Pastoral Letter

(10/7/2018) [This was send via email to the congregation this morning and subsequently read aloud at Fellowship of Faith.]

Good Morning, Church!

Although I know that some of you will be attending worship in the next few hours, there are some things to share with everyone on this fall morning in Rochester.

I am really mindful of the various responses that many among us are having to the developments in Washington this week and last. Whether it’s identifying with Christine Blasey Ford, or with Brett Kavanaugh — whether it’s feeling comfort with the decision to elevate him, or dealing with your own triggers around trauma, many of us are feeling a little raw. The weather here bespeaks our recognition that our nation, as a whole, may not be what we have thought it to be for the last several decades. OR, we might be reading this through the eyes of being part of a marginalized community and are finding ourselves perfectly at home with the feelings of being disenfranchised and disconnected.

Either way, let’s be aware that, in reality, it is our perceptions that are changing the most right now. Things change in our country all the time, as we know (look at prohibition that was enacted and then rescinded 13 years later).

The point is this: whatever we are feeling, God understands it and Jesus probably felt something similar.

And … whatever we are feeling, however many different feelings there are that are swirling around among us, we are still a church. We need to be gentle with each other and respectful of our differences.

Reading Jon Meacham’s book, The Soul of America – the Battle for our Better Angels with the Food for Thought group, I am once again made aware of the how history and historical events are seen differently through different lenses. One of my children asked me last night how this could be happening, to which I replied that this very thing – the appointment of a conservative to tip the balance of the Court – has been a goal for some in this country (and, I know, for some of you) for the last 60 years, at least. For those for whom this is true, these are, indeed, times to celebrate a long battle and success of your achievements.

At the same time, those who have been working for the opposite conclusion are feeling defeated and heart-sick.

My sermon today speaks a bit to this on this World Communion / Peacemaking Sunday (https://debfaeswift.wordpress.com/). 

Our job, as Christians, is to stay connected to God, constantly discerning the path we are led on.

As Presbyterians, we believe that God, alone, is Lord of the conscience so it is not up to any of us to try and judge others who are also interpreting God’s voice. But we ARE called to come together with mutual forbearance, support, and prayer for all who feel marginalized,  humiliated, ridiculed, and excluded. THAT is our charge, because that is what Jesus did.

There is little doubt that this is a divisive period in American history, but maybe, it is really just a time that is shining the light on our divisiveness that has existed since the beginning. My guess is that those divisions have always been there because this country was formed not around common heritage or common origin, but on common values. One of those values is respect for difference. Another is on vocal dissent. And a third is on the Rule of Law which seems to have a way of righting itself over time when we stay connected around the first two.

The greatest danger for us, as Americans, is to lose hope and give up fighting for what we believe in. I know that some of you have. If that’s true for you, please know that the rest of us are holding the space for you to feel whatever you are feeling, until such time as you are again filled with Christ’s optimism.  But another danger for us, as Christians, is that we will forget that we are ALL part of the Body of Christ — even those with whom we disagree. The ear needs the foot … the finger nail needs the ankle. We are not all the same … but we are one in Him.

Whether conservative or progressive … white or black … straight or gay … financially comfortable or economically insecure … we must pray for each other, defend the rights of the other to hold values different than our own, be tender with each other, and be Jesus to each other.

The Church of Jesus Christ is bigger than the American government.

God is still in charge.

It is our job to discern how to work for God’s justice and love in the world every single day.

In Christ,

Pastor Deb