Wednesday 4/29/2020 @ Whenever About Whatever via FB Live

Dr. Watson’s Wednesdays at Whenever about Whatever April 29, 2020
I’m interested in what people are doing to pass the time as they shelter in place during this pandemic. Me and my family have done a few unusual things. For instance, I’ve been teaching them how to play poker. I know that sounds like inappropriate preacher activity, but I assure you there is no exchange of money. What’s the point in taking money from people who live in your house?
I come from a poker playing family. As a child my family often went camping on the weekends with my dad’s extended family. The men usually stayed up all night playing poker. I remember seeing a handgun or two resting on the card table while they were playing. One time I asked my dad why, since everyone at the table was a brother, cousin, or uncle, why was there a gun on the table? He said, “In case anyone cheats.”
Poker, in all its many forms, is an interesting game because it teaches us a very basic life lesson, memorialized in the lyrics from the song, “The Gambler,” by the late great Kenny Rogers: “You’ve got to know when to hold ’em, Know when to fold ’em.” If that isn’t life in a nutshell, I don’t know what is!
By the way, one time I walked into the lobby of a local hospital and there was an old man sitting just inside the front door who looked at me as I was walking by and said, “Well, if it ain’t Kenny Rogers.” So, there you go, Kenny Rogers is my doppleganger.
Anyway, back to his song. I don’t think its just about gambling. It’s also about life. It’s about wisdom. I’m reminded of the oft-repeated opening words of Qoheleth—“the preacher”—in Ecclesiastes 3: “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven,” such as “a time to be born, and a time to die,” etc. To the words of the preacher, we could add: there is “a time to hold ‘em, and a time to fold ‘em.”
During our current crisis, the words of Kenny Rogers and the book of Ecclesiastes are very apropos. We have huge decisions to make, and we need the wisdom to make the right decisions. As you know, the biggest decision to make these days is about when and how much the economy should “open up.”
Doesn’t this feel like a gamble? No matter what we do—keeping things on lockdown or opening the economy to one degree or another—it’s a gamble. If we open too soon, we risk more people getting infected and dying. If we open too late, we risk plunging into another Great Depression.
Kenny Rogers passed away at the beginning of this pandemic, but we sure need his wisdom right now because we need to know when to hold everyone in place and when to fold, that is, throw in the cards and get back to business as usual.
As we consider all this I’m also reminded of another great teacher of wisdom, Reinhold Niebuhr, one of the most respected Christian theologians of the last century. Niebuhr grew up just west of where I’m sitting in Wright City, Missouri, where his father, Gustav, pastored a church in one of the predecessor bodies of my denomination, the United Church of Christ.
Niebuhr is largely credited with writing the beloved “Serenity Prayer.” As I quote this prayer to you, listen for the voice of the preacher in Ecclesiastes and Kenny Rogers. It is commonly quoted like this: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”
Here’s my takeaway from all this: Whether we are just sitting at a poker table contemplating whether to hold ‘em or fold ‘em, whether we as a society are trying to decide if we should continue to shelter in place or open up the economy, or whether we are just perplexed by life’s constant flow of the need to make important decisions, God, give us a good hand, but more importantly, give us a healthy dose of wisdom.
I would like to include a prayer I found, written by Rev. Richard Bott of the United Church of Canada, our denominational partner north of the border. Please consider his words:
In this time of COVID-19, we pray:
When we aren’t sure, God,
help us be calm;
when information comes
from all sides, correct and not,
help us to discern;
when fear makes it hard to breathe,
and anxiety seems to be the order of the day,
slow us down, God;
help us to reach out with our hearts,
when we can’t touch with our hands;
help us to be socially connected,
when we have to be socially distant;
help us to love as perfectly as we can,
knowing that “perfect love casts out all fear.”
For the doctors, we pray,
for the nurses, we pray,
for the technicians and the janitors and the
aides and the caregivers, we pray,
for the researchers and theorists,
the epidemiologists and investigators,
for those who are sick,
and those who are grieving, we pray,
for all who are affected,
all around the world…
we pray
for safety,
for health,
for wholeness.
May we feed the hungry,
give drink to the thirsty,
clothe the naked and house those without homes;
may we walk with those who feel they are alone,
and may we do all that we can to heal
the sick—
in spite of the epidemic,
in spite of the fear.
Help us, O God,
that we might help each other.
In the love of the Creator,
in the name of the Healer,
in the life of the Holy Spirit that is in all and with all,
we pray.
May it be so.

Spread the word. Share this post!