Governments close, but heaven is always open

I am a Macon native and over the years, I’ve watched tearfully as several landmarks closed, each taking a piece of my history with them — Sears, J.C. Penny, Kmart, Target, etc. Closures in any facet are difficult because they represent loss of some kind — the end of something.

It is always startling to think of our United States government as being closed for business. I remember an episode of the hit television series, “The West Wing” that depicted the inside of a government shutdown. I remember Sam and Toby being overwhelmed by the mounting trash and no one to empty it and Josh telling his assistant, Donna, that she had to go home. However, what is more frightening is the reality that our government shutdown leaves thousands of civil servants furloughed and others, along with our military, must work without pay. Some agencies will lose funding, critical programs and services will be in jeopardy, and countless national parks, monuments and museums are temporarily closing. Each time there is a shutdown, there is some kind of loss — a decomposition of government as we have known it.

I listened this past Sunday as one of my congregants declared her confidence in God to sustain both she and her husband as they report for civilian duty with no assurance of their paychecks. I later sat across the dinner table at lunch from a young, newly married soldier who had to report Monday morning to protect and defend our freedoms without the reward of compensation. It has been said that the absence of compensation is considered the truest test of intention. We’ve all been asked the question in reference to purpose: “What is the one thing that you love to do so much that you would be willing to do it even without pay?” While I believe that in challenging times our purpose and calling beckon us to rise to the occasion, I am equally convinced that our motivation is more than just a sense of duty.

Society often accuses the church of appearing to be furloughed, MIA, or even AWOL in difficult times. It seems that we’ve checked out or taken an extended sabbatical, but I can assure you that the kingdom of God remains fixed and stable — and always open for business. In fact, the church is often compared to the hospital because not only does it never close but in the dark hours of uncertainty, is it the place of light, love and hope.

I watched that young soldier sitting with his bride, smiling, laughing and genuinely unfazed by the government shutdown because his confidence was not in the armed services but in the captain of his soul. His confidence remains fixed in the opened doors of the church and the opened arms of a loving heavenly Father.

I could share more but I’d rather yield the last words to hymn writer, Jennie B. Wilson:

Time is filled with swift transition,

Naught of earth unmoved can stand,

Build your hopes on things eternal,

Hold to God’s unchanging hand.

Covet not this world’s vain riches

That so rapidly decay,

Seek to gain the heav’nly treasures,

They will never pass away.

Hold to God’s unchanging hand…

Build your hopes on things eternal,

Hold to God’s unchanging hand.

The Rev. Gail T. Smith is pastor of the Universal Light Christian Center in Macon.