Room Service


Today’s readings:
Psalms 97; 145, Jonah 2:1-10, Acts 2:14, 22-32, John 14:1-14

Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?

When Jesus arrived in Jerusalem, he sent his disciples ahead with instructions to find a room where they could celebrate the Passover meal (which would also be the Last Supper). The room they found was furnished and prepared for the coming event. At the end of a journey, isn’t it pleasant to find comfortable accommodations?

We prepare rooms for people at many stages of life. Some are used constantly, while others are mostly on stand-by. For a newborn arriving home at the end of their first journey, we prepare a room to soothe and stimulate them as needed. The ideal guest room is arranged to help visitors feel welcome and included without making them feel intrusive. When an ailing parent or loved one needs space to recover or to cross the finish line of this earthly race, we may convert a room to provide care and comfort.

A well-appointed space is nice, but the luxuries aren’t the most important element. An old couch in a one-room apartment where love and shelter are promised may provide a more peaceful night’s rest than the finest five-star hotel. The most important thing is to be sure guests can believe we are offering them not a favor but a family.

What kind of dwelling place do you hope for in God’s house, in this life or the next? If we mortals can welcome and support people in our modest homes, just imagine the limitless possibilities God has prepared for us. And note that Jesus said “many rooms” and not “a few rooms you will have to compete for.” God welcomes all of us home. We are responsible for accepting the invitation, and there are some basic house rules to observe, but family is family.

Our one true home is found in God. May our own homes reflect the love we find there.

Comfort: Our God is eager to welcome us.

Challenge: Find one change to make in your home that would make it more welcoming to guests.

Prayer: Thank you, God, for providing for all my needs. Amen.

Discussion: When you visit someone’s home, what do they do that help you feel welcome and relaxed?

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The Roseanne Reboot is a Nightmare (for political purists)

roseanne reboot publicity photo

The Roseanne reboot premiered to spectacular ratings, despite the many liberal and progressive voices publicly declaring they would not watch it because of the titular star’s enthusiastic support of President Trump, and conservatives boycotting it for including a “gender creative” grandchild. If I had to label my own political leanings, I think of myself as a left-of-center moderate – which generally means plenty of self-identifying conservatives classify me as a liberal and self-identifying liberals as ideologically impure.

I watched the double-episode Roseanne premier and I laughed. A lot. Much like the Will & Grace reboot, the characters fell into their old roles and relationships pretty seamlessly. Divisive politics were a prominent theme, but isn’t that going on in living rooms all over the United States?

The last election created political rifts in my own family for the first time that I can remember.  It’s not that we’ve always been in lockstep over candidates or even issues, but that this last election felt personal in ways previous ones never had. I am grateful that we are now getting back to a place where we can discuss policy and issues, rather than litigating yet again the morality of voting for either candidate. What’s done is done. Once more we can delve into the nuances of immigration, economics, gun control, health care, racism and other issues with rhetorical passion but without personal venom.

For a while I was convinced one’s choice of candidate revealed something more significant about them than it actually did. It turns out voting for the “other” candidate doesn’t make you a monster. I just can’t bring myself to stereotype any stripe of voter because we were all the same people before and after the election. We didn’t have fascists and snowflakes (or people throwing around ridiculously inappropriate terms like fascist and snowflake) in the family before, and we don’t have them now.

What I think has been much more revelatory is whether post-election one is more loyal to parties, candidates, and ideologies than to ideas and principles. In other words, do you defend the indefensible because it’s “your team” or do you aim for consistency and integrity? Plenty of people on both sides have passed or failed this standard.

And that brings us back to Roseanne. Many people seem not to be able to put aside Roseanne Barr’s personal (though very publicly expressed) politics to give the show a chance. But Barr is hardly the only contributor to this endeavor. Executive producer and actor Sara Gilbert (daughter Darlene) and actor Laurie Metcalf (sister Jackie) are integral to the show, and both have political viewpoints very divergent from Barr’s. Actor John Goodman (husband Dan) is largely apolitical as far as public persona goes. Do Barr’s politics trump (no pun intended) everyone else’s because she gets top billing? No viewpoint is silenced. Everyone looks equally ridiculous.

