A small utility van passed me on the Interstate just south of our home. I did not see what company the van represented. I’m guessing it was some form of home security system. However, I clearly saw the slogan painted with extra large letters on the side. It read, “Secure Your World.” Almost inevitably, my mind began processing all kinds of responses to that slogan.
How will this “business” secure my world? Will they protect me from fire or theft? Alert me to smoke or an intruder? Will they sell me some kind of security system with bells and whistles that alert the home base if something seems amiss in my home or on my property?
Is “my world” what really needs to be secured? Are bricks and mortar and bank accounts and furniture and retirement funds and cars what need to be protected? What kind of guarantees will the company offer to assure this kind of protection for my accumulated possessions? Beyond (or instead of) normal fire, hazard and theft insurance? And will they protect me from so-called “Acts of God?”
Can my worldly accumulations, my future, my health, or even the life of my loved ones and myself ever be totally assured and protected? Should it be? Is this what matters most?
Can anyone guarantee that an inebriated driver or a person having a heart attack will not cross the lane in front of me in the next few minutes and hit me head-on in a terrible crash? Can anyone guarantee that cancer cells will not grow on some vulnerable organs in my body causing irreversible damage or death? Can anyone guarantee that a wild and vicious tornado will not tear the roof off of my home during a storm? Can I secure my world? Can someone else (well paid, well intended) secure that world for me?
While William Sloane Coffin was senior minister at Riverside Church in New York City, his son was killed suddenly in a tragic automobile accident. He was absent from the pulpit for a number of weeks as he grieved deeply in his loss. When he finally returned to the pulpit, he announced his discovery to the congregation in words something like this: “God offers us minimum security, but maximum support!”
Exactly so. God does not promise protections from mishaps or great sorrow. But God offers us companionship and strength in each and all of these things.
A theological school professor lost his only child to a rare form of cancer. Like Coffin, he was gone from his staff position for a few weeks. When he returned, he spoke these words in a seminary chapel service: “Friends, I have been to the bottom. And I am here to report that the bottom is solid.”
I am sure the company with the painted logo on the sides of its truck is well intentioned. Their marketing is a good attention grabber. The words may be thoughtful and thought provoking in an uncertain and vulnerable time. But that slogan is bad theology. Grossly inadequate theology!
One of the great passages in the Old Testament narrative is the word God speaks to Joshua as he takes over leadership from Moses: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)
Do we not have a two-part call in all of this? First, to work hard not to be consumed by the passion to “secure our world” – our property, our financial resources, our pensions, collected treasures, etc. These things are important for responsible planning and good care. But they are never really secure. Devotional self care (soul care?) is a far higher priority.
Then, second, to encourage disciples on this same journey. Encourage others to take care of their on-going relationship with the Divine. Encourage others to see life in a new light and with a new hope. Help any and all of the struggling faithful to know that God offers minimum security, but maximum support.