MOMENTS WITH THE MINISTER: The canary in the coal mine

By Homer McQueen
Special to the Herald Democrat

 Once upon a time, coal miners would take a caged canary into the mines, expecting the canary to keep them alive.  As they worked, they kept a close watch on the canary.  In the coal were pockets of odorless toxic gas.  If the canary displayed physical distress, the miners knew it was time to get out.  If the canary was ignored, it died.  Then the miners died.

     Divisiveness threatens to destroy the world as we know it.  Rich against poor, white against nonwhite, Republicans against Democrats, our religion against their religion.  Never mind the canary.  He is not one of us.

     JC Penney was famous for his wealth.  Not so well known was the driving force of his life- the Christian principles he learned from his parents.  He consoled himself following the death of his first wife by giving a large portion of his fortune to charities.  When his second wife died, he increased his giving. 

     The stock market crash of 1929 so imperiled his finances that he was hospitalized with emotional and physical illness.  He questioned the wisdom of giving away money he could have set aside to salvage his department stores.  One morning, as a church service was going forth in the hospital, he heard the hymn “God Will Take Care of You.”  He had known principles of Christianity.  Now he knew Jesus Christ.  He renewed his giving; and, he recovered his health and wealth.

     In the aftermath of Word War 1, the victors disregarded their ally Japan, while imposing humiliating sanctions against Germany.  The consequence was a Second World War.  After that war ended, the USA helped to rebuild Germany and Japan.  Now those two nations are among America’s staunchest allies.

     The USA is shipping millions of doses of COVID-19 vaccine to India to control the surge in infections as a matter of self interest.  Since the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918, we have become aware that the more a contagious disease is allowed to spread anywhere, the greater the risk that mutant variants will cause outbreaks everywhere. 

     Some call it karma.  Christian theologians call it the law of reciprocity, or sowing and reaping.  This is mentioned or implied numerous places in the Bible.   “Give, and it shall be given unto you.”   Bless that canary- or that person- and you will be blessed.

      Righteousness, peace, and joy are qualities people find attractive.  Regrettably, the Christian community has been accused of hypocrisy, sin, and fault-finding by people seeking respite from the ugliness of the world.  We would do well to humble ourselves before others, admitting we have not arrived at such a state of perfection that we can condemn anyone.   God- who created us all- intends that we prove our love for Him by loving one another.  Romans chapters 7 and 8 remind us that the manifestation of godliness in our lives comes by choosing daily to let the Spirit of God have the lordship.

     Finally, the canary may seem remote; but, even if he is on the other side of the world, we are in the same coal mine.

Homer McQueen

Homer McQueen serves as assistant pastor of Mt. Carmel Church of God in Christ, secretary at In His Shadow Outreach Ministries, chaplain for the Sherman District Parole Office, ministry volunteer for the Texas Youth Commission and Texas Department of Criminal Justice, a part-time pharmacist, and a full-time husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Herald Democrat.