Rumors of War . . . Again
By Rev. Mike Oldham
Do not be fainthearted or fearful at the rumors heard in the land—one year one rumor comes, the next year another, rumors of violence in the land and of ruler against ruler. Jeremiah 51:46 NRSV
Sometimes I ask questions that should have been kept to myself. Perhaps, I should have said, “often.”
Last year at the Northern Front Range Cluster Christmas Dinner, I asked Pastor Sharon (Loveland Korean Church) and Seong how they responded to the saber rattling between President Trump and North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un. At the time, North Korea had just tested another nuclear weapon. I knew that both Pastor Sharon and Seong had family in South Korea. I was just curious how they dealt with the situation that was causing so much anxiety in the United States.
Their response was an example of Jeremiah’s teaching. I will try to paraphrase their response. “When you live next to totalitarian rulers for over 60 years, you learn to live with the anxiety. You cannot afford to get distracted by all the threats, provocations, and bizarre behavior. You have to trust God.”
As Jeremiah wrote the people in exile, he encouraged them to “trust God.” “Do not be fainthearted or fearful. . .” It feels like I need to hear this. It feels like our country needs to hear this. A couple times a day, my Apple Watch reminds me that I am supposed to breathe. I take this as a reminder to pray and to turn over my anxiety to God.
Sometimes it feels like things have become so filled with anxiety in our country. In reality, this anxiety and tension is the “norm” in America, just like to have Kim Jong-un to the north is “normal” for South Korea. I just finished biographies of Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton. Both were absolutely convinced that our new democracy could not survive the leadership of the other. They were absolutely convinced that the other would be responsible for destroying the county. They often “cried wolf” about the threats of the monarchists or republicans or British or French. In the end, America found its way. They both “created” newspapers to attack the other side.
So, what is the prescription for the anxiety and rumors of war? How do we deal with yet another school shooting? How do we deal with the ever presence of racism and hatred? How do we deal with another leader of God’s people who has to resign because of sexual misconduct?
Paul wrote these words to the Philippians, “Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” Phil. 4:8 NRSV). If we can dwell on these things, Paul says that the peace of God will be with us.
And yet as I write this, I am struggling to say “yes, but.” Yes, we live by faith. Yes, we dwell on those things that are pure and just. AND, we stand with the oppressed. We mourn with those who grieve the loss of their children. We pray, AND . . .
Prayer: Lord Jesus, help us to be people of peace, of shalom. Help us to seek the wellbeing (the shalom) of our communities. Let me be a person who both stands with the oppressed and least of these and who focuses those things that honorable and just. Let me hold these two things in tension. In the end, let me live and act in faith.
Ministry and Mission Coach