So… how are y’all doing? I mean really… how are you doing?
It’s been a few days now since the election and I expect folks on both sides of the aisle are still trying to get their brains wrapped around how things worked out. I normally look at the readings for the upcoming week right after church on Sunday, but we had lay reader training last Sunday… and then I attended a friend’s installation as the new rector of an Episcopal church down in Cobb County, so I didn’t get around to it. I was pretty busy early in the week and it was only on the morning after the election that I was able to sit down and spend some time with Scripture, so I could start thinking about crafting a homily for y’all today. I read the bit from Isaiah and then the passage from 2nd Thessalonians. I looked at the options for the Psalm. Then I turned to the Gospel. Really? You’ve got to be kidding me. This Sunday of all Sunday’s… Jesus is talking about the coming apocalypse. Great. And it’s not even Advent yet.
And I know that this is an apocalyptic time for some of us. During the weeks and months leading up to the election, we were daily subjected to a never-ending stream of the most dire predictions imaginable about what would happen if this candidate won, or if that candidate won. And I’m pretty sure that at one point, many of us made an internal decision about where we stood on the issues and the candidates and stopped paying close attention to the incendiary rhetoric and “bomb throwing” of the campaigns. I know I did at any rate… it was kind of a survival strategy for me. There’s just so much of that I can take. But, for some reason, people feel safe talking about this sort of stuff with me and I would sit and listen as folks told me about what they thought and how they felt about their candidate, whichever one that happened to be. And you know what? After taking the time to really listen to what they had to say, I came away feeling much better about the future of the country, regardless of how the election might turn out. I learned that, while both of the major candidates had their “fringe” supporters, troubled citizens who inhabit the extreme left and right spaces within our democracy, there are many, many others… who aren’t mean people… who love their neighbors in the broadest sense of the word, and who want America to be a “city on a hill,” and a beacon of hope to the world… and some of these people supported one of the major candidates, and some the other. You know, one of the best things about our system of government here in the U.S. is its checks and balances. Sure, the polity of the country swings back and forth based upon the “crisis of the moment:” maybe it’s the economy, or perceived injustice, or threats to our safety and security or a variety of other factors… most of which have to do with fear… but the swings are not generally extreme. Change takes time in a democracy and, if things aren’t going in the direction most people want them to go, they can elect someone else to drive the bus for a while. The back and forth can be a little maddening, but in the long run, we find our way. You remember what the late, great Winston Churchill said about democracy, don’t you? He said, “[It’s] the worst form of government… except for all the others.”
So here’s the crux of what I want to say to you today: don’t be afraid. Have faith in your fellow human beings, from both sides of the aisle. Lay aside your cynicism and talk to people with differing political viewpoints… and really listen to what they have to say… not because it will cause you to change your own mind about what you believe, but because it will help you understand that most of us, regardless of which candidate we supported in the presidential election, have far more in common in our hopes and aspirations for this country than we think we do when we allow our fears to taint our perspective. And pray. Pray for the President-elect. Pray that he makes good cabinet choices. Pray that his understanding of the awesome responsibilities he is inheriting as President continue to evolve and that he receives wisdom to exercise the authority of his office for the good of all. Pray for Congress, and the Court that they may fulfill their roles in checking unbridled authority and keeping the three-legged stool of government properly balanced for the good of the people.
And here’s the biggest thing you can do, and it comes straight out of our Gospel today: testify! Testify to Christ’s love and redemption to those beset by injustice, and in great need of hope. Testify to our responsibility as a people of faith to love and not judge our fellow human beings. Testify to those with the means and vision to effect positive change in our society the value of human dignity and equality. Testify to the power of peace and reconciliation in healing the divisions between the nations and peoples of the earth. In short, testify by your words and actions what it means to be the Body of Christ in the world. That’s something no government or President can do for you, you know. I wonder if, sometimes, we want our leaders to be out in front establishing social norms and making laws so that all we have to do is what society expects of us. It kind of relieves us of the responsibility of taking a stand for what is right, doesn’t it? Certainly it offers us a path of least resistance. But I’m pretty sure that we weren’t put here on earth to take the easy way. That’s not the example that Jesus has set for us. Jesus turned the world upside down by his words and actions and he expects us to do the same. And perhaps that’s the “silver lining” of the cloud that seems to have enveloped us lately: the opportunity to testify to the love of God and the brotherhood of all humanity. So, fear not. And pray! And if you’re lucky, you may get the chance to testify! And should that happen, don’t let the opportunity pass you by.