Are we so entrenched – are our beliefs and worldviews so fragile – that we can’t tolerate exposure to any enterprise that doesn’t completely conform to them, even when it espouses other values we agree with?

The following paragraph contains a few spoilers to make some points, so just skip it if you like – you’ll still be able to keep up.

Most confounding to ideological purists might be the characters’ lack of adherence to stereotyping. Grandmother Roseanne forcefully defends the clothing choices of her grandchild Mark – who does not identify as transgender but does identify as a someone most comfortable in traditionally feminine clothing. Does that sound like the left’s characterization of a stereotypical Trump supporter? Even when it seems the characters are about to prove the stereotypes right – Roseanne refers to Hillary Clinton as “the worst person in the world” and Jackie can’t resist making a point of wearing a pink pussy hat and Nasty Woman t-shirt to their reunion after a year-long, politically-driven estrangement – the expected vitriol makes an appearance but is ultimately unsustainable. It would seem we can maintain the anger only as long as we can maintain our self-imposed distance, but once love and necessity force us to interact … we start to remember who we were. The differences don’t disappear, but they are reduced to a controlled simmer.

Politics may be the current vehicle of the new show, but it’s not the destination. Roseanne continues primarily to be about how a struggling family gets through life together. Once the pressing problems of health, employment, deployment, and identity assert themselves, the characters – and we – remember politics divides us much more than it ever solves anything. Getting through life together isn’t a matter of accusing and persuading, but loving and serving.

I believe the program we need right now isn’t one where everyone in the family has reached a unified liberal or conservative consensus, but one that shows us how to be family despite our imperfections and (sometimes very raw) disagreements. Like the Roseanne of decades ago, the current incarnation reflects what’s going on in our own living rooms and at our own kitchen tables. There’s room for everyone – and for everyone to be pissed off. This cast has obviously become a family in more than a scripted sense, and as such they have learned to harness their common goals toward creation rather than let their differences drive them to enmity. Like it or not, that’s progress.

A House United


Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 104; 149, 1 Samuel 22:1-23, Acts 13:26-43, Mark 3:19b-35

Jewish religious leaders were beside themselves trying to explain the popularity and power of Jesus. When they said his ability to cast out demons came from Satan, he replied: “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.”

At this time his mother and brothers were growing concerned for him, so they called to Jesus from outside the house where a great crowd had gathered.

And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

We can hear this a couple ways. The first is a dismissal, if not quite a rejection, of his family in favor of his followers. The second, more in keeping with his comments about a house divided, is an expansion of the definition of family; an expansion which includes all who dedicate themselves to God.

Ironically, Saul invited Jesus’s ancestor David into his house, and the resulting division threatened all of Israel. Because the people loved David more, Saul no longer saw him as a member of his faith family, but a dangerous rival. When his son Jonathan conspired to save David’s life, Saul’s rage was uncontrollable. He slaughtered eighty-five priests and their city of Nob because he believed they had helped David escape him. (In reality, they believed David was still serving Saul.) David, who believed Saul was God’s anointed king, had no plans to harm him.

Like so many divided houses, this was a one-sided war.

When we experience conflict with other believers, let’s not make Saul’s mistake and assume they are out to destroy us … and thereby become what we fear. Through Christ we are always challenged to expand our definition of family, even when that expansion feels threatening.

Jesus said “My father’s house has many rooms.” We don’t all have to sleep in the same one.

Additional Reading:
Read more about today’s passage from Mark in Just. Plain. Crazy.

Comfort: You have more family than you know.

Challenge: Find someone who is a member of your church, family, neighborhood, or city who thinks differently than you do. Have a conversation about what common good you agree on.

Prayer: I give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness. (Psalm 138:2)

Discussion: Are you a member of a divided “house?” What do you think can unite it?

Join the discussion! If you enjoyed this post, feel free to join an extended discussion as part of the C+C Facebook group. You’ll be notified of new posts through FB, and have the opportunity to share your thoughts with some lovely people. Or feel free to comment here on WordPress, or even re-blog – the more the merrier!