A Pentecost 23 Proper 27
November 8, 2020
It is amazing to me how many times the lectionary matches up with the reality of the moment with words that I can preach on that jive with the gospel or some other reading of the day.
Today just isn’t one of them. No matter how I looked at them or prayed with them, there wasn’t any way I could make sense of where we are this morning with Joshua asking Israel not to serve other gods or that the dead in Christ will rise again, or that ten bridesmaids waited for a groom to show up late for his wedding. Perhaps there is something there, but it eluded me.
Little of that matters or speaks to us as a congregation or a people of this country on this morning after a long and very divisive election that pretty much split America in two. Maybe the only thing to be said is that there were ten women who were split down the middle as to how they acted and what they did.
Today we wake to a new era. Many of us are overjoyed and relieved. Some of us are devastated and angry. Some of us have been waiting for four years for this moment. Some of us have voted for a party we’ve never voted for in all our lives.Some of us are worried that taxes will be raised to challenge our ability to live at the level we just barely exist on now. Some of us are frightened that socialism will take over our democracy. Some of us spent yesterday dancing in the streets. Some of us spent yesterday devastated and deeply concerned.
I have heard several comments of being grateful for the outcome that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are the President and Vice President elect. I think most of us here are in that category, but perhaps not all of us. King County voted for Biden by 75%. There are still 25% of us who didn’t.
Four years ago today I wrote a letter to the congregation saying that I knew that many people were devastated by the result of the election that year. Many were grateful for the words I wrote. A few were angry at what I said. It was OK. We live in a country that allows us to vote for who we believe will be the best to lead us into the future. All of us should be grateful for that. We get to vote! Our country exists because we are free to choose our leaders. That is something to celebrate.
Last night I asked a few of you what you thought I should say today. A couple had quite a lot to say and a few just said, “preach a good sermon.”
Most of the responses were, that it’s been a long week in a long campaign that pitted half our country against the other half. Many felt both relief and sadness at the same time. Most of us have some concern or fear of what the coming days will bring.
The essence of it all was that we need a new beginning. We need healing to make us whole again. How do we bring a divided country back together again? Especially when neither side is really interested in doing so. How do the little things we do matter to heal the whole of us? How do we move forward when many of us think, “I am right and you are wrong.”
I am pretty sure that if not for Covid, gun violence in our schools, and maybe especially the murders of Brionna Taylor and George Floyd,
President Trump would have been re-elected.
The registration to vote of many people, especially people of color, happened after the Black Lives Matter protests of this summer.
Young people registered in staggering numbers after David Hogg and the other students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School came together to say that gun violence has to stop.
The virus that has plagued our nation like no other place on earth has killed too many people and destroyed too many lives. We cannot ignore its effects on our society and our economy.
These things have galvanized many, many Americans. Both sides are screaming that we have to fix what is wrong, but we have two ways of achieving that goal. And both sides are good at making us fear and hate the opposite groups.
Can we heal? Can we find a place where we can come together to know that there is more to do than fight each other in the name of Jesus? Christians are pitted against Christians. People today are praying for both sides with the same energy.
How should we pray? How should we act? Someone on my Twitter feed this morning wrote: “There’s work to be done. Damage to repair. Institutions to restore. Change to be made. Don’t step away. The old “normal” no longer exists. Let’s work to make something better.” (Joanne Freeman @jbf1755)
Don’t step away! That I think is the gospel reading this morning. That is the Good News and the Hard News. We have so much to do to bring us together as a nation, to understand each other, and honor one another as the children of God that we are,” We are still called to love our neighbors as ourselves; to be the hands and feet of Christ in the world. To feed the hungry, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked.
Because this was such a brutal election, we will need to love each another more, serve those on the margins more, fight for racial justice more. And it will mean not stepping away either from the work we have to do or the people we don’t want to know or like or love. It will mean loving one another as God sees us and loves us.
We have turned a corner and before us is a chasm that needs crossing. We must build a bridge so that both sides can cross over to meet the other and heal. How we do this will be the work of our lives. We can’t go back if we want to survive as people or as a nation. These are huge obstacles and I’m not naive. But someone will need to take the first steps.
Justice demands actions that make us accountable to the ways we have behaved in the past that have harmed others. It will be a painful process and require many of us to listen to hard stories that we don’t want to hear.
Peace demands that we stop the name calling and rage tweeting and see something good and name it in the other. That will require us to call upon our better angels and bite our tongues when we want to rip someone to shreds.
Honest discourse demands that we wrestle with our differences and find common ground so that there will be a future for any of us. I’m not sure anyone is ready to say this morning, “I am not always right and you are not always wrong,” but most of the time it’s true.
All of this will ask us to confront our fears. We must always listen to that angel who says, “Do not be afraid.” Now is not the time to step away.
None of this will be easy! Maybe it won’t work. But it certainly won’t if we don’t try. If we walk away and continue to spew vitriol at each other, then we are lost. And our faith tells us that we are never lost in God.
Let us pray.
Almighty God, who has given us this good land for our heritage: We humbly beseech you that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of your favor and glad to do your will. Bless our land with honorable industry, sound learning, and pure manners. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion, from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes brought together out of many kindreds and tongues. Endue with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in your Name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that, through obedience to your law, we may show forth your praise among the nations of the earth. In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in you to fail; all which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Reverend Patty Baker, Vicar
St. Clare Episcopal Church