Dear Members and Friends of St. Paul Lutheran Church,
My wife, Carrie, and I volunteer twice a week in an online writing class that teaches English as a second language through the International Institute of Minnesota in St. Paul. The students are currently practicing writing "For and Against" essays. This has been interesting as they first have to choose a topic and then create an outline presenting three reasons why people are for it and three reasons why others might be against it. As you might imagine, there is no shortage of topics (many controversial) for them to choose from. It has made for some interesting conversation as the students have strong opinions on both sides - for and/or against.
I was reminded as I write about this, of an illustration I've used in sermons before. A conversation between a father and son, Joe and Murray. Both of them grew up Jewish, but now the son, Murray, is a Christian. This strained his relationship with his father for many years. So when Joe was dying and his son, Murray, had come home to visit, they shared a touching bedside conversation about faith.
Joe: You know Murray, sometimes I lie in bed at night and wonder, "What if you're right?"
Murray: And dad, sometimes I lie in bed at night and wonder, "What if I'm wrong?"
You and I both find ourselves at odds with our own close family members, friends, co-workers, and even church friends. Like those ESL students have recently learned, we too have been reminded everyday that there is no shortage of contentious subjects that we find ourselves having strong opinions either for or against. This contentiousness has fractured many of our relationships. I am disappointed how (among many things) the pandemic and our varying responses to it, and how our political leanings or affiliations have gotten in the way of valued and dear relationships. It doesn't need to be this way.
I continue to encourage you - at home, at work, at school - to let love win, rule, and dictate your actions in your life. We can rise above the contentiousness and love one another as the greatest commandment calls us to do. We can "come to each other's defense, speak well of one another, and interpret everything one another does in the best possible light" as Martin Luther calls us to do in his interpretation of the eighth commandment. We can arrive at a place of grace like Joe and Murray eventually did. We can follow the apostle Paul's advice in his letter to the Romans, "As much as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone."
To live in this way - in all aspects of our life - will bring about the peace and healing that we all long for. And that is something I think we are all strongly for. Am I right?
See you in Church! (and bring a friend!)