John 17: 17-23
October 6, 2019
Lincoln Street UMC, Portland, Oregon
Elizabeth Winslea, pastor
When we look at this array of dots it becomes clear, doesn’t it. It’s a wonderful visual of how geography has become less and less of a barrier among us. First, we notice all the places from which our ancestry derives. The history we see in the blue dots. Scattered in places we expect and in others we do not. Our DNA is imbedded with stories and details and contexts far beyond the green mountains of Oregon.
Next, we notice this generation, and the red dots - all of the places we have traveled and lived in this lifetime. With transportation becoming more affordable and quicker in the last 50 years, we are a people who have discovered the wonders of other lands. We have learned about ourselves as we have immersed ourselves in other places and customs. It has been enlivening and a source of great perspective.
And then of course, there are the dreams for the future - the green dots. All the places that we hope our lives will still take us. That one day our pocketbook and our time might converge to send us into yet another adventure, an exploration of the geography of land and heart. These green dots speak to how we no longer see country lines as a reason to not travel. We no longer see distance as an impediment to access. Instead, our dreams help us see India as close a neighbor as Washington.
So on this Sunday, when we celebrate worldwide communion, there are friends and faces from all across the globe that we call to mind, as our siblings in the spirit of God.
It’s almost as if geography perhaps is no longer the issue for divisions. No doubt, there is still conflict and violence that erupts because of national borders and certainly there are ways in which we stereotype people from various lands. I’m not saying we all live in one peaceful globe.
But I do wonder if perhaps our growing edge is less about national lines and more about philosophical and political lines.
I think it says a lot that we can often feel closer to friends half way around the globe than we do our next door neighbor, if it happens that we fall into separate red and blue camps.
The same is true in the United Methodist Church as it is in the wider world. We can paint our conflicts with an easy brush stroke, viewing our divisions as being all about geography.
We can believe that if it weren’t for the African and Southeast Asian churches, then our denomination would have long ago taken a stand and created discipline for full inclusion of all people. But we know this is not an accurate nor a fair portrayal of our denominational chaos. That there’s more at heart here than just where we live.
What will evolve in the future and what will fall away has a lot to do with where we place our green dots. Do we dream beyond geography?
Can we imagine visiting, understanding, communing with those who ideas are different as easily as we day dream of doing so with those whose national identity are different.
This is the challenge of this Sunday. To hold hands across the globe and also across the social, political and cultural lines that are actually much harder to cross.
Poet and political advocate, Wendell Berry, once wrote, "Nobody can discover the world for somebody else. Only when we discover it for ourselves does it become common ground and a common bond and we cease to be alone.”
The end of divisions are seldom accomplished by policies. They occur when hearts that see the world differently agree to be in relationship. We don’t know what the future is, but we can pretty well assume that divisions are ahead for us. But even as the denomination divides, we can still be ambassadors of goodwill, friendship. We can strive to be spiritual neighbors. And that is work we all can do in our homes, in our travel and in all our lives. Amen.
This sermon was written by Elizabeth Winslea and delivered on October 6, 2019 at Lincoln Street United Methodist Church. It is published here with the permission of the author. Please link back to this post and credit the author if you reprint or use any portion of it.