Minister: Rev. Lee Spice
Theme: Peace Sunday – Remembering Always
Anthem: Kyrie Eleison……………..Mozart
To listen to Rev. Lee Spice’s messages, click here.
Sermon for November 13: Peace Sunday
Isaiah 65: 17 – 25; Romans 12: 9 – 21
On Wednesday, many Americans thought they would wake up to a new day. They did, but it may not have been exactly the new day they were expecting. Many of us who watched from Canada were shocked, horrified at the possibilities of the repealing of Obama-care, the lashing out against Muslims, immigrants, and people of colour, and the loss of LGBTQ* rights. It was as if some kind of previously underestimated underbelly of xenophobia had been exposed in American society, and we watched as a nation closed ranks against any they saw as Other. Or was it?
Perhaps this is no longer shocking news to you, but I think that most of us have been trying to process the events of this week, from that sleepless Tuesday night until now.
Perhaps you responded, or reacted, as many of us have – with anger and disbelief. For as many who insisted that the American election is none of our business, there are many other who point out that the futures of our two countries are irrevocably intertwined.
While it would be easy to point fingers at our neighbours to the south, many of whom are grieving as well, let me remind you that the only two female candidates for Alberta’s PC party have left the leadership race, one citing intense polarization of the party, and the other saying that she has been bullied out of the race for her stance on LGBTQ* and women’s reproductive rights. In Canada, we can’t always claim to be the tolerant, inclusive nation that we aspire to be.
But, from our standpoint to the North, we have watched this unfold for month upon endless month. Maybe, like me, as the sound bytes and news clips came at you, you were tempted to demonize Donald Trump from the beginning. Dear God, he is a hard man to love – and the things that he has said and “allegedly” done are horrifying, at best, and heinous, at worst…even if he seems to be a more conciliatory man over the last few days.
Molly Phinney Baskette writes in her book about confession (called Standing Naked Before God), that there is a tendency – maybe even a need – in humans, to draw a line in the sand. We put Good on one side and Bad on the other. And we humans tend to group things and people according to that line…Bad versus Good.
It’s like in the old Western movies, when you could tell by the colour of someone’s hat and the ominous music who was the Bad Guy, and, of course, who is the Good Guy.
In Molly’s book, she postulates a different way of looking at ourselves and each other. There are no Good Guys and Bad Guys. We are all a mixed bag of both. Generally, we are neither fully good nor fully bad. Sometimes we astound ourselves by our own sacrifice and good works, and sometimes we baffle ourselves by our ability to mess up and be mean and get angry and hurt people. The Apostle Paul puts it, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” (Romans 15).
I get that. And it is as baffling as the problem of evil in the world always has been.
And there is something in Jungian psychology that makes me squirm. It goes like this: The things that we hate in others are a reflection of our own shadow. It’s a reflection of ourselves, traits in our own selves, that we dislike. I pondered that when I pointed my own self-righteous finger at Donald Trump and accused him of arrogance, indignation, protectionism and fear of The Other.
And we watched the election.
A whole country appears to have drawn a line in the sand, and assembled on either side of it, pointing fingers and calling themselves good and the others bad.
In his live election night broadcast, Stephen Colbert talked about the toxic nature of the election. He said it’s like everyone overdosed on poison. You drink a little, and it makes you feel good. It makes you feel good to say “I’m right” and “they’re wrong.” There’s that line in the sand, again.
Perhaps one of the most hurtful things that I’m hearing is the realization by many Americans that they are – not only across a line in the sand – but they are across a big divide from their neighbours, friends and fellow church-goers. The sense of betrayal is profound, the grief is real, and the mistrust is building a deeper chasm between people.
This is not just a commentary on American politics – it is a puzzling about the state of humanity. On this day, Peace Sunday, two days after Remembrance Day, it is even more difficult to figure out what it takes to have peace in the world.
It is my contention that we will never have peace unless we stop demonizing The Other, until we can quit drawing lines in the sand, and stop drinking the bitter poison that cause us to feel a little good when we can say “that guy is bad,” and “we are good.”
I am as appalled at the results of the election as anyone. And I am horrified to think that this can happen here. But it can. Whenever we draw a line between ourselves and the Other, it can.
Nadia Bolz Weber describes a conversation in which a colleague explained, “Nadia, whenever you draw a line between you and another, Jesus is on the other side.”
Oh crap. (paraphrasing).
If the President Elect were to read that Bible that he was waving around, he might read the passage last week when Jesus said, “But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.”
And this week, the Apostle Paul sums up Christian living, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. 18 If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”
Oh, rats. Wouldn’t it be easier to drink the poison and feel self-righteous, especially after a week like this? As someone posted on Facebook on Thursday, “Try not to be classist, today.”
I am not saying that misogyny and racism and homophobia and transphobia shouldn’t be resisted. They must be resisted. And I’m not saying that we have to subscribe to a kind of “dishrag theology” that sees kind Christians just roll over and play dead. The Church must continue to work for justice, to provide safe space especially for the marginalized, and to speak truth to power.
What I am saying is that, if we are honest, we will admit that we are line-drawers. We draw lines between liberal and conservative, between climate change believers and climate change disputers. We draw lines between industry and Indigenous persons. Lines between Christian and non-Christian. Lines between classes, lines between races. And as long as the lines are drawn to protect ourselves from the other – as long as we point fingers to say “they are Bad” and we are good – as long as we refuse to cross the line, we are guilty of a collective sin – a sin that separates us from ourselves, from our neighbour, and from God. And, well, we are not going to have a peaceful world.
Two days ago, we wore poppies and said prayers and gave thanks for the sacrifice of many for the peace of our country. That peace allows for difference of opinion and differing points of view. That peace allows us to have peaceful protest. And that peace compels us to cross the lines in the sand – or obliterate the lines in the sand, scuff our feet and erase those lines in the sand, and listen to one another without having to decide if we’re “for” or “against.” For that privilege, I am eternally grateful.
We live in turbulent times. And things happen that cause a great deal of fear. And anger. And frustration. And if you’re the one that the collective identifies as The Other, it is terrifying, and it must be addressed.
But let us not be the ones pointing fingers and demonizing the other – there’s way too much of that. The Way of Jesus asks us to be peacemakers, and we can only do that by recognizing the humanity in each other, and refusing to draw those lines.
No, it is not easy, but the kin-dom is at stake.
Friday night, I was privileged to attend an event called the Calgary Peace Symposium. I, and 700 other people were invited by the Ahmadiyya Muslim community to a banquet, where the Caliph – the leader of all of the Ahmadis in the world – spoke. There were people from all levels of government, and leaders from many different faiths – Christian, Ahmadiyya and other Muslims, Sikhs, Jews, agnostics and atheists. There were leaders from the community, first responders, RCMP and First Nations.
They welcomed and fed 700 people with gracious hospitality and no judgment. It was a profound exercise in bridge building. The message of the Caliph, and the message of the Ahmadiyya community is “Love for All, Hatred for None.”
And just in case we thought this would be an easy thing without risk, the Ahmadiyya have suffered great persecution in Pakistan, and their theological beliefs have caused them a great deal of risk. So much so, that the Police Services Mobile Response Team (the SWAT team) was set up outside, and we all had to pass through a metal detector, and there was gentle but visible security at all times, inside.
They were erasing the lines between people at great risk to themselves. A glimpse of the kin-dom, and how difficult it is, in just one evening.