I have friends who have been up in arms since Trump became president. They spend their time writing about the injustices and stupidity coming from our government. They spend time protesting and fighting for the rights of those Jesus calls in the Bible “the least of these.”
Most of these friends are fellow pastors who, like myself, know that, yes, we must fight for those being overlooked and treated unfairly. I see their passion and hear their anger and I pray.
Not for them to be victorious. I pray for justice for all to come…and for the scales to drop from all our eyes.
I am a country pastor. I came to this call quite accidentally. My Calvinist friends are quick to argue with me when I say this. They point out that nothing is accidental with God. True. Nothing is. But that still doesn’t mean we in our limited understanding of God’s crazy ways can comprehend all that God does. And so, I am an accidental country pastor.
I was called to a little white church years ago not realizing that this was more than a call to pastor a church. This was a call to start living again, to heal a broken heart and to allow God to reveal the who I really am.
I traded in my designer heels for a pair of good old barn boots. Mud season can be a real bitch in this part of the country. I admit, though, I have held on to my Kate Spade handbags. I am thinking that perhaps Miss Spade should make a line of rural handbags? Ones that complement the caked mud against black rubber…
Back to my point. I am a pastor serving rural America, an area in which prayed for someone like Trump to take office. An area where people feel his election is God’s grace being poured on the land—finally.
And I can see why they rejoice. I can see why they are turned off by clergy who they say are so “liberal” and don’t get it.
Maybe we clergy don’t truly get it?
I can see this because as I live and serve and pray for those who call little white churches, faded clapboard houses and sagging old red barns home, I hear their frustrations of being treated as “the least of these.” T
hey lament how they are overlooked by the decision makers in “the cities.” They don’t appreciate how those with higher education seem to talk down to those with a high school degree.
They are tired of the Roman Empire laughing at poor little Nazareth.
After all, can anything good come from Nazareth, the backwoods biblical village that Jesus hailed from?
We know the answer is yes. Something good did come from Nazareth.
The truth is this country is made up of many Nazarethes. And the people I have been called to shepherd have been tired for a very long time of being ignored, joked about and not treated fairly.
I moonlight as a reporter for a local paper. Just the other day in an editorial planning meeting, a colleague spoke about how a school in a village in the same county as which I serve God’s children has a big problem. They can’t get substitute teachers. No one wants to come.
You want me to go where? There? Where exactly is it? I think I heard there are rednecks in that area? My friend saw a few Confederate flags hanging from trailers. No, thank you. I don’t want to be there for the children who need a teacher.
It was the same for the little white church God called me to. Friends in Manhattan and north New Jersey where I then lived asked if I had this desire to preach to cows.
What’s up there for you? Can anything good come out of Nazareth?
Turns out there was something amazing in rural America for me. My relationship with God grew stronger as did my realization I had a passion to advocate for churches that no one seemed to know about or care about.
I thought about the school struggling to get substitutes. I thought about the churches struggling to get pastors who just weren’t just using them as a stepping stone to the next “bigger” church in their preaching career.
I thought back to a newspaper story I did in December where a man of a local American Legion explained why his colleagues were cutting ties with a larger national organization in their mission to collect Christmas toys for children. He said they collect so many toys but had to drive down to the “big city of Albany” to drop them off. And then, those in the city would decide what those in rural America needed.
“They don’t know our needs. We wanted our children to get what they deserve…more toys,” he said.
We want our children to get what they deserve…not just more toys. And so, the vote went to Trump because people were tired of not being heard. I’m not saying that this was the right vote or not. I’m just presenting the truth of what I see in my work as an accidental country pastor.
So, when I see protests and angry notes on Facebook from clergy friends about the unfairness of the actions coming out of Washington D.C. my heart cries. Yes, voices need to be heard. Definitely. We need to make sure the rights for all are protected and that new laws are made to help those who are in need. I’m not arguing against that.
But as pastors in the cities make their protest signs, I wish they would also pray for the little white churches in rural America who struggle to find shepherds. Pray for the schools who no one wants to teach in. Pray for the children who are in need, who seem to get overlooked. And I am not just talking about toys at Christmastime. Pray to understand why the country voted the way it did.
For the snide comment “can anything good come out of (insert a rural community)” has been heard for too long.
I know I am putting my heart out there and some might be angry with my words today. But I welcome all comments, even those who disagree with me. I just want to share and get a conversation going.
For when we don’t have the opportunity to talk to one another, we miss the opportunity to discern a new path that God is asking us to venture out on.
When we are prevented from talking to one another all because our differences are too great, then we thwart the work of the Spirit.
For our open and honest conversations, I believe, are indeed sacred offerings lifted to God.
Lenten Prayer for Today: Lord, I pray for all those who are feeling discarded and not heard. I pray for your Spirit to heal divisions. I pray for especially for all the churches, schools, businesses and household in rural areas who have felt rejected for far too long.
A picture of the little white church painted for me when I first came to rural America to serve God’s children. Life in the country may be different than the city, but we are all seeking the same thing: to be heard and loved, to know all of God’s children are worthy.