Hold Fast to Hope

hope_by_licks_ninjas2

I told myself I wouldn’t let it happen.  I prayed that I’d steer clear of it.  I wrote two blog posts in a row against it.  And I failed.  Last night, as I watched the election results, I fell into fear.  As a minister of the Gospel, called to care for “young and old, strong and weak, rich and poor,” I stand firm against any and all forms of racism, sexism, Islamophobia, xenophobia, anti-semtism, and any other oppressive force employed by human beings against another human being.  I watched, somewhat from the periphery for my own mental well being, as the candidate Donald Trump tapped into these very forces in order to drum up an electorate from every nook and cranny in every one stoplight town in America.  And last night, as the map turned red along with the stock markets, I let fear creep into my heart.

I confess before God and you that I thought the worst, if only briefly, about the millions of Americans, some of whom are my dear friends, who cast a vote for Donald Trump.  I got angry at the hatred and fear that seem to run rampant in this country.  I went to bed at 11:30 bitter and afraid.  I hope you will forgive me for my fearful thoughts last night.  I know that God already has. I woke up to my alarm clock at 5, picked up my phone, and read Morning Prayer.  Somewhere in them midst of Suffrages A, I found the peace that passes all understanding.  I let go of the fear and the anger, and I was reminded, yet again, that my calling to care for the outcast, oppressed, widows, and orphans does not depend on who occupies the White House.  I felt a calm resolve to be about the Gospel and to show and share the love of God with everyone I meet.

Then I opened Facebook and saw my newsfeed filled with the vitriol that had made my night so restless, and I felt sad, and, quite frankly, embarrassed by the reaction of my Hillary Clinton supporting friends.  It seems that both sides have forgotten that the other is made in the image of God and we are called to love our neighbors as ourselves.  As I scrolled and wondered how it is I had moved from fear to peace so quickly, I kept being drawn to the word “hope.”  The reaction I was seeing was one of hopelessness, and I realized I can’t buy into hopeless.  Instead, as the Collect for Proper 28 reads, I am holding fast to hope.

Over and over again in the Scriptures, the mouthpiece of God, be it an angel, a prophet, or even God’s own voice, commands us to not be afraid.  When we fall into fear, we allow the deceiver access to our lives.  We see others as the enemy.  We see resources as scarce.  We engage in zero sum games, when the reality is that in the Kingdom of God, there are no losers.  Fear is not the Gospel, hope is, and hope leads us to action.  So today, like every other day, I commit to sharing the good news of God’s love with a world that needs to hear it; I commit to checking my privilege with regularity; I commit to caring for my LGBT sisters and brothers; I commit to learning more about the ways in which young black men are incarcerated and killed at a much higher rate than any other group of people; I commit to supporting my Muslim brothers and sisters in their right to worship without fear; I commit to making sure the poor have the means by which to escape their poverty; I commit to welcoming immigrants and refugees as Jesus Christ; I commit to a life of hope  because God is still in control.  I hope you will join me in holding fast to the hope that comes from God and God alone.



You’ll have to forgive a little bit of eisegesis on the Collect for Proper 28C, but the day after a Presidential election this divisive seems to invite some pastoral latitude.

Advertisements

Do not be weary in doing what is right

Four years ago yesterday, I wrote my most popular blog post ever.  It was the day after President Obama won his re-election campaign against Mitt Romney and my sense around social media and in the real world was that people had lost perspective on the place of American politics in God’s larger plan of salvation.  “Why I’m Grieving Election Day” was read by more than 40,000 people in 24 hours.  It received 140 comments and was shared thousands of times on Facebook.  It struck a chord, to say the least.

That post is getting some retread this week as we once again go to the polls to elect a President for these United States.  Once again, my Newsfeed and conversations are filled with people who are praying that their candidate would be elected, and that the future of American depends upon it.  Mark Twain’s War Prayer would remind us that these prayers also includes the unsaid prayer that God would forsake the cause of the other side.  Prayer is a dangerous activity, and we would do well to consider what it is we are really praying for before we list our candidate and his or her platform.

Here’s the thing: come tomorrow, or whenever this national nightmare is over, the call of Christians will be the same whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton becomes the President-elect.  We are to, as the Apostle Paul wrote, “not be weary in doing what is right.”  As my friend Megan posted on a Facebook thread yesterday, “God’s still in charge no matter who wins tomorrow. But equally as important, our call to preach the gospel, free the captives, help the struggling continues no matter who wins too.”  Or, perhaps better yet, as the Apostle Paul told the Christians in Thessolonica, “Do not be weary in doing what is right.”  We can not let the world take away our impetus for love, which, I’m sorry to say, this election cycle has worked hard to do.

And so my word for today, both here and on my social media platforms is quite simple, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.”  If we can get that part right, as the Diocese of Ohio bumpers sticker reminds it, we will change the world.

lovegodbumpersticker

Many will say “the time is near”

bn-qp497_2pgmo_m_20161103014429

Late last week, the Babylon Bee, a satirical Christian news site made in the image of the Onion, posted an article entitled “Second Coming of Christ Scheduled for Game 7 of Cubs-Indians World Series.”  Quite honestly, that Jesus didn’t come back during that rain delay is surprising to me, but who knows, perhaps God’s omnipotent plan for all of Creation doesn’t revolve around the decaying pass time of the current largest empirical economy in the world.  I’ve seen others who think that maybe tomorrow will be the day.  This is again an American-centric plan that suggests that the 2016 Presidential election between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump might be the catalyst for Jesus’ Second Coming.

