Bad News

Warren Buffett, the widely respected Omaha multi-billionaire, used the phrase “Pearl Harbor” to describe the significance of our nation’s current economic crisis, a phrase he has never before used about the economy. Many other very reputable people feel the same way. “Pearl Harbor” was a very damaging air attack on our forces in Hawaii and it got us involved in World War II. It was a surprise, deadly, and very frightening

It took a demanding and costly effort, but we did pull out of it.

The sense of things now seems to be that again we are in for some rough years, not because of a military attack, but because of irresponsibility in high places (and low places) in the world of finance.

Even if Congress comes up with a moderately sensible rescue plan – which they hopefully will do – the shock waves will reverberate for awhile. People’s lives are going to change.

Of course for many Americans those changes have already hit, this year or in recent years, with job losses, health coverage losses, major medical expenses, bankruptcy, losing their homes. It’s not a brand new thing in late 2008. But the current crisis on Wall Street is new – and it’s spreading and apparently it’s going to continue to spread for a while.

What should Christians do?

We could panic, blame everybody, throw up our hands, and run off screaming in all directions at once. That would at least give us something to do!

Nah. Let’s not. That looks really dumb, and besides, it doesn’t help anything.

Good News

We call our Christian message “good news,” partly because the people in the first Christian century called it “good news” – and some of them lived in really hard times, times that make a few years of financial difficulty look very tame.

In a different time the prophet Habakkuk said a striking thing about hard times coming upon his people over 2500 years ago. (Hab 3:16-18)

First, he acknowledged his fear:

I heard and my heart pounded,
my lips quivered at the sound;
decay crept into my bones,
and my legs trembled.

Wow. Sounds pretty serious.

But he said he would wait patiently for things to straighten out. And in the meantime he would still rejoice in his God!

Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.

Continue to believe, continue to worship, continue to pray, continue to enjoy God and the powerful long-term hope you have in God.

And Love Your Neighbor

After C. S. Lewis lost his wife Joy to cancer he went through some very bleak times. But at one point he came to a conclusion.

I know the two great commandments, and I may as well get on with it.

That’s very good advice. We don’t know what may be coming, but we do know that God knows. We do know God has been present in this mess in Jesus Christ and is present today in the Holy Spirit. And God expects us to stay attentive to what He wants us doing.

It’s not really our job to figure out who caused what, or exactly what needs to be done next. It doesn’t hurt to have opinions, and to express them to the people who have some authority.

But our most basic job is still the same. Love God, and love our neighbors.

Does that sound too simple? It is simple. But it’s not always easy. It is, however, always good!

As times change and situations change, we will have to be smart and creative about how to do those two things – especially the second one. Who knows what ways we may be led into to serve our generations by the will of God?

But the Lord really is asking of us to just keep loving and practicing the presence of God in this real world. And God will be present with us.

Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. (2 Corinthians 9:10,11)

[This is the pastor’s comment I wrote yesterday for our monthly church newsletter.]