by: Rev. Ed Schneider
I know it is thoroughly impossible, but the other day I was having a bit of fun thinking about who in history I would love to sit down with over a cup of coffee or a glass of beer and get to know personally.
I thought of Marconi and Tesla, or Einstein and Augustine, even Wilma Rudolph and Barbara Jordan. I thought what an opportunity it would be to actually look across the table or take a long walk with Mickey Mantle, Teddy Roosevelt, Howard Thurman, or Jesus’ older cousin John the Baptizer.
When I started to think about all of the imaginative possibilities it became an endless pursuit in futility with one exception. It began to reveal who and what I found valuable in life. It opened the doors of introspective honesty regarding the foundational importance of continually evaluating how truly gifted individuals can often inspire much of humanity with what they say, what they are able to accomplish, and how what they have expressed has profoundly transformed the world around them both during and after their lifetime.
Think about it for a moment. Taking away politics or policy preferences, wouldn’t it be marvelous to have multiple, honest, and candid conversations with George Washington, Ronald Reagan or Barack Obama? Imagine what the apostle Paul or Michelangelo or Oscar Peterson could share with you. How about the stories that would be told as you listened to Satchel Paige, Sojourner Truth or Martin Luther? The endless possibilities of reflecting upon the brilliance of John Wooden’s leadership skills, Karl Barth’s understanding of God, and the one and only female emperor of China, Wu Zetian, would be fascinating.
Here is what I want you to think about. What are our children and young people listening to? Are we losing our children and our young adults to a culture of insignificant, no-depth, trivial nonsense parading itself off has “culture?” For the most part I believe the answer is, “Yes!”
I was on the phone the other day with a marvelous music teacher in a New Jersey urban high school who works and interacts with students in what he calls, “a war zone.” He remarked on how most people thought he was out of his mind trying to teach “those kids” anything other than the lowest possible level of music and then hope they won’t tear up his class room while he was doing it. Some even told him to greatly lower his standards and just try and teach “those kids” some simple, nondescript music with a gangsta rap back beat. His response was the same as mine. NONSENSE! His class learns highly difficult college level music and they love it. They love it because he expects their best and he shows them the respect they deserve as thinking and creating human beings. He refuses to let his students squander their life’s dreams based on others who have no faith in them or because their cultural prejudices have already decided their color, accent, or address effectively eliminate any greatness they are capable of accomplishing.
Every person I listed earlier in this column started out in someone’s arms, in someone’s care and guidance. Some started well off financially while others began their lives in abject poverty. There were both women and men. They were inventors, philosophers, theologians, politicians, athletes, authors, preachers, coaches, emperors, scientists, engineers, activists, evangelists, social reformers, artists, and musicians. Some were well educated in a traditional classroom setting while others never received a formal education.
What did they have in common? They thought. They acted upon the passions of their hearts. They dreamed of what could be rather than what is. They involved themselves in the greater course of human interaction and they refused to accept mediocrity as normal.
All of our children deserve to grow and think and dream of what could be and how they can be a significant part in that process. Every adult, no matter where they start or where they currently find themselves, need to identify and then challenge that which is inadequate for the common good and work to transform that thing, that circumstance, that idea into action. To think and experience the fullness of life’s great possibilities should be the goal of every school, every teacher, every home, every parent, and every person. Never settle. Always grow. Demand the best in yourself and watch how the world around will change for the better.
Beloved, if there are any names above you did not recognize it might be a good idea to start there. Learn who they are and how they changed the world around them. Again, not one of them started — in any real or practical way — any different than any other person. Some changed the world early in their life while others didn’t affect the culture of accepted knowledge and understanding until very late in their life.
There is not one soul reading this who couldn’t make a difference if they truly believed and were willing to think and grow while refusing to accept what “is” as ALL THERE IS … not one.
Given the above description, my question is, “What are we so afraid of?”
If positively effecting change is abundantly obvious for those who are inspired and encouraged to believe that what they “currently see” is not permanent; Why do we find ourselves so encumbered by fear? Legitimate, tangible, and outrageously remarkable testimonies of “faith driven” change are available to be read, seen and heard. These “faith driven” transformations are historically documented and contemporarily demonstrated literally all the time. The experiences of personal and organizational change have encompassed every corner of cultures, philosophies, and financial realities. Yet, far too many of us still find it hard to believe REAL CHANGE is possible.
I tell you this as absolute TRUTH. The Christian church needs to be the leading demonstrating agent of change in the world. Each individual Christian soul is called by God Almighty to be a demonstrating agent of change. Every mission team, deacon board, Bible study, discipleship small group, choir, praise team, sermon and personal testimony needs to reflect a Divine call to transformational change.
If there is no evidence of “change” there is no evidence of the validity of Christianity.
If a Christian feels the same, acts the same, sings the same, or prays the same as they did 10 years ago…something is very wrong. If a local congregation finds themselves stuck in a spiritual rut….something is very wrong. If the sermons sound the same, if the music has advanced in 5 years, if the same faces are sitting in the same seats…at the same time….reading the same liturgy with no passionate feeling of sincerity….something is VERY WRONG!
Christ did not die so that we could stay the same. Christ did not give His life so that we could collectively wallow in self-pity. We Christians are called to greatness, not mediocrity….or failure. We are children of THE KING! We are a royal priesthood set aside to accomplish God’s work. According the Bible, God’s work begins with believers DEMONSTRATING we actually believe God is REAL. We need to reflect in all that we do that God is as “real” as REAL gets!
God changes lives. God changes circumstances. God changes worry into hope and failure into success. God changes mediocrity into excellence. God changes ignorance into understanding. God changes common knowledge into Divine wisdom. God changes conflict into cooperation. God changes hatred and bigotry into trust and inclusion. God changes empty churches and empty hearts and broken spirits into glorious examples of how good and empowering a life devoted to God can become.
If the people above can change the world around them, so can you. If the people above can move beyond their current circumstances, so can you. If the people above can see with a new pair of eyes and hear with a new set of ears and understand the unlimited possibilities of never giving up on their calling in life….so can the Christian church…so can you.