Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Watching

My daily devotions of late are coming from the inward/outward website . (www.inwardoutward.org) Monday’s words were of Christ's question to the disciples as he waited for his crucifixion, "Could you not watch with me one hour?"

The invitation reminded me of the Southern phrase, “Sit a spell.” I picture neighbors in small and relaxed home towns where neighbors knew each other and often invited each other to “come sit a spell.” That usually meant to sit around observing what was going on around you while you talked. My grandmother had a porch that wrapped around three sides of the house. And they were separated into three different porches for entirely different purposes.

They had a sleeping porch where she and Granddaddy slept in the summer. It was enclosed by screen windows to keep the bugs out but let the cool evening air in. Then she had a similar porch at the back of the house by the kitchen but it was cluttered with accouterments only Grandmother used: pecan crackers, mason jars, meat grinders; equipment for the basics of putting food on the table. Nobody spent much time there. It was solely Grandmother’s turf.

But the best was the open-air “sitting” porch at the front of the house where she and Granddaddy kept rocking chairs to sit and watch the world unfold around them. That was their entertainment on summer evenings. They lived at the edge of town. Two blocks in one direction took them to the town square which had the five and dime store and the bank. Either side of the house had dirt roads leading to a few houses. But the road behind their house led to farm land. I don’t remember anything planted there; it was usually just vacant fields. So there wasn’t a whole lot of foot traffic at their end of town but there was enough for an occasional “Hello” and conversation with the folks walking back home from the town square. This is where friends and family was invited to “come sit a spell” and many times they did.

Sometimes they would talk about people or events and sometimes they were just silent and took in the sights of the sun setting or the smells of the iris blooming or maybe the feel of the wind against their faces. Watching doesn’t always have to be visual.

But I get the feeling that Jesus wasn’t inviting his friends to just sit a spell this time. I think when he said “watch” he meant something more alert, more active than a passive taking in what the eyes saw. But what were they watching for? What am I supposed to be watching for? Will I know it when I see it? And when I know what I’ve seen, then what am I supposed to do?

For some reason this scripture leads me to reflect on social justice. Yes, I’ve said it: Social Justice.

A while back a few folks made merry on face book about Glen Beck’s comment that anyone whose church encouraged “social justice” should run for the door because this was code for “communism.” I can see their point because, honest to goodness, wasn’t Jesus a communist? (Oh boy, now I’m in REAL trouble.)

Laying aside the fact that I just outed myself with communist leanings I did dive willingly into the backlash that goes with the territory of labels. (Relax, I’m not advocating that political system; I’m far too selfish for that, I’d make a horrible Communist.)

It was all too easy—there was a facebook group I could join called the “1,000 Strong for Social Justice” or something like that. I signed a list and patted myself on the back for being such a good citizen and following my conscience. Within an hour I had an email from Glen Beck telling me that he gets a lot of email but he was interested in what I had to say, yada, yada, yada. I left the exercise mildly concerned that I had just put myself on a mailing list and might get a Christmas card from Glen Beck.

One thought led to another and I ended up reflecting on how much of my faith has developed in the last ten years working in mission. I’ve seen a lot of things and met a lot of people I would not otherwise have ever come in contact with. Now I know (and call friends) many loving people whose lives are harder than mine simply because of where they live. Geographical and Political Inequity.

Christ's plea for to me to watch with him leads me to the television set to see what humanity is doing to each other and to our Creator's earth. When I look through Christ’s eyes I see the pain we inflict on fellow occupants of earth. We hurt each other with every instrument of war imaginable from bombs and guns to words. If we were just hurting other adults that would be one thing but the innocent children affected by our irresponsibility is a sin we may never be able to erase. And the planet incurs its own set of wounds through our aggression and hubris. We keep blowing holes into the earth with bombs or mining deep inside and leaving more huge holes. The whole planet is starting to remind me of Swiss cheese and that in itself worries me.

We will pause here for a moment while I wipe the foam from my mouth.

For me to watch with Christ one hour in the midst of springtime is such a dichotomy. In the midst of new life all around me, with the newborn calves and foals wobbling about on soft green grass I can't avoid the sights the television delivers to my living room: the gray and black scenes that bombs leave behind, the blood reds of shootings and beatings, the black and orange of cars on fire, colorless glistening tears running down faces.

There is an old phrase I’ve heard that tells us to live with the bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other. Can we not watch with Him one hour?

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