-Rev Melissa Fain-
I'm about to drop some statistics for the sake of a point. I'll keep it simple, and promise not to blow your mind with big words or ideas.
Back in the 70's there used to be a game show called "Let's Make A Deal." The host was Monty Hall. There's a version of it today hosted by Wayne Brady. Everything I'm about to say might be completely true of the reboot as well, but I've never seen it. I used to watch the 70's show in reruns all the time. So, just know I'm talking from my known experience watching an old game show, not whatever they are doing with the show now.
In the show, Monty Hall would pick a guest from the audience. In this case, the more outlandish the outfit the better the chance of being picked.
In one of the most classic of games, Monty would show the guest three doors. Behind one door would be a decent prize: $5,000 or a car. Something like that. (Remember, this was 70's money, so $5k was worth more back then.) Behind the other two doors would be trash. (Back then, one of them would be a goat. I doubt they'd do that today, because many young adults would love their own goat.) The point is, you would only win if you pick the correct door.
Monty tells the contestant to pick a door. They do. Instead of showing what's behind the door they picked, Monty shows what's behind one of the remaining two doors. The contestant sees a goat.
Monty then gives the contestant an option. Stick with her door, or pick the remaining third door. Is it helpful to switch at that point?
You might be thinking the answer is no, that the chances would remain the same. You'd actually be wrong. When the contestant first picked a door they had a 1 in 3 chance of winning the big prize. However, when Monty eliminated one of the non-choices, the odds of their door remained the same, while the odds of the non-picked door went up to a 2 in 3 chance of winning.
By eliminating one of the two remaining options, it gave value to the unpicked doors. It would be like Monty telling the contestant, "You picked your door, but would you rather give up your door, and get to open both of the other doors?"
In that perspective, of course opening two doors has a greater chance of getting the prize than opening one door. That's why switching doors is statistically better.
The Great Covid Game
Most of us are jokingly playing 2020 like a daytime game. We're using the Cabin in the Woods meme to make light of how crazy and dark this year has become.
Who had hurricane at the end of October?
It's insane. It's partly insane because we're looking for insanity at this point. We cannot wrap our heads around how quickly and completely the world has totally changed. We simply thought 2019 was bad when it was just the rain forest being purposefully destroyed, and Australia being on fire. We're in a whole new level of insane for 2020.
We are all living with door number one, willing to jump through whatever other option is set before us, because at least we won't be stuck with a whammy. (Wrong game.) Only this isn't a game, and one of the doors isn't going to give us a cash prize. We are left with our door, and picking a new door isn't going to undo the door that has already been picked.
We are attempting to believe all this is a Monty Hall problem. We think the argument is whether picking another option is not as bad as staying with your initial choices.
Who has civil unrest at the beginning of November?
Like I said, this isn't a game. This is real life, and we can't magically change our mind once choices have already been made.
I'm going to tell you something that is going to blow your mind: You don't have to play their game. Life isn't a game, so when someone tells you to play their game, "No" is a valid choice.
Here's where I stand:
I'm being told to choose a side so everyone knows whether to hate or support me. I don't have to choose a side at all. I don't agree with any of these strawmen right now, so I'm not going pick one. I choose "No."
I'm being told to save what we have or burn it to the ground. I'm sorry? I love the people who want to save what we had, and I'm aware enough to know we've opened too many doors to save it. "No."
While the world is trying to justify 2/3 chance over 1/3 chance of something good behind the doors, I'm done with the doors! I chose years ago that it is better to die free in the wilderness than starving in Babylon. "No."
Who has something different for the future? You can keep your odds. I'll be outside the building.
In Exodus, Moses get's frustrated with God. Well, less with God directly, and more focused on the unknowns. Moses wants to know it all. He wants to have a clear path to the Promised Land without the lingering doubt that sits with any plan.
When he talks to God, his discussion is very similar to prayers I've prayed over the years. Let me give you an example of one of my prayers:
"God? I've been taking this path for years now. I feel like I'm going to right way. I feel this is helping others, but couldn't you just speak it to me and then I'll know, know? Can't I just see 5-10 years in the future and then I won't have this fear?"
The future, no matter how planned or thought out, will always be filled with unknowns, even for Moses. God is everything, and even Moses could only see a piece of everything: ie, God's back. There has been no journey, and there never will be a journey, where we know all the answers going into it.
