“Ellen & George… An Odd Couple!”

October 20, 2019


Robin McGonigle
University Congregational Church
Oct. 20, 2019

“Ellen & George… An Odd Couple!”
Romans 12:9-18

Two weeks ago, you would have thought hell froze over! Americans watching the Dallas Cowboys football game spotted Ellen Degeneres and Portia de Rossi sitting with President George W. and Laura Bush! Imagine it… a liberal lesbian couple sitting with (gasp!) a known Republican and former President.

But neither Degeneres nor the Bushes would accept the shame dished out by the public. Both addressed the controversy – on twitter; on television; by video; and even via a press release. Goodness! You’d think there wasn’t more substantial news to talk about. But in our divided world today –
• a Republican and a Democrat acting like they were getting along … IS NEWS.
• A conservative and a liberal sitting together publicly… IS NEWS.
• Two diverse people with different people and their spouses spotted on TV getting along… I guess THAT’s NEWS.
It’s news especially if it happens in Texas! Here’s the whole story:

“So Portia and I were invited by Charlotte Jones,” DeGeneres said. “She’s the daughter of Jerry Jones who owns the Dallas Cowboys. And we went because we wanted to keep up with the Joneses.” She then showed the audience a video she had taken at the game which showed her sitting with President Bush.

DeGeneres then joked about rooting for the Packers since she is friends with their quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, and cheering every time they scored “or every time another whistleblower came forward. ”
“The referees, you guys, the referees,” she told her laughing audience.
She then addressed the criticism she faced because of being seen laughing with Bush, saying “People were upset.”
“They thought, why is a gay Hollywood liberal sitting next to a conservative Republican president?” DeGeneres asked. ” A lot of people were mad. And they did what people do when they’re mad… they tweet.”
But instead of sharing some of the negative tweets aimed at her, DeGeneres shared one which said, “Ellen and George Bush together makes me have faith in America again.”
“Exactly. Here’s the thing. I’m friends with George Bush,” she said. “In fact, I’m friends with a lot of people who don’t share the same beliefs that I have. DeGeneres said she believes people have forgotten that we are all different and that that’s OK.
The former vegan used the example of how she doesn’t approve of wearing fur, but is still friends with those who do.
“But just because I don’t agree with someone on everything doesn’t mean that I’m not going to be friends with them,” she said. “When I say, ‘be kind to one another,’ I don’t only mean the people that think the same way that you do. I mean be kind to everyone.”
The Bushes, it seems, feel the same. “President and Mrs. Bush really enjoyed being with Ellen and Portia, and they appreciated Ellen’s comments about respecting one another. They respect her,” Freddy Ford, Chief of Staff for President George W. Bush, said in a statement to CNN. Cnn.com 10-18-2019
Since I’ve always worked during the day, I’ve never really had a chance to form an opinion about Ellen, but this story made me smile about both George and Ellen! They are an odd couple, these two, but I like their attitudes – especially in today’s polarizing climate: Be kind; respect one another; spend time with people whether you agree with them or not; befriend people regardless of their opinions and beliefs.

Romans 12:9-18 is subtitled “The Marks of a True Christian”. It is an explanation of the practical ways a Christian should act:

Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord,] Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
In the Greek text, Paul compares the spirit of a Christian to the fire in an old-fashioned stove – it must be constantly aglow – to keep the house warm and be ready for cooking and similar tasks. We are to be a steady stream of hope, not just when we feel like it. We are to be hospitable to all in need and their need is the reason – regardless of our state of willingness or ability to share.

I was on a tour of Heartspring this week and I met their Interim CEO. When she learned that I am the Sr. Minister here at UCC, she mentioned that she looks at our sign as she drives by each day. She said that she was particularly impressed with our community service and that we had a sermon series earlier this year on World Religions! And she said that she would have liked to have attended had she not had a commitment at her own church. She explained that she believed it is important for people to know about other traditions and to find respectful understanding of various beliefs. First, I was excited that someone took notice of our sign; but I was most impressed that someone remembered what was on our sign 5 months ago! Our sign is a witness in ways we don’t even know… and in this case it told someone that we seek to understand others with whom we differ. Isn’t this what Jesus meant when he said that we must “love our neighbor as ourselves”?

We know that fewer and fewer people are coming to church every week in the United States and in most developed nations around the globe. But that doesn’t mean that the church can’t be going outside its buildings and being the church wherever the people of God are in the world. I think that George Bush and Ellen Degeneres took the church to the Cowboys Stadium last week and we got to see it on television!

When we go about our everyday lives from 11:30 am on Sunday until 10:00 am the next Sunday, we have the opportunity to take the church right out of this building into the everyday world! We are the church wherever we are and people are watching. We are foolish if we don’t recognize it. When we go to the restaurant and we are talking with our family and friends, our wait staff and the people at the next table notice. And they know we’ve been in the pew recently. They may see how we tip or how we talk or what we say about the other people at church and while we may not think they noticed, they did. We have the chance to bring the message of love and compassion right to their eyes and ears!

I read an article in the magazine Sojourners recently by Kaitlin Curtice, who wrote,
“I am still called to love when I am in the line at Target.
I am still called to love when I’m getting the oil changed in my car.
I am still called to love when I’m sitting in a coffee shop.
I am still called to love when I walk in the woods and watch the birds outside my window.

So, as we re-evaluate our church settings, let’s consider that the church is already out there, and we need to let her do the work she’s already been doing for centuries.

Let’s consider that the church is already us, as sure as we live and breathe.

That doesn’t give us a tally mark on the attendance record every Sunday, but it does give us a fuller sense of how to care for our communities and our shared humanity.

It instills in us that Jesus, until his last breath, engaged with people in every part of his day, whether he was standing in what we would call a ‘holy place’ or at a well outside the city.

Getting people back in church isn’t the answer to our question, because the question should never have been asked in such a way. Instead we ask, how are we the church? The answer will be right in front of us, for better or for worse.

The answer will be in the way we teach our kids to love the other, in the way we use our homes to host others, in the way we practice generosity. The answer will be in the language we use and in our ability to live a life of grace despite what political side we stand on. The answer will be in the way we see life, in the value we place on the journeys of the people around us.” Sojo.net April 10, 2017

I think George Bush and Ellen Degeneres did more for the morale of the US two weeks ago than anything I’ve witnessed in several years. We need to pay attention to these acts of goodness and not criticize them. I realize that some people said that Ellen needed to take a stand against President Bush because of some of his political stances on various issues and that she is friends with privileged people – and that she is privileged. That is true. But this was a moment when she taught us all a different lesson and one that was also of value.

Maya Angelou said it this way, “If we lose love and self-respect for each other, this is how we finally die.” Friends, this week I invite you to reach across the chasms you see and laugh with someone, eat popcorn with someone, sit next to someone, or just be present with someone with whom you disagree. (You don’t need to talk about your differences, just be gracious). Be like Ellen. Be like George. Be an Odd Couple. It will do your heart good!