Romans 12: 9 – 18, 21 To a Grandchild June 7, 2020

Here is this week’s sermon:


And the words:

To a Grandchild

Romans 12: 9 – 18, 21


(preached June 7, 2020)


There’s a saying that a Christian should go through life with a Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other.  These days we might say a Christian should go through life with a Bible in one hand and a device in the other, tuned in to the news on line.  But the point is the same: being a Christian means paying attention to what’s going on in the world.


These days it’s hard not to be overwhelmed by what’s going on in the world.  For months, the news has been of illness and fear as the COVID 19 pandemic has spread, taking so many lives. This past week, the news has shown the streets of our cities filled with protesters demanding justice for African Americans killed by police.  In a few cases, violence has broken out, but most of the protests have been peaceful.  Black and white people together have shouted their outrage and called for change.


At times this week, I’ve been frightened and angry, as I imagine you have been. As I prepared this message for today, many questions arose.  What could I say, to us who seek to hold both the Bible’s wisdom, and the world’s struggles, in our hearts and minds?  And what could I encourage us to say about what’s happening in our country?  The questions are not easy, but I can’t ignore them.  Silence is not an option in the face of the injustice that oppresses so many, simply because of the color of their skin.  But how to speak out in a way that will help us, as Paul puts it, “live in harmony with one another?”


As I considered this, it seemed that one way to speak out might be to talk with the young people in our lives.  So today’s message is what I imagine I might say to a grandchild who is asking about the painful struggle we’re going through in our country.  I’m going to imagine I’m talking with a child around 8 years old.  Eight year olds know about right and wrong.  When my kids were growing up, eight was a great age for board games, with rules of the game and consequences for breaking the rules. Eight year olds can have a hard time understanding when the rules get applied differently to different people.  How often have you heard an 8 year old say, “It isn’t fair?”  So here’s what I would say to an 8 year old grandchild, and to the 8 year old in each of us:


When I was growing up, we were taught that the police were our friends.  They visited our schools sometimes just to say hello.  Police officers help keep us safe.  One day when I was a new mom, with young baby, I was stranded on the highway when my car died.  A state police officer came along and asked what was wrong.  After I explained, he gave me and my baby a ride to a gas station where I could call for a tow truck (yes, it’s hard to imagine, but we didn’t have cell phones in those days – we actually had to go to a telephone.).


I felt safe with that police officer.  Our communities need police officers; they help us.


Now, here’s something you may be learning about in school: in the history of our country, people have not always been treated fairly.  People who look like us, white people, have usually been in charge.  We have not always been fair to people who don’t look like us; whose skin may be a different color from ours.


I think that’s because there’s a side to human nature, something in all of us, that’s sometimes called sin.  We don’t talk about sin much these days, but it basically means that there’s something in each of us that wants things to go our way, just for us.  Sin makes us put ourselves first, even when it hurts somebody else. Sin makes us, when we have an advantage, not want to give it up so someone else can have a better life.


I believe that every one of us is a child of God, created by God to love one another as we love ourselves.  I believe that God helps us keep from sinning.  God helps us act from the best parts of ourselves, what President Lincoln called our “better angels.”  In his letter to the Romans, Paul urges us to live by those better angels. He says, “So far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”


But sometimes we ignore those better angels.  Sometimes someone may decide that the best way to have a good life for themselves is to keep other people down, even hurt them badly.  Sometimes a whole organization, something we need to keep us safe, starts keeping other people down.  Sometimes, in some places, it’s white people keeping black people down.


Adults have a name for this. We call it systemic racism.  That means it’s not just a couple of people who don’t listen to their better angels.  A whole system doesn’t listen those better angels.  And that’s what’s happening now in some places.  That’s why people are angry and marching for justice.  And because you and I are Christians, we should also work for justice, until all people are treated equally.


That’s what I would say to a grandchild.  Because, when we’re looking at a big problem, it may seem hard for one or two people to make changes.  But the one thing we cannot do is be silent.  We have to speak, even if it’s just to our family, so the next generation can live in a more just world.  When our own words fail us, we can borrow Paul’s:


“Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good…so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”


Rev. Elva Merry Pawle

Pentecost 1



Here is the piano music:


And the lyrics:

“More Love to Thee”

Elizabeth Prentiss/William Doane


More love to thee, O Christ, more love to thee!

Hear thou the prayer I make, on bended knee,

this is my earnest plea, more love, O Christ, to thee,

more love to thee, more love to thee.


Once earthly joy I craved, sought peace and rest;

now thee alone I seek, give what is best;

this all my prayer shall be more love, O Christ, to thee

more love to thee, more love to thee.


Let sorrow do its work, send grief and pain;

sweet are thy messengers, sweet their refrain,

when they can sing with me, more love , O Christ, to thee,

more love to thee, more love to thee.


Then shall my latest breath whisper thy praise;

this be the parting cry my heart shall raise,

this still its prayer shall be, more love , O Christ, to thee,

more love to thee, more love to thee.


ANd here is the organ music!

God Bless!