In today’s gospel lesson Jesus promises destruction: a dismantling of things we thought were rock solid; a tearing down of monuments we’ve built; a rift between governing powers in the form of wars and insurrection. Sounds like a description of this past week, doesn’t it? Or, for that matter, this entire election cycle! In the midst of this deconstruction and demolition, Jesus tells us “Do not be terrified?” I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure I can pull that off!
Even those who see Trump’s election as a positive sign of change, are a little worried that this president elect has an impulsive, unpredictable side that might not be able to be kept in check. Will he shake things up? Absolutely. Will this result in change for the better or change for the worse? Only time will tell.
Those of us who voted for Clinton are terrified that the rights and protections, We’ve worked so hard to obtain, will be torn apart, one by one. My children are worried about their family. This week they wonder whether their parents marriage will continue to be legally valid, and what this means for their adoption. Some women are fearful that we may be taking a step backwards in terms of equality and reproductive rights. My Latino and Muslim friends are absolutely terrified, fearing deportation of people they love, hate crimes and the like. Then there is the issue of who gets to define what it means to be a Christian. Trust me, my understanding of Jesus is quite different from that which has been portrayed by conservatives who claim to the the sole representatives of the Christian faith.
So there is a lot of fear in our nation right now. Unfortunately, all of the nasty things that have been said by Republicans, Democrats and Independents have done a lot of damage. We are a polarized and divided nation. Even families have been torn apart by the way their kin have chosen to vote. We feel like those dismantled stones in our gospel lesson for today. We remember a time when we used to fit together pretty well, but now it feels like we’ve been reduced to a pile of rubble. Make no mistake about it, these are fearful and turbulent times. Change is going to happen whether we like it or not.
As we journey though this time of dismantling and tearing down, I have several pieces of wisdom for all of us. First of all, it’s O.K. to feel whatever you feel in the aftermath of this election. If you’re hopeful be hopeful. If you’re fearful, it’s OK to name that fear and sit with it for a while. But while you’re doing this you need to know that you are not alone. You belong to a faith community that surrounds you with genuine love and support. You also have a pastor who loves you and is available to meet with you at a coffee shop or a local micro-brewery. Your choice! I’m good with both.
The second piece of advice is do not make any grand pronouncement that your relationship with someone had ended because of the way they voted. I’ve seen this happen all over Facebook in the past few days. I think most people will eventually regret it. Some of us don’t know what to say to family members who voted for someone we believe is going to take away our rights. But for now it’s best for us to hold our tongues until we are calm enough to have a peaceful conversation about why we feel that way we feel.
If you’re still tempted to end a friendship or walk away from a family member, don’t forget the guiding principles of the church where you worship. Abiding Savior is United in Christ. Welcoming All. The bullet points which surround the cross in our logo include both Democrats and Republicans. Jesus is not the exclusive property of either political party. He welcomes all of us to the Table, Just as we welcome everyone to our church.
The final piece of advice I have is found in the words of Isaiah which we heard this morning: “Look! I’m creating a new heaven and a new earth: past events won’t be remembered; they won’t come to mind. Be glad and rejoice forever in what I’m creating.” [CEB]
In the midst of things being dismantled, in the midst of our worries and fears about what the future will bring, God promises to make all things new. Now, we need to remember that this is not an easy fix or an instantaneous happening. It means that God continues to save and redeem us, from ourselves and the bad choices we make, time and time and time again. God breathes new life into places and situations we thought were dead. God makes a way through deserts of despair and hopelessness. It means that God can take the disassembled stones of an individual life or a nation and make something beautiful out of them, once again.
“Be glad and rejoice forever in what I’m creating,” Isaiah says on behalf of God. “I’m creating Jerusalem as a joy and her people as a source of gladness.” The remarkable thing about this prophetic promise is the situation Israel found itself in when this message was delivered. Israel was a crushed and defeated nation. The Assyrians had conquered the North. The Babylonians had conquered the South. Jerusalem was ransacked and the Temple was destroyed. A few stragglers remained but many ended up as exiles in strange and foreign lands. If you think we’re at a low place in our nation’s history, Israel was low as a nation can go. Yet, God told them not to give into despair but trust in the One who makes all tings new. Do we dare to do the same?
Friends in Christ, I’m not trying to offer you “Pie in the sky” theology this morning. I’m not trying to tell you we should just sit back and wait for God to make all things new. In fact, the opposite is true. The time has come for us to roll up our sleeves and get to work. The time has come for us to be co-creators with God in making all things new.
In 2nd Corinthians, St. Paul tell us, “If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation.” [2 Cor 5:17-18, NRSV]
Yep, that’s what it says! Making all things new is part of our job description as followers of Jesus. We are given the ministry of reconciliation. We are called to be peacemakers in a nation that quickly resorts to violent words and actions. We are called to be bridge-builders, so that Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives, will work together for the sake of our nation. We are called to be repairers of relationships and restorers of community. We are called, in the words of Jesus, (which some people have apparently forgotten) to “love our enemies, do good to those who hate us, and bless those who persecute us.” [Lk 6:27] We are also called to feed the hungry, give the thirsty something to drink, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, take care of the sick, and visit the imprisoned. [Mt 25:31-45] (Other words of Jesus some people have apparently forgotten!)
This is what it means to make all tings new. With God’s help we can accomplish the ministry of reconciliation even if it is only, one person at a time, one family at a time. This is the way you change a city. This is the way you transform a nation, building it up stone by stone.
So, Friends in Christ, I have hope this week, because I believe in God, who promises to make all things new. I refuse to give into fear or despair. I will do my best to carry out the ministry of reconciliation, Christ has called us to undertake. I will continue to be a voice for justice for those who are oppressed and abused. I will not remain silent if my government decides to take away the rights of its citizens. I pray that you will have the courage to do the same. Amen.
Copyright © 2016 by David Eck