Steve Scalise was at baseball practice at 7 am with other congressional leaders getting ready for a charity baseball game. Then he got shot and that changed things. For a lot of people.
He wasn’t the only person injured, and the whole situation served as a reminder that these kinds of events occur all too often. The more troubling detail is that the shooter knew who would be on that field at that time, and targeted those individuals with his gunfire.
I had not heard of Scalise prior to a few days ago. I’ve since learned that he holds a leadership position in the Republican Party and that he enjoys playing baseball. Who else would get out on a field around 6 am to practice?
Many times we don’t know a person beyond their persona on television, but I’ve discovered that he has family who is deeply concerned about his well being. He’s been married to his wife Jennifer for more than a decade, and he has two beautiful children named Harrison and Madison.
We have all heard that he is in critical condition, and we should be in prayer for him along with the others who have been injured in this horrific event. Political preferences should not matter when we enter times like this.
It has been refreshing to see members of both political parties come together to express unity, even though I don’t expect this to last. However, it makes me lament the toxicity present among our governmental leaders. Why can’t things be like that joint press conference held by the managers of the Republican and Democratic teams? We often ask why it takes a tragedy to bring us together.
On a more personal level, I’ve been wondering how the Scalises are going to handle this weekend. This terrible situation has taken place only a few days before Father’s Day. I would imagine this Sunday will take on additional meaning due to the circumstances of the last week.
Father’s Day is an emotional day. Many people are fortunate to have had positive experiences with their fathers, while others not so much. Not every man is a father, and not every father is a “dad” to his children. Many fathers hope to be a “good dad” and wonder what that means. Sadly, there are all to many men who abdicate their responsibility when it comes to leading and caring for their children. And, not all children have or had good relationships with their fathers. This whole holiday can be complicated for these reasons and more.
In the days before cell phones, we had to use “land lines.” And, if you go a little farther back in years, there was a time when you’d pick up the phone and talk to someone called an “operator.” The operator would help you place a call. It was a big deal to call someone “long distance” because it would cost you more to place the call. But, if you called “collect” the person receiving the call would have to agree to accept the charges so you wouldn’t have to pay for it. If they didn’t accept the charges, then the call couldn’t go through.
It has been said that there would be more long distance calls placed on Mother’s Day than any other day. Conversely, there would be more “collect” long distance calls on Father’s Day. I guess that’s how it goes.
On Sunday, I’ll be referring to Psalm 1. It is a wonderful prologue to the entire collection of psalms and hymns in our Bible. Especially on this occasion, I will do my best to be both gender specific and gender inclusive in its use. I will say “Blessed is the man. . .” while ensuring my listeners understand it means “Blessed is the one. . .” This is a classic text intended to challenge readers to “watch their step” in regard to whom they associate with and whom they allow to gain influence in their lives. Their are two paths, and it’s important to stay on the right one.
There’s never been a more important time for men to “watch our steps” as it relates to our words, actions, and attitudes. People are watching, especially the non-church going world, to see whether there’s any real difference between a community of faith and everybody else. It’s also vital to watch our steps when we consider all the children who are observing how we live and how we respond to things.
I’m grateful to have a wonderful wife and three active, healthy children. The greatest blessing is the awareness that my children know the Lord, and that I had the privilege to baptize each of them. Whatever else I might accomplish in this life, nothing will surpass being present at their births and being able to baptize them to celebrate their new birth in Christ. For me on Father’s Day, this is the greatest gift I could hope for.
My hope in writing this is to challenge each of us to be careful in our steps. For Father’s Day, I challenge myself and all men to consider the words of the apostle: “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps” (I Peter 2.21 NIV).
A few weeks ago I spoke with someone who had stopped attending church. I asked him where he had been going and he replied, “I don’t go to church anymore. I’m in a different place now.”
I recall the story of a man who woke up on Sunday morning, not wanting to attend worship as was his usual custom. He called his mother and said, “I’ve had enough! I can’t go to church anymore. Those people are so rude, and they don’t even like me.” His mom responded, But son, you have to go. You’re the pastor!”
The church is an attractive thought for many of us, but it can also be a difficult one for those who have had bad experiences. Some people have gone through “church abuse” which can make it difficult for a return to any house of worship. Others have simply grown apathetic but seem to make the annual Easter Sunday service, only to return to their lives away from the church.
Christians aren’t supposed to live in isolation from each other. We are supposed to live in community and experience life as a family of faith. In an essay written about 15 years after his conversion, C.S. Lewis commented on the value of community:
“I thought I could do it on my own, by retiring to my rooms and reading theology, and I wouldn’t go to the churches. . . But as I went on I saw the great merit of it. I came up against different people of quite different outlooks and different education, and then gradually my conceit just began peeling off. I realized that the hymns (which were just sixth-rate music) were, nevertheless, being sung with such devotion and benefit by an old saint in elastic-side boots in the opposite pew, and then you realize that you aren’t fit to clean those boots. It gets you out of your solitary conceit.”
To be honest, I don’t remember a lot of sermons that I heard while sitting in the pews. What I do remember, however, are the people who have impacted my life through the years. That’s what church is really about–it’s about the people. It’s about going through life together with a group of people who are unified in their devotion to Christ.
The early church was described as “being together and having all things in common.” It is also known as “koinonea.” The CEV says it this way: “they were like family to each other.”
It’s important to realize the difference between “attending” a worship service and “belonging” to a church. It has to do with what Dietrich Bonhoeffer described as “Life Together.” I hope to touch on that subject Sunday morning when we’re together once again. I’m grateful we’ll be able to share the Lord’s Supper and commission our students to “Serve Springfield.”
I also wanted to congratulate you on your generosity to missions. UHBC was recognized as a “Top 200 Giving Church” in the latest edition of the CBF magazine Fellowship! Let’s keep up the good work!