High River United Church of High River, Alberta


In Hope, There Is No "Them" or "Us"

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I have long held onto the wisdom that there is no “them” or “us”.  We are all human.  When we cause harm to another we harm ourselves.  When we act compassionately toward one another we appeal to the human heart—we become aware of not only our experiences of pain and suffering, but we also “see” each other as wondrous creatures full of capacities for love, understanding and gratitude.  When one or more of these capacities emerge, any notion of “them” and “us” fades away and we experience a deep and simple joy.


The deep and simple joy that I am trying to capture here is not merely happiness.  I’m not all that interested in happiness as much as I am interested in the felt sense of joy that comes over me when I become aware of something deep within me (in my soul) that springs forth when I encounter beauty, goodness, intimacy, a sense of home, the divine…   Happiness can be trite and self-serving.  Joy is a fully spiritual and embodied experience that comes from being in service to a much higher purpose.  For me, joy is the domain of the Divine.  Joy gives rise to hope.


I begin with these thoughts because they help me find words for a multi-faith conversation that Susan and I are having with our neighbours.  At the moment, we are Christians from the United Church and the LDS Church, along with members of the Bahá’i and Muslim communities.  We believe in the principles and practices of being a neighbourhood at a time when most people are too busy to bother about their neighbours or take time to know who they are.  Not knowing leads to not understanding which leads to not trusting which in turn leads to “them” and “us”.  There is no joy on that path.  To recover joy and foster hope, we need to understand our neighbourhood even more.


So, Susan and I decided that if we were going to practice neighbourliness and consider our church to be a neighbourhood church, we should find a way to get to know our neighbours.  We have met twice with our neighbours in faith.  We invite each neighbour in faith to bring a cherished reading from their authoritative writings that corresponds to a one-word theme.  At our first meeting our focus word was neighbour.  At our second gathering our word was hope.


We learned that each of our traditions hold an obligation to tend to our neighbours—to love them, to take care of them, to provide for them, to make sure they are OK.  In terms of hope, we learned that hope springs forth from a deeper wisdom that serves to advance human community and compassion in the face of suffering and hate caused by “them and “us” thinking. We learned that hope emerges when we embrace our weaknesses and allow them to teach us humility.  We learned that hope is born from God’s power at work within us when facing loss and life’s transitions.  Hope is expressed by individuals and by communities.  Hope comes from joy which comes from being one with the other.  Hope emerges from conversations that give rise to understanding, awareness and tolerance.  Hope nourishes relationships, creates community and builds neighbourhoods.


Hope is a product of joy that arrives on our doorstep everyday.  It melts away intolerance and division, creates room for a deeper appreciation of one another’s gifts and wisdom, and helps us become even better neighbours in faith.  In hope, there is no “them” or “us”.


Rev. David

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