BY REV. TIM HARMON
LAKE PARK FIRST PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
We are in the new season -- the political one.
I have heard friends and neighbors arguing over politics before, but in an area restaurant the other day I overheard two folks start a discussion over the state of the country. It ended badly, almost as soon as it started, with a trading of insults and calling each other stupid.
What has happened to us? Have we forgotten what God has called all of us Christians to be in this world? We are not called to be right. We are not called to be in power. We are not called to be naysayers or exchange insults instead of discussion. We are not to be instruments of hate and division.
We are called to stand for Truth (which by the way is Jesus according to John, not any one ideology or idea or party or system -- God first, folks). We are called to be sympathetic, to show forth love, to work for the good according to that which the Spirit has chosen for us, and we are to be a blessing to the society around us.
I know that I am young, but growing up in south Omaha in the 1970s, in the midst of racial and ethnic bickering, in a neighborhood that was changing from Eastern European to Latin American, I heard the same kind of slander and insults I heard in that restaurant.
One group (Poles and Lithuanians) had been pushed out and were now trying to push out newcomers from Mexico and Central America. I learned a lesson from my dad about Christ's calling. He organized the men's group at our church to go check on the homebound in our neighborhood, whether they were members of our congregation or not, whether they were Hispanic or Polish or German or Lithuanian. And as a young boy in elementary school I went with my dad and started seeing the folks in the neighborhood as people.
We brought them food, listened to their stories, ate their cookies, checked on their welfare, and in general just let them know they were not alone. It seemed that this had little impact on the wider tensions in the town and country. At one funeral -- for a Mexican lady who died in her 90s after raising five kids -- I remember walking in to the church and being the only German-American there beside my dad. (She immigrated legally to the U.S. and worked odd jobs until she was hurt.)
One young man at the funeral came up to us and asked us something in Spanish. My dad said that we didn't speak Spanish, so he asked again in English: "Who are you and why are you here? This is for family."
I just blurted out our name was Harmon and said that we had been coming over to see Mrs. Nunez for over a year so we wanted to say good bye.
The young man asked again, "Are you Timmy and Mel?" He turned to another and said our names in Spanish. He took us into a pew up front and said simply, "You treated my grandma like she was yours. So now you are family. Sit with us." And we did.
In this harsh season of division and insults, of gross overstatement and political soundbites, I urge you to rise above and become the blessing you are called to be -- to show compassion, hard work, and person to person contact, honoring dignity even if ideas are disagreed or disputed. For we stand for the Truth which is Jesus: Truth that God loves, God frees, God saves, God calls, God transforms, and God blesses ALL of us as His family.