Sunday, November 8, 2020

An Open Letter to the Congregation

Dear Friends,

Our congregation, and our nation, is a diverse body with varied perspectives, affiliations, values, and political, religious, and social points of view…something I both respect and celebrate.  Such a reality as this has been evident these past weeks as the national election came near.  Indeed, in my lifetime, I have never seen such a polarized and hostile political landscape as the one I have experienced this year…something that has effected families, friendships, neighborhoods, municipalities, religious communities, and the general public.  Candidly, it has all been very disappointing and disheartening to me.  So, where do we go from here, and what should our posture going forward be?  Let me offer two suggestions.

First, I like the recent message from the Reverend Doctor John Dorhauer, General Minister and President of the United Church of Christ, who was encouraging denominational members to come together, no matter what voters ultimately decided in the recent election.  He wrote this:  

Come Wednesday morning, we are all going to have to face each other across a political divide that is threatening to tear families, friends, communities, congregations, and this democracy apart. If not Wednesday, then sometime soon thereafter a victor will be identified that will send spasms of joy through the hearts of some of us and paroxysms of pain through the rest. And then we will have to decide what church we want to be.  Are we a “who are they and how did they get here” kind of church [and nation]? Or are we a ‘No matter who you are on life’s journey’ kind of church?  “I know only one pathway through this – and that is love. [We must] find a pathway to staying in relationship and covenant with your Republican and your Democrat neighbor no matter which side of the political aisle you choose. Nothing could be more American than that. Nothing could be more Christian than that. Nothing could be more God-like than that.”

I like what Dr. Dorhauer said and echo both his sentiments and his challenge to the Church.  As Christ-followers, we must learn to respectfully accept our differences, work through our dissimilarities, and yield to our greater calling as sisters and brothers united by the teachings, example, and higher purposes of our faith.  As the Apostle Paul wrote in Galatians 3:27-28:

As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.  There is no longer Jew or Greek; there is no longer slave or free; there is no longer male or female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.

And from Colossians 3:12-15:

As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. 

This is our mandate as Christian persons.  We are called to be “clothed” in Christ and to be bridge-builders in the name of God, who is imaged, in the Gospel of Luke, as the Recklessly Loving Parent of the wayward prodigal.  It is a sacred duty we are given…as well as a very tough thing to do!

Secondly, I would like to conclude with a prayer for you and for our nation, taking my words from the pastoral prayer I used in worship today.  

God of Light and Love…on whom our hopes are founded…and to whom we can turn to in times of joy and need…we offer our praises to you this day.  O God…you are ever-near and you are forever-merciful…You are the God of truth and beauty, blessing and wisdom, love and grace.  Come near to us this morning and still our hearts….made so weary this week by the ongoing uncertainty of the Covid pandemic…and the incredible political tumult we have been experiencing within our own nation.  God, it seems so much divides and separates us today from one another….Here we are a nation built on principles of freedom, and justice, and democracy, and equity…And yet we are now divided and polarized in ways we have rarely seen before.  It seems our nation’s very social contract is caving in…and our trust of others is collapsing. Help us, O God.  Help us, as Christians, to follow the teachings of Jesus that show us a better way….and then inspire us to live out our faith in ways that bring reconciliation between our neighbors…and peace and harmony within our varied relationships and communities.  As a church, and as a people, lead us toward pathways of unity…and compassion…and acceptance….and grace.  Help us to find the higher way.  Amen. 

In conclusion, I would like to thank you for listening to and considering my thoughts…and I want to thank you for being a valued and important part of The First Congregational Church of Ann Arbor.  I wish you all the best.  I wish you peace. 


Bob Livingston

Senior Minister