With Malice Toward None
The Rev. Laurel Hart, Deacon
Scripture: Matthew 22:1-14
Paul’s letter is full of love and encouragement for the community in Philippi. But when I read the contemporary English Version, the translators use of language was more blunt and I quote “Euodia and Syntyche, you belong to the Lord, so I beg you to stop arguing with each other. And my true partners I beg you to help them.” What was going on in the world around these women to lead to this squabbling? This apparent power struggle between two leaders seemed to be causing division in the community. Was there a pandemic at that time in history with the accompanying fear of disease and death? Was the economy in a downturn with the loss of jobs and leading to financial insecurity for families? We don’t know the facts, and do they really matter?
All we know is that Paul is calling out these people and asking everyone to seek a way to co-exist peacefully. In my life I have never lived through a period of time like this which impacts literally the whole world –a pandemic with all the horrible illness and related deaths, the many fears coming from being physically near other people who might be contagious. And there is the serious economic fallout spreading across the country. All these factors are causing significant emotional trauma for everyone. Without a clear end in sight, we don’t know when children will be able to attend school in person, when businesses can return to previous operational functions, when families can join in person for fun celebrations. And as if we needed anymore turmoil in our lives, we have a contentious national election in slightly more than three weeks. It seems almost ironic that today’s lectionary has this passage from Paul with its exhortation to living in God’s peace. He calls on this community in Philippi and this community in Gresham to also seek peace as a group.
We are reminded that as Christians we are called to love our neighbor, to seek and serve Christ in all persons, and respect the dignity of every human being. Many of us commit to these promises in our baptism and recommit to them regularly, because they are hard work, and the process of learning how to live into those promises takes our whole lives. The work doesn’t end. We don’t wake up one day having mastered how to do this. We practice. We make mistakes. We learn. We do better. Then repeat the process again.
Today, I want to share with you the many and various resources, offered by our national church leadership, to address several difficult issues. These resources are all available on the national church website - https://episcopalchurch.org/. (I will be putting a link in the chat during the coffee hour today)
These programs are available to everyone:
A program titled “Learn, Pray, Act: Resources for Responding to Racist Violence,” which curated by the staff for Racial Reconciliation and Justice and the Office of Government Relations
The program which really drew my attention is one called With Malice Toward None. I’m going to read the description of this program as stated on the website. “This is a program designed for churches, educational institutions, and civic groups to provide a way for understanding and healing for all sides of our political divisions for both before and after the November election. The challenge is the days following the 2020 presidential election may become the most divisive period in modern U.S. history—no matter who wins. People on the losing side will have a wide range of emotions ranging from intense disappointment to grief, rage, and despair. The temptation will be to avoid, ostracize, or attack people on the winning side. People on the winning side will feel vindicated. The temptation will be to act triumphantly towards those on the other side. Both sides will worry about how people on the other side will treat them. In other words, the days after the election could begin a dark time of polarization in the land—unless we act together to make it otherwise.
That’s where the With Malice Toward None initiative comes in. The goal is to create a space for people to deal with their emotions (positive and negative), to build our capacities for working together to address our common challenges, and to commit ourselves to a renewed citizenship. This is not about covering over strong political differences or encouraging people to support whoever wins the election. It is about a commitment to respecting the humanity of those who differ from us. It is about recognizing our foundational role as citizens to be the architects and agents of a more perfect union.”
So, I asking the community today – is this something we’d like to participate in? Are we willing as a community to work toward healing in our community using the program as offered? Please take time to pray, discern and let me know. Amen.