“I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the body of peace. There is one body and on Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all…” (Ephesians 4:1-6)
Beloved members and friends,
Paul’s words have been on my mind today as the results of the 2020 election become clear. Our nation now begins the change from a season of campaigning to a time of transferring power. Now is also the moment when we will face the handfuls of other challenges in our country, including the pandemic, massive unemployment, poverty, racial unrest, and steep political divisions.
The divisions are highlighted by the electoral map, but we know they are also realities in our families, workplaces, and churches. While these divisions are not new, they have become particularly inflamed recently.
Woodlawn Chapel is not immune to these differences. Our members represent a cross section of differing political beliefs, backgrounds, and cultural experiences. There are those who prefer chocolate donuts and others who want sprinkles; there may even be a few Chicago Cubs fans among us.
We are taught to be suspicious of differences, but I believe accepting differences is one of Woodlawn’s greatest strengths. I have served as pastor of this church through four different presidential administrations. We have lamented together in moments of national tragedy, and celebrated moments of great achievement. We have looked beyond typical labels to build trust with each other. This is a beautiful reminder of God’s gifts of diversity. Our challenge in this moment is to remember the things we hold in common, and to live into our core values of hospitality, spirituality, and service.
This does not mean that we set aside differences, but it is does mean that we seek to understand. We avoid labels and instead try to see the image of God in each person. We find places of common ground. We treat others with respect. We seek forgiveness when we injure another person. We work hard to develop a sense of curiosity in learning about differences.
The election of a president always highlights the places where we are divided. Some are grieving while others rejoice. Some are hopeful while others are suspicious. But in the days and weeks ahead, I pray that we will seek opportunities to celebrate God’s gift of diversity. Let us look for ways of serving each other and let us celebrate the grace that God journeys with us. Woodlawn Chapel is indeed a great church, and I am thankful for each of you.
It is my hope that we as embrace God’s call to humility, we will discover new joy of serving God and our neighbor. We will certainly disagree at times—but we can also remain faithful in seeking the will of God together.
(For more information, click the link to review the PCUSA document “Seeking to be Faithful Together.”)