Breaking the Cycle
I preached yesterday, on-line of course, for the worship service of Spirit of Peace UCC on Seattle’s eastside. My post-election sermon was pretty political. I worried that it was too political.
Afterwords, I shared that apprehension with one of the congregation’s lay leaders. She offered this interesting, and helpful, response. “To be honest,” she wrote, “in this period of history, it [politics] is not just politics.” I took that to mean that we are dealing with forces deeper and more dangerous than ordinary politics.
And, in some measure, that was exactly my point. The crisis we have faced with the Trump presidency, and will continue to face in this society, even with new leaders, is spiritual and moral in nature. “Fear,” as Marianne Williamson said, way back in the early Democratic debates, “has been harnessed for political purposes.” So it’s more than party politics, political strategy or policy — all of which are important and have their place.
One dimension of the his larger situation is how we now move on in a bitterly divided nation. How do we avoid getting sucked in and down by Trump’s brooding, baseless charges of a stolen election? How do we bridge some of the cleavages in a divided country? How do maintain forthright, uncompromising, convictions yet refuse hate and recrimination? These were some of the questions I raised in my sermon.
A friend, Roy Howard, sent a Wendell Berry poem, “Enemies,” that is relevant to these questions. Here it is:
If you are not to become a monster,
you must care what they think.
If you care what they think,
how will you not hate them,
and so become a monster
of the opposite kind? From where then
is love to come—love for your enemy
that is the way of liberty?
From forgiveness. Forgiven, they go
free of you, and you of them;
they are to you as sunlight
on a green branch. You must not
think of them again, except
as monsters like yourself,
pitiable because unforgiving.
So, when I voiced my concern that my sermon might have crossed some line into partisan politics, I appreciated the observation of that thoughtful lay person, “That in this period of history, [politics] is not just politics.”
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In conclusion, I want to share a piece of my recent art work. This is based on a photo taken on the Zumwalt Prairie in northeastern Oregon. It is the largest remaining grassland prairie in North America. “Remaining” means that the land has never been tilled or turned to growing crops.
It’s a magical place. I hope that this photo of my painting conveys a bit of that magic. Just over the right side of the middle butte you catch a glimpse of the snowy Wallowa Mountains to the south.