Where was I?

Trinity Sunday / June 15, 2014

oj simspon

I was not born when JFK, MLK and RFK were shot, so I don’t remember.

I was 5 when Elvis died. I remember being in the living room with my mom watching the news coverage and funeral while she cried and cried and cried.

I was at school when President Reagan was shot and when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded.

I was sitting on the couch watching Tom Brokaw on the evening news when I first heard of AIDS and was in the Trevecca gym when I heard Magic Johnson had been infected with HIV.

And then a few years later…

Two dead bodies. A white bronco and a massive chase. The 405. Mark Furhman. Kato Kaelin. Judge Ito. The trial of the century. Court TV. A glove that didn’t fit. Acquittal. 20 years ago today.

Everything this week has reminded me that 20 years ago OJ Simpson was accused, arrested, tried, and acquitted of the murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend, Ron Goldman. Of course OJ has been in the news every one of those 20 years for various reasons, so I haven’t forgotten about him. Nor have the now 1,000 legal TV shows and channels let me forget that for a period of time in 1994-1995 our country stopped to watch the drama unfold in court with Johnny Cochran, F. Lee Bailey, Alan Dershowitz, Carl Douglas and Robert Kardashian center stage. Eleven months after the jury was selected, the verdict came as an acquittal. The “Juice” was once again loose.

So, 20 years ago… where was I? I had just graduated from college and was looking for a job. I believe that I had been on a date and came home to watch the end of the NBA Finals game when the TV was abducted by a police chase. For the next few weeks I watched as closely as everyone else did. Detail after detail came to light, and Orenthal James Simpson looked more guilty each day. The trial messed up my daily Today show routine with legal TV nonsense to the point that I stopped watching the first 10 minutes. With the verdict,the public outcry and then the civil trial began. I went from interested to disinterested to cynical to mad to annoyed to disillusioned to “could care less whatever happens.” For the last 18 ½ years or so I have given very little thought to the matter. After all, I didn’t know either family member and had never been to Brentwood, CA. Not really my problem and nothing I could do about anything going on.

So it really doesn’t matter where I was or what I was doing when the murders occurred or when I saw the police chase. I don’t care where I was when the verdict was read or when OJ was acquitted. It doesn’t matter what I think about the verdict or the way the whole scene further soured most Americans on due process, fair trial, and hot shot lawyers who can get anybody off by raising reasonable doubt to the simplest minded jurors available. It doesn’t matter.

What does matter is that 20 years have passed and all around me thousands of murders have occurred in the cities where I’ve lived. What does matter is that people I know have been victims of domestic violence who seemed to be a happy family. What does matter is that people I know have been caught in the circus of ridiculous court cases. What does matter is that children have been left orphaned by parents sentenced to jail because of selfish, sinful behavior. For 20 years as a pastor and a community leader I have been a witness, usually without the ability to prevent, alter, or determine the outcome. Just a witness standing by to count the tragedies and consider the harm done to everyone involved. Standing by; watching the social stats sky rocket; wishing things could change; remembering where I was when…

In 2012 (in TX),

Child Abuse-

731,456 reports of abuse
66,398 cases of abuse confirmed
17,022 kids removed from home
6,581 kids waiting to be adopted

Domestic Violence-

Women killed in domestic violence attacks: 114

Family violence incidents: 188,992

Adults sheltered because of family violence: 11,994

Children sheltered: 14,534

Adults and children turned away because of space:  26%

Hunger –
18.4 % of all Texans are considered “food insecure”
1,849,100 children in TX are food insecure
4.8 million Texans live in poverty (under $20k for a family of 4)

Death-
2,891 from suicide
1,144 from homicide
10,322 in drunk driving accidents
41,000 from cancer
Where was I?

Most of these things are out of my hands. I can do little more than remember where I was when I heard the stat or saw the report of the bad news. I can only witness the further deterioration of society and of the human spirit. HOWEVER, there will be an opportunity for me to change SOMETHING at some point. I will be able to rescue a family threatened by domestic violence. I will be able to protect a child from abuse. I will be able to give food to someone desperately hungry. I will be able to listen to and befriend someone desperate enough to consider suicide. I will be able to influence my children so that drugs and alcohol are not their master. I will be able to journey the last months with someone dying of cancer who is scared of dying alone.

I will be able to do something because I will not be obsessed with where I was “when such and such happened” because I will be giving myself to the opportunities that today offers for me to be a kingdom witness to the presence and power of God in our world. Not so I can tell God (or anybody else) where I was. So I can tell myself that when others needed me at the most difficult place of their lives, I was not gawking. I was sharing and serving and saying the things that God has poured into me these years, so that I could pour into others for Him.

It no longer matters to me where I was. I don’t even to know where I am going. I only need to know where I am. From here I can bear witness to the love of God in every event of life and call others to believe with me. A love that is a divine fellowship of Father, Son, and Spirit that invites me/us into the fellowship too. And into that fellowship do we bring all of our hurts, our fears, our pains, our worries, our memories, our losses. And God gives us healing, courage, strength, assurance, hope, and unspeakable gain.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Examine yourselves to see whether you are living in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you? —unless, indeed, you fail to meet the test! I hope you will find out that we have not failed.  But we pray to God that you may not do anything wrong—not that we may appear to have met the test, but that you may do what is right, though we may seem to have failed. For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth. For we rejoice when we are weak and you are strong. This is what we pray for, that you may become perfect.

(2 Corinthians 13:5-10)

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