A Suggested Lenten Discipline: Be carful who you Worship
For most of you reading this, this seems like an easy thing to do. You may have even laughed! “Finally a Lenten Discipline I have no problem with!” I am on safe ground that President Trump is not a very popular person at my little church in Baltimore, or indeed in quite a few Episcopal Churches around the country. Even in those churches that are substantially ‘redder’ than Memorial, Worshipping any President, even if they agree with their policy decisions, should not be on their mind at all.
But, let me suggest that perhaps you have not fully considered just how much you do ‘Worship’ President Trump, particularly those of you who consider yourself in fierce opposition to him. Consider for a moment - do you spend more time in a day reading about Jesus? Or about what ‘The Donald’ has done?(Ezra 4:2) Are you more likely to be emotionally impacted by a New York Times story about something from the White House?(Jeremiah 44:19) Or from the Gospel of Luke? Are you more worried, concerned, FEARFUL(Joshua 22:25) of the actions of Donald Trump? Or of God’s working in the world? Who is more likely to bring you to depress you(Isaiah 45:14)? To bring you to your knees? To ‘make you stoop’(Proverbs 12:25)? In fact many of the ways we have allowed our hearts, minds and energies to be co-opted by the current occupant of the White House have brought us dangerously close to worshipping him - not because we believe he his God or an Emissary of God, but because we spend so much of our energy convincing ourselves he is not.
You may be familiar with the oft-repeated line that ‘Fear’ and ‘worship’ come from the same word in Hebrew, which has some truth, but as you can see from the above list, there are many different ways worship is expressed in Hebrew, that involve fear, attention, prostration, desperation, carving out our time and attention, occupying all of our energy. And I think more than a few of us have been guilty of allowing these emotions and behaviors guide our behavior with respect to the 45th President. On the one hand this is very natural; it was an unexpected election and many of his actions have been and continue to be shocking and appalling. However, on the other hand most of the most shocking behavior has been short lived or limited in scope, and the better angels of our collective American nature have worked quickly to put an end to a full muslim ban, the continued detention of children, the separation of families, and other such behaviors.
In the Old Testament, we over and over see the people of Israel condemned by God because they forget to worship God and instead spend their time worshipping false Gods, idols, and other things. Invariably these moments come in times of great economic, social an existential crisis. And in moments of crisis it is tempting to devote our energies to ‘more important’ or ‘more critical’ things than Godly worship. But isn’t that exactly what those false Gods want? For us to forget our common understanding of God and each other in order to get what ‘WE’ want? Isn’t that exactly what those who would seek to divide our nation desire? To see us too busy being fearful, angry, engaged, and ‘vigilant’ to step back and give thanks to God? To step back and seek God’s advice, intercession, forgiveness?
Now - let me say that worshipping God more fully, and embracing Jesus more directly may not do anything to stop whatever distasteful things come out of the White House. There will still be work to do, and still be help, assistance and support needed for those who have been hurt, temporarily or permanently by such actions. But it will bring Christians of all backgrounds and practices more closely together, it will keep us united in our bonds of common affection and common humanity, and it will make it easier to respond to the very many and sundry evils that continue to exist and are perpetuated out in the world. Whether they begin at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, A terrorist haven in Pakistan, a drug corner in West Baltimore, or a coal fired power plant in West Virginia. Because we will do so not as individuals acting against a larger evil, but as a united body of believers seeking to make God’s kingdom more of a reality here today.
So friends, spend some time as you read this considering just how much you ‘worship’ Donald Trump, or any political or public figure you ‘love to hate’, and how your life might be different if you spent more of that time seeking a deeper relationship with Jesus instead.