By Rev. Kay Ash
To be confessional, sometimes the Monday after I share a sermon I wonder “what in the world do we do now?” Just reading through the news in the morning is enough to make us question whether we will make it to lunchtime, right? The focused upon scripture from last Sunday came from 1 John 1:1-2:2. As I mentioned, this information was written to the early church as it began to define the boundaries around what they believed and how they should function as a church. Unfortunately, the early church was at the point of schism – exactly where our beloved church stands today. Just a week ago, 2 churches in Mississippi voted to remove themselves from our connected denomination. Lord, in your mercy, here our prayers.
So, as we stand at an impasse with two immovable, inflexible points of view, “what in the world do we do now?” The book I mentioned “The Anatomy of Peace” offers several well-tested suggestions; but, are those strategies rigorous enough to hold up in our contentious world? Firstly, can we acknowledge that our go-to strategies of discipline and correction have not been successful over time? Our prison system is more than enough of an example. So, if we do not spend our energy correcting what is wrong in our world, what do we spend our energy on?
Although it may seem deeply counter-cultural, spending our time energizing what is right in the world seems to fall in line with our calling, individually and as a church. Even though doing so might seem foolish or vulnerable in today’s culture of criticism, in truth, all of us are sacred and holy because our essence comes from God. Therefore, we are called to recognize the holy in everyone before we offer an opinion or viewpoint. Impossible as it may seem, imagine for a moment that it works.
Decades ago, I was a member of the Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew United Methodist in New York City. Located on the Upper West Side at 86th Street, our beautiful but crumbly 100 year old building was and continues to be an oasis of peacefulness in a chaotic location. I remember one morning in particular when our congregation learned that the roof of a near-by synagogue had caved in during the night. Thankfully, no one was injured. However, a vibrant group of our nearby Jewish brothers and sisters suddenly had no home. It was clear from the very beginning, we knew what to do. We removed all of the Christian symbols from our sanctuary and placed our Bibles and hymnals on rolling carts. Then we cleaned and polished, scrubbed and shined our crumbly old worship space. In the meantime, our Pastor called the Rabbi of B’nai Jeshurun and invited them to share our space. It is impossible for words to describe the love shared between the two congregations, one Jewish and one Christian. The roof collapsed in 1991, the synagogue was fully repaired several years later, but the two congregations are still together!
With that history in mind, just last year the Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew United Methodist was vandalized. In specific, someone drew a swastika underneath their “Hate Has No Place Hear” sign which hangs the large wooden doors that lead into the sanctuary. So, what did they do that next morning when they found a symbol of hate on their building? They remembered that everyone is sacred and then they offered their opinion - by writing a letter of love and taping it to the door. Then, they placed a card table outside on the sidewalk with paper and markers. In no time at all the symbol of hate was covered with love letters from the community.
As impossible as it may seem in this time of immovable, inflexible viewpoints, God is still at work in us and through us. Our hope is real. Don’t believe it? We’ve got some paper and markers around here, let’s write some love letters!