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February 22, 2024

There’s a hole in the bucket

Memo from Rev. Mathews-Johnson

I love the old story that goes like this: A group of young children were sitting in a circle with their teacher. She was going around asking each of them questions.

“Davy, what noise does a cow make?” He said, “It goes moo.” “Alice, what noise does a cat make?” “It goes meow,” she answered. “Jamie, what sound does a lamb make?” “It goes baaa,” he said.  “Jennifer, what sound does a mouse make?” Without hesitation she answered, “It goes click!”

And she’s right; that’s what a computer mouse does. That little girl is dealing with change, and she doesn’t even know it. 

Human nature has always resisted change. Leith Anderson, in his book, “Dying For Change,” shares the following letter written by Martin Van Buren, then the governor of New York to President Jackson, concerning an evil new business enterprise threatening our nation. It goes as follows: 

Jan. 31, 1829 
To President Jackson,

The canal system of this country is being threatened by the spread of a new form of transportation known as “railroads.” The federal government must preserve the canals for the following reasons: 

One. If canal boats are supplanted by “railroads,” serious unemployment will result.  Captains, cooks, drivers, hostlers, repairmen and lock tenders will be left without means of livelihood, not to mention the numerous farmers now employed in growing hay for the horses. 

Two. Boat builders would suffer, and towline, whip and harness makers would be left destitute. 

Three. Canal boats are absolutely essential to the defense of the United States.  In the event of the expected trouble with England, the Erie Canal would be the only means by which we could ever move the supplies so vital to waging modern war. 

As you may well know, Mr. President, “railroad” carriages are pulled at the enormous speed of fifteen miles per hour by “engines” which, in addition to endangering life and limb of passengers, roar and snort their way through the countryside, setting fire to crops, scaring the livestock and frightening women and children.  The Almighty certainly never intended that people should travel at such breakneck speed.
(signed) Martin Van Buren Governor of New York.

Whether we like it or not, change is here. The only question is, how are we going to deal with it?  

Wednesday’s Inauguration Day was truly like no other. Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th president of our United States, commencing the four-year term of his presidency and Kamala Harris as our vice president. As many as 25,000 Guard members from all 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia’s National Guard troops were in Washington D.C., because of the insurrection at the capitol. No one was taking any chances. Crowds, gone. Masks on. And I suspect many millions were like our family, watching the event live on their TV, radio, or computer screen, or catching it later on social media, and of course, we will be reading about it here in our own hometown newspaper.

You can’t deny it.  That’s more change than we ever bargained for.

So, what’s a believer to do? (Or even you non-believers?) I can tell you what I’m doing. Let me explain.

I grew up singing this song that some of you may know and some of you may have never heard of, but it’s a fun one.  It’s called “There’s a Hole in the Bucket.” It begins with these words, and sing it with me if you can: “There’s a hole in the bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza. There’s a hole in the bucket, dear Liza, a hole.” And what is Liza’s response to Henry’s complaint? “Well, fix it, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry. Well fix it dear Henry, dear Henry, fix it.”  

You can already see that these are some of the truly great lyrics of all time. They go back and forth. To fix the bucket Henry needs straw, and to cut the straw he needs an axe, but to do that he needs to sharpen the axe, which requires wetting a sharpening stone. (Okay kids, go ask your mother.) And finally, to wet the stone, he needs water. But to fetch the water, Henry needs a bucket. Which has a hole in it. Repeat ad infinitum.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve participated in discussions like that. I have known folks like that. Some aspects of this election have been like that. Can I get a witness? The storming of the capitol several weeks ago was definitely like that.  Unbelievable.  

How can we cope?    

This is how my faith comes in. Although I believe with my whole heart that we’re finally back on the right track, there’s still a whole lot wrong with the world right now, and I worry about it like you do. But here’s the difference. I’m laying it all down on the Lord, Jesus I mean. I’m giving it all up to God, the Almighty. My goal and my guide? Being a disciple of Jesus Christ, and participating in the transformation of the world. That’s our church’s goal, too, and it’s a work in progress, not an end game.

To summarize, here is my prayer.  Dear God, help me to follow Jesus my Savior, and please God, don’t let me be a bucket with a hole in it. Amen.

Rev. Robin Mathews-Johnson has been the pastor of Watsonville First United Methodist Church since the last century. Weekly Online Gatherings are linked to their website: watsonville1stumc.org. Contact her at (831) 724-4434, or [email protected].


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