9:00 am and 11:00 amSunday Services

Thanks for Giving – Finding Wholeness…

In 2016, after the presidential election, Ellen DeGeneres did a segment where she created a program called “Mobile Moderator,” where families could invite a professional moderator like Anderson Cooper or Wolf Blitzer to come over for Thanksgiving dinner to moderate the inevitable political conversations that would crop up over turkey and stuffing.

In the demonstration, Blitzer sits in with a family of Trump and Clinton supporters arguing about the wall and immigration.

After a few choice words from the family, which is beginning to interrupt and talk over each other, Wolf Blitzer jumps in, “Mrs. Douglas, Uncle Luke, if we could just please get back to the original question, Could someone please pass the salt.”

The professional moderators also serve as fact checkers.

When grandma chimes in, “I hear that Barack Hussein Obama made it legal to steal things.”

Blitzer cuts her off – “That is absolutely not true.”

“Then who stole my glasses?” she asks.

He points at grandma and says politely, “Your glasses are on your forehead.”

Ellen promises, “Your Moderator will restore civility to the conversation.”

Doesn’t that just sound delightful?

We should all have a professional moderator at Thanksgiving.

Ellen’s segment was funny, because that type of conflict is something we can all relate to.

Arguments between loved ones have been going on since humanity could speak.

Even in the early church, which modeled Christianity for us, there were disagreements.

Not surprisingly. In today’s text, In today’s text, Paul addresses 2 women who are struggling to agree.

And so he says them, “Be of one mind in Christ.”

“The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds.”

PEACE, which in the Greek is equivalent to WHOLENESS.

You can have a seize fire without peace. If there are hungry children or people in refugee camps, there is not peace.

And you can have peace that includes conflict, conflict that brings you together and closer to an understanding of one another.

So when Paul talks of peace, he’s talking about the wholeness, the completeness of God that will guard our hearts and our minds.

Wholeness.

Connectedness.

Understanding.

He often uses the Body of Christ as a metaphor for this.

One whole, different parts.

We can have different functions but still appreciate one another.

Even if we don’t like some parts of our body, they’re useful and they work together with the rest of us.

Those of us who are hands don’t always VALUE the feet. Those of us who are eyes don’t always understand the value of ears.

To make this metaphor a bit more real, imagine what part of the body you’d say the Democrats are. Or the Dallas Cowboys. Or the Kentucky Wildcats.

Whether it’s football games or elections or Thanksgiving dinner conversations, this holiday season can bring our differences into focus and stress out our spiritual body.

And it’s not just the political discussions.

When you put different people in the same room together, things can go sideways sometimes.

When wine is added to the picture, it often gets much worse.

I remember one Thanksgiving, someone’s girlfriend jokingly brought up a funny old story about that time her boyfriend went to jail.

She was trying to connect and fit in with the family, but it turns out, she and her boyfriend were the only ones who knew that story…

The silence was deafening.

Other tables are awkward for different reasons. My family’s Thanksgiving table tends to be awkward on account of the stories not being told and the topics not being talked about.

We do such mind-bending mental gymnastics to avoid conflict, that sometimes, the conversation goes in bizarre directions.

There are other Thanksgiving tables that are challenging for different reasons.

Sometimes it’s not the conversation or who’s at the table.

Sometimes what’s difficult is knowing who’s not at the table…

With all of the commercial pressure to make this holiday about family, it’s difficult for many of us to not feel a pang of sadness, when our table is set without a place for the person or people we wish were there.

Thanksgiving is not always comfortable.

But it CAN be peaceful.

It CAN reflect God’s wholeness.

Even when we feel emptiness.

Not long from now, we’ll all have the chance to sit down with one another and experience that wholeness, that peace.

Angela and her many helpers have prepared an extraordinary feast to say thank you to YOU for your generosity all year.

It’s an opportunity to get to know one another.

To get to know our new members.

And to practice what Paul encourages the church to do.

To be of one mind in Christ.

To focus on whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, and what is excellent and worthy of praise

The tables around which we gather here at church of the good shepherd are tables that aspire to reflect God’s peace.

They are not tables where we avoid our differences.

Here, we value our diversity.

We know how much we can learn from one another.

I’ve heard many Democrats in this congregation tell me how thankful they are that there are Republicans in this congregation…

I’ve heard Libertarians talk about how thankful they are there are Republicans in this congregation…

And Republicans themselves have been generous in welcoming the voices of those sitting both to their right and left…

The conversations we have fill out a larger picture of what is true and a larger picture of what really matters.

And we incorporate that value of unity through diversity into our ritual of membership.

When we welcome our new members, one of the questions is asked, “How do we agree,”

And we respond, “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials liberty; in all things charity.”

The essentials we claim are love for one another, and a mission to build a just world through community, one life at a time.

And our love for one another is not conditional on agreement. In fact, we encourage disagreement – in non-essentials, liberty.

Disagreement and diversity of opinion—those bring us closer to peace, to wholeness, to a greater understanding of the wideness of God.

And throughout all of it, we insist on charity. No matter what, we aspire to give each other the benefit of the doubt. We aspire to offer each other grace.

It is not always easy, but we work at it.

We may not have professional moderators at our Thanksgiving table today, but we will have the moderating influence of church members who care deeply for one another.

And our bonds as a community and our commitment to justice may be one of the greatest moderators of all.

Speaker: Rev. Sarah TevisTownes
November 18, 2018

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