Preacher: Pastor Liz Miller
Date: August 30, 2020
Text: Romans 12:9-21
One of my favorite games to play on road trips or with groups who are getting to know each other is the classic “Would You Rather?” To play this game you simply pose a series of questions and ask your audience to choose between two options.
● Would you rather be covered in fur or covered in scales?
● Would you rather know the history of every object you touched or be able to talk to animals?
● Would you rather be forced to dance every time you heard music or be forced to sing along to every song you heard?
● Would you rather always be 10 minutes late or 20 minutes early?
It’s fun to hear different reasons people pick their answers and can result in a lot of laughter and lively conversation. Sometimes though, it feels like we are living in world full of “Would You Rather” and in reality, it’s a lot less fun. It often feels like we split our thinking into a binary –
feeling like we have to choose one side or the other, one feeling or the other, one way forward or the other. When we start to live our lives or construct our world as an ongoing game of “Would You Rather” we find it creates more division than unity and leaves valuable perspectives,
individuals, and opportunities to the wayside because they do not fit in an “either/or” category.
At Edgewood we have acknowledged this over the years as we expanded our ideas of gender – knowing that there are masculine women, feminine men, AND many gender expressions in between that don’t fit the binary categories of men OR women.
Our nation grappled with the problem of enforcing an either/or this summer when we debated whether or not to open schools in person this fall. We got stuck in a trap of “Students and staff will be at risk so we have to close.” OR “Some students count on the learning support, daily structure, and social services so schools need to be open.”
Conversations pitted people against each other as we assumed our values were incompatible; we had to choose a side. What emerged as we dug digger is that BOTH were true.
Most students and staff are safer at home AND some students need access to the space, structure, and services schools provide. All can be true, and some schools even adopted hybrid models to recognize the various needs without putting them in competition with one another. Living into a BOTH/AND is often more complex, but creates more space for us to have deep discussions, to hold multiple experiences together, and to widen the possibilities available to us.
Our scripture today challenges us to be both/and disciples. It starts out by instructing us to hate evil AND hold on to what is good. Did you hear that? We are instructed to hate evil. Not ignore it, not just right to a positive Pollyanna perspective, not find a way to diminish it. Hate evil. That means when we see something wrong, we are called to name it. When we witness evil in the form of violence and oppression, we are called to protest it and reject it.
We can do that AND we can hold on to what is good. We are a both/and people. One of the ongoing themes I hear in multi-racial justice settings is the way white folks hear of or even witness something horrifying – the murder of a Black child, the shooting of an innocent Black
man – and simply say, “Oh, that’s sad.” No emotion. No rage. No visceral reaction. Just neutral words, which can be as harmful as saying nothing at all.
Don’t hesitate to be enthusiastic, scripture says, which means in all manner of our reactions and emotions. I know us to be a people who are happy in our hope. Who contribute to the needs of God’s people. Who welcome strangers into your home. We can do this, and we can show those emotions that we too often practice stuffing down or denying. We can be happy with
those who are happy AND cry with those who are crying.
The biggest barrier I hear from folks when it comes to expressing their grief or naming the anger they carry over injustices in their life or in the world is that they are afraid they will get lost in it. Afraid the negative emotions will consume them or they won’t be able to find their way back. That is a real fear, made manifest by not always having strong examples of what
constructive anger looks like, or how grief fully felt can transform us.
I believe that our commitment to love is strong enough to hold our pain. To hold our grief. To hold our anger. Calling out injustice does not mean you can never call out the beautiful things that are also in this world. It is both/and. We are complex people. If we are looking for examples of constructive anger, we can look to the streets, to cities across our nations where people are putting their bodies on the line to stand up to evil. We do not always need the perfect words or the best solution. But we need to feel the pain. Feel the anger. Hate evil.
All summer long I have been quoting the lines from Walt Whitman, Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.” We are a people whose quench for justice is grounded in the belief that there things in our world that are unjust.
We are a people who proclaim that nothing will separate us from love, not even death, because we have heard the story of Jesus’ execution on the cross and know that God did not turn away.
We are a people who are seekers of peace and bearers of hope because we live in the time of “already and not yet,” knowing that we have everything we need to live into God’s kingdom here on earth.
We can hate evil and live at peace with all people. We can rage when we witness injustice and be a positive voice for change. We can cry with someone who is crying out in pain and be happy with those who are happy. We can hold the complexity of our calls to discipleship with our desire to be positive and happy. We can name the loneliness and challenges of this
COVID-19 season with the knowledge that we hold more privilege than most. We are a both/and people. We are called to bring our whole selves, our whole emotions, our whole experiences with us into the world, into our relationships, and into our faith. May it be so.