Devotional from The Rev. Dr. John McCard
Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. 

Dear Parish Family, 

With Bob Dylan's 39th studio album, just being released, called "Rough and Rowdy Ways," he interviewed with the New York Times. He talked about the message of gospel music. Gospel music is the music of good news and these days there just isn't any. 

Good news in today's world is like a fugitive, treated like a hoodlum, and put on the run. Castigated. All we see is good-for-nothing news. And we have to thank the media industry for that. It stirs people up. Gossip and dirty laundry. Dark news that depresses and horrifies you. On the other hand, gospel news is exemplary. It can give you courage. You can pace your life accordingly. And you can do it with honor and principles. There are theories of truth in the gospel but to most people it's unimportant. Their lives are lived out too fast. Too many bad influences. Sex and politics and murder is the way to go if you want to get people's attention. It excites us, that's our problem.

Now there's a lot of truth to unpack in Dylan's observations about the times we are living through. In his comments, I think Dylan is offering some insight into the dark natures of our human souls. The temptation we have to so easily fall into the trap of hate and violence against people we have disagreements with on issues of social justice and racial reconciliation. Good for nothing news is simply a type of news that keeps us separated from each another, cut off from conversation, and dialogue with our brothers and sisters. 

In the gospels, we see that type of bad news when the prodigal son finally comes home to his father. What should be a happy occasion for the family soon takes a sour turn when the oldest son lets his pride and jealousy blind him to the joy that comes from someone who has acknowledged their sin and is seeking a new start in life. 

Even a saint like Paul knew that more often than not, he got things wrong. We hear this in a powerful way in Paul's epistle to the Romans as well. "I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. In describing his own quandary and struggle to do what is good and turn away from the evil in his own life, Paul finally has to acknowledge his own inability to will himself to goodness. Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God in Jesus Christ our Lord." This is the power that Paul finds in his own struggles to do what is right and turn away from the sin in his own life. This is also, I believe what Dylan is trying to capture in his remarks. 

On the other hand, gospel news is exemplary. It can give you courage. You can pace your life accordingly, or try to, anyway. And you can do it with honor and principles. There are theories of truth in the gospel but to most people it's unimportant. 

In these difficult days as a church family, we need to remember the exemplary nature of that gospel news. We need the courage and hope that Christ gives us to face the continued challenges of the COVID virus and the conversations we are beginning to have around the issues of racial justice and reconciliation.

Blessings in Christ,
St. James’s Episcopal Church | DOERS.ORG | (804) 355-1779