March 7, 2016

God’s demands are simple. “Love me, love others”. That’s it. Of course the difficulty is in the details.  In order to love God, we must be open to receive God’s love for us.  That is when grace becomes the core of our living.

That is when loving others becomes possible, because then everything is not a reflection and judgement about ourselves.  We can actually see that other people are other people, not simply projections of our disappointments, failures and fears. Which means we don’t have to divide the world into us and them. We don’t have to demonize those with whom we disagree or fear people who are different from us.  Then we can focus on solutions to problems instead leveraging blame.

Ever notice how hard it is to be mad at someone when you are dwelling in the grace God has for you? I wonder how different our public discourse might be if before the candidates took to the stump, they paused for a moment to dwell in and on the grace God has for them. The debates might not be as sensational, but probably much more edifying.

This past Sunday’s Gospel lesson was the story of the prodigal son. Maybe it’s not just a story about a boy who blows it big time, and his father who takes him back and throws a party in joy. Perhaps the prodigal is the current political process itself, and maybe the good news of the story could be a return to a place that everyone in our nation can call home. What is prodigal? The wasted opportunity in our public discourse to face our mutual challenges seriously. What is redemptive? The possibility of a civil discourse that restores relationships and builds the common good, that sets a feast of inclusion. That would be a campaign worth running. That would be a joy.

To love God and love others is a call to humility and a call for grace. Without that grace we won’t love others and won’t love God, or even ourselves. Are our divisions so deep, the way so blocked, the trust so broken that we can’t find our way forward? Our national hymn recites, “America. America, God shed his grace on thee, and crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea.” That God given grace is the way home, it is the place we begin to build the future of our nation, together. God has given us the fullness of his grace in Jesus; like the father in the parable says “All that I have is yours.” And as the apostle Paul encourages, “We have this ministry of reconciliation.” That seems enough to get started.

Rev. Linda Farmer-Lewis, Central United Methodist Church, Lansing Michigan