Sermon,  Sermons

Reconciling Action

sermon video, pt1. Click for parts 2 & 3.

Emma Hart Willard (February 23, 1787–April 15, 1870), America’s first professional female mapmaker.

The sixteenth of seventeen children, Willard grew up in an era when girls were barred from formal education beyond primary school. In her long life, far exceeding her generation’s life expectancy, she went on to become a pioneering educator, founding the first women’s higher education institution in the United States when she was still in her thirties. Willard understood that improving the future requires a robust understanding of the past, so that one may become an informed, engaged, and effective agent of change in the present. In her early forties, she set about composing and publishing a series of history textbooks that raised the standards and sensibilities of scholarship. In 1828, having just turned forty, she authored what would become the country’s most widely read history textbook: History of the United States, or, Republic of America.”

Brain Pickings

She famously said that women “are an essential part of the body politic, whose corruption or improvement must affect the whole.”

Those who were in power, who made decisions on behalf of all the people, were men. And they decided that women did not have the disposition or sensibilities to attend institutions of higher education. While equal pay and an Equal Rights Amendment are still errant, all levels of education in general are now reconciled, available to everyone irrespective of sex.

During this 4-part Reconciling Ministry series  . . .

We defined reconciliation and discovered that we are defined by reconciliation.

Matthew 5: 22But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister . . . if you insult a brother or sister  . . . if you say, [“You’re crazy, fool”], you will be liable to the hell of fire. 23So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you,24leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.

We learned how reconciliation happens in the context of covenant, and covenanting presupposes reconciliation.

“We are Christ’s agents. God speaks through us, [God trusts you with God’s message] helps us convince others to stop fighting and be friends again. We speak for Christ who begs you: be at peace with God and with each other.” 2 Corinthians 5:20 ~NLT

You speak for God, you speak on behalf of Jesus, to show people how to be friends – how to stop fighting, being unkind, and show them how to be kind again to each other – because we made a covenant with one another to be in right relationship with each other.

We saw how reconciliation happens in the sacrament of communion and is made possible by that which is symbolized in the eating, drinking, remembering – it is holy, sacred.

Reconciled in one body through the cross, putting to death the hostility between people groups, between the Jewish Law and Ultimate Grace, True Love. (Ephesians 2) . . . 21In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; 22in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling-place for God.” Grows patulous with leaves and fruit

And now we must conclude that it doesn’t just happen on its own (aside from the ultimate reconciliatory act of Jesus’ very being) – it is an action, and it is active – perpetual, a choice. It is a freedom – vulnerable and frightening, yes. Still, within reconciliation we find we cannot live within the bond, the mask, any longer.

I am reminded of the quote from James Baldwin:

“Love takes off the masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within.”

James Baldwin

Jeremiah was shown, when we attempt to create our own molds, or form someone else’s vessel, the cistern becomes cracked, doesn’t hold water. God shows Jeremiah another truth: God made the clay itself, and God can refashion, recreate the vessel.

Love, ultimate love: Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection – altered the physics of the human body, that created vessel.

So here’s another great word – your word for the day: Deracinate

It means, To uproot; To take something from its native environment. (from home country, weeds from the garden)

Clark believes he was deracinated from Aurora.

Bob and Ken deracinated the weed-jungle around the tree in our back yard.

And Onesimus was deracinated from his home, sold into slavery to Philemon. At some point Onesimus runs away from Philemon to make his own way as a free man.

Philemon had every right under the law to have Onesumis imprisoned or even executed. But, Paul asks Philemon to forgive Onesumis and go even further to welcome him back not as a slave, but as a full member of the family. Absolutely unheard of. Though, I suspect there may have been some who eschewed societal conventions, but, not usual.

Paul asks Philemon to be reconciled with Onesumis, to be an example of the reconciling action of God in our world, to actively live out that reconciling act and being that marks us as followers of Christ. To live in the love that empowers, enables, recreates right relationship.

19For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.

21 And you who were once estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22he has now reconciled in his fleshly body through death, so as to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him.

Colossians 1:19-22, NRSV

Jesus reconciled our minds and hearts inclined to do things in ways other than how we are made – that is, to be in right relationship with God and one another – Jesus reconciled our contrary way of living and being – in his own flesh, his very own body, through death. And by doing so, we are blameless. That is our reality – now!

Still . . . Still, I choose to feel slighted by husband, or pretend to have things in hand when I could easily ask for help – putting on that darn mask I fear I cannot live without and know I absolutely cannot live within.

Julian of Norwich, the first woman to write in English, received a revelation of Jesus’ action on the cross. Jesus shows her that by accepting the cross, all of creation is reconciled with the Creator. And the work is made visible by its effects, that is, the sacraments as signs of divine grace and the compassion perfected on the cross, now enacted by the one whose soul Christ indwells – enacted by you and by me.

Debate as sacrament where “sacred truths are revealed, and holy moments are elevated.” (Rebecca Simon-Peter) It is a mimicking, acting out the Trinitarian being – a perfect flow of giver and receiver of this gift.

It is not an enclosed, internal thing – intimate, yes – but as we are issued from, born out of, continuously brought into life, never leaving, ever outward – we are nurtured, protected and live God’s revelation outward. We become indwelled by Christ – externalized (we live out Jesus’ mission in the world) – Christ indwells while we are enclosed, the soul healed while turned outward to participate in the “drama of salvation,” imitating his passion through acts of compassion. It’s both-and. It’s a mystery.

