Homily – 23rd Sunday in [Extra] Ordinary Time in a Pandemic

Dear Friends, we continue on in our journey, always attempting to be our best selves, warring at times against our purely human natures and our divine natures that ask, push us really toward being all that we can be. It was great last Sunday to be “together ” via Zoom–to see familiar as well as some new faces. Always feel free to invite family and friends to join us–part of our church name, All Are One, certainly implies that all are welcome to join us!

Entrance Antiphon

O God, today you ask us to harden not our hearts when we hear your voice. Be our strength in this task.

Let Us Pray—

Opening Prayer

O good and gracious God, in you, justice and mercy meet. With unparalleled love you have saved us from darkness and drawn us into the light of your life and love. Open our eyes to the wonders this life sets before us. Let us sing joyfully to you who are our Creator, Savior and Loving Spirit and who lives and loves us forever and ever, Amen.

Readings: Ezekiel 33: 7-9, Romans 13: 8-10, Matthew 18: 15-20

The homily comes to us from Pastor Dick Dahl this week—thanks Dick—enjoy, friends!


From exile in Babylon the prophet Jeremiah spent ten years trying to convince the Israelites who remained in Jerusalem and Israel to turn from their sinful ways. In the same way a verse from Psalm 95 calls out to us today, “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” As much is at stake, for us today, as was for the Israelites, in 597 B.C.

Paul tells us what this means in his letter to the Romans. He had come a long way in his personal transformation from a Pharisee who believed that following over 600 rules was necessary to please God to the apostle of Jesus who tells us, “All the commandments …are summed up in this saying, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence, love is the fulfillment of the law.”

I’ve had a sign in my front yard for a couple years that reads, “Love everyone, no exceptions.” But what does this mean? Or better yet, how to do it?

I found some practical suggestions in an essay that my friend Jerry Windley-

Daoust recently wrote titled, “We Need to Stop Fueling Partisan Violence.”  In it he lists specific ways to curb partisan animosity. When I asked him if I might borrow extensively from what he wrote Jerry generously agreed. Here are thoughts from the ending of his essay:


To reduce the chances of violent mass partisan conflict in the coming months, “Each of us needs to start disciplining our tongues and texts. No more partisan name-calling. No more angry screeds that reduce our ideological opponents to their most obnoxious beliefs and actions. No more ad hominem attacks — they’re no good at persuading anyone to come to your side, anyway. And no more childish self-righteous claims that our own party is morally superior — that “the other party started it,” or that our

party’s sins can be excused because the other party’s are worse.

“No more scrolling past the toxic rhetoric of our political allies, either. Instead, we need to actively disrupt those patterns of moral disengagement by pointing them out to friends and allies.

“We need to get to know people from the other party — not through superficial encounters, but substantial interactions. Researchers tell us that Americans are intentionally avoiding members of the other party more than ever before. Sticking with our own tribe is way more comfortable, but to temper partisan conflict, we need to take a deep breath, channel our inner grown up, and engage with people on the other side.

“I can hear a chorus of objections already — heck, I have my own. We see people in the other party saying and doing outrageous things. And the issues at stake in this election go to our most primal values: safety, personal liberty, human dignity. How can we “stand down” when the stakes are so high?

“Over the past few years, I’ve read many good books about how we might bridge the partisan divide. But perhaps the most powerful guide I’ve encountered in this quest is the writer and educator Megan Phelps-Roper.

“She’s the young woman who grew up picketing military funerals, synagogues, and other venues with hateful slogans because of her family’s involvement with the extremist Westboro Baptist Church. As a young adult, she and her sister bravely walked away from that lifestyle (and her family) thanks to the generous and patient persistence of a handful of people on Twitter.

“My friends on Twitter didn’t abandon their beliefs or their principles — only their scorn,” she said in a 2017 TED talk describing her experience. “They channeled their infinitely justifiable offense and came to me with pointed questions tempered with kindness and humor. They approached me as a human being, and that was more transformative than two full decades of outrage, disdain and violence.”

“After recounting her remarkable story, she offered a warning that is even more relevant today: “I can’t help but see in our public discourse so many of the same destructive impulses that ruled my former church,” she said. “This path has brought us cruel, sniping, deepening polarization, and even outbreaks of violence. I remember this path. It will not take us where we want to go.”

“Her TED talk is well worth viewing in its entirety. Here, though, I’d like to

summarize the four strategies she offers for having difficult conversations with people whose views you find repugnant.

“First, assume your opponent has good (or at least neutral) intentions. It’s easy to ride that initial wave of anger, Phelps-Roper says, but assuming ill motives pretty much kills any possibility of a constructive conversation. We get stuck imagining our opponent in the one-dimensional role of evil villain. Instead, we need to imagine them as complex human beings with a lifetime of experiences that led to the beliefs you’re contending.

Perhaps, too, we need to try to imagine them as their best potential selves — the way Phelps-Roper’s friends were able to imagine her in a better light.

