A Sermon for Proper 28: Isaiah 65:17-25, Canticle 9, 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13, Luke 21:5-19
I don’t remember Monday and Tuesday of this past week. I was not surprised that Mrs. Clinton received 33% of the Arkansas votes and Mr. Trump 61%, or in Mississippi county that Mrs. Clinton received 43% and Mr. Trump 53% (AR Secretary of State). I never expected Mrs. Clinton to earn 228 electoral college votes and Mr. Trump to earn 290 electoral college votes to win the presidential election (Google). I expect that some of you are as pleased with the results as I am concerned. You may have read Wednesday’s post in which I shared how I found some release of my fear in Philippians 4:6
Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
You may also have read Friday morning’s post where I retract my release. Not because I no long place my trust in God and God alone, but because I was reading of violent, vitriolic behaviors of both Trump and Clinton voters towards people they believe were now the enemy. I cited the Old Testament law on how to treat the alien, which also means stranger. The law says to love them as you love yourself (Deuteronomy 10:19, Leviticus 19:33-34). And I believe this applies to everyone who is demonizing the other because of a vote they cast, or a vote they think the other cast, or because they are somehow different than themselves and that difference is a threat. All of this is still swirling around in my head and in my heart, and I had no idea how to address it this morning except that I am called to speak.
Our Bishop posted a letter, which I emailed to everyone that the church’s calling is to set the moral guideposts. There are copies of his letter on the table in the hall. What I am discovering is that today’s reading provides us a guide for planting those posts. We begin with the collect for the day where we prayed
that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ.
The Episcopal tradition is that the burial rite is an Easter service that seeks to move us through our loss and reconnect us to the resurrection promise of new heavens and a new earth. Tuesday’s election is about loss. Many people who voted for Mr. Trump did so because they have known decades of economic loss and the social status associated with it. Many of those who voted for Mrs. Clinton did so because in the last decade they have begun to see liberty and justice our pledge says is for all but has excluded people of color, those from foreign lands, Native Americans, women, and those of the LGBT community. The church’s calling is to, by our actions, share with them the Easter promise revealed in Jesus’ resurrection.
Isaiah’s prophecy, delivered in a time of retching national loss, gives voice to God’s promise to create new heavens and a new earth. Verses 21 – 23 makes references to houses, vineyards, fruit, children, and prosperity. It is a reference to the current economic injustice that shall not endure (Bratt). As I have mentioned, there are some voters who have suffered economic injustice as they were left behind in our country’s economic transformation over the last 20 or 30 years. The trade policies and technology, which shifted jobs, in themselves are not evil. The injustice is that “We the people” (as we name ourselves in the Constitution) did not ensure that no one was left behind. Many were, and many of them voted Tuesday. The reading ends:
Before they call I will answer, while they are yet speaking, I will hear. The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox; … They shall not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain, says the Lord.
I have to confess my notes by the side of that reading say “God, please hurry up!”
Canticle 9 begins
Surely, it is God who saves me. I will trust in him and not be afraid. For the Lord is my stronghold and my sure defense, * and he will be my Savior.
It fits well with Paul’s admonition, I mentioned earlier, to lift all our concerns to God. It is a reminder that violence, even against violence, begets only more violence. It is a reminder of the tragic failure of Israel when they talk Samuel into anointing a king for them “to go before us and fight our battles” (1 Samuel 8:20). By the end of the third king’s reign, the Israel had been divided in two, and it was never restored. To this day, ten of Israel’s twelve tribes are gone. Of course, the failure was Israel’s turning away from God as their defense and stronghold. No one, no King, no president, no governor, no business leader, no one can fight for us, and only God will stand with us until we walk upon a new earth.
Of course, there are always those folks who try and convince us otherwise. Late night TV is, well it used to be, I don’t see late night TV so much anymore, late night TV is full of ads for products that do amazing things for only $9.99, “but wait ~ there’s more!” Today our computers, tablets, and smartphones are one endless stream of highly sophisticated targeted messages luring us into the same trap. Some news analysists are concerned about the trend towards Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms as the primary source of news. And yes, they have an economic benefit in the existing system, however; they have a point in that anyone on social media can post anything and there is no hope of any kind of fact checking. There have been instances in the last couple of years of a traditional news outlet not following good journalism standards, but they are few and have been called out, and there have been consequences, ask Rolling Stones. Another trap of social media is that you are more likely to be bound to those who already think like you, why else are you ‘friends.’ The result is that you are rarely exposed to thoughtful expressions that challenge your beliefs. And my experience is that when my belief is challenged is when my belief deepens and grows. This is a long way of saying I hear Jesus warning
Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, `I am he!’ and, `The time is near!’ Do not go after them.
in Paul’s caution
to keep away from believers who are living in idleness and not according to the tradition that they received from us.
In part, a role of the church is to ensure that followers are formed in the traditions handed down from 1st century until today. That includes reshaping ancient traditions grounded in ancient social norms, so they reveal the same truth in today’s social norms. Jesus is very clear there is no other savior than Jesus, and anyone who says otherwise will lead you off the way. And here I will admit this can be very difficult because it is not uncommon for one church community to interpret ancient scripture in today’s social norms in very different ways from another church community and both believe the other is leading to idleness. Jesus warning continues
When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately. … Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven.
It sounds frighteningly relevant. Jesus goes on to say “Don’t worry, be a witness.” Once again we are back to the graveside, back to Easter, back to the resurrection promise, where all our hope lays. There is no promise that there is no danger, that there will not be treachery and persecution and death. Nonetheless, there is the assurance of a new earth. Now this does not mean those who suffer from injustice etc. should lay down and just wait for God to get here. It does; however, provide an interesting source of strength to stand up against the evils of this world with love, listening hearts, helping hands, accepting manners receiving the stranger as one of our own, for we too are strangers in our own land.
I am intrigued by the movement for people to wear a safety pin. The origins go back to WWII Dutch resistance; more recently it is used to quietly show victims of domestic violence that you are a safe harbor (DaddyBare) (Workowski). Now it tells people you are safe for aliens, women, LGTB folks, those of color, those who are economically dispossessed, by the election results (Durando) (Kearns). However, to be of God that safety should also extend to all those who have suffered economic injustice from changing economic structures. This is one of those hard teachings from scripture that all people are people of God and that God loves them no matter how much they frighten us. The moral guideposts we are called to set lead the way to one people, by Jesus, under God, with liberty, and justice and shalom for all.
My reading Saturday bed time, and Sunday morning revealed that people are stepping up. Both Democratic and Republicans are stepping in to protect those who are being harassed or assaulted. In North Carolina the State GOP and Trump campaign disavowed a KKK rally. All signs that we cam love the stranger and trust in God to be the source of strength,
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