Yesterday’s Forward Day by Day, a little booklet that offers a daily meditation, posted these words on their Facebook page… “No one ever said following Jesus would be easy.” No kidding! Following Jesus is a hard thing almost every day. And our reading from Romans has had me stewing over that all week. Paul may have written the words, but he is trying his best to follow Jesus and encourage his readers to do the same.
We may wake up every morning and with our first breaths of the day offer thanks to God for a new start, ask that we do some good, care for our neighbors as Jesus taught us, and find the blessing that we have been offered simply to be alive.
And then we get out of bed…we turn on our phones or iPads and check out the news or Facebook. For those who go to work, we get in the car and someone cuts us off on the freeway. Or we get on Zoom call and someone is rude.
I can tell you my first reaction is almost always to get angry and to want to seek revenge. There is always somebody to be angry at for what they say or what they do and we justify our own behavior by saying they are wrong or stupid. We lash out because they act different, look different, think different.
We are living in a time that draws a deep line in the sand and we are either on one side or another. There are very few people who sit on the fence of political, civil, emotional, church, or any other type of divide.
This is not the way of Jesus. The words Paul uses remind us of the Sermon on the Mount…blessed are the poor, blessed are the persecuted. But Paul goes on to say we are to extend hospitality to strangers and to love one another with mutual affection. I’m not sure how many people are doing that now. I’m not sure how well I do that.
It’s easier, and perhaps in the moment it feels better to rail and rage against anyone and everyone who disagrees with us. The vitriol and disgust is overwhelming. It is a virus that is creating illness in even the healthy among us. It is an evil that we must put an end to, but not in the way we first want to do it.
Yes, we have opinions. And yes we need to stand up to evil. And yes, evil seems to be everywhere these days. I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of it all. But countering evil with more evil doesn’t solve anything – it just makes it worse. We are all guilty of this – from sniping to outright hatred of our fellow human beings. We fall short of following Jesus. We wound others with our thoughts and our comments. We wound our own goodness by not trying to find the goodness in others. It is destroying us as surely as the coronavirus is.
So what are we called to do? The answer is pretty simple, but living it out is about as hard as it gets. If love does not dictate the way people treat each other, then our human family is pretty much toast. The oppressed and the oppressor owe each other something more, something that leads to a humanizing of whoever is on the other side of that line in the sand. Hate and oppression dehumanize others. Love can give birth to a new way of being.
Pete Carroll cancelled practice for the Seahawks yesterday to talk about racism. Among other things he said, “…Black people can’t scream anymore, they can’t march any more, they can’t bear their souls anymore to what they’ve lived with for hundreds of years…This is a humanity issue we’re dealing with. This is a white people’s issue to get over and learn what’s going on and to figure it out and start loving everybody that is part of our country.”
That can be hard for us white people to hear. But, will this kind of listening be like the love Paul & Jesus encourage us with? This is not about sappy love or romantic love. This is far more fierce and far more challenging because it is how we respond to the evil that tears us apart. And following Jesus isn’t easy. It’s hard – and it’s necessary if we want to survive.
Paul sums up this part of his letter by saying, yes there is evil out there in the world. But God’s people are to meet it in the way that even God met it: with love and generous goodness. When God came to defeat evil, it was not achieved by using an even greater evil, but by using its opposite – extending hospitality to strangers.” Doing so may not end our divisions, but it may help us see the human on the other side of the argument and keep from wanting to put them down or even destroy them.
Speak out against injustice and evil and stand up to things that are wrong. We do know the difference – but do so with love, not hatred.
On Friday afternoon a semi pulled up in the parking lot at church. It was filled with 52,000lbs of food! A businessman in town drove his forklift up Railroad Avenue to help unload it. Twenty three pallets with 99 boxes of food on each were unloaded in our parking lot. In five hours it was all gone! Fifteen high school students, a few middle school kids, and eight members of St. Clare’s worked their tails off spreading love and joy in the guise of food. The thank-yous were genuine and they came from those who received food to parents of the youth to total strangers who have stumbled across any of the several social media places where info about the food distribution showed up. They came from across the street to see what was going on & help!
People drove away grateful. Some said, “that’s a church?!” Not a building, but people who care. Because no one cared if people were hungry. No one cared about their political leanings, the color of their skin, or even if they believed in God. Love got poured out all over everyone in equal measure. Everyone went to bed tired and filled with joy and gratitude and some were filled with food. That is the hard work of following Jesus. That is the way we will be healed and find the peace we so desire. May it be so! Amen.
© The Reverend Patty Baker
St. Clare Episcopal Church
- Thanks to Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll for speaking out against racism!
- Thanks to Ryan Seal from Sigillo Cellars in Snoqualmie http://www.sigillocellars.com/
- And thanks to Lisa Ozaeta and the many volunteers from Mt Si High School, Snoqualmie Middle School, and St. Clare’s Church who made the food distribution program go so well in the midst of many challenges.