Note: The following homily is not mine, it was written by my sister, Lauren McDuffie, and delivered at a Service of Unity and Communion at First Baptist Church in Morehead, KY on November 9th.
John Wesley, that foundational theologian of the Methodist church, wrote in 1774 before the British Parliamentary elections: “I met those of our society who had votes in the ensuing election, and advised them: To vote, without fee or reward, for the person they judged most worthy; To speak no evil of the person they voted against; and To take care their spirits were not sharpened against those that voted on the other side.”
So…how do you think we did?
Five hundred and ninety-five days. That’s how long this presidential election has lasted. No, I’m not kidding, yes, I checked my math…Ted Cruz was the first member of either major party to formally declare his intention to run for president, five hundred and ninety-five days before election day 2016. If you’ve watched the news at any point during those five hundred and ninety-five days, you may have noticed that there’s a fair bit of anger out there, emanating from all corners. The daily barrage of my Twitter feed reminds me that we as a nation are intensely…and, some would have us believe, irrevocably…divided.
But yesterday, we voted. The culmination of these long nineteen months. It’s the first time I’ve ever actually voted on election day. And it was….fun. Patient and professional poll workers who knew exactly what to do when someone clearly didn’t know which precinct they lived in (that someone was me, by the way). An entire room full of people, volunteers and voters alike, chatting and catching up while they waited to fill out ballots. It was like somebody had decided to lock the angry cloud that’s been hanging over everything political outside.
Maybe we’re still capable of real community, after all.
The onslaught of information during these five hundred and ninety-five days might have us feeling as if yesterday was the absolute end all be all. I’m pretty sure it’s not. Whatever any of us feel about the results of any local, state, or national race, the sun still came up this morning. I know it’s been kind of a yucky day out there, but it did, I checked. We all got up and went on about our business as usual. To be fair, I’m sure the mood with which we each have individually gone about our day might have something to do with what happened yesterday…..the point is, happy or sad, the world kept spinning, and we kept living.
But in the face of this election season now over with, looking at the way human beings have been treating one another…I, for one, find that I need more from us than to just keep living. As these nineteen months have dragged on and on, I keep hearing the words writer Aaron Sorkin has attributed to several of his TV characters over the years: “It seems to me that more and more we have come to expect less and less of each other, and that has to change.”
We really ought to be able to expect more….More respect. More dignity. More love.
I don’t know about you, but I need more than for all of us to just keep living. I need some sort of evidence that we can actually still live together.
And if Jesus’ words as he prayed for and bid farewell to his disciples, and Paul’s letter to the Ephesians about the kindom of God and the body of Christ, are any indication, the church ought to be a model of that.
“…that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
“Treat one another charitably, in complete selflessness, gentleness and patience.”
“one body…one Spirit…one hope…one faith.”
How do you think we’re doing?
Many would have us believe we’re doing pretty badly. I think they’re wrong. I desperately need to believe they’re wrong. I believe we get a chance, right now, to prove them wrong.
I’m not saying the anger and divisiveness that’s been reported all over the news these past months isn’t real. I’m not saying that yesterday’s election hasn’t left some people thrilled and others devastated. I’m saying that when it comes right down to it, the created people of God really are capable of being more than that…because we really are part of a kindom that is more than that. And there is no better proof of this than the table.
When Jesus gathered at this table with his friends, he knew that they were not a group who always agreed. In their time of traveling alongside and learning from and ministering with Jesus, he had witnessed these disciples disagree and struggle through confusion about the meaning of his teachings. They had fought about who was the greatest among them. They had attempted to send children away. They had doubted the miraculous works Jesus promised. He knew that on this very night, one at that table would betray him. Another would attempt to do violence on his behalf. They all, in one way or another, would turn their backs on him.
And yet…he gathered them all. He prayed with them. He broke bread with them. Because the promise he made to them and to us was not conditional on anything except our shared humanity…our shared identity as the created people of God, who are all welcome in the presence of the Holy.
Howard Thurman, arguably the preeminent theologian of the civil rights movement, once prayed “Oh, that we may be unanimous within ourselves, that our total being and our lives might be a tuned instrument in Thy hands, making the kind of music that would calm the distressed, that would heal the broken body and mind, that would bring tenderness to those who feel rejected and outcast.” I’m sure Thurman was under no illusions that everyone who worshipped in any church he ever walked into would agree about everything. He was sure that unity in the midst of these differences was the only way to be church. Music is quite a fitting metaphor to make his point…it takes more than one note, more than one pitch, more than one tone, to create music. You really couldn’t have music without the differences.
We can’t have Church without the differences. We can’t have community without the differences.
How do you think we’re doing?
Let’s make a choice, right now, at this table, that the love and respect and hope we are called to as part of the kindom of God is worth more to us than politics. That modeling a different way of being in community is a better choice than digging further into our separate camps. That “our kindom is not of this world”…but it could be. We could be just a little bit closer to “on earth as it is in heaven.” Yesterday we voted, and today God is still God, and we are still called to be God’s hands and feet exactly as we are…to be people of God’s table exactly where we are. Amen.