Every year I dread the conversation about politics around my family’s Thanksgiving table. This year, I dread it more than ever before because it seems that the chasm of the political divide between urban and rural America is not crossable. It shakes me to the core and rattles my sense of identity that I have such different opinions about our country and our world than those people who raised me and taught me how to be a human. The most deeply painful part of it is for me is that these are the same people who taught me to be Christian. It’s become clear that we have very different ideas of what it means to follow Jesus.
Last night during his discussion of Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw’s Book Jesus for President: Politics for Ordinary Radicals, Rev. Stacks reminded us that to follow Jesus means to follow a man who got murdered by the Roman empire. To follow Jesus means to profess that Christ is Lord, not Caesar. To follow Jesus means to love the poor, not just the middle-class. To follow Jesus means to care for the orphan and the widow and the stranger. Regardless of the fact that I believe one candidate would have done far less damage to the people God calls us to care for, both Clinton and Trump are a part of the American empire, an empire I never expected to save us. For far too long, we’ve confused being Christian with being American. For far too long, we’ve thought that having American values is the same thing as having faithful virtues. Obama, Hillary, and Trump all believe that America is the greatest nation on earth, and they all desire us to be the first and the best and the most successful. Jesus told us that the first would be last and the last would be first. Jesus told us that we are to side with the least of these. Jesus told us that if we want to truly live, we must die to ourselves. These words of Jesus are in direct conflict with the rhetoric of all American politics.
Today I cry out with the Psalmist:
Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord, O my soul!
I will praise the Lord as long as I live;
I will sing praises to my God all my life long.
Do not put your trust in princes,
in mortals, in whom there is no help.
When their breath departs, they return to the earth;
on that very day their plans perish.
Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord their God,
who made heaven and earth,
the sea, and all that is in them;
who keeps faith for ever;
who executes justice for the oppressed;
who gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets the prisoners free;
the Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;
the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the strangers;
he upholds the orphan and the widow,
but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.
The Lord will reign for ever,
your God, O Zion, for all generations.
Praise the Lord!
The church should never expect any country to do its job. We are called to continue the mission of the kingdom of God, a kingdom that executes justice for the oppressed, that gives food to the hungry, that sets the prisoners free, that opens the eyes of the blind, that watches over the strangers, and upholds the orphan and the widow. The politics of Jesus center on these kingdom values. It’s not a smart political platform to run on. I hear it gets people executed. But as Christians, we have to find a way to remind ourselves of what Jesus is really all about and to work for a world where all of God’s children are valued. Particularly when the world seeks to keep people at the margin, we are to be the voice of love, welcome, and inclusivity.
Today we must recognize that there are people who are hurting in our midst, people who’ve felt threatened, people who’ve been made to wonder whether their lives are valued, people who’ve been made to question if they are really welcome. If you feel that way today, know that you are valued. Know that you are welcome. Know that you are God’s beloved. We will walk beside you. In the days and weeks and years to come, we promise to work to bring the kingdom of heaven to earth. In the face of great fear, we will stand in solidarity with you and work for peace, justice, and love.
Last night our congregation gathered around the communion table together. Through our eating of the bread and drinking of the cup, we were reminded that our chasms are crossable because our unity is found in neither a donkey nor an elephant, but in Christ Jesus, the lamb. Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.