“A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
We might think of these words from Abraham Lincoln from his famous speech in 1858 when he accepted the Illinois Republican Party endorsement for the US Senate. A prophetic speech that understood that slavery was dividing the country and the country had to go one way or the other…
Eight years before Abraham Lincoln said it, Sam Houston in the Senate debate on the Compromise of 1850 around slavery proclaimed: "A nation divided against itself cannot stand."
Of course the origin of these phrases rests with Jesus… when confronted by the Pharisees, Jesus said, “And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.” (Mark 3:25)
We seem to be in a time of such division. President elect Trump won the electoral college but lost the popular vote and if the figures I saw are correct, nearly half the eligible population didn’t vote. Those who voted were divided by race, gender, religion, ethnic origin…
We are indeed divided… and the news tells us this… people being attacked for their votes, minorities fearing for what their lives might be in our nation, nazi symbols appearing and other hate crimes, KKK and other like minded groups feeling energized and spreading their hate.
So where do we begin to heal the division?
It begins right here. In Church.
“There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”
The church, the body of Christ is called to be one in Jesus. That is our unity. It should be above everything else in our lives.
Too often though, we allow partisan divides: race, gender, sexuality, conservative/liberal divide us from one another. And yet, we are still one of the few places left in our country where opposite minded folks can and do come together. We have Trump voters, Clinton Voters, independent voters and non-voters as part of our congregation. As it should be.
We are not a country club. We are not one political party. We are not a museum.
The Church is the community of the New Covenant – followers of Jesus – and our mission is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ. “Brothers and sisters, do not be weary in doing what is right.” For part of the common good, the common bond that holds us together here in the US both in church and outside of it, is that we value each person or group’s rights. And it’s up to us to do it. In the words we speak, in what we do on social media, in all of our interactions – how do we value others.
So I want you to stop and think about this:
- How did the results of the election impact my life?
- As part of the winning party of this election, what are my responsibilities?
- As part of the losing party of this election, what are my concerns and needs?
Too often now we live in our own bubbles. We have self selected news, friends, etc. that connect with our worldview and we have often neglected to hear what the other side is saying (out of sight/mind).
No matter how this election went for us, I think one of the goals we need to have is “to achieve understanding of the other. Achieving understanding does not mean one has to agree with everything that the other shares. The discipline of listening helps us understand others. Take the time to discern, given what has happened, what are your needs and concerns that are significant and important to you and your group and what are our responsibilities to each other.” (Eric Law)
Why do we need to this? I think the Mexican author Carlos Fuentes put it best:
"People and their cultures perish in isolation, but they are born or reborn in contact with other men and women, with men and women of another culture, another creed, another race. If we do not recognize our humanity in others, we shall not recognize it in ourselves."
I think Fuentes is on to something, because I think he is connecting with what Jesus would expect of us, to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. We grow with those connections, without them we suffer. Our own Desmond Tutu gives us such an understanding through the African word Ubuntu.
“Ubuntu [...] speaks of the very essence of being human […] you are generous, you are hospitable, you are friendly and caring and compassionate. You share what you have. It is to say, "My humanity is caught up, & is inextricably bound up, in your humanity." We belong in a bundle of life. We say, "A person is a person through other persons [...] A person with ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed, or treated as if they were less than who they are.” ― Desmond Tutu, No Future Without Forgiveness
So this brings me to our life together here at St. Peter’s.
In the midst of these anxious times, we have a real opportunity to bring change and hope to our world and it begins with you and me. I hope that St. Peter’s is a place for you that not only sustains you in your life in Christ but it also empowers you to do the work that Jesus gives to all of us…
To love everyone we encounter - to find the lost, to heal the broken, to feed the hungry, to release the prisoner, to rebuild the nations, to bring peace among the people, to make music in the heart…
And I hope when you are asked, you are able to give your offerings to help us to continue our important work in the world and to open our doors so that all can come in – all parties, races, genders, sexual identities and orientations, any and everyone may enter in and find their place at this altar and among our community. Where strangers become friends. May we listen to understand one another & may we love the other (whoever that is for us) and begin to heal the divisions in our house. Amen.