Have you ever noticed when you are listening to a song while watching an object blow in the wind (like a tree or a flag) that is seems as though the object is actually moving to the rhythm of that song?
If you haven’t ever noticed this, I invite you to do so. It is an amazing thing, because no matter what genre of music you play (classical, rock, country, metal, pop, hymns, etc.) it appears as though the object swaying in the wind is moving to the rhythm of the very song you are listening to.
Personally, I believe this is much more than my brain synchronizing what I am hearing with what I am seeing. In fact, I believe there is an underlying, universal music/energy that resonates within all things — within the wind, the music, the trees, and within you and me.
In the great hymn of faith “This Is My Father’s World” it declares, “This is my Father’s world, and to my listening ears all nature sings, and round me rings the music of the spheres” (Hymn #824 of the ELW book). In other words, the universal harmony of God rings everywhere, and only by God’s sovereign grace are the ears of our soul unplugged to hear it.
Yes, this “music of the spheres” — this universal harmony of God — is most certainly true! Summer, fall, winter or spring, this is true. In the human soul and in the entire creation, this is true. In abundance and in scarcity, this is true. In happiness and in sorrow, this is true. In our living and in our dying, this is true.
God is True in the beginning, True throughout the ages, True now, and True forever! And this gives us strength, peace, joy, confidence, and hope, amid the inescapable transience and impermanence of life in this world. It gives us an entirely different song to dance to; an entirely different drum-beat to march to.
Without the strength, peace, joy, confidence and hope that flow from the revelation of God’s eternal grace and truth, we continue to march to the beat of fear and enmity. However, with our hearts and minds shaped by the revelation of God’s free grace and universal truth communicated to us through the gospel of Jesus Christ, we are empowered with the Holy Spirit to live lives of compassionate justice and loving service for the glory of God and the benefit of all.
On all levels of how we relate to others — personal, professional, political, social, spiritual, physical, mental, emotional, communal, and so on — we are empowered with the Holy Spirit by the revelation of God’s grace and truth to relate to all people according to “justice and the love of God” (Luke 11:42b). We are empowered to live lives of fearless justice and love that transcends all divisions.
For example, in our nation’s increasingly polarized political climate, we hear people demonize grassroots movements like the Tea Party and the Occupy Wall Street. However, when we march to the beat of God’s all-encompassing drum, we gain a deep awareness of the suffering that is at the root of these two grassroots movements within our nation. While they are from opposite ends of the political spectrum, we can gain a deep awareness that there are some common threads between these two movements. We can especially sympathize with their common concern for the corruption of big money within government. And concerning this predominance of big money in government, the Tea Party said “Where is our bailout!” and the Occupy Wall Street is saying “We are the 99%!”
For me, American Conservatism and American Liberalism are the yin and yang of our nation, and both political traditions contribute to society. They both have gifts to share for the common good, and we all fall somewhere on this American political spectrum. To ensure “a more perfect union,” both political traditions seek to “secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity” (US Constitution Preamble). And while both sides also seek to “provide for the common defense” and “promote the general welfare,” each side tends to emphasize these two priorities oppositely.
Furthermore, Conservatism’s prophetic, tough-love message to us is the message of personal responsibility. And, conversely, Liberalism’s prophetic, tough-love message to us is the message of social responsibility. And, as Christians in America, it is important to note that the Bible uplifts both of these themes. We are indeed responsible for our own behavior, but we are also our “brother’s keeper” (Genesis 4:9) and called to “bear one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2).
So we can be passionate about our political emphasis, but neither the Left nor the Right is any good for America without the counterbalance of the other. They are a check and balance to each other that helps America travel a middle path between both ideological traditions, because it is problematic when society goes too far either way.
And, of course, it is a topic of perpetual debate as to whether or not the pendulum has swung too far either way.
What is not a legitimate debate is to say that one side or the other is evil. To say so would be like saying fire is good but water is evil, or earth is good but air is evil. It is simply the American pendulum going back and forth to the rhythm of the needs of America at any given time. It’s messy and imperfect, but it is the way of representative government.
The problem comes when big money keeps the politicians in perpetual campaign mode, making them beholden to their big donors, driving the public debate to unhealthy extremes, which hyper-polarizes our society. It seems to me that the fear-mongering is on both extremes, and I refuse to demonize and fear my fellow American neighbor who simply emphasizes a different aspect of our shared Constitutional values. I refuse to be manipulated that way. I refuse to march to the beat of fear and enmity.
We are neighbors, and we are to love our neighbors as we would have our neighbors love us.
President FDR wisely asserted, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” This is my concern for our nation and for the community of faith as we head into another Presidential election year — our quadrennial madness. I am especially concerned due to our extremely polarized national environment.
Brothers and sisters, let us not be manipulated into fear, division and enmity. Let us tune in and focus on the underlying, unifying music of God that resonates within all. Let us live and move to the all-pervasive harmony of God’s compassion, justice and love for all — “the music of the spheres.”
It may be a pre-democratic text, but I am convinced the Bible verse of 1 Peter 2:17 resonates with God’s wisdom for our hyper-polarized time. It tells us to “Honor everyone,” and this is only done when we sympathize with the intention of our neighbor’s heart. It also tells us to “Love the family of believers,” and this is our whole family of our church, consisting of both Democrats and Republicans. And it tells us in its archaic, pre-democratic way, to “Honor the emperor” as the governing authority to maintain law and order for our mutual well-being.
“Honor everyone. Love the family of believers. Revere God. Honor the emperor” (1 Peter 2:17).
Together in Christ, Pastor Tim