"Who Needs Divisions"?"
Sermon Preached By Rev. Richard E. Stetler - November 27, 2002
A number of years ago a
psychiatrist wrote a piece for the Thanksgiving Newsletter that was
sent to the constituency of Capitol Hill Group Ministries, a group
to which I once belonged. I saved the article because it
illustrated so perfectly what many of us experience. This is what
Within the course of a week, I come into contact with people living within a half mile from my house who have adopted America as their home. The person who bakes bread for my family is from France. My dry cleaning is done by Asians. There is an Italian tailor who alters my pants. Two of my colleagues are from Pakistan and Germany. We have Greek, Cambodian and Chinese cuisines within walking distance. My favorite bank teller is from India. The operator of the Texaco station where my auto repairs are done is from Korea. One of his mechanics is from Lebanon. Our shrubs and lawn are meticulously maintained by landscape artists from Mexico. My personal physician is from the Philippines. My ophthalmologist is from Ghana. My accountant came from Israel.
Capitol Hill is the world in miniature. The splendid aspect worth celebrating is that our tiny world here lives together in peace. Each of us is serving others in some capacity. We have integrity in what we do. We care about our community. We want the best for our families.
We should all take comfort in the idea that if it can happen here, it can happen in our larger world. People who want the same things out of life learn how to get along.
It is my conviction that our religious beliefs are part of the fabric in each of our lives. Who needs to talk about differences in faith when we see results like harmony, service, quality, authentic caring and a wholesome community spirit.
The next time we find ourselves despairing
over conditions in the world, look around in our own neighborhoods.
What we hope will one day happen in the world is already happening
here. Let us never stop role modeling this for the rest of the world.
Each one of us needs to look at
our lives tonight and ask ourselves what it is we are celebrating. Of
course, this is Thanksgiving eve. It is a time when we traditionally
celebrate our unity, a unity that had its origins at a time when
Pilgrims had a meal with Native Americans presumably for the first time.
Also it is a time when we have
the opportunity to give thanks to God for life itself and all the
potential growth patterns that were placed within us when we were born.
The evidence of our cooperation in developing such patterns is
overwhelmingly present everywhere we look.
But what happens on the day after
tomorrow? What happens to us when the afterglow of our family
gatherings begins to fade? Do our eyes once again concentrate on the
aggressive drivers instead of appreciating the 97 percent who are
driving sensibly? Do we listen to stories of arsonists, rapists,
snipers, and terrorists while stories of Toys For Tots, medical
breakthroughs, new trade agreements and food distribution by religious
groups are marginalized by what appears to be more sensational?
Why is it that we feed ourselves
a diet of what the 1 percent of the 1 percent is doing. Such cues for
living are distorted exaggerations at best. Yet when events of rage
become the focus of our concentration, we literally teach ourselves and
our children that our world is unsafe and that people different from us
are not to be trusted.
What is worse is when the cruel
and barbaric deeds of a few are attached in some twisted way to the Will
of God. Those of us who know the meaning of community understand
thoroughly that such thinking misses the mark by a wide margin. Yet we
read our newspapers as though they represent an accurate portrayal of
the attitudes of the world's citizens. We watch network news that we
know is developed by editors who have an eye on Nielsen ratings. If we
are not careful, ever so slowly we become what we feed ourselves.
One day a Cherokee chief was
teaching his grandson one of life's greatest lessons. As they walked
together around the rim of a lake that was nestled in the valley of an
expansive mountain range, this old man, who had grown very wise through
the years, said:
A fight is going on inside of me as I speak. It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil -- he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and arrogance.
The other one is good -- This one is joy,
peace, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy,
generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. This same fight is going on
inside of you and inside of everyone of every nation on earth.
The grandson thought about this
struggle for some time. Then he broke his silence and asked, "Which wolf
will win, grandfather?" The wise Cherokee chief answered, "The one you
Everyone of our faith traditions
contains loving symbols that teach us how to embrace and enhance our
spiritual growth. We also have woven into the fabric of our lives the
thread of fear that confronts us with forms that we may not recognize.
Basically, love and fear are the two wolves. The health of the
community we represent tonight and the entire "melting pot" culture that
we value depends on which wolf we feed. Our future is at stake. We
need to remember how we got here and the price others have paid so that
we might experience it.
Many years ago a friend of mine picked up two women from the Soviet Union at BWI Airport. Neither one of them had visited the United States. She was going to house them and shuttle them back and forth to a conference they were attending. She stopped by a Giant food store to pick up a few things for supper.
When the two women entered the store, they froze in utter and complete amazement. They were accustomed to standing in long bread lines and finding little available meat. There were always extraordinary prices and little variety of products. In their broken English they asked how much of what they were seeing would be there in the morning.
All at once Mimi realized that
these two women were totally unprepared for what most Americans take for
granted. In fact many of us appear agitated when our check-out time is
lengthy. Occasionally when we find ourselves in the express line, we
count the articles in the basket of people ahead of us to see if they
meet the requirements of ten items or less. The two Soviet women had no
idea how what they were seeing could happen.
Our culture literally has been built on the strength of our diversity. In our own way, we serve one another. If this were not so, gasoline stations would run dry. Surgery would be reserved for the wealthy. Pharmaceutical products would not be available in every drug store. The shelves of grocery stores would be depleted within hours.
The fact is that an incredible
variety of products, goods and services are available because over 200
million Americans are faithfully doing their jobs in serving one
another. Not all companies are like Enron. Not all chief executive
officers are thieves. It is when we feed ourselves a diet of such
failures that we blur the truth and feed the wolf that knows nothing of
Because most of us pull together in the same direction, using our joint wisdom, insights and talents, the future looks incredibly bright. If the rest of the world wants what we have, let them build the communities that produce the same results. All of us must put away our fears and mistrust of each other. Everyone must do their part in serving the rest. This is the only way our roads, bridges, schools, hospitals, airports and manufacturing facilities are built. Such creations are the result of a spirit of cooperation inspired by vision, character and integrity. Our faith traditions have a fundamental role to play by keeping us on task. They represent our compass.
We will discover that when we
remain faithful in the small things, together we will be able to work on
the larger issues like global conflict, disease, famine, and poverty.
This will happen not because we are special or favorites of God. These
events will happen because we are being faithful to the way God made
us. We were wired at birth to create with our minds, emotions and
spirit. When each of us shares our creative abilities, not only do our
unique talents multiply, but we also serve to make God's spirit visible.
There is so much for which to be thankful. We cannot allow our differences, or the fear-mongering of a few to shatter our concentration on remaining faithful to the values that create life. Tonight I ask all of us to persevere in our faith traditions, so that the values upon which our country was founded will not perish because of neglect, indifference and petty intolerance.
We must stand together and celebrate the inheritance we have received. Tomorrow will be safe and productive in ways that are beyond anything our best fantasies can imagine. It will happen because many of us have joined hands today, as did our ancestors, to help make it so. Amen.