[Editor’s Note: The following is an excerpt from a sermon delivered on July 15 at Our Redeemer Lutheran Church’s outdoor service in Robinson Park.]
A reading from Matthew 25:
...for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’
Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’”
And from Mark chapter 12 Jesus commands us to, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” And to “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
We know these passages well. Most of us can repeat them without looking them up. But of late when I read the paper or listen to the news I don’t think we’re following either one.
Michael McRay writes in his book titled “I Am Not Your Enemy:”
“We need saving. We fear each other. We fear people who don’t look like us, don’t think like us, don’t live near us, don’t talk like us. Democrats think Republicans are dangerous, and Republicans see the same threat in Dems. We spray-paint hate speech on each other’s houses, rip hijabs and turbans off each other’s heads, attack one another with bombs at concerts and with cars on bridges, shoot each other in nightclubs and malls and schools, threaten each other in our places of worship, watch quietly as cops kill unarmed black people and suffer no consequences, attack police with hammers and guns, yell vile insults from our cars, demand Mexicans “go home” after we’ve eaten in their restaurants, and cry over the drowned body of a Syrian child yet deny refuge to the rest of his family. The list goes on and on and on.”
That’s all before we even think about COVID-19 and how that’s affecting the world. COVID-19 brings its own issues for disagreement. Wearing or not wearing masks creates name calling from both sides, not opening restaurants and stores had people threatening government officials with guns in Michigan. The church is not immune to any of this, just ask the pastor.
We seem to have forgotten how to live with one another, let alone for one another. I have moments when I wonder if we ever knew how. It seems to be all about me, to heck with my neighbor or the community. It would be easy to throw up our hands and say there is no hope, but I refuse. There is hope and we can be saved from this madness. It won’t be easy; change never is.
As a congregation we do many things that shows we care for the “least of these”
• The Monday morning quilt group makes quilts, baby care kits, personal care kits and school kits for Lutheran World Relief
• The Rainy-Day committee financially helps those in need with gas and food vouchers and when they can fulfill requests for rent, heat and electric assistance.
• We support A Place for You with meals twice a month. Plus, we have members who work at Furniture for You, where all the proceeds go to the shelter.
• Befrienders who visit the homebound.
• We donate to the synod, to churchwide and numerous other nonprofits through our offerings.
• As a congregation you have been very generous in your support for this crazy lady’s mission to provide solar power to two Lutheran Hospitals in Liberia.
So yes, despite the news, good things are happening all around us. Let’s focus on those. I ask that you -
• Continue to pray- I remember Pastor Hank French teaching us about prayer at one of our Synod WELCA Gatherings. He said pray for yourself, then pray for your family, then your friends, then your community, let the list get bigger with each prayer and then at last even pray for your enemies.
• Refuse to engage in the negative conversations about politics, politicians, police, people of color, etc. Look for the positives – some days they may be hard to find, but give it a try and say them out loud.
• Be bold and remind people to, “Talk nice”. One Sunday when our daughter was about three years old, the pastor was preaching a hell, fire and brimstone sermon and she stands up in the pew and out loud says, “Talk nice.” When you come across a rant taking place in comments on Facebook, be bold, and post, “Talk nice.”
For better or for worse we’re all on this earth together. Our dreams of the day when all will be right with the world, where everyone will be fed and clothed, where all will be safe and we will live in peace and harmony and never have to get along with those we find difficult are fantasies. Peace will only come when we figure out how to deal with difference and we each do our part to be kind and to the extent we are able to help our neighbors meet their basic needs for food, clothing and housing. As Lutherans we say “I will and I ask God to help me.”
Mary Jo METTLER and her husband David are longtime Pine City area residents and volunteers.
We invite faith leaders, community members and thoughtful readers to share uplifting writing and ideas in “Inspirations.” For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org or call Mike at 320-629-6771.