The song on the radio was an old sixties hit, “For What It’s Worth” by Buffalo Springfield. Stephen Stills wrote it as part of a youth protest of anti-loitering laws in California, but today, those same words could easily apply to many of today’s problems.
First verse: “There’s something happening here, But what it is ain’t exactly clear.” Followed by: “There’s battle lines being drawn. Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong.” The third verse magnifies the argument into a protest. “What a field day for the heat. A thousand people in the street. Singing songs and carrying signs. Mostly say, ‘Hooray for our side.’” The last verse offers a warning: “Paranoia strikes deep. Into your life it will creep. It starts when you’re always afraid.”
Those words still apply today. There’s something happening here: Pandemic, natural disasters, financial crisis, deep political and cultural division. Battle lines being drawn: Red versus blue, gay versus straight, white versus black. Everybody’s talking but no one’s listening: 24 hour news.
The result? “Paranoia strikes deep. Into your life, it will creep. It starts when you’re always afraid.”
The chorus is what our response could and should be: “It’s time we stop. Hey, what’s that sound? Everybody look, what’s going down?” Stop giving-in to the maddening swirl of events. Tone down the noise of non-stop news and opinions. Look at what is going on around you with eyes of faith.
“There’s something happening here” occurred in the Bible with Nehemiah, when he received the bad news that the wall surrounding, Jerusalem was torn down and the city itself was in ruins.
“You gotta stop. Hey what’s that sound. Everybody look, what’s going down.” Nehemiah needed to stop and look at what was going down with the community he loved. Nehemiah did what any Godly leader must do: he looked, wept and then he prayed. “When I heard this, I sat down and wept. In fact, for days I mourned, fasted, and prayed to the God of heaven.” -- Nehemiah 1:4
In the midst of his prayer God gave Nehemiah a bold plan to help his community build the wall they desperately needed. Three things happened:
Prayer – Nehemiah took the time to confess and listen to God.
Vision – He came up with a guiding picture that made all of the next steps worthwhile.
Communicate – Nehemiah was able to convince his King and his community to join him.
“You gotta stop. Hey what’s that sound. Everybody look, what’s going down.”
In the popular book: “Who Moved My Cheese?” Dr. Norman Johnson says it a different way. When the cheese that you depend on for life and happiness moves, something must change.
The more important your cheese is to you the more you want to hold on to it.
If you do not change, you can become extinct.
What would you do if you weren’t afraid?
Smell the cheese often so you know when it’s getting old.
Movement in a new direction helps you find new cheese.
When you stop being afraid, you feel good!
Imagining yourself enjoying your new cheese leads you to it.
The quicker you let go of old cheese, the sooner you find new cheese.
It is safer to search in the maze, than remain in a cheeseless situation.
Old beliefs do not lead you to new cheese.
The message? Let go of the past and adapt to the present.” You will go through the maze with greater strength and speed. And before long, you will find new cheese.
Nehemiah not only let go of the past, he took a community with him and began the huge task of rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem. AJ Cronin put it another way in a poem:
Life is no straight and easy corridor
Along which we travel free and unhampered,
But a maze of passages, through which we must seek our way,
Lost and confused, now and again, checked in a blind alley.
But always, if we have faith, a door will open for us,
Not perhaps one that we ourselves would ever have thought of,
But one that will ultimately prove good for us.
Life is no straight and easy corridor. Cheese moves. Conflict and change happens, but when we are willing to look around with eyes of faith, a door will open, not perhaps the one we would imagine, but one that will ultimately prove good for us.
“You gotta stop. Hey, what’s that sound. Everybody look, what’s going down.”
Larry Davies is pastor of Mineral United Methodist and Mt. Pleasant Methodist churches in Louisa County.