We will not suffer defeat

Published 5:26 am Friday, February 21, 2020

By Marvin Repinski
United Methodist Pastor (retired)

Let us today, from some deep well of goodness, summon our strength. My thoughts are two-fold: the fact that there are parts of life that seem skilled at defeating us; and there are also parts of our lives that are full of possibilities. Under several words, consider the three-fold theme: destruction, despair and doubt.

Destruction is more apparent, it seems, in this past decade than what many of us have witnessed or lived within multiple years. The headlines of newspapers, magazine articles, the news on TV and our conversations lift out the breakdowns, dread, and suffering that is mammoth.

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But hold on. I turn to a quotation that by good fortune elevates my hope. May this long look see some possibilities in our times. Each of us has a “load limit,” but think of possible responses. This quotation may increase our long view. Wars and vengeful actions destroy. The engraving on an old parish church, still standing in Leicestershire, England, reads: “In ye year 1653, when all things were throughout ye whole nation either demolished or profaned, Sir Robert Shirley, baronet, builded this church; whose singular praise it was to have done the best things in the worst times, and to have hoped them in the most calamitous.”

Smothered spirits have this and other examples of a recasting that seems broken to a healed future.

Despair is an equal opportunity employer. Those not affected may stand! We have, I’m certain, had plans that were dashed and good times that turned sour. A.E. Houseman (1859-1936) was a poet who wrote lines that have now and then crossed my path. A sample: “The troubles of our proud and angry dust, are from eternity, and shall not fail. Bear them we can, and if we can, we must. Shoulder the sky, my lad, and drink your ale.”

In my world, I would say, “lad, participate in a service of the Eucharist/Holy Communion.” You might say, “Marv, OK if I have a beer?” Enjoy!

My thoughts go back to families in churches I pastored some years ago. In a period of several years, there were the deaths of four persons, two in high school and two young adults. One of those persons, Katie, died a tragic death. She was abducted. No trace, but months later discovered in a burn pit were the remains of a body. Tests identified this missing person as her. The man who was found was guilty of the grizzly act. He was sentenced to prison. A presidential pardon is not recommended … enough tears have been shed to fill a river. The days following these deaths were filled with wide support: teachers in the community, law enforcement personnel, counselors, members of various clubs, nurses, family, neighbors, churches, and many embraces that recognized the presence of God. It is the response of this kind that can, within the losses, bring some healing.

I continue to find healing through my prayers surrounded by music.

Doubt is for some people, I assume, like the experience of being clawed by an escaped lion. And we have known, even in our own lives, the back and forth, for instance, of whether to believe or not to believe. Do not even nations often function at cross-purposes? An article in the Feb.19 Minneapolis “Star Tribune,” informs us of part of our national history: The present White House in Washington, D.C., was built, in part, by slave labor!

We may have family members. Some of those next of kin, say of a religious perception, things like, “It’s a lot of nonsense; so much bull.” Gladly we may, months or maybe years later, see a transition. That person is now singing in the church choir.

There must be a hundred books and journal articles written with a sincere desire to address persons with self-doubt. I’ve known persons who even acknowledge, it seems to me, a minor offense by saying, “I cannot forgive myself.” Self-condemnation, a sense of “I feel worthless,” need not last forever. Often it may take their seeking out a professional counselor for help.

A line from “Hamlet” reads: “When sorrows come, they come not single spies. But in battalions.”

Can sorrow be defeated, replaced with other emotions? Does sorrow, and we will know it again — maybe tomorrow — squash us as if we are a worm on the sidewalk? I do believe that time with graceful comfort can heal. I know it in my own life! Others affirm us, thankfully.

A seemingly odd statement from the Apostle Paul (writing in the New Testament of the Bible) encourages us to “have the mind of Christ.” You say: “What is that like?” Maybe that’s a goal that can bless us with calm and strength.

In her book, “When the Heart Waits,” author Sue Monk Kidd (a writer who gives resources of joy and realism) writes, “When my daughter was small, she got the dubious part of the Bethlehem star in a Christmas play. After her first rehearsal, she burst through the door with her costume: a five-pointed star, lined in shiny gold tinsel, designed to drape over her like a sandwich board. “What exactly will you be doing in the play?” I asked her. ‘I just stand there and shine,’ she told me. I’ve never forgotten that response.”