Of course, Jesus warned us about such foolishness. In Sunday’s timely and unavoidable Gospel lesson, we find ourselves jumping ahead to Holy Week.  Since most Episcopal congregations skipped over Proper 27, Presumably in order to transfer All Saints’, but likely because nobody wanted to preach levirite marriage, after almost four months of walking with Jesus from Mount Tabor to Jerusalem, we all of a sudden find ourselves in Jerusalem in the thick of Jesus’ struggle ahead of the cross.  Last week’s lesson was h the first of several encounters with the religious powers-that-be.  This week, we hear a portion of Jesus’ ongoing lament over Jerusalem, and how the central image of God’s steadfast love for his people has been sabotaged, and now has to be torn down.

Even then, Jesus says, even when God allows his very home to be destroyed in your midst, don’t let people fool you into thinking it is something bigger than it is.  There will be wars and rumors of wars.  We’ve got that.  Earthquakes.  See Kansas and Oklahoma.  Famines. Check. Plagues.  Isn’t Whopping cough making a comeback?  Portents in the heavens?  A Wrigley Field sign that reads “World Series Champs” would seem to qualify.

If you are looking for signs, they will no doubt seem to be there, and yet, we do not know the day or the hour.  Instead, rather than getting caught up in the signs and the scare tactics, Jesus invites us to trust that he will be by our side.  As we go to the polls tomorrow, fueled by a healthy dose of fear mongering from both sides over the past year or more, remember that even if the world were to end tomorrow, not that I think it will, God is still in control.

Why I’m Grieving Election Day

I am sad today.  I’m not sad that President Obama was elected to a second term.  I wouldn’t have been sad if Mitt Romney had been elected either.  My high school civics class instilled too much confidence in checks and balances to get all worked up about who is sitting in the oval office.  And besides, Congress will, no doubt, continue to be totally dysfunctional for the foreseeable future.  No, I’m grieving Election Day for a different reason.

I doubt I’m the only one who has run across people, in person and on social media, who have had their faith rocked by last night’s Presidential election results.  As I stood in line to vote yesterday, I heard more than one person put this election in terms of spiritual warfare, and “if only Christians got out to vote,” the right man would be in office come January 20, 2013.  This morning, as I sat among 15 mothers and grandmothers, many conservative Christian homeschoolers, at library storytime, it felt like a wake, or at least the day after GOE results came in the mail.  Eyes were downcast.  Conversations were hushed.  Expressions were sullen.  One person told me, “I’m just so disappointed in yesterday’s election.  I mean, I just don’t know.  I prayed.  I prayed for our country, and he still won.”  Based on the feedback I’m seeing on Facebook and Twitter, there are plenty of people who would have been saying the same thing had a few swing states swung the other way.

I’m sad that this is what American Christianity has come to.  I am deeply grieved that the collective faith of the almost 250,000,000 Christians in the US (according to Pew Research) has become so intimately tied up with the empire.  (Obviously not every Christian feels this way, but c’mon, it’s the day after Election Day, broad brushes are encouraged)

The problem, it seems to me, is two-fold.  First, American Christians have, by and large, lost a sense of what it means to pray.  If you prayed for our country, and your candidate did not win, does that mean that God didn’t answer your prayer?  Or did he just not answer it the way you wanted him to?  I believe that prayer is, as I said a few weeks ago, “a consciousness of God’s presence, love, direction, and grace.”  It isn’t about winners or losers, it is about listening, discerning, experiencing, and loving.  If you prayed for God to help you decide who to vote for and you voted for Mitt Romney, good for you.  If you prayed for God to help you decide who to vote for and you voted for Barack Obama, good for you.  Odds are, you probably both heard the will of God for you in your life.

Which leads me to my second point, the American Church has been so tied up in the modernist obsession with truth that it has lost its ability to teach people how to follow Jesus.  At some point, beginning in the early 1920s, the American Church’s fundamentalist wing shifted the conversation in American Christianity from “being a Christian” to “being a believer,” and forever altered the landscape of politics and religion in America.  The end result, as we saw again in this year’s election, is that for many Christians, liberal and conservative alike, there is only one way of being a Christian: subscribing to a list of beliefs that are required for entrance into heaven.  If both sides believe that they have the inside track on God’s truth, then we have no choice but to cast the others into outer darkness.

Instead, what the Church should be modeling is a way of living the Gospel that leaves room for the work of the Spirit.  If the Church is teaching people how to live into the Kingdom of God, then we have to be comfortable with the notion that smart and faithful Christians will read the Bible and find in it different priorities, different meanings, different ways of being disciples.  We have to be OK with that.

This is a blog about the Bible, and as an Episcopalian, I’m a firm believer in the three-legged stool of Scripture, Tradition, and Reason.  I suppose at this point I’ve appealed to Tradition and Reason, so now I will appeal to Scripture.  In the Second Track of the Revised Common Lectionary, the Psalm appointed for this Sunday, is #146, which opens with these verses:

Hallelujah! Praise the LORD, O my soul! *
I will praise the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.

2 Put not your trust in rulers, nor in any child of earth, *
for there is no help in them.

3 When they breathe their last, they return to earth, *
and in that day their thoughts perish.

4 Happy are they who have the God of Jacob for their help!*
whose hope is in the LORD their God;

5 Who made heaven and earth, the seas, and all that is in them; *
who keeps his promise for ever;

6 Who gives justice to those who are oppressed, *
and food to those who hunger.

As disciples of the Lord Jesus, we should take our place in the life of the country and exercise our right to vote, but our trust should not be placed in election results, candidate speeches, or political platforms.  Our trust is in the Lord who made all that is, seen and unseen.  Our trust is that God is bigger than politics, and for that we should offer him thanks and praise.  Whether you are a Republican or a Democrat, a Libertarian or an Independent,  be happy this day that you have the God of Jacob for your help, place your trust in Him, and seek after his kingdom, his desires, his will.  I promise, you won’t be disappointed, no matter the results.