Sunday, November 6, 2016

You never know

2 Thessalonians 2: 1-5, 13-17 (The Message)
New Ark United Church of Christ, Newark, DE
November 6, 2016

Smile On Your Brother, Rico Fonseca, 2012

(It’s times like these I wish I could preach my sermon with the voice of David McCullough.)

            Generations had hoped for it, thinking it would happen in their lifetime.  Thousands went to their graves without having witnessed it but still were faithful despite being ridiculed and persecuted for their belief.  Many were doubtful it would ever come to pass.  Most had forgotten the old dream; the prophecies were like a bad joke.  Yet still, “not alone we conquer, not alone we fall; in each loss or triumph, lose or triumph all.  Bound by God’s far purpose, in one living whole, move we on together to the shining goal.”  


            Yes, the possibility of this post-modern apocalyptic event had been likened to the second coming of Christ or hell freezing over, even though the Chicago Cubs were the heavy favorite.  I don’t know of any pastor who can resist the opportunity to link baseball with faith.  Baseballs fans are faithful to their club, their nation, even when cussing them out, even when they’ve been the butt of every joke, even when they leave you hanging out to dry in September, even when the team has a curse on it.  We keep coming back for more, because you never know; maybe, just maybe, this is the year it happens.  And long-suffering Cubs fans have been the most faithful of all.

            Even though the early Church was still a new church start, the people in Thessalonica and elsewhere were losing their religion.  These early Christians thought they had waited long enough; they were anxious and worried that they had missed the second coming of Christ, and the parade had happened without them.  They had been given misinformation; they had been deceived by the teachings of others.  It was as if they had spent too much time on social media, watched too much television, paying attention to every bit and scrap of news, allowing multiple opinions to hold sway over their thoughts and emotions, overwhelming everything they had been taught and heard about being faithful.  On top of it all they were being persecuted for being on the wrong team, the losing side of history.

            Though there is debate as to whether Paul wrote this letter or someone wrote it in his name, whether it was written in the mid-‘50’s or around the turn of the 1st century, the message to our present anxiety and fear is still the same now as it was then:  take a firm stand, keep your feet on the ground, and your head held high.  Remember who you are, whose you are, and what you have been taught.  May Jesus himself and God in whom we have life, who reached out in love and surprised you with gifts of unending help and confidence, put a fresh heart in you, invigorate your work, enliven your speech.

            Though we may have very real concerns about the outcome of the election and the months following, it does not change who we are.  We are Church.  One meaning of that is we have been taught to remember in the face of our fears rather than allow our fears to take over.  And this Table is where we are called to remember:  On the night of betrayal and desertion, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, take, eat, this is my body broken for you.  Do this in remembrance of me.  Remember what love can do.  Remember that before transformation there must be surrender.

            Like Moses before him, Jesus nor his disciples nor countless others after them lived to see the promised land, the fruition of their faith, the outcome of the risks they took.  Eight years ago it looked like our nation was more unified than ever before.  We had elected our first African-American president.  Yes we can—we thought we could.  Now we know we have more hard work to do than we thought we did—a lot more.

            Hard work means a higher need for self-care.  We can’t stand firm if we’re weary.  We can’t plant our feet on the ground if we’re always running around.  If we’re going to remember what we’ve been taught, we can’t just skim and get the highlights or try to pick up every scrap and bit of news.  Author and pastor Kirk Byron Jones says “It is your spiritual responsibility to be careful with your energy and protective of your heart.”

            Beginning at sunset tonight I invite you to join me in taking a social media, news outlet, and political email fast until Election Day.  Light a candle instead.  No blogs, no pundits, no newspaper, no broadcast news, no NPR or BBC.  It seems everyone is preparing to do battle the day of and the days after the election. What if instead we prepared ourselves to be peacemakers?  What if we prepared ourselves to have compassion, to listen, to be merciful, to forgive, to accept, to be aware of the emotions of others and ourselves?  To keep our hearts soft and our minds open.  Instead of steeling ourselves against, what if we strengthened our core to withstand?  Instead of steeping ourselves in rhetoric we immersed ourselves in the psalms, the prophets, and the gospels?  Instead of choosing sides remembering that there really is only one side, the human side?

            Let’s do ourselves and everyone around us a favor.  Before we vote on Tuesday, let’s take a walk in the sunshine.  Dig our hands into the earth.  Make a delicious meal, share it with others, and savor each bite.  Have a glass of wine.  Have a milkshake.  Eat chocolate.  Make some art or music, write a story or poem or idea, build or fix something.  Read something that challenges what you think you know.  Read Psalm 37.  (Really, read Psalm 37.)  Notice beauty.  Stop and listen.  Play.  Sing.  Have a dance party in the kitchen or at the office.  Laugh.  Have a good cry with someone.  Hug each other.  Go easy on yourself and others.  Let go.  Pray.  Meditate.  Make a little love.  Get a good night’s sleep. Get up the next day and give thanks.  And come to the Election Escape party at 7 p.m.

Wait and see what comes next.  Because you never know.  You never know.  The Cubs just might win the World Series.

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