Keep On

What a week last week turned out to be, huh? We had President Obama speaking/preaching/singing at Rev. Pinckney’s funeral, the debate over the Confederate flag, 6 black churches being burned, three terrorist attacks in one morning, the Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage, and the saga of the two prisoners who had escaped and were loose in upstate New York. I joked with my family Sunday evening that if someone found that still-missing plane, CNN would overheat and shut down.

One of the amazing parts about the news from last week is that much of it seemed to highlight the intensity of the divide in our country and in the Church. When the momentum around Charleston focused on the Confederate flag, the gaping divide between those that see it as hate and those that claim it as heritage came front and center. When the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage, there were both celebrations and declarations that the end was near for America.

A couple weeks back, I wrote a post about Philippians 4:9, which reads “Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you” (NRSV). There, I focused on how Paul was calling them not to retain the details of his tactics–things they would have learned/received/heard/seen from him–but to retain the guiding Holy Spirit–things they would have learned/received/heard/seen in him. However, after this week, the first two words of this verse kept coming to mind.

When you think about it, “keep on” is an odd phrase. Keep is a word of conservation. On is a word of progress. It is a juxtaposition of the static and the dynamic. When you combine it with the rest of the verse as shorthanded above, Paul communicates the idea that there are both things/concepts/practices to be retained and things/concepts/practices to be left behind. We have to learn to identify and deal with both, often times within a single issue or situation.

Yet, when major news events and weeks like the last one happen, the loudest voices (especially on social media) tend to be those shouting exclusively for keep and those shouting exclusively for on. Either everything must be retained or everything must be left behind. To be clear, there are absolutely moments when one is right and the other is wrong, but the vitriol and ineffectiveness of our dialog tends to come when we are talking past each other in complex situations. Where we refuse to consider that both might exist, even if only in the smallest way, we close a door that could help us understand and connect with one another.

If we can find a way to keep on together, perhaps we can make headway.

Lectionary Connections: Year A Proper 23, Year C Thanksgiving Day, Year C Canadian Thanksgiving

Image by Flickr user Dean Hochman. Used under Creative Commons License. Cropped from Original.

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