Today’s Word from Pastor Tom Kidd…
Several years ago, prior to moving to the island after retirement, I was driving through Mukilteo heading for the ferry. It was a weekday morning. I was early for the ferry and not in a hurry. As I was passing through the 20 MPH school zone, I was grateful to be positioned between two school buses. We were cruising a sedate 14 MPH. I remember being grateful for the buses thinking there was no way I could be accused of speeding. Thirty seconds later I was being pulled over by one of our local finest and was being written up for speeding in a school zone… 29 MPH. I protested explaining I was between two buses going 14 MPH and could not have been traveling over the speed limit. The policeman’s final words as he leaned into me were, “If you choose to continue this conversation I will handcuﬀ you.”
I confess, I did wear my clerics to the court hearing. The oﬃcer was not present. I raised my hand to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. I explained exactly what happened, answered the judge’s questions, and included the oﬃcer’s final words to me. The judge read me the back of the citation on which the oﬃcer, by virtue of his signature, swears the aforementioned charge to be true. It did not matter that I was clergy sitting before this magistrate. He said he must choose who to believe and I was found guilty and paid my fine. The cost to go through the appeal process was prohibitive so I let it go. But not totally. Every time I drive that route, I shake a bit. Emotionally, I confess I still get stuck a bit when I relive that conversation on the side of the road, “…I will handcuﬀ you.”
This was, to say the least, a powerful learning lesson. I am a responsible, white, senior, professional and for the first time in my life I experienced what powerlessness felt like. I am not black. I am not driving a broken car, or a suspicious car (whatever that would look like) with a taillight out, nor did I fail to signal. I did everything right, yet I felt powerless before a man with authority, weapons, and power whose final words were clearly threatening. I was shaken and for the first time in my life I had a real-life event to reflect on what powerlessness was all about. That moment equipped me to better empathize with movements like Black Lives Matter. Or, what a battered or sexually abused person might feel. Simply said, it feels awful. I have learned first-hand how powerlessness can spawn a multitude of responses.
We used to spend a great deal of time in South Carolina. The people were always gracious, golf courses always memorable, the beaches always wonderful, and the hurricanes always terrifying. A lot of things can be seen flying around when there is a 130 MPH breeze happening outside (like your car). In a hurricane everything becomes unmoored. It is somewhat ironic that very large pleasure craft become unmoored in a hurricane because their docks and protective structures have also become unmoored from their own foundations, and all can be found in pieces usually a quarter mile away.
Large craft, though, like our Navy, put out to sea. It is far less dangerous for large craft to be out at sea with their bow pointed into the wind. Tied to fixed structures these large ships are actually more powerless to withstand the dangers of such a storm.
There is much these days that can make us feel powerless, unmoored if you will. It can all feel like life is unraveling. Our institutions feel as if they are failing us, elections and pandemics, wildfires and hurricanes, masks and social distancing, yada yada yada.
We feel unmoored, the things we depended on are being tossed about. It might feel counterintuitive but, in that moment, when we feel the creep of powerlessness, it is time for us to put out to sea. Point the bow of our faith, which is the person Jesus, straight into the winds of a dangerous world unraveling. Remember, Jesus rebuked the winds and the waves. The calm that followed Jesus’ words was as much the interior life of the disciples as it was the calming of the winds and the waves about them.
We will be alright my friends; the storms do not get the last word. Evil would have us believe that we are powerless, but we are not. Jesus prayed for us that we would not succumb to a feeling of powerlessness, “Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name… that they may have the full measure of my joy within them… protect them from the evil one… as you have sent me into the world so I have sent them… sanctify them by the truth” (John 17). Set sail into today knowing Jesus has prayed for us.
God’s peace be upon you, we are closer by one day to what is next.
Pastor Tom Kidd