Teeth

 “Teeth: If you ignore them, they will go away.” That was the wry pronouncement of a rector I used to work for, who did not shy away from such declarations. At once it’s funny and it hurts.
    There are some things which, even if we ignore them, they don’t go away. Like the infection in the boil that must be lanced, they call us to an exercise of courage to face difficulty and pain. But there are other things that are good but we can lose them if we don’t attend to them. (And of course, even if we do attend to them, there are no guarantees.) These good things are, for instance, teeth.
    Lord, grant me wisdom to face the things that are not going away, and to nurture those things that otherwise will go away, and the wisdom to know the difference.
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    Have you heard the one about how there are two kinds of people? There are, on the one hand, people who think there are two kinds of people, and on the other, people who don’t.
    Yes but (I want to say), nonetheless we can identify two characteristic, contrasting ways of looking at the world.
    The first sees problems that must be faced. And these problems are not going to go away on their own: we need to face them and confront them. Religiously speaking, here we find the people who, when they look at the world, see sin at work: war, racism, cruelty in all its forms. These are not necessarily “liberals” in our current political parlance: anti-abortion activists fit in here right alongside “social-justice warriors.”
    The other group sees things that must be preserved. They look at the world and see good things that need our attention lest they pass away. Religiously speaking, these people look at the world and see it as something fundamentally good. Again, they are not necessarily “conservatives” in current political parlance; they could be wanting to preserve the environment, say, just as much as to nurture neighborhoods or families.
    One group looks at the world and sees infection; the other sees teeth.
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    Both are right, because each has hold of a Christian doctrine. The world is created, and thus good, and yet it is fallen, and thus infected with evil. But the long game is on the side of creation. In raising Jesus from the dead, God has vindicated creation. The struggle with evil will not go on forever and we already know how it will turn out.
    In the end, teeth win.
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    Out & About. This Sunday, June 24, I am speaking on how “ordinary time” isn’t so ordinary. This is a young adults gathering, organized by the Church of the Transfiguration, and is at 5pm at the Flying Saucer Draught Emporium (what a name!) in Addison, Texas.

The Rev. Canon Dr. Victor Lee Austin is the Theologian-in-Residence for the diocese and is the author of several books including, "Losing Susan: Brain Disease, the Priest's Wife, and the God who Gives and Takes Away."