Lectionary 32A Pr28
Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church
November 8, 2020
Joshua 24:1-3, 14-25
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
Grace to you and peace my friends – the peace from God that surpasses all human understanding. Amen. Please pray with me – may the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our Rock and our Refuge and our Fortress. Amen.
[It was four years ago that we experienced another contentious presidential campaign. Many of my thoughts and words to you today are drawn from the sermon I preached that first Sunday after the election in 2016. And as I write this, there still is not a declared or apparent winner.]
What a week, yes? What a campaign we’ve witnessed. What an election! What a reflection on our society and our life together.
Think back with me. I remember November 22, 1963. I suspect that many of you too remember where you were and what you were doing the day that JFK was assassinated. And, January 22, 1986 when the Space Shuttle Challenger tragically exploded.And more recently September 11, 2001, a day that changed life for us in more ways than we could ever have realized. My mom and dad would have included December 7, 1941 on this list as well as fourteen days in October 1962 in which the world edged perilously close to nuclear war in the Cuban Missile Crisis. Other dates may come to mind as well.
And then there is November 3, 2020. The culmination of the presidential campaign in which we heard things we thought we would never hear, saw things we thought we would never see. When many went to sleep hoping there would be a result in the morning. And here we are, days later still hearing counts and results as they trickle in. We see windows that are boarded up in anticipation of violence. We hear accusations from people of both parties. Arguments are framed. Lawsuits are filed. Lines are drawn in the sand. Sides are taken. We are a nation in conflict.
Now, what is it that distinguishes November 3, 2020 from those dates we just listed – from November 22, 1963, from January 22, 1986, from September 11th, from December 7th, from October 1962 and from August 29, 2005? All of those others were attacks of sorts from forces outside of our country. This date, November 3, 2020 is significant because it reflects the polarization and division of a nation from within.
We have seen friends and families at odds with each other, perhaps even not speaking. We have seen people afraid to reveal their political opinions lest they be shunned or shamed or worse. There has been bullying and name-calling and hate speech. There is no shortage of fear and distrust.
There are some among us who yearn for four more years to continue changes that were started, who are worried that our national pride and international stature will slip away if the “other one” is elected, who worry that their notion of the American Dream will fade, I beseech you to be patient. Some of your brothers and sisters are despairing at what they see as the loss of humaneness and basic caring for each other. Many of these brothers and sisters feel betrayed by our rulers – men and women who have grown richer and richer while they have struggled just to keep a roof over their heads or to find jobs that pay more than a fraction of what they made twenty years ago.
There are some among us who are desperate for change, who wonder how so many of our friends could possibly have supported a man who seems to them to be the antithesis of a true follower of Jesus Christ. I also beseech you to “be patient.” The vast majority of these people aren’t racists, misogynists, or homophobes. The vast majority don’t hate people just because they are different. They are still your neighbors, still right here by your side.
Hear these words of St. Paul written to the church in Corinth:
If anyone is in Christ they are a new creation; everything old has passed away; everything has become new. All this is from God who reconciled us to Godself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation.
That word “reconciled” or “reconciliation” is key – it is from the Latin and means to bring back together. Don’t we need this today! What is the means by which we, as Christians, are brought back together??
It is our baptisms. This is what happens at the font when we witness or participate in the Sacrament of Holy Baptism: we profess our faith, we renounce evil, we promise to live in community with one another; we make a commitment to learnand grow in our common faith, we promise to be Gospel-bearers as we care for one another and also for the “other” and we commit to seeking and pursuing justice and peace. This is what we promise at baptism. All that we do individually and together must be guided by this standard as we grow as followers of Jesus. This may seem daunting or even impossible. Yet, we are empowered to do this by the gift of the Holy Spirit poured out upon us in these waters.
So those watershed dates we talked about – dates of calamity and alarm – push those to the side. Replace them with the date that is most significant for you as a follower of Jesus -- the date of your baptism. And there may be another that touched you closely – a time of crisis and turning, a time of deep connection, a time where you knew or sensed that you were wrapped into the Divine. If you don’t have one of those dates, let today’s date be that date -- be the date that you knew that you are not alone, that you belong, that Jesus loves you more than words can proclaim. And that we each are joined up together to bear good news, Gospel news, barrier breaking, earth shattering news.
My friends, we as a nation of people seem to have lost the ability to talk together. Often in our communication we don’t hear another because we are already moving toward what we will say in response. We receive the words of others through our own filter of suspicion. We speak to justify ourselves and those of similar belief. It is not so in the family of faith. As those who have been reconciled to God in Christ and then given the ministry of reconciliation, we do things differently. We listen not just with our ears but with our hearts. We speak not just with our tongue but with our spirit. We act not out of our own self-interest but because of love for each other.
Hear the Good News, Here is the Gospel
We are not in this alone
We are in this together
We do not all agree on all things
We agree on the single most important thing
We are washed in the waters
We come to pray
We know that we need each other
We stand at the foot of the cross
Warts and all
Our unity is found in this holy ground.
And as we stand and gather we offer up what we can
We offer up our Hallelujah
When words fail us
When there seems to be nothing to say
When all seems to come to an end
We set our hope in God