Notes from Jan

Said the Donkey to the Elephant

November 18, 2020

Can we talk?

For a few days a friend-elephant and I’ve carried on a conversation. We’re still friends, as it should be. Differences don’t have to divide, gouge ditches that over time erode into chasms too perilous to cross.

While a nation remains divided and a transition stalls, too many cling to denial as a life raft in a self-inflicted storm. It’s heart-wrenching and maddening.

As I wrote to my friend, too many of us have put our trust in the Supreme Court, a change in Presidents or a highly effective vaccine to control this pandemic, and heal all our woes. If we can all just ditch our masks, open up businesses, schools, churches, and get back to normal, we’ll be o.k.

But, will we?

We will still wake up as us. US as in “we the people”, the United or Divided States of America. You and I equal US. It’s who we are when no one’s looking. Or it’s what we say when we think no one is listening. For many, it’s what we accumulate at the expense of others and our fragile earth. It’s about who we’re willing to dismiss, despise or deny basic rights to out of fear, greed or personal comfort.

We’re primed to fight over words like conservative, progressive, liberal, evangelical, or Trumpers, for starters. Philip Yancey in his book, Grace Notes, writes about Jesus speaking with a Samaritan woman who has a questionable past, dining in the home of Simon the Leper, inviting a despised tax collector to become a disciple. Why? “For Jesus, the person was more important than any category or label.” Yancey reminds us that “the main contribution of a Christian is to dispense God’s grace.” (p.356 Grace Notes)

So, lets talk.

How are we doing with dispensing grace? Have we forgotten what grace sounds like? feels like? Do we miss it? On another entry in his book, Yancey tells of a Chinese philosopher who “insisted on riding his donkey backward so that he would not be distracted by where he was going and could instead reflect on where he had been.” (p. 369 Grace Notes)

Well, that’s a strange image and would involve an incredible amount of trust in a donkey. (Don’t think politics!) But, looking back instructs, if we choose to be taught and not stay in the past.

Thanksgiving’s just about a week away. It won’t be the same. But for many of us, alone or in very small gatherings, we’ll still pause to say grace before we eat.

Gratitude for what we have is always a good beginning. But Grace is more than a table blessing. It is the language God speaks to bring you and me to The Table, where donkeys, elephants, conservatives, liberals, progressives and, yes, Trumpers are welcome to “Come and dine” on confession, forgiveness and mercy wrapped in Grace-full love.

But at this Table, Jesus welcomes and waits, praying to hear, “Can we talk?”

And when we do, Merciful Grace replies,”Always.”

And all ways.

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  • Reply Kathleen Sullivan November 18, 2020 at 5:47 pm

    Thank you, what you said is so true. it reminded me of something I heard recently on the radio. i’ve been unable to trace the source of the quote, but it is something like “For those accustomed to privilege, equality feels like opression.” I think it says alot!
    Happy Thanksgiving!

  • Reply Dale November 18, 2020 at 7:30 pm

    Hi Jan,

    Your friend is very lucky to have you.

    Have a good day!

  • Reply Nancy Mering November 19, 2020 at 1:33 pm

    Always glad when Philip Yancey is included in the conversation . . .

  • Reply Wendy Lane November 20, 2020 at 8:54 pm

    So thankful for Merciful Grace! I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving dear Jan. <3

  • Reply Sarah November 21, 2020 at 1:27 pm

    Thank you, Jan, for the reminder to be gracious, which you have managed to express without falling into a fallacy of the middle ground. Certainly, there are those with whom I have bitterly disagreed for the last four years who I will always love, and with whom I hope always to be available to break bread and to speak. However, part of that talking will continue to be candor about the place of a Christian among worldly kingdoms, epistemology, and willful ignorance. The kisses of an enemy may be profuse, but faithful are the wounds of a friend.

    Here’s hoping I can be gracious this Christmas season.

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