Notes from Jan

On the Eve of Instruction

January 19, 2021

Our nervous nation paces tonight. So much hangs on a fragile commitment to the peaceful transfer of power. In the 2000 election we dangled while Florida, and then the Supreme Court dealt with hanging chads and the outcome of a very close race. But after the ruling, the loser acknowledged the winner. Some fumed, others dealt with disappointment or celebrated but mostly our nation exhaled. And our Democracy passed another test.

Today some speak of hanging people as one way of dealing with those who differ and threaten their way of life. Some even built a gallows outside our Capitol. The world watched our government under siege. Through television and social media, we witnessed an enraged mob, some carried a cross, and bibles to support misguided views of what matters to God. Most were fueled by hate, white supremacy causes and a desire to follow their President’s mandate.

And a stunned nation and world watched as fellow Americans wrote history with living graffiti as they scaled walls, smashed windows, used flags like weapons, while chanting U.S.A.. In the process, they damaged something more valuable than the Capitol building.

So what have we learned and what’s ahead on this eve of an inauguration like no other? We are, for sure, on the eve of instruction, if we’re teachable. Tomorrow and in the weeks ahead government and citizens head back to Life’s School. We can expect reminders of dress and conduct codes, as well as talking less and listening more. I anticipate home work, tough assignments, small group work and no recess for awhile. And we older “kids”should be examples for younger “kids.”

Still, as challenging as this sounds, as a kid I looked forward to going back to school. It offered a fresh start, different teachers, a chance to make new friends and better choices, to grow up. A new year signaled hope around the corner.

Tonight I listened to Lori, a nurse from St. Joe’s hospital in Michigan and I felt hope. She sang by the reflecting pool on the National Mall. Four hundred lights, lined both sides to represent 400,000 people who died from Covid-19. Lori is black, a reminder of how unfairly Covid hit the black communities. One day last April, nurse Lori spontaneously sang, Amazing Grace to her weary co-workers and struggling patients. Tonight she sang for a weary, struggling nation.

As I listened I thought, there’s not a one of us that hasn’t been blind to someone or some thing. Nor any who haven’t felt lost at one time or another. We’ve been through a lot and it’s not over. We will need grit and grace to stay in school and do our homework. The curriculum is tough: Advanced classes in accountability, language, economics, justice, civil discourse, history, truth-telling, race and reconciliation. No fluff.

Still, we must care and hope. Why? So much is possible when we simply show up, ready to learn, willing to share our lunch, a listening ear, a kind word.

We do what we can and trust God to be at work in and through us, somehow. Amazing. “So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it.” (Hebrews 4:16, NIV)

And we’re going to need it.

School starts tomorrow.

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