Rev. Adam Tierney-Eliot
Scripture Readings: Judges 6
Focus Quote: “But sir, how can I deliver Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh and I am the least in my family." (Judges 6:15)
Meditation: We are living in exciting times. This week, one day after Martin Luther King Day, many of our nation’s leaders, celebrities, big donors, and—yes—common people will gather in Washington DC to witness the inauguration of Barack Obama. Expectations are, in some ways, very high. In other ways they have been tempered by war and financial disaster. Either way, now is a time for bold and visionary leadership. Now is the time for change.
One thing that we look for in our leaders—particularly those who are perceived as change agents—is a sense of confidence, of faith in the future and faith in oneself. As with MLK (or, for that matter, FDR during another period of crisis) we are looking toward our new president to take risks and to be creative. None of this can be done without a certain amount of optimism.
We, on the other hand, may not always feel so optimistic or sure of ourselves. Many of us are stressed out. Many of us are looking inward while trying to make sense of our own difficulties. Perhaps we feel that we are already doing our part. Maybe we think that the country is safe in the hands of our betters and we should now return to our everyday activities and concerns. This is understandable. We are normal human beings and we may not be sure where we fit in to the solution.
Take Gideon, for example, from our passage for today. He is one of the chosen but he seems a bit reluctant. While there has always been a fine tradition of politicians pretending humility whilst working toward advancement, Gideon is different. In fact, not only is he reluctant, he is suspicious as well. He is commissioned by God to “deliver Israel from the hand of Midian” but he does not believe it. He asks for a sign and receives one. You would think that this would be enough, but then right before the battle against the Midianites he asks for another sign. It has to do with dew on a fleece. In fact, he has God do this trick twice before he is convinced! Gideon, it seems, lacks the “vision-thing”. Gideon—at least at this point—isn’t so much of a leader. He seems to just want to be left alone.
You will have to read to the end of the story yourself to see what happens, but the point here is that many of us feel more like Gideon than we might like to admit. Sometimes we, too are called to act. However, many of us struggle sometimes to believe in the future and in our ability to do something about it. The problem is that we are needed right now. We cannot give up our place and role in this moment in history now that the election is over. The fact of the matter is that the work is just beginning. It is a moment of decision, when we try to turn the corner as a society and a nation.
Martin Luther King, Jr. said essentially the same thing during the march on Washington in 1963. This was another pivotal moment in our history perhaps best known today for his “I Have a Dream” speech when he said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” This is a great dream. It and ones like it are worth working toward today. What we need to remember is that no one person, president or prophet, is going to make this dream a reality without our help. No one person has that much vision or power or understanding.
King said something else that day, after all. He told us that “We cannot walk alone, and as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.” Though we may be doubtful, like Gideon, we need to march forward united in the goal of building a better world and more just and faithful society. Gideon asked questions and so do we. Gideon tested the boundaries and so do we. Still, we, like Gideon, can ultimately face the tasks presented to us.
So our questions for this week, as our minds are naturally directed toward the future, may revolve around our place in this moment. What are we called to do? How can we help in ways large and small? This is more about changing to compact fluorescent bulbs and thinking good thoughts! We are a part of the solution, each in our own special way. We know when we are needed. We are needed now. So once again we must ask what, where, and how.
Prayer: Dear God, please help us to be part of the solution. Please help us to hear you when you call and to act as you direct.