November 13, 2016

Proper 28 Year C, Gretchen Rehberg

Surely it is God who saves me, I will trust in him and not be afraid.

I have had a number of phone calls this week from friends, fellow priests, who have been wondering what to say this Sunday, the Sunday after an election which has people bitterly divided.  Divided and not understanding each other, not listening to each other, not comprehending the other person’s views.  An election which saw once again a split population.  To all of my friends, and to myself, the answer I give is the same – preach the Gospel.  Preach the Gospel because that is our job, preach the Gospel for it is the only message which really matters.  Preach the Gospel because it is only the Gospel which saves. 

Sure it is God who saves me, I will trust in him and not be afraid. 

The reality is that people in this congregation voted on both sides of the political spectrum.  This is not the issue.  The issue is not the fact that well meaning citizens of our country can have quite different thoughts and approaches to the challenges which we face.  We can disagree on economic policy.  We can disagree on the best way to provide energy, the best approach to health care, the priorities for our budgets.  In fact, I would make the case that having different points of view is not only healthy for our country, it is essential.  I might think I have the answer to some problem I am facing, but unless I listen to the voices of others I won’t know if there is a better answer out there.  Politically I personally think one of challenges facing our country is that so many are unwilling to actually listen to the voices of others, to really listen, not simply give lip service to listening. 

But that is not our issue here this morning.  In this country sometimes republicans win elections, sometimes democrats win elections, and it is a good thing.  It is good to be put into the position of loyal opposition at times, good to have to justify your point of view, good to be challenged to actually do the work of governing.  But for many people, republican and democrat alike, this election was different from what we had seen before.  I am sure that historians would tell us other elections have been just as bitter, that other elections have seen language just as offensive and crass, but personally this was the first time I have seen what appears to me to be such casual acceptance in a presidential election of language which demonstrated sexism and racism, religious bigotry and violence.  For many people, republican and democrat alike this election seemed to cross lines which were considered uncrossable, and so people are questioning what they believed about our country.  

Followers of Jesus can disagree about political issues, but followers of Jesus must not disagree about the life of Love, the life of compassion and mercy and forgiveness and loving-kindness that is the life Jesus lived and called us to live.  Followers of Jesus can debate and argue and disagree about policy, but the followers of Jesus must not debate who is a child of God, instead we must proclaim loudly that all are children of God.  Followers of Jesus can have political opponents, but we are not allowed to turn opponents into enemies. 

The issue we face this morning as followers of Jesus Christ is what type of witness to Jesus will we be.  Will we preach the Gospel – all of us, every single person who follows Jesus, will we witness to the life-giving message of the Gospel, preaching it in our daily life by the way we live?  For that is exactly what we must do.  Last week Jesus spoke challenging words to us – love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who persecute you.  I said last week and I say again – we can do this, WE can do this, and we must do this.  For if the followers of Jesus don’t, nobody will.

We witness to our faith, we witness to Jesus, by how we live and how we respond.  Surely it is God who saves me, I will trust in him and not be afraid. 

To republicans and to democrats, to greens and libertarians and independents alike – our political parties cannot save us.  Our nation cannot save us.  Only God can save us.  And God has saved us.  Our task then is to live into that salvation, the salvation of God through the Grace of Jesus Christ.  We live into that salvation by following Jesus, living the way of Jesus, and witnessing to Jesus. 

In our baptismal vows we say that we will seek and serve Christ in all persons loving our neighbor as ourselves.  As followers of Jesus we are to witness to the unconditional love of God.  As followers of Jesus we don’t set limits on that love.  We see Christ in the face of the person who looks different, dresses different, speaks different.  As followers of Jesus we know that our neighbor is the man lying in the ditch beaten by robbers, our neighbor is the one who treats all with mercy – even the one who his society has called the enemy.  And our neighbor is not just our neighbor but our sister and our brother, for in God all are family. 

In our baptismal vows we proclaim that we will respect the dignity of every human being.  As followers of Jesus we cannot tolerate words and actions which denigrate, dismiss, and hurt another.  We must speak up in the face of violence and oppression, verbal violence as well as physical violence.  Violent words, words which hurt are to be called out regardless of who speaks them.  We cannot proclaim love by using words of hate.  We cannot proclaim mercy and forgiveness and compassion by using words of denigration.  As followers of Jesus we can disagree, in fact we most assuredly will, at the same time disagreement is not dismissal. 

To proclaim by word and example the good news of God in Christ is to proclaim the resurrection, it is the message of hope and not fear, love and not hate, life and not death.  We witness to the believe that men and women no matter how separated they might think they are, separate by religion, by culture, by wealth, by political belief, by color or language or nation – that all of these things which the world say separate us are nothing to God.  We witness to the fact that while the distance might seem great and the path to reconciliation long, this is the work of Christ and Christ has already done the hard part, our task is to cooperate with that work. 

In this time of division, of fear, of discord, we are to witness to the Gospel in such a way that people see our witness and are invited into the Gospel, into the Good News.  If we don’t, who will?

Surely it is God who saves me, I will trust in him and not be afraid.

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