“Second, ask questions. Asking questions opens the way to constructive dialogue because it lets your opponent know she is being heard; most likely, she will reciprocate by asking a question of you, too. “When we engage people across ideological divides, asking questions helps us map the disconnect between our differing points of view,” Phelps-Roper says. “That’s important because we can’t present effective arguments if we don’t understand where the other side is actually coming from.”

“Third, stay calm. This is difficult when our opponent’s rhetoric sends us into fight-or-flight mode, but it’s important — and powerful. Phelps-Roper recalls how one of her Twitter friends — a religious Jew who eventually became her husband — handled the tensest moments of their conversation by making a joke, changing the subject, or excusing himself from the conversation for a while.

“Fourth, make the argument. Phelps-Roper says that when we have strong beliefs, we can be tempted to assume “that we shouldn’t have to defend our positions because they’re so clearly right and good that if someone doesn’t get it, it’s their problem — that it’s not my job to educate them.” Uh-uh. If we want to change people’s minds, we need to do the work of showing them a different way of thinking. It’s not easy, because people’s strongest beliefs have usually evolved over a lifetime, and are tied up with

their tribal allegiances. But Phelps-Roper isn’t the only person who has been persuaded to change her way of viewing the world. And who knows? We might change some of our own views, too.

“It all boils down to this: There is always more to people than their worst ideas, beliefs, or behavior. And our allegiance to the American ideal of unity amid diversity must trump our allegiance to party and ideology. We should continue debating the best course for the nation as vigorously as we always have, but we should do so as fellow human beings, and fellow Americans. Because if we don’t, our 3 a.m. nightmares, about the future of democracy in America, may end up being worse than we ever imagined.”


With that, I end my extensive quote from Jerry’s article. The challenge he raises is quite personal for me. My neighbors of 20 years with whom I’ve had a cordial relationship have just put up yard signs of the people in office running for reelection for which I have little respect. Despite our long and friendly relationship, my neighbors and I have never discussed our political or religious views. Their nonverbal expression of those views with the posting of their yard signs has made me feel almost ill.  This is not only the kind of situation Jerry wrote about. It is also what Jesus speaks about in today’s Gospel. We come to truth in community. The bonds of sin are dissolved when we reconcile with each other. We experience Jesus’ presence when two or more are gathered together, if not in his name, at least in an effort to honestly understand and overcome differences.

Perhaps few have epitomized this effort better than our former President Abraham Lincoln. On March 4, 1865, a little over a month before the horrendous Civil War ended and 41 days before he was assassinated, he gave his Second Inaugural address and ended it by saying, “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right let us strive on to finish the work we are in to bind up the nation’s wounds, …to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

Prayers of the Faithful

      Response:   “Merciful God, hear our prayer.”

  1. For the leadership within the Catholic church, especially Pope Francis and all our bishops, that they would open themselves to the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, for all of us, we pray—Response: “Merciful God, hear our prayer.”
  • For those among us or in our wider community, who are suffering in any way today, we ask your healing touch O God, for this we pray—

     Response: “Merciful God, hear our prayer.”

  • May the wisdom and grace of the Spirit overshadow all those in public office and those asking for our votes, to strive to be people who will truly work to care for the least among us and to bring peace to our world, we pray—

Response: “Merciful God, hear our prayer.”

  • That we would not harden our hearts when we hear your voice asking us to care for your hurting world, we pray—

     Response: “Merciful God, hear our prayer.”

  • For our community, All Are One, continue to send your Spirit upon us to enable us to be an inclusive community, open and welcoming to all, we pray—

    Response: “Merciful God, hear our prayer.”

  • For the strength to follow in your footsteps Jesus, even if it brings shame and ridicule, we pray—Response: “Merciful God, hear our prayer.”
  • For all those suffering from the ravages of hurricanes and fires, that they would find their way with the help of governments, with their neighbors and friends and you, O God, we pray—Response: “Merciful God, hear our prayer.”

8.  Loving Jesus, be with all families who have lost loved ones this week, from Covid 19 and all other causes—give them your peace, that they may find their way through their grief, we pray—Response:  “Merciful God, hear our prayer.”

***Let us pray for your particular needs—you may say them aloud, then response

***Let us pray for the silent petitions on our hearts—pause, then response

Let Us Pray

   Good and gentle God, our source of all strength and wisdom.  We ask that you would give us peace—filled and loving hearts—let our hearts not be hardened but help us to be merciful to all and accepting of all in our lives and in our wider world. Help us to be the change we want to see in our world, realizing that all and any change begins with my change of heart. We ask all of this of you, our good and loving God, who is Creator, Savior and Spirit, one God, living and loving us forever and ever.  Amen.

Let Us Prayagain today we must be without the bread—your body, the wine—your blood—but truly remember that you are always with us—in our lives, in our prayers, in our loving of others.

Prayer after Communion

Dear Jesus, thank you for the gift of yourself today—like a deer that longs for running streams, may we always seek after you in our lives and follow you faithfully—we ask this in your wonderful name, Amen.