Kennington Avenue

Thursday, August 7th, 2014


I often watch the news talk shows Morning Joe and New Day. This morning on Morning Joe I heard a Washington Post columnist say that Americans were depressed. The conversation and the comment/observation from this columnist was reflecting a new poll regarding how Americans viewed the performance of President Obama and the Congress. The President’s approval rating was at 40 percent while for congress it was at 14 percent. People were more disappointed with Republican lawmakers than they were with Democrats. But this notion of Americans as depressed is intriguing. I think he may be onto something. His observation points I think to a malaise that has roots in a spiritual emptiness. And yet you will never hear an indepth spiritual discussion from any of the morning talking heads. The American public has become by and large a consumerist culture. Our lives are not only driven by advertisers but we have fallen into the trap that convinces us that our lives are less than what they should be without the latest gadget even if it means spending money that we don’t have just to have it or in some cases steal from others to get that thing which will end and leave us even more empty. We want quick results for things that may not yield quick results. We vote for leaders who promise what they often cannot deliver. Because life is far more complex than the reality t.v. shows which is never reality. Even religion has taken a consumerist approach to faith and the churches that have the largest memberships are those where the theology promises to lift us from poverty and put us on easy street. But God nor faith works that way. If it did we wouldn’t see the majority of people in the world living in such abject poverty. Jesus talks about not being anxious. Anxiety is the result of putting our faith in transitory and fleeting things. It is impossible to hold onto things that simply will not last including this world. The moment that we are born into this world we begin to die. The prophet Isaiah makes the fragileness of life even more plain when he says, “The people are nothing but grass, their love is as fragile as wildflowers. The grass withers and the wildflowers fade, if God so much as puffs at them. Aren’t these people just so much grass? The grass withers and the wildflowers fade, but our God’s Word stands firm and forever.” ( Isaiah 40:8). Any conversation that does not give serious thought to God who gives meaning to all things. For in the end we are more than the stuff that fill our closets, more than the designer labels. More than the brand name shoes or the luxury cars. Political kingdoms rise and fall but God alone is sovereign and He alone is just. God is eternal. He will not change. He is the one who steadies us in the shifting times. There is a reality that is larger than the reality we face day in and day out. The reality we see at this moment that can be frightening and is frightening as we look at these multiple crisises that is happening throughout the world but faith invites us to cast our eyes to this eternal hope that will not fade and that will not disappoint. There is a perfect peace here even as this world seems to be falling apart. In the hope and in the certainty of this faith we can live with courage as well as peace even more determined to live fighting to make this world a more just, humane and compassionate place.

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About the author

Ken Wheeler is a retired pastor. He most recently served at Cross Lutheran Church, an ELCA congregation in Milwaukee, where he is now the director of the Bread of Healing Empowerment Ministry. For 18 years he was as an assistant to the bishop of the Greater Milwaukee Synod of the ELCA.