An unpredictable world
By Bishop James E. Swanson Sr.
The song “For What It’s Worth” was written by Stephen Stills. It was performed by Buffalo Springfield, recorded on Dec. 5, 1966, and released as a single in January 1967. It became one of the most popular protest songs of that era.
This was a time filled with bold challenges to the establishment, the institutions that had dominated our society, thought patterns, decisions and direction for the United States for many years. And suddenly that which we were familiar with and counted on for a sense of security was no longer there. Read these lyrics and you get a sense of the upheaval of those days:
“There's something happening here.
What it is ain't exactly clear.
There's man with a gun over there
Telling me I got to beware.
I think it's time we stop, children, what's that sound?
Everybody look what's going down.
There's battle lines being drawn.
Nobody's right if everybody's wrong.
Young people speaking their minds.
Getting so much resistance from behind.
It's time we stop, hey, what's that sound.
Everybody look what's going down.”
I could continue with the last two verses but, I think you hear the tenor of the song as Stephen Stills interprets what he saw in America in 1966.
I hear a similar conversation and see a similar atmosphere within the United Methodist Church today. Stills’ verses were great in drawing a word picture of that day and time but I'm drawn more to the chorus "It's time we stop, what's that sound. Everybody look what's going down." It is in these often repeated words that Stephen Stills tries to help his generation to STOP and REFLECT. He asks that we look not at whether we are right or winning but look at WHAT'S GOING DOWN.
It is difficult to do that when we are more committed to winning than we are to loving each other. It is difficult to do that when we feel our known world spinning out of control and another world coming into being that is so unknown to us and where there are is more unpredictability than stability.
I believe this is tremendously difficult for men. But maybe just maybe God is teaching us that this is God's world and not ours. Maybe we were never in control. Maybe through these unpredictable times God is leading us to become men of faith who are learning how to lean and depend on Jesus rather than our own power and strength.
Oh, by the way, we survived the 60s, do you think we will come through 2016?
I love part of Stills’ last verse:
“Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep
It starts when you're always afraid....”
In an unpredictable world we need to hear the Psalmist.
“The Lord is my light and my salvation. Should I fear anyone? The Lord is a fortress protecting my life. Should I be frightened of anything?”
Psalm 27:1 CEB
Bishop James E. Swanson, Sr., president
General Commission on United Methodist Men