October 11, 2020

Salt & Light Online

A current connection to each week's session


Practice What You Preach
Joshua 24:14-28

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I neglected to line up podcasts or audiobooks for a recent road trip between Pennsylvania and Vermont, so I listened to various local radio stations, hoping to hear a news story that might connect well with “practicing what you preach.” What idols do we give our devotion to today? What stones do we erect to show our commitment to the one true God?

My long drive occurred the day after the first debate between the two candidates for United States president. This country’s broad political spectrum is well represented on talk radio! Despite the deep divide between the two poles, pretty much every voice on the radio agreed that neither candidate behaved well in the first debate, and the real loser was the American people.

My route took me on interstate highways but also through small towns and broad fields. Because T junctions are now littered with local and national campaign signs sprouting like mushroom clusters, a stand-alone sign draws attention. At one stop, while radio voices shouted vitriol, I noticed a solitary red, white, and blue sign. I think its three stacked lines read:

Jesus
2020
Love your neighbor

It washed over me like a healing river. If we are wondering what our contemporary idols are, perhaps their names are on the signs littering the roadways. Perhaps our idol is absolute faith in the political process itself. Perhaps our idol is whatever we do to escape political engagement.

As I reflected on my response, I couldn’t recall exactly if it had read “Love thy neighbor” or “Love one another.” I thought I would search “Jesus 2020” images online when I got home. My search results were dismaying.

Instead of a renunciation of idols, I found a syncretism of gods: “Jesus is my savior/Trump is my president” and “JESUS/2020/Love Thy Neighbor” with the “E” in JESUS not-so-subtly echoing the same three-stacked red line font used on BIDEN signs.

It seems we can’t help ourselves. We have to muddle church and state. We’re compelled to signal which candidate we believe following Jesus will lead to.

  • How do we remain passionately committed to be as politically involved as Jesus was in his lifetime without turning our candidate choices into idols?

—Gwen Groff, bethanym@vermontel.net

© 2020

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Gwen Groff is pastor of Bethany Mennonite Church in Bridgewater Corners, Vermont. She lives in Plymouth, Vermont, with her husband and intermittently with her adult children.

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