The same Christ. The same God. The same Spirit. This Trinitarian creator/redeemer/sustainer act and being, indwells and empowers us – all.

To action.

Milo Kauffman is an old family friend of my in-laws, and retired professor of Literature at U of I, has a collection of poems. One is devoted to Julian:


Julian never leaves her church-room,
learns the more that comes from less,
gives the ancient truth new meaning,
solitude is perfect bliss.

Truest art is self-concealing,
truest merit, unproclaimed;
Truly plumb the private moment,
then you have the cosmic framed.

In her cellular compartment
Julian joys to see the Lord,
striding through the uncreated,
holding as a nut the world.

In another vision, later,
Julian sees the human lot
dramatized as errant Adam
stumbling, falling—who would not?

Sin’s behovely, that’s the footnote
to the volume of her lore,
but love’s the text, as is God’s pity,
and love will settle every score.

Tell me how a virgin woman
lone, sequestered in a cell,
came to grasp the boundless truth that
Heaven’s not a room in Hell.

— U. Milo Kaufmann, Selected Poetry 2004-2017, 72

Heaven’s not a room in Hell. When we create the walls that divide, define difference, separating one from another. When we say only these people who act like this or don’t do that are eligible for heaven, we decide on everything that is not heaven (that is, hell) – and Heaven becomes a room rendered uncomfortably small.

Julian, deracinated from her family, enters a cell. Due to effects of her near-death illness, embraces the solitude and uses it to read and research and pray and meditate and write and counsel.

Reconciliation doesn’t just randomly happen  – it is an action, and it is active – perpetual, a choice. It is a freedom reminding us we cannot live within the bond, the mask, any longer.

What is it that needs reconciliation? It is the thing (whatever it is) that is making everything fall apart in our relationship with God and our relationships with one another:

In Jeremiah, it is worshiping our own efforts, the products of our money, power, excesses . . . ; “depending on other gods, glorifying the wealth and status they enjoyed, rather than God and God’s companionship.” In Isaiah 58, putting on others “the heavy yoke of oppression . . . pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumors!” Ezek 16:50, lack of concern for the vulnerable while living in excess, and it was Sodom’s arrogance that was the abomination to God.

When we get caught up in all the details on which we might disagree – even hold strong convictions about – when those details divide us, we are not living into communion and covenant with each other. We do not grow stronger in expressing God’s love for all creation.

If I say to you, “you are wrong about your notion of God’s heart on a matter” (implying you aren’t really seeking God) I am “liable to the hell of fire” (So says Jesus in Matt 5:22).

But if I am hearing God, and you are hearing God, and we listen for God’s voice, God’s Word  . . . the Word that God is watching over to perform  . . . in each other, perhaps we might overlay the x-ray and the gamma ray and the ultraviolet and infrared – and see a little more clearly into the vastness, the universe, the incomprehensible God of the universe – who also wants to be known by us!

This is reconciliation. This is reconciling the covenant that we made with one another and continue choosing to make with each other as members of the UMC, Durand. Because it is an ongoing choice to covenant.

Reconciliation is not just agreeing to disagree. Reconciliation that argues it out and settles the matter of how to move forward together, that is based on a covenant with one another, that is obtained by communing together – this reconciliation is active. We choose to listen into one another’s perspectives without assumptions.

My perceptions have changed over time. My theology has shifted, acquired nuances, and might even look completely different on some issues than when I was younger, when I attended seminary. One might even say that a few points of doctrine have been deracinated, weeded out from my earlier belief system.

I’ve found, on countless occasions someone abstained from broaching a subject assuming I hold a certain opinion . . . until a random comment suggests otherwise. How much communion was missed in the meantime?

We dedicated the Lori Froehlich Memorial Garden last week – as a “Telling Place”, sacred, where earth and heaven meet. When we consider the space between us in this way . . .

It is active, but not in listening for certain things. It is active in being present – actually going to the space where hearing, understanding is the goal. It is actively orienting perception away from ones own thoughts and ideas about the subject. It is actively listening for wisdom, divine speech, from another.

Some weeds are easier to deracinate than others. Some are easy to pull, but have covered a lot of ground. Bob and Ken met the range of stubborn weeds last week I our back yard, and it was hard work! but wow, the lovely perennials that were previously obscured bring a serenity to the view from our living room.

So let us practice this active reconciliation, this deep listening together. Deracinate the stubborn weeds of unmovable opinions, perspectives. Let us commit to be in prayer over ways we can be intentional about being present to wisdom, divine speech in one another.


  • Barbara L. Smith

    This morning I sat and read about the Reconciling Action. It has given me a whole new insight of myself. I realize I need to listen to others and possibly look at myself in a different way. Thank you for helping me realize this. I’m hoping I now can look at my sister who is getting weaker and find ways to help her with her struggle. I feel I have been too wrapped up in my own feelings .

    • Nicole Oliver Snyder

      Barb, how much you encourage and strengthen my soul. It requires great courage to apply a clear eye to ones own perception – I often find it painful and exhausting! Thank you, for being gracious enough to share your reflections here. I pray others find encouragement and strength from them, as well! Also, please tell me how I can help you support your sister. If you’d like for me to visit when you plan to – or something else? please let me know. Peace over you, Barb.