I love Thanksgiving Day. It’s such a quintessentially American holiday celebrating one of the better founding myths of our country. Sure the story of Puritans and Native Americans sharing a thanksgiving meal is romanticized and overlooks the suffering of Native Americans caused by European immigrants. Even so, as Diana Butler Bass comments, “That’s what myths are—stories that express something we desire, what we hope will be, and how we dream of happiness in peace.”
On All Saints Day, we especially remember the local, unsung saints who have touched our lives. We also look forward with hope to the eternal city as depicted in the book of Revelation, symbolizing a time when God will make all things new. Accordingly, every ditch dug, every brick laid, and every vote cast that has contributed to the decency and flourishing of human life will be preserved and built into this city.
This sermon concludes the series on Paul. A fascinating insight from this series is seeing how Paul’s thought kept developing in response to new situations. This is something we can learn from him as we and our churches face ever new circumstances. Another unique aspect is that these are first-person letters that reveal Paul as a person—something unique in ancient literature. Finally, what was most basic for Paul was love of God and neighbor, or, as we might say, “living the love.”
Our experience of death and our questions about our future with God are intensely personal. No question should be off the table as we wrestle with this in our death denying culture. In this respect, it can be helpful to study the development of Paul’s thought as he considers his Pharisaic belief in the resurrection, Greek beliefs that our imperishable souls are confined in our perishable bodies, and the experience of suffering and death. In all such formulations, we’re reaching beyond what we can clearly see or articulate. Our hope is that nothing can separate us from God’s love in Jesus Christ.
The partisan political divide in our country is ugly and it also runs through our churches. We’re complicit in the sexual violence and other forms of brokenness that feed this acrimony. We therefore enter the process of reconciliation with a sense of our own sin and limitations. It forces us to recognize the ways we depersonalize “others” in situations of conflict. We cannot achieve reconciliation through our own resources; it’s God who initiates and brings about reconciliation. In that sense, it’s something we discover rather than achieve, and it’s more of a spirituality than a strategy.