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All week I have been thinking about Donald Rumsfeld and that is a pretty rare thing for me. Donald Rumsfeld has kept a pretty low profile ever since resigning in November of 2006. Now whether you agree with his politics or not he was one of the most befuddling and captivating speakers of the entire Bush administration. I will admit to you now that no matter what program that he was on whether Meet the Press, Wolf Blitzer’s Situation Room or a State Department’s Press conference I was completely mesmerized by his verbal gyrations. Often he would say things that would leave me scratching my head, but he said it with such confidence that it was hard to deny his convictions.
Here is one of his gems: “Reports that say that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don’t know we don’t know.” Or who could forget, “I would not say that the future is necessarily less predictable than the past. I think the past was not predictable when it started.” These where not gaffs, but non-answers that were brilliant in their nonsensical, sensical sounding nature.
Yet, it is on made in December 2004 that came to mind when I read the text from I Corinthians that was just read. Rumsfeld came under fire after a “town-hall” meeting with U.S. troops where he responded to a soldier’s comments about inferior military equipment by saying “As you know, you go to war with the Army you have. They’re not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time.”
This was a rare glimpse of clarity in the slow motion nightmare that had been the Iraq war part two. It was an acknowledgement that things were not the way imagined or explained, but were much different on the ground. It was shocking and is still shocking to think that something like this could be said to a soldier when other troops were dying. Yet, Rumsfeld was right in the smaller context of the quote. Our military vehicles had inadequate armor. Rumsfeld, the Army and everyone at that point wished we had armor to keep our soldiers safe. On the other hand the offhand comment came off as too flippant about the military that Rumsfeld himself was constantly heralding and badgering others to support. It made the mouthpiece for the Commander in Chief appear to say we have an inferior army, but we will make do somehow. This is not what anyone wants to hear in the middle of a protracted war.
Coming up to our annual meeting sometimes I feel that we get this type of mentality in the church. I know I get it myself. I wish we had consistent attendance. I wish that some of our members gave more money so that we could make budget. I wish that this place were more important to everyone’s daily life. I wish that we had 20 more new members. I wish Brian were more businesslike and less emotional. I wish I didn’t have to attend 1 ½ to 2-hour meetings once a month. I wish they would have more professional musicians. I wish we had more programs like the church down the road. I wish there were more high school aged kids. I wish that the Ham and Oyster wasn’t cancelled. I wish we didn’t ever have to dip into our foundation to keep this church functioning. I wish people would volunteer more. I wish some people wouldn’t gossip so much. I wish, I wish, I wish, I wish….
Oh well, you worship with the church that you’ve got, not the one that you want or wish to have at a later time. You know Rumsfeld’s words actually have a good feeling when it comes to letting go all of my expectations, prejudices and frustrations. Paul turns these words on their head and sees them as the greatest celebration of the diversity of the church. Somehow Jesus takes the diversity of gifts that we bring to the table and turns it into a functioning body where every part is vital. We are asked to trust that Christ is working through us for the good of the whole. Yet, we cannot get there without participation. So, that is our challenge. We are a body with many vital organs and parts, each essential to the body’s function.
That is the beguiling thing about God. God uses and calls whom God chooses. Whether king or pauper, male or female, intelligent or lacking, spiritual or not all have their place in the church. In God’s grace filled vision each person is vital in working toward the bringing about grace, love, mercy and justice in the world. Our liabilities are God’s precious gifts toward our own redemption. They are also what make us essential toward the functioning of the church. According to Paul God sees the weakest of us as indispensable to the functioning of the whole. You are each an essential element to the whole, but the person next to you is essential as well. So, Donald Rumsfeld’s unfortunate comment can be a celebration when it is turned into the context of the church. We worship with the church we have and not the one that we want, thanks be to God.
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