There’s a quote attributed to theologian Karl Barth that offers advice to pastors in particular and more generally to anyone seeking to make sense of the world in all its complexity. Translated from German and paraphrased by different scholars over many decades, these are still words to live by: “One should read with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other.”

Now, I’ve adapted this a little and work on my sermons each week with my laptop open to the Rockford Register Star website in one tab, a particular Bible translation open in another, Twitter open in another, some national newspapers in others, and Bible commentaries in still other tabs, and I’m glad I don’t have to limit my reading to what I can hold in two hands.

Ours is an age of a truly mind-boggling abundance of information and perspectives, and we’ve never before had the capacity to exchange ideas with this many people around the world with such ease.

The other day I saw a post on Instagram that pictured a cell phone with the caption, “Imagine explaining to someone from a hundred years ago that you walk around every day with access to nearly all of the knowledge in human history in your pocket, and having to tell them you mostly just use it to look at cat photos.” While that’s of course an exaggeration of the wasted potential of today’s connectivity (for most of us), what are we doing with this wealth of information?

Some of us simply tune it out and say absurd things like, “I’m just not into politics,” as though the way we govern our societies and legislate how we’re going to love our neighbors or not is a hobby some people dabble in as recreation, instead of recognizing it as central to our well-being. Some of us fall victim to “analysis paralysis” and become overwhelmed by the possibilities of how we might respond to current events, and so we do nothing. However, Barth’s idea in that quote I love was not that we all become well-informed armchair philosophers, but that we educate ourselves enough to do all the necessary world-changing work we are created for.

I’m proud to be a United Methodist pastor because even though our global denomination has some work to do in becoming more like the radically inclusive, rabble-rousing Jesus we follow, we have a mission statement I deeply believe in. We’re here to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. We get together on Sunday mornings to sing and pray and preach about what that beautiful and perfect world will look like when we’ve worked with God to turn it into everything it was created to be, and then we get down to the business of transformation.

At our best, people of faith are not reactionaries but visionaries. We can see beyond what is broken to what will be made whole, and we all find our roles to play in getting from here to there. It’s work that takes our prayers and our action, our wisdom and our labor, our experience and our courage.

That’s what I want to talk with you about every week, and what I can’t help but thinking about with my Bible in one tab and the newspaper in the other. It’s why I stayed in school until I had master’s degrees in theology and public policy — if we’re going to say we love our neighbors, we better know how to build that love into our systems.

So please, don’t give up. Don’t check out, and don’t stop the work you’re doing because that beautiful world we’re creating together is just a little further up the road. Read more newspapers, listen to more people, and share your ideas. You were created for such a time as this.

Rev. Violet Johnicker is the pastor of Brooke Road United Methodist Church in Rockford. Twitter: @violetj Email: