Just a Thought or Two

Starting at Go

Author: Mark Fenstermacher
January 14, 2022

Most games start at go.

Most car races start with the…start.

What if the change God calls us to make in the world starts with simple things? Basic things? Everyday things?

I thought of that the other day as I watched several drivers accelerate through a red light. I thought of that as I watched a news piece on the misbehavior of too many passengers on commercial jetliners. I thought of that as I read an article about crude, racist, and threatening behavior reaching new levels at high school and college sporting events. I thought of that as I read Jennifer Rubin’s recent column in The Washington Post (January 4th) reporting on the ways Americans’ behavior is getting worse.

We have a character crisis in America, the journalist says. “It’s often characterized as a civility crisis,” Rubin writes. In a recent survey, only 39% of Americans felt the tone of our society was civil. All the way back in 2013 a study warned that “civility in America continues to disintegrate and rude behavior is becoming the ‘new normal.’”

As I watched drivers accelerating through the red light, and as I read about racist chants directed at black students at a school basketball game, I became convinced that one of the ways we might start changing the world in 2022 isn’t by preaching but working hard to adopt a civil posture towards others. What if the change God desires for the world begins at go?

Care enough about others to brake when the light turns yellow.

Pay your taxes.

Address one another with respect.

Carry out your trash when visiting a state park.

Offer your employees a living wage.

Recycle all you can and treat the earth with kindness.

Speak to your children with love and to your elders with respect.

When you have a job to do, do your best.

Take the time to listen to what the other person is saying before you offer your opinion.

Keep your promise when you give your word.

Community and civilization comes apart, like an unraveling tapestry, one crude, racist, demeaning, selfish, dishonest word or action at a time. Conversely, community is strengthened when we stop on red, go on green, pay our fair share of taxes, say “thank you” and “please”, pick up our trash, don’t blow our lawn clippings out into the street, never sell a client on a financial investment that is better for us than it is for them, model respect for persons of all colors, backgrounds, and genders. Basic, simple stuff: maybe the new and better world begins at “go” with simple, daily, decisions to do the right thing(s).

John the Baptist preached “thunder in the desert” (Eugene Peterson) and he said “Make the road straight for God.” (John 1:23 - The Message). Maybe we straighten out the road by getting straight ourselves about the “small things” of life.

In Luke 3, the crowds of people hear John the Baptist preaching down by the Jordan River, and they ask what they must do to respond appropriately to the God-message he has delivered. John tells people to be generous and care about the poor (“if you have two coats, give one away”). He tells tax collectors to collect only what is due the government and to be honest. He tells soldiers, when they ask for they should do, not to shakedown citizens for bribes but to be content with their wages.

2022 is just getting started.

How about, instead of trying to master spiritual mysteries, changing the world by doing the right thing day-by-day? Cool it with running red lights. Knock off yelling at clerks or flight attendants. Offer the wait staff a word of thanks and an extra hefty tip. 

Begin at go.

Simple stuff. Doing the right things in the right way as well as we can.

The Wesleyan rules, remember, include “do no harm” and “do good.”

We’re at the starting line: what do you say?

In Christ and for Christ,
Pastor Mark


First United Methodist Church
1203 E. Seventh Street | Auburn, IN 46706
office@auburnumc.church | 260.925.0885