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home : bishop : columns

2/9/2017 9:00:00 AM
BISHOP'S COLUMN
Super Bowl Sunday and being who we are
BY BISHOP EDWARD B. SCHARFENBERGER


Watching the halftime show at the Super Bowl telecast last Sunday, I was wondering, like many Americans, whether Lady Gaga was going to hijack her performance by careening off her strong points into a political diatribe.

To the relief of probably the vast majority of viewers, she did not. Instead, she stuck to what she did best and delivered what will no doubt be remembered as the best Super Bowl show ever.

Understand that I am not endorsing, promoting or pretending to critique the content or quality of Lady Gaga's performance history. That history, in fact, would have suggested that she might have seized the highly fractious mood of the general public, at this particular time in our history, to exacerbate the divisions and tensions which political figures and an all-too-compliant secular media saturate us with every day.

This particular episode, however -- her Super Bowl show -- reminded us of something we all need to remember: Politics, after all, is not the only power to which we must turn in order to change the world.

The hysteria into which our national political dialogue has descended -- to the point that mobs are screaming at each other, on the brink of street riots -- leaves us little to hope for from the political class. But there is hope in spite of this. All does not revolve around the next tweet, executive order, judicatory fiat or "talking head" analysis. At least, it does not have to.

Politicians and the media have their legitimate roles to play, but life is more than politics and news commentaries. The Super Bowl reminds us that sports and entertainment -- strong components of our culture -- have a tremendous power to engage us and lift us up from the gutter of what politics has become in recent times.

What last Sunday shows us is that, when people use the talents God has given them best by not trying to be all things to all people, we all can be better off for it.

Entertainers and sports figures are not necessarily the best of political experts. (I am trying to be charitable and non-judgmental here -- maybe too much for some readers.) They generally serve us best when they exercise their talents in the field in which they are most gifted. They have tremendous power in their art, and need not get carried away with the rush of power they might feel from the adulation of the crowd by assuming it gives them the historical perspective and critical judgment that one expects from statesmen and other public servants.

The same might be said for religious leaders, and maybe even more so. Again, I do not wish to point any fingers. Religious leaders can have tremendous influence because of the respect they are given and the trust placed in them, but we don't know everything!

The people know that all too well, but sometimes those of us in leadership don't realize that they see right through us like those celebrities who go off the deep end.

Spiritual leaders are primarily expected to lead people to a source of power and inspiration outside the secular sphere. Whatever or whomever a religion might address as God, it is clear that religious belief upholds the notion that the full meaning of life lies beyond the mere material gratification of our five senses.

A world in which every creature comfort imaginable was available to us would not bring us happiness. Our center lies outside ourselves. Living for something or someone other than our own ego fulfillment is how we become more civilized and human.

Religious leaders may have great personal talents and insights that might also make some of them fairly engaging entertainers or even, at times, competent commentators on socio-political conditions of their time. But what we expect from them most is that they lead us to know the source and ground of our being more intimately.

We want them to teach us how to pray and to grow spiritually, to pursue our full human destinies, which always lie beyond the limitations of the world as we know it. And -- dare I say it? -- we want more than anything else that they be holy.

What I am trying to say is that all of us have a role to play in lifting one another up beyond the tensions and fears and divisions that beset us at any given moment. By using the talents, strengths and skills that God has given us, each of us has a part to play. We do not have to be everything to everyone all of the time.

A good place to start, for all of us, is with the people closest to us: our families, friends, neighbors and coworkers. If we want to change the world, we might do better to spend time listening to one another instead of shouting at each other.

An excellent way to begin the week is to lay aside the things that occupy our time most of the weekday hours: shopping, working, worrying and running around. An hour or so with our Church family can break us out of the vicious cycle and focus our attention on our God, whom Jesus reveals to us as love.

As last Sunday's Gospel (Matthew 5:13-16) reminded us, we are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. United with our savior, Jesus Christ, there is no good that we cannot accomplish by being the person we are, with the trust that our Lord is walking alongside us.

The world longs for the peace that it cannot give. That peace begins with you and me, united with the Prince of Peace. There's no time like the present to let it begin again.

(Follow the Bishop at www.facebook.com/AlbanyBishopEd and on Twitter @AlbBishopEd.)





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