How do we heal from partisan divide?

(I preached the following sermon yesterday during our mid-week Lenten worship. It was in response to Ezekiel 47:6-12, Revelation 22:1-5, and Psalm 103:19-22.)

I have a long, long history in politics.  You name it, I’ve done it before discerning a call into ministry.  My first job out of college was working for a Member of Congress on Capitol Hill., in DC.  Turns out that it would be during a Presidential Impeachment trial in the late 90’s.  Remember those days?  Partisanship was pretty divisive back then.  And I didn’t think it could get worse, back in those days.  And yet, here we are.  It’s far worse.  

And the question for this evening is – How do we heal in the midst of such division?  

We’ve got families that are torn apart by partisanship – parents and children who don’t talk to each other any longer because of political beliefs.  Fights over health recommendations that have been coopted by ideologies.  And social media is less about seeing what your friends and family are up to now and instead are being used as partisan spin machines proclaiming whatever talking points a people is aligned with.  Partisanship has become all consuming – demanding our very identity.  Being right has become very important for so many people.  Being right is the idol that we worship, and our relationships with friends and loved ones are what we sacrifice to this false god that is never satisfied and demands more, more, more.  

How do we heal in the midst of such division?

First, can we just admit something – None of this is healthy.  None of this is in alignment with what it means to follow Jesus.  It’s destructive.  All of it.  Let’s admit we have a problem – not someone else’s problem either.  Let’s admit that there has got to be a better way.  Let’s admit that it isn’t going to fix itself.   

How do we heal in the midst of such division?

We have the answer, if we are willing to listen.  If we are willing to let go of our labels.  If we are willing to stop seeing people through the lens of partisanship.  If we are willing to stop seeing Democrats and Republicans and instead see people as people.  If we are willing to stop seeing people as political pawns and instead seeing people as the image of God.  

In our readings we hear about a tree.  In both readings it stands on the banks of a river, it is nourished by the water that flows to it.  That gives it life.  It bears an abundance of fruit.  And we are told in both Ezekiel and Revelation that its leaves are for healing. 

Both the books of Ezekiel and Revelation come in a time of great divide.  They both are dealing with empires that see themselves as gods, both empires have strong ideas and the ability to crush anyone who disagrees with them.  In an empire, there is no questioning the line of thought.  There is only obedience.  There is only being right as seen through the eyes of the empire.  

And in the midst of this, Ezekiel and Revelation offer hope to the people.  They cast a vision of the future that is surely coming.  They proclaim God’s ways.  They paint a picture that cleanses our eyes and softens our hearts so that we can see others clearly – not for the partisan label that they may have, but rather they allow us to see the image of God in others.  They give us permission to loosen our hands from unhealthy things that we are clutching onto, so that we can take hold of something better.  

They call us to let go of all the labels we have been clutching onto.  We let go of the assumptions that we have been clinging to.  We let go of the idol of being right.  We let go of all the things that we have been grabbing out of fear.  We let go.  And with our hands freed, we can partake of the fruit of the tree.  We can pick the leaves that are for healing and mend our wounds and use the leaves on others around us too who are hurting as much as we are.  The fruit is ripe.  The leaves are plentiful.  They are there to be used, not just looked at or dreamed about.  Jesus invites us to the tree with the fruit – pick it and take it and eat it and share it.  Jesus invites us to the tree with the leaves that are for healing – pick them, take them, use them, and share them.  It’s right there.  

That’s how we heal in the midst of great division.  

Jesus beckons us to the tree.  Come to the tree.  The fruit is ripe.  The leaves are ready.  Come, be fed and feed others.  Come, be healed and be a healing.  

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