If we refuse to move forward because we're waiting for all our questions to be answered, all we're doing is stalling. All your questions won't be answered. That's part of the deal. The future would be very boring if we saw the cliff notes before we journeyed on. For Moses they were lucky to know their "now" was impossible. It's one of the reasons the Israelites couldn't stay in Egypt. At least in Egypt they had a home. At least in Egypt they had the illusion of security. The wilderness is nothing, and that's why we're called to it first. We must be unsettled in our now, to successfully seek our future.
We can't know it all. We can let go and seek something better. Will it end well? Well, there are really selfish people in this world who are spiteful to the point of hurting goodness, so I can't promise you perfection. No one can. I can promise you, stagnation never has a good ending. Ever. If that's where we're at, you have to make your choice. Fester, or attempt something radically new. If you want me to tell you exactly what that will look like, sorry. God didn't even give Moses the entire picture. I just know I'm not staying in the wilderness.
-Pastor Melissa Fain-
1 Jesus responded by speaking again in parables: 2 “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding party for his son. 3 He sent his servants to call those invited to the wedding party. But they didn’t want to come. 4 Again he sent other servants and said to them, ‘Tell those who have been invited, “Look, the meal is all prepared. I’ve butchered the oxen and the fattened cattle. Now everything’s ready. Come to the wedding party!”’ 5 But they paid no attention and went away—some to their fields, others to their businesses. 6 The rest of them grabbed his servants, abused them, and killed them.
7 “The king was angry. He sent his soldiers to destroy those murderers and set their city on fire. 8 Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding party is prepared, but those who were invited weren’t worthy. 9 Therefore, go to the roads on the edge of town and invite everyone you find to the wedding party.’
10 “Then those servants went to the roads and gathered everyone they found, both evil and good. The wedding party was full of guests. 11 Now when the king came in and saw the guests, he spotted a man who wasn’t wearing wedding clothes. 12 He said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ But he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to his servants, ‘Tie his hands and feet and throw him out into the farthest darkness. People there will be weeping and grinding their teeth.’
14 “Many people are invited, but few people are chosen.”
Matthew 22:1-14 CEB
People can tell you they are anything. They can espouse a belief system they don't personally follow. Not much is stopping anyone from being absolute liars to your face (or online).
Take Frank Abagnale Jr.. In the 1960's he ran away from home with just a few dollars to his name. He then faked at least 8 identities, and created fake checks and cashed it. What he told others, was not at all who he really was. Abagnale would write a book about his journey in 1980, and Hollywood would pick it up 20 years later and make the movie: Catch Me If You Can.
On one hand, we have a responsibility to fact check our sources. Take me, for instance. I tell you I'm a minister and I've been doing online ministry for 8 years now. There better be something that backs that up. Well, if you look to the right you can see eight years of archived posts. If you click the about tab you can see how I became an online minister including my schooling. I know people who can say, yes, Melissa Fain went to Candler School of theology and she graduated with a Masters of Divinity. There are people who will say I put my actions where my words are. I take the truth very seriously. I make that transparent because there are plenty who don't. Not all people who say they are a minister online, are really a minister.
Therefore, on the other hand, we need to see how a person's actions speaks to their real purpose. For example, I'm basically a full time sub. That's how I've gotten paid for the past 4-5 years. The school I sub has had zero confirmed cases since they opened back in early August. Masks are also "strongly encouraged," and not mandated. It would be easy for me to just go maskless. There are so many students that have begun to feel comfortable and stopped wearing theirs. Yet, the thought of being the family that starts a super spreader event at that school horrifies me. I love the staff at the school. Maybe I'll never catch it or spread it, but I cannot know. It is for that reason I wear a mask at all times. It's not comfortable, but it is the easiest way to show love to these teachers and staff that didn't have a choice about going back to school.
How we're like the scripture for today
The craziness of the world today has clarified many scriptures for me.
When one dismisses or ignores something, it's not because they believe it. Kids ignore their parents all the time because they think they know better. In other words, they don't believe their parents when their parents tell their child something is dangerous.
We don't act from other's beliefs. We act from our own belief systems. We also lie from those same systems. When we lie to someone about our belief, our actions are saying, "I don't trust you enough to treat me the same way if I tell you what I believe."
When a person stops hearing differing points of view, it's usually because they've become a person who can't be trusted with other people's belief. They've lost the power to change anything.
