For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; … a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away; … a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace. (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8)
As I reflected on the day’s events following the presidential election of 2016 and the election of the country’s 45th president, and the differing outpourings of emotions that crossed my Facebook timeline and the television news media prompted by the election, these words from Ecclesiastes kept floating to the surface of my ponderings. It seems to be a season of rejoicing and laughing for some, and a season of weeping and lamenting for others – depending on whether your candidate was elected.
These vastly differing, emotional responses are so very reflective of the vast divisions (political, economic, racial, cultural, religious) that seem to have become the norm for this country – divisions that are made more clear by the light of an election season – divisions that grow ever wider and ever stronger when differing politics and political ideologies cause the electorate to draw lines in the sand, and political figures use pointed and directed rhetoric to draw us farther apart, despite their “calls” for unity.
No one is impervious to these divisions, not even the church, whose very mission is not to divide but rather to “restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ” (BCP 855). This is because the church is made up of people – beautifully created, beloved children of God – children with whom God endued with free will. We fall within these divisions not because we are wrong or bad or, to use theological language, sinful – rather because we are human in all of our human-ness. And yet, it – a life of division – is not who we are nor is it who we are called to be. We called to be one – one Body in one Christ.
So, this season of division begs the question of what are we to do? How are we to work through our divisions? How do we learn or re-learn to talk with one another so that we may be able to better understand each other? How are we to become the bridge that spans the divisions in our lives? How do we become reconciled with each other?
Our catechism teaches that we as the church accomplish our mission of union and reconciliation through prayer and worship, proclamation of the Gospel, and the pursuit of justice, peace and love – all echoes of our own baptismal vows.
So, what can we do? We can center our life in prayer and worship – each a defining mark of what it means to be a Christian. Through prayer and worship we are able to enter into divine relationship with God – a relationship that brings us to that holy place of unity and love. So pray - for strength, compassion, wisdom, reconciliation and guidance – for ourselves, our friends, our children and families, our neighbors, our nation, our elected officials – and then come together and make peace with your brother or your sister in Christ … come share in the heavenly feast by which and through which we are all reconciled with God … come and worship and through your worship give thanks to God for raising up for us our savior, Jesus Christ – our Lord whose love is stronger than any division on earth, stronger even than death itself … and whose love and grace can bridge any divide that we humans can make.
Model your life on our baptismal vows. Seek and serve Christ in all persons no matter who they are or who they voted for … respect the dignity of every human being … love your neighbor as yourself – see the good and the God that is in each and every one of us. Work for justice … work for peace … work for love.
Proclaim the Gospel and practice empathy … try walking in the shoes of those with whom we disagree and trying to imagine what you might do or what it might take to bring about a common vision.
The vows we make at our baptism remind us that we are part of something else … something greater than any political affiliation or any political ideology. Through our baptism we are all made one in Christ – there is no more distinction between us.
Most importantly, remember … remember who we are and who we are not … remember that we not red or blue colors on a map but rather that we are one … one community … one Body … made up of individually beautiful and beloved children of God.
The process toward reconciliation is just that – a process. And process takes time, and practice. So my prayer for us all during this time – this season of reconciliation – is to be patient and kind. Be patient and kind with your family. Be patient and kind with your friends. Be patient and kind with your neighbor (even if they voted for the other person) and the stranger alike. Be patient and kind with your nation and your leaders. And last, but not least, be patient and kind with yourself, and know that you are loved. Blessed be.
The Reverend William Stanton