April 23, 2017 – Easter, 2nd Sunday of
Letters Home (from a retired pastor to his family, the Church)
My wife and I are a happily married couple. Our lives are so in sync with each other that we are becoming the stereotypical older married couple. It is not unusual for us to arrive at the breakfast table and notice that we have independently dressed in a manner that compliments the other’s choices for the day. But every once in awhile something comes up that surprises us. After 37 years we are still discovering that we do not agree on everything. I think we have decided to vacation in one place, only to discover later that she had something else in mind. She thinks one political candidate is the obvious choice and is surprised that I voted for another. It turns out that we don’t share every opinion, or the same desires, in all things. It is in these moments of surprise we are reminded that after all these years we remain individuals. This is also when we are reminded that long term relationships require more than simply living together.
Last November 9th, the day after our elections, most of us awoke to a surprise result. Few of us anticipated the results of the Presidential elections. That seems to have been true on both sides of the issue. We as a people were caught so off guard that it took a few days for the winners to come to grips with their victory and the losers to internalize what had just happened. Putting the partisan issues aside, this surprise has opened the eyes of many to a truth that had been hidden in plain sight. That truth is that almost half of the voting public felt left out of the social and economic system of the day. In addition, when they had tried to make their concerns and beliefs known, they felt the other half of the nation marginalized them for holding beliefs and concerns viewed as unsophisticated by the others. It turns out that being a people requires more than simply living together.
Now as we watch the elections and developments in other Western nations it becomes clear that the polarization, and marginalization that has taken root in the United States is not an isolated development. We live in a time when the dominant world views have had the luxury of believing theirs was the only viable way to see the world, economics, and human society. That luxury seems to be coming to an end.
Like it or not, we live in a world of endless variety of perspectives and beliefs. To believe that any one of us has a lock on all truth would be very presumptive, to say the least. A safer bet would be to assume that the truth of any notion lies somewhere in the midst of the tension between the various ideas of those involved. Finding that place requires a new approach.
Several years ago I attended a national convention of the church. There was a variety of divisive issues on the agenda for our time together. Each deputy to that convention received a note from the then Presiding Bishop of the church. In that note Bishop Frank Griswold asked each of us to practice “interpretive generosity” when dealing with each other over topics we disagreed upon. The notion was to approach each other predisposed to believe the one we worked with was working from the best of motives on their part, and from honestly held convictions. Beginning this way communicated respect, and a sense that the other had value as a child of God.
I wish Bishop Griswold could send the same note to both the leaders and everyday citizens of the world today. Maybe the biggest struggle has always been to find a way for the human race to live in communion, share their insights, and to move into the future together. Possibly this world is not about winning or losing, or being full right or wrong. Maybe it is about finding the path our Creator calls us to journey together.
On the second Sunday of Easter we are reminded that the followers of the Risen Lord Jesus have been made partners with him in His continuing ministry of reconciliation. The goal of this ministry is to work toward the restoration of the human family and all of creation to a full and undiminished relationship with God the Creator, and each other. This requires more than simply living with each other in the same town, nation, or planet. Maybe the first step is simply to see the other as a person with their own perspective and honestly held notions. The next step could be to assume they lead their lives with the best of intentions, according to their own lights. Maybe our ministry of reconciliation could begin from this point.
Second Sunday of Easter
Almighty and everlasting God, who in the Paschal mystery established the new covenant of reconciliation: Grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ’s Body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.