The scripture today is about God's story to the people, and the people's rejection of the story. It is also our rejection. There are times God tells us to go and we stay. There are times God invites us and we reject that invitation or kill it. Perhaps we don't kill it like the prophets were killed, but it's dead by the time we're done with it. Death happens in many ways.
I get this scripture better today because I can see how belief plays out in our actions. We support what we believe. We act from that belief system. Saying you believe something is different than the actions that show that belief.
You believe something? It shows.
So you say you want the 10 Commandments in front of the courthouse because it unifies multiple faith traditions and exemplifies codified law. Or to simplify it: Everyone gets the 10 Commandments.
Only- that's not exactly true. It's often times presented in ways that not only point only to Christians, but not even all Christians. Let's pretend we are going to commission someone to build the 10 Commandments outside our local courthouse. Here are the questions I'd ask before we set to work.
The easy answer is Exodus 20. Yet, Exodus 20 is not the only place the commandments appear. It also appears in Deuteronomy 5:6–17 and Exodus 34. The scripture changes depending on which one we pick. Below are some ways they change.
How are you separating them?
In 1551, Robert Estienne put verse numbers in the New Testament. We generally use these separations when reading anything from the New Testament.
Around 916 AD the Hebrew Bible had stops added to the texts. When the Hebrew Bible was eventually translated into English, most of these stops became the natural ending of one verse moving into another.
Verses and chapters are meant to help a group of people find a specific text together. That does not mean it was how the original author intended his work to be separated. This is true of the 10 Commandments. The way the scripture is separated into Commandments greatly depends on one's faith tradition.
Below is a chart I did not create myself. Clicking it will take you to a Catholic Blogger and a pretty decent article on idols in the Church.
The moment we begin numbering, we've made a statement regarding our specific faith tradition. Just because it's the 10 Commandments, doesn't mean we are including Jewish, Islamic and Christian faith traditions. It wouldn't even include all Christians, as Catholic and Protestants number the commandments differently. Still, there's one more hang up to consider.
Every translation of the original text is a theological statement. What do I mean? Let's look at the Protestant and Jewish 6th Commandment.
Depending on how you understand the original Hebrew it reads two ways:
There are translations where the translation team decided murder was the more appropriate word. There are other translations where the translation team believed kill was the more appropriate translation. Many of these modern teams put the opposite word in the margins so the reader can see there was not consensus on the translation. (If you have one these, that's what those tiny words are at the bottom of text. The one that wins goes in the text, and the one that held a contingent of support but didn't win goes in the margins.
These questions come up throughout the Bible as translation is an art. Words don't have a one to one ratio. The translation used not only expresses the 10 Commandments in a certain language, but it also makes a statement on broader beliefs tied to that translation. Yes, the King James Version has beautiful language, but it is also rejected by modern scholars. It was phenomenal during the time, but we've learned so much more about the original text, and English has evolved.
The Commandments are different for my two favorite translations, the CEB and NRSV. The NRSV uses "shall not" while the CEB uses "do not." The NRSV uses the "shall not covet" while the CEB uses "do not desire." Going back to the first example, the NRSV is written, "You shall not murder," with "kill" in the margins. The CEB, conversely, has "Do not kill," in the text and "murder" in the margins.
I would translate the original Hebrew to mean "murder," yet I prefer the modern language of "do not." We can see the issues translation alone can create.
I just want you to take something you might have considered easy, and realize it's not. We are living in a world where we're being told it's yes/no, right/wrong, Choice A/Choice B. God didn't create the Earth in that manner, and we shouldn't separate it in that way. We're breaking apart. Whatever cracks existed in our society, the Pandemic has come through like a earthquake and pulled them apart. What would have taken years, has taken place in 6 months. ALL THE CRACKS.
I'm asking. No, I'm pleading. The next time you see something that has painted an issue as clear cut, stop. Try to see at least two more points of view. Try to understand how something isn't a good choice you fully believe is. Try to see how something is a good choice, that you fully believe is not. That's the glue we need right now. Honestly, it's too late to change what's coming. Our minds are made up one way or another (and I'm talking way more than just a political race.) We have reached the point of no return. What's coming is coming. We need to prepare to honestly and genuinely reconnect after everything has hit. That starts now, and it starts with seeing the glory in God's creation, and the diversity in God's work.