Pastor Devin Strong
Spirit of Peace Lutheran Church
I had a surprising experience on Sunday. After church I stopped by the hospital to visit a young woman who has visited our church several times. As we chatted, I learned that her parents grew up in the same area that I did in Michigan, and upon further inquiry, I discovered that her dad and I graduated to the same high school, just two years apart. Since our high school had more than 2,400 students, I don’t remember him, but I’m still flabbergasted to find this connection separated by nearly 40 years and more than 1,000 miles. I am reminded of the old adage that you and I are connected to everyone on Earth by just six degrees of separation.
My wife reminded me that I am also “connected” to several U.S. presidents through a former parishioner who worked for the Federal Reserve and used to meet with them regularly. While I was in Alabama, I had the privilege of bringing communion to an incredible retired pastor who, in his younger days, was involved in the Montgomery Bus Boycott and worked with both Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr. Of course, these things don’t make me special. If we dig back through all the people that we have known through the years, we are probably all connected to some famous people, to say nothing of the people that they are connected to, and so on and so on. We are all connected, and that is exactly the point.
Like a lot of protestant congregations, ours takes our Sunday morning scripture readings from something called the Revised Common Lectionary. The last couple of Sundays we have had some interesting Gospel readings. Two weeks ago, we heard Jesus tell the parable about the so-called shrewd manager who quickly makes some shifty financial deals just before he is fired. Jesus seems to praise this man for his street-smarts. Last Sunday the Lord told a parable about the rich man and Lazarus. In life Lazarus was penniless and sick, nearly starving to death at the rich man’s gate, but in death, Lazarus is in paradise while the rich guy is in torment. It is probably no accident that the lectionary assigns these readings about money just as many congregations are beginning to think about stewardship and their budgets for the coming year. The savvy preacher might use these stories to talk about how important it is that you and I are wise and faithful with our dollars.
But I see a different point.
Jesus desperately wants you and me to “see” each other, not looking up at someone because hey are rich and we are not, not looking down on someone because they are hungry and we are not, but really seeing each other face to face and eye to eye. Barrels of ink have been spilled writing about how divided we are in our society. I see it on the news, on social media, and even in conversations with church members. There will always be differences, but the ministry of Christians is the work of reconciliation. Our calling is to see each other not as caricatures of a certain political position or representatives of a given lifestyle. We must look at each other as people first because worship may be one of the few places where we still “see” each other. Besides, the Lord insists that we are connected to all people as Children of God.
God Love You, and So Do I!