Blog Post by
Pastor Mark Wiley
First Presbyterian, Hillsboro and
SonLight Parish First Presbyterian of Park Hills and Ironton
Property Chair, Presbytery Administration Team
Bull Shannon on the NBC sitcom Night Court (January 4, 1984-May 31, 1992) once quipped. You’re the Judge and you stand for Justice — You are the public defender you stand for the underprivileged — You are the prosecutor and you stand for the pursuit of righteousness – I’m a bailiff I stand!
As a land surveyor in the state of both Missouri and Illinois I’ve been told on numerous occasions I fulfill the role of a quasi-judicial member of the courts. Like Bull we stand — for the line between property owners and are guided by law, some of which is found in the Bible.
Proverbs 22: 28 Do not move an ancient boundary stone set up by your ancestors.
Deuteronomy 19: 14 Do not move your neighbor’s boundary stone set up by your predecessors in the inheritance you receive in the land the Lord your God is giving you to possess.
Deuteronomy 27: 17 “Cursed is anyone who moves their neighbor’s boundary stone.” Then all the people shall say, “Amen!”
It is with a sense of pride that I have worn my survey hat and coat when it is cold knowing it is a noble profession one that my father guided me in as a young person and one my children have elected to follow me into. There are those times when it feels right and gives a person a sense of accomplishment when we have worked our way through a problem and both parties on either side of the fence are satisfied living at peace when at home. Then there are those times when you take your satisfaction in knowing both parties have stopped lobbing bombs at each other. Then there are times when you walk away saying Lord I tried, you are going to have to work on this one for me.
It was a morning when the waking thought of consciousness was slowly tugging at my thoughts. With the news playing in the background, I heard the commentators talking about the efforts of the prosecution in the George Floyd case and these thoughts took me to the task of preparing for court myself. I like to think I’m through and at the same time I know certain cases require more preparation than others. When an addition to the house crosses the Title line and all the Monuments are there it is a “no brainer”, when you reinvented the wheel based on witness testimony, sketchy documents from a hundred years ago it is another. It made me stop and ask this question: would the prosecution have put together as thorough a case if the races had been reversed?
In my heart, I wanted to say “of course they would” but having worn those shoes before I knew in fact the answer was “no”. The Court would have been shown the tape of an African American police officer holding down a white man and the jury would have voted guilty believing what they saw and never giving a thought to any of the evidence we heard in this case and would never think about the consequences again. This made me stop and ask “if we are all children of the same God then why can’t we as children of God see each other with an equal spirit?”
This realization made me face a fact of life, if we are trying to follow the spirit we must follow with our heart. Regularly I have a tendency of putting two and two together and get the answer five. The reason for that can be as simple as my life experiences. When I’m taken out of my comfort zone for the briefest of moments it takes me to a place that shows me how others see and feel the same things I do but affects them differently. It was something my grandparents called walking in someone else’s shoes. I searched diligently for a mention of this philosophy in scripture and came up empty until I put Christ’s life into perspective. What is the idea of God being released of power and coming to earth if not God walking in our shoes?
Does this call to see life from someone else’s perspective relate only to the poor son of a laborer, a young man on a quest to heal the sick and lame, or is it an example of what each of us should be doing in life as we struggle with judgment in our own lives?
While it is easy to compile evidence and decide who is correct and who is not in a case involving something as simple as where the line belongs, what we do with the evidence is not always as clear to understand. It becomes a matter of where do we stand and is there any compassion or empathy in our judgment. Have we looked at the evidence from the other side of the fence or is everything always the way it hits us coming out of the box, must we always run our lives with “a gut reaction” to the evidence.
Once I remember talking with a couple complaining about where the new survey established the line versus the old fence they and their parents had lived by and while we could have prevailed in court the fact was clear as I put it to them. Take the money you would spend making your point and buy a place where you can be at peace.
We are called to live our lives in a manner that does not just call balls and strikes, but to actually be part of the game. We have, for some, been able to hide in our church sanctuaries and look out at the world but now the pandemic has shown us beyond a doubt that our mission is not in those hallowed halls but the spirit of the community around us. We are called to help those who with a little encouragement can be at peace with their life adding to the Body of Christ as children of God, then there are those who with a little help can at the least be calmed to a point of not trying to be the biggest show in the room while there will always be those who we need to let God deal with.
At the end of the day, the question is where do we stand? For a life where we are working toward being a better disciple of Christ or one where we are on the sidelines looking in and calling the plays the way, we see them never having any skin in the game or are we in the game and demanding to be the center of attention like some star player. The choice is ours and only ours because nobody can live your life for you.
Be at peace.
Pastor Mark Wiley
First Presbyterian, Hillsboro and
SonLight Parish of First Presbyterian-Park Hills and Ironton
Member of Administration Team, as Property Chair