Chicago – Eight days of touring, really a beautiful city, flowers, greenery, trees are everywhere. Even in front of the
skyscrapers, there are flower boxes filled with flowers and greenery.
The view from the 110th floor of the Willis building (formerly the Sears Tower) in the darkness of the night is a spectacular sight. It appears one can see forever the lights of the city, with a constant trail of miniature vehicles snaking their way into and through the city.
On one of our tours of the city, we were shown one of the skyscrapers whose base is considerably smaller than the building above it. We were told that is called a cantilever style of construction. On the roof are large tanks holding thousands of gallons of water that serve as a sort of ballast against the winds that rock the building due to the fact that the winds are much stronger at that height.
The city is clean. One sees no dirt, clutter or trash lying around anywhere that we toured. It was all spectacular in comparison to the image I had of the city of Chicago. It spoke of human ingenuity, inventiveness and ability. It represents the best of what humans are and can do. In contrast, our step-on guide then took us into the neighborhood where Al Capone and other violent gangsters were raised and essentially controlled the city of Chicago during the period of prohibition. It was a murderous time, filled with betrayal and deceit. It was a time that pitted one ethnic group against other ethnic group over control of alcohol and the illegal money it made.
But of course, that time has passed. Things are much different now – except they really are not.
Our step-on guide informed us that we could not go into the Kensington area of the city even in daylight, a fact which our very capable bus driver later confirmed. Our step-on guide said, “I would like for each of you to go home with a souvenir of Chicago, but if we went through Kensington you would be going home with bullet holes for souvenirs.” The issue is no longer alcohol, but all sort of other drugs, gang territory control, and simple hatred of rival gangs. We toured another section of the city where both driver and guide indicated they would not be found after dark.
So, what does all this have to do with a pastor’s article in Jordan Lutheran’s newsletter? As I toured, listened and watched, I was reminded of the preacher in Ecclesiastes who said, ”Everything that happens has happened before; nothing is new, nothing under the sun.” The struggle of good and evil in the very first words of scripture continues to march on into the present. It takes on new shapes, expressions, situations and even conditions, but it is essentially the same old fight.
The human desires of envy, greed, control, pride, position and aggrandizement continues unabated. The story of Adam and Eve and their disobedience of a very simple command, “Do not eat of the tree in the center of the garden,” hung in my mind like a burr. The impact of that simple act of disobedience infects the heart and mind of every person today in our individual relationships and can be seen clearly as a cosmic expression in the city of Chicago.
The stories of the likes of Al Capone and his kind during the ‘20’s reminded me of the cheating and deceit of Jacob and Essau. It also reminded me of the murder of Abel by Cain in order to gain advantage before God.
I could go on with many other Biblical examples that reflect our lives and situation today, however, I have already spilled too much ink on the pastor’s newsletter page!
Suffice it to say that the human story of our relationship with God and with one another is an ancient story. The story of good and evil in our day may take different shapes, expressions, situations and conditions, whether it be in Chicago, Orefield, or even Jordan Lutheran Church, but in its essence it remains the same story.
Need we wonder why it is that God found it essential to send his Son into the world to live the human expression of life, but to do so in total obedience, and to die an excruciating death so that we might be forgiven for our deliberate acts of disobedience?
Love one another, be kind to one another and be at peace with one another.