to the United States Constitution
Signed in convention September 17, 1787.
Ratified June 21, 1788
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
Reflection Every week from the pulpit I issue a call to action aimed at what is right. Last week it was, “From time to time throughout each day pause and say, ‘How awesome is this place. How awesome this moment,’ then experience how that feels in your body.” Ever since my early career days as a clinical researcher I have lived and worked according to the ethic, “Never ask people to do something that I have not done or am not willing to do.”
My daily practice declaring “How awesome is this place. How awesome this moment,” proved rather satisfying until Wednesday around noon when I left my office to walk through the sanctuary heading to the kitchen to heat some wild mushroom soup for lunch. Rapt in a clamor of chaos and confusion I discover two of our Christ Ship Enterprise team members, Paul and Dale, with eyes glued to their new AV computer screen, ladders abandoned and wires for the cameras they were installing dangling from the ceiling.
Like a moth drawn to a flame I move to see what is so captivating. The first image that assaults me is of someone with a long pole like object smashing a window and people pushing others through it, the image cuts to a man in black hanging by one hand from the side of a wall, then cut to an interior scene of men in suits crouching with guns aimed through a decorative window. “What is this?” I ask. Wide eyed and incredulous Paul replies, “It is the Capitol, the Capitol building. Rioters have invaded it. The Vice President and congress are being evacuated under armed guard.” Along with my eyes the camera lens widens to encompass a storming sea of people ramming their way into the building. Hot tears cut a river across my cheek.
“How awesome is this place? How awesome this moment?” Looking toward the altar I shake my heart at God. “How can this be? How can this be happening? How can I say, “How awesome is this place? How awesome this moment?” Where are You God?” Heartsick and nauseated I retreat to my office. But work as usual eludes me. Even my trusted antidote to whatever ails me, walking four-legged Mojo along the Way of the Cross, fails me.
Although I can mutter the words, “How awesome is this place. How awesome this moment,” like stale bread I have been exposed to too much heat and have become hardened. Steeped in images of smashed windows, fear and furious faces, I have no feel for the awesome; beautiful, magnificent or grand.
Hours later listening to the radio I hear someone say, “We are better than this.” But I say, “No. What we see are the consequences of our hardened hearts and brutish behaviors. We, the people of these relatively young United States have not yet grown into our dream of “establishing justice, insuring domestic tranquility, providing for the common defense, promoting the general welfare, and securing the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.” In our races to win, our grabs for power, our adulation of celebrity we have forgotten our responsibility for the commonwealth and common good. We have lost sight of the audacious dream defined in the Preamble to our Constitution, a dream that we as Christians understand to be aligned in the will of God.
It is time for every single one of us to look into the mirror and admit we are responsible for the anger, alienation and atrocities provoked by our actions and inaction. We, the people of God, are meant to live for something greater than our personal rights and well being. We are meant to live with and for each other in a just and orderly nation aligned in the will of God.
Now, looking at footage of the Wednesday siege of the United States Capitol building we can say, “How awesome is this place. How awesome this moment,” because we remember that awesome also means alarming, dreadful and horrifying. And we, the people of God, the people of this young country, must stand up and face the alarming, dreadful and horrifying consequences of forgetting to care for our commonwealth and common good. Yes God, there you are clamoring up the steps of the US Capitol building, hiding behind a chair on the US Senate floor, shouting obscenities and whispering prayer. Yes God, there you are exposing all the peoples fear.
It is time to take responsibility for our missteps as well as the unintended consequences of our triumphs. It is time to move beyond blame and shame and aspire to our country’s audacious dream of “establishing justice, insuring domestic tranquility, providing for the common defense, promoting the general welfare, and securing the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.”
Perhaps you will join me living according to the premise“Never ask people to do something that you have not done or are not willing to do. Never ask people to live in a way you have not lived or are not willing to live.”
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