A sermon for the Sunday after an election, Church of the Epiphany, Euclid, Ohio, 2016
First and foremost, if you hear nothing else from me this morning, please hear this: God loves you. I love you. I’m glad we’re in this together.
Now. About last week.
Last week, we renewed the promises of our baptismal covenant. We remembered the promises God has made to us, in creation, in the Incarnation of Jesus, in the resurrection of the body and the communion of saints.
And we remembered the promises we have made, with God’s help. Do we still remember them?
I ask because next week we’re going to make them all over again, when we baptize the youngest and newest member of our church family. We will promise, with God’s help, to mold the world in which he grows up as closely as possible to the kingdom of God.
I wrote on Wednesday in my blog that the work of this week looks much the same as the work of the last. It is the work we signed up to do when we made those promises. “Brothers and sisters, do not be weary in doing” that work.
We promised, you remember, to continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers.
And here we are: so far, so good. We are still together, despite political differences, busy schedules, or the debilitating depression of having too little to do. We are one body, sharing one bread, members who know that we have need of one another, with Christ at our head.
Then, we promised to resist evil, and whenever we fall into sin – not if, but whenever – to repent, and return to God. This may be treading on less safe ground. What does resisting evil look like in this time and place?
In our prayer of confession we repent aloud of the evil that ensnares us, the evil we have done, and the evil done on our behalf. It is easy to repent of our own evil. But that which is done on our behalf? That which ensnares us? To take responsibility for the sin in which we live and move and have our being is hard work. Resistance is not futile, but it is frustrating. Still, “brothers and sisters, do not be weary in doing” what we have promised.
And we have promised to proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ. When people see us coming, they should expect good news.
Which brings us to those other little promises tacked on to the end of our list. The promise to seek and serve Christ in all persons. To respect the dignity of every human being. To love my neighbour as myself. To strive for justice, and peace.
The work hasn’t changed since last week. But some of the challenges have.
The dignity of women, for example, and their right to freedom from sexual harassment has never been guaranteed – ask any woman. But public statements which appear to legitimize or dismiss such attacks have raised the urgency of demanding respect for our dignity, regardless of gender or gender identity, sex or sexuality.
The status of refugees and immigrants is by definition precarious and vulnerable. There is a mandate throughout scripture to be kind to the stranger among us, to treat each alien as an honoured guest. The need for kindness for those in our community whose future feels unsafe, whose place among us is unsecured, becomes exponentially greater in times of stress and upheaval, change and uncertainty.
We have talked together many times about the injustice of the racism that continues to plague and infect our common life together. The work of resisting that evil assuredly has not gone away in the past week. Unfortunately, some in our society have decided that this is a time to exercise and amplify the voices of hate. Racist slogans: Make America White Again, have appeared on community walls. Students of colour have found themselves targeted with frightening and threatening messages, images of lynching.
The promise that we made to strive for justice and peace has not changed, but its challenge has been raised.
This is not a party political statement. Because here’s the dirty secret of the kingdom of God: it is not a representative democracy. It is not a republic. God does not wait for our mandate. “As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.” And God will still be God.
The outcome of last week’s election is important. It will be profoundly important in the effect it has on the lives, the livings, the conditions of the people in this house, and in these United States. We pray for the best outcome for us all, and hope not to become weary in working for what is good. Because the work of the people of God, the citizens of the kingdom of God, has not changed in the past week. We are always called to love God above any leader. We are always called to love every neighbour as ourself; not just to be agreeable, but to love them, feed them, soothe them, defend them to the end. Because that’s what love does.
“Brothers and sisters, do not be weary in doing what is right.”
We have our marching orders. We have made our promises. Do not be weary.
I’ve been trying to work on some positive ways to put my promise into practice. I’ve been asking each day, “What shall we do tomorrow?” and I’m open to suggestions. Here are the gestures I’ve made personally towards the promises I’ve made. I’m sharing in case they give you some ideas:
I’ve subscribed for the first time to the New York Times. Information is important, and in an age of quickly shared memes and themes with little fact-checking, I think it’s time to take time to seek out true stories. And a free press isn’t free.
I have applied to become a volunteer for Refugee Response, to tutor or mentor a family settling in the new world of Greater Cleveland. I remember what it was like to be a new immigrant here, a stranger in a strange land.
I wrote to our closest mosque and a few synagogues assuring them of prayers for my fellow friends of God, for the safety and peace of their congregations and families, inviting them to call on me to back up those prayers with practical assistance if I can be of service.
I’m still working on the repentance and return piece. It’s a process.
I have returned to the teaching and fellowship of the apostles, the breaking of bread and the prayers.
Just yesterday, we were given the opportunity once more to witness to the hope of the resurrection, celebrating the life of our friend, Gene. I was reminded, once more, of the love of God, the life that we share. I am glad we are in this together.
Next week, with the baptism of Robert, we will once more ponder the mysteries of a life lived just this side of eternity, yet replete with the promises of God. We will once more renew our own baptismal promises, joining our voices together in hope, in promise, in prayer, never wearying of the words,
“I will, with God’s help.”