Today’s Word from Pastor Jim…
Yesterday, you invited me into your homes for worship. I am very appreciative; I don’t take this privilege for granted. Thank you! The sermon, in part, focused on the place of KINDNESS in our daily life and as we follow Jesus Christ. I shared with you this beautiful quote from William Penn:
“I expect to pass through life but once. If therefore, there be any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do to any fellow being, let me do it now, and not defer or neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again.”
These are good words to live by. William Penn was born to nobility in 1644. He was given land by King Charles II of England. It seems that the King owed his father, Sir William Penn, some money. The younger William would come to the “new world” and be the founder of the Pennsylvania Colony. He was a gifted writer and one of the first proponents of the United Colonies of England in America. He was ahead of his time, and he was (by all accounts) a good man. He was one of the early members of the Religious Society of Friends, the Quakers. The image on a box of Quaker Oats is most likely William Penn, the ever-humble standard bearer of the Quakers.
The Quaker movement was founded on the foundational values of integrity, equality, simplicity, community, stewardship of the earth, and of course, peace. The Quakers believe that every human being contains something of God, often referred to as “the light of God.” According to the Quakers, all human beings contain goodness and truth. William Penn was the ever-humble standard bearer of the Quakers. Read the quote up above one more time. William Penn was a good man, and William Penn was a slave owner. It is a mind-boggling disconnect.
Now don’t get the idea that I am picking on the Quakers, I eat Quaker Oats every morning in my office, and some of my best friends are not Quakers. Martin Luther, the founder of a movement that bears his name, said and wrote terrible things about peasants and Jews. Martin Luther, like William Penn, was a very good man. I am raising the issue of the disconnect between our stated values, beliefs, ethical codes and morals, and our actions. How could one believe in equality and embrace slavery? How could one hold the belief that every human contains something of God, goodness and truth, and yet somehow be blinded to the evil of slavery?
I have no interest in judging those who have gone before me. They were products of their time and culture. Five of the first seven United States Presidents owned slaves while they were in office. This is a nation that was founded on the principle “that all men are created equal.” But our constitution counted slaves as worth only 3/5 of a person. How do we explain the disconnect?
We are complicated creatures with complicated histories. We live lives marked by contradiction, sanctimonious self-righteousness, and hypocrisy. Can we pause now and look in the mirror? Can we ask ourselves difficult questions about the awkward disconnects in our lives? Can we face the bigotry, the racism, the disregard for the environment, and the lack of concern for the oppressed?
Good people we are. Good people are sometimes blind to the disturbing disconnects that are revealed by the life choices they make. We are good people, but we can and must be better. The future of our children, and the future of the planet are dependent upon us living and loving with integrity.
Lots of love to you, from one broken human to another.
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