes, either. If we're not bombing her surface with projectiles of some sort or another, we're polluting her waters, her cushion of air, or stripping off her skin one layer at a time to build personal castles, another Walmart, or just to pave the daylights out of her. Sometimes we do it to rip up the coal or gas or oil. It has always mystified me that even the most libertarian (it's MINE, and I can do with it what I want, and YOU had better not touch it) types sit idly by while long-wall mining companies tunnel directly under their properties, often resulting in huge subsidence issues, and with the full protection of the law. Anyway, the world will eventually get even, and if we keep up this exploitive behavior, sooner than later.

But back to our malaise about "the world..." It is easy to get derailed by the bad news trumpeted through myriad channels to our gentle ears. There is a lot of bad news in the world: ISIS, Ukraine, Palestine/Israel, etc.  However, there is a lot of good stuff happening as well. Crime is down in many cities, partly due to neighborhood watch programs, a steadily growing economy, and programs aimed at combating poverty. People are recycling. I recently turned 60 years of age, and I can remember when separate recycling receptacles were first provided by refuse companies. People scorned the effort, saying that folk would NEVER take time to separate out recyclables. Here we are, 35 years later and most of us do it. While less people affiliate with "institutional religion," surveys show a heightened interest in spirituality, especially on the part of those under 40. Maybe those of us who work with the "institutional" church should pay attention to this interest and do a better job of feeding it? Too often our message is: "This is who WE are--come and be like us." And our audience is more interested in carving out a decent living, doing their part in bringing about social justice, and looking for meaning in a world that often leaves us "unenthused." A bishop of my church denomination--one that is fighting over full inclusion of LGBTQ persons, maybe even to the point of schism--quoted one thirty-something as saying, "Don't you people realize that none of us even CARE about what you [United Methodists] are fighting about?" We forget that Jesus was one of history's most notable "Thirty-somethings," and that he, too, was less enthused with the religious and cultural status quo of his time.

So, how do we get enthused? Why don't we look to our young adults for guidance? Maybe carving out a decent living, working for social justice, and looking for meaning together is not such a bad agenda for us all. Jesus said "Blessed are the peacemakers..." How about we work and pray for peace? I wonder what would happen if each of us would go out into the world each day with the goal of doing something kind for someone else? I have a funny feeling that we have to personally get the ball rolling on enthusiasm. If we wait for it to come to us, we may have a very, very long wait. Shalom, friends.

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