Pentecost 25 November 11, 2018

The Rev. Janet Campbell

PENTECOST 25 Proper 27 Year B

I Kings 17:8-16; Psalm 146; Hebrews 9:24-28; Mark 12:38-44

 

Christ Episcopal Church

Tacoma, Washington

Sunday, November 11, 2018

The Rev. Janet Campbell

 

You probably noticed

there was an election

this past week . . .

 

Ever since I’ve been old enough

to think

about candidates and issues

and policies and platforms

and maybe even understand

and care about them –

I’ve known of only one other election

quite so fraught.

 

That would be the one in 2016.

 

I’m still processing

that one . . .

 

as, I think,

we all are,

the entire country, probably . . .

and the world as well . . .

 

 

and now I find myself wondering what

the outcomes of last Tuesday’s election

might portend.

 

On the one hand,

it would seem that our democracy,

while fighting for its life,

is not dead yet . . .

 

and after the unrest

and the vitriolic campaigning

leading up

to the election,

a relative calm seemed to settle . . .

 

(I say relative)

 

over the day itself,

and even the days following.

 

Across the country

good, dedicated people

offered themselves

for public service.

 

Across the country,

issues affecting

the common good

appeared on the ballots . . .

 

to be voted on

by the people whose good

was at stake.

 

 

Across the country,

voters showed up,

and with hope

spoke for their concerns and desires

by turning a lever

or marking a ballot.

 

In the urgency of our own troubled time,

it’s easy to forget

that this is not the only troubled time

in our history,

 

not the only time

our national life

and political process

has been infused with

strife and discord,

outlandish accusations

and downright nastiness,

racism, nativism, nationalism . . .

 

and still we survive

and find a kind of center . . .

 

Our democracy is not broken,

nor is it yet perfected . . .

nor will it ever be . . .

 

it’s a messy system

vulnerable to our worst instincts

and the powerful influence

of big money.

 

Many more people voted in this election
than usually vote in a midterm,

but,

as is the case with every election,

not everyone eligible to vote

took this opportunity to

express their opinion . . .

 

And it seems some who were eligible to vote,

who wanted to vote,

were turned away at the polls,

or had provisional ballots rejected,

who knows how many . . .

 

and it’s sadly not surprising

that these blatant efforts at voter suppression

affected mainly persons of color.

 

Because the cheater, the power hungry,

the fearful, the manipulator, the racist,

the self-serving, the dishonest,

we will always have with us . . .

 

. . . and post-election wrangling . . .

 

. . . and re-counts . . .

 

. . . and the jockeying for position and power

of sore losers and gloating winners –

individuals and parties,

 

a battle nobody really wins

while everyone in our country,

no matter their political persuasion, loses.

 

But it’s important to remember

that we will always have with us, as well,

the good, the honest, the truth-teller,

the self-sacrificing, the seeker after justice,

the maker of peace.

 

I do wonder what this

election portends

for the next two years

of an administration

that carelessly and callously,

with its words and its actions,

bullied its way through its first two years,

creating division, fomenting unrest,

stirring up hatred,

condoning, even promoting, violence.

 

I’m not an historian,

and

we need historians,

to put our own times and trials

in context.

 

I’m not a political analyst,

nor am I non-partisan,

and we need non-partisan political analysts

to help us understand

our present situation.

 

I’m not a sociologist,

and we need sociologists

to help us assess

cultural trends and pressures

But I am an Episcopalian Christian,

and,

in addition to the ideas of

historians, political analysts

and sociologists,

I need the gospel of Jesus Christ

to know where I stand.

 

My first allegiance

is not

to a party or candidate

or a platform or policy or initiative,

but

to Jesus Christ,

and his words and actions,

his gospel,

and the vows I made

when I was baptized,

vows to live that gospel.

 

 

Jesus, the son of God,

who in human form

experienced the messiness

of human living,

 

grew up

with a burning desire

for the doing of justice

in an unjust system and world,

 

a mission

shaped by his people’s history and culture,

his upbringing,

the events and politics of his own time,

his religion . . .

 

. . . shaped by the scriptures

he had absorbed in his youth,

full as they were of God’s demand for justice

in the world God had brought into being.

 

 

He was shaped

by the historical books of his Bible,

by stories

like that of

the destitute widow of Zarephath,

who, with no husband,

was, in her society, a non-person.

 

In the severe drought

that had fallen on the land,

a woman with no hope

of survival for herself and her son . . .

 

Through the prophet Elijah,

God’s justice came to her house

in the suddenly-self-refilling jar of meal

and jug of oil.

 

He was shaped by the psalms,

like the one assigned for today:

 

“The Lord gives justice to those who are oppressed,

and food to those who hunger.
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 and cares for the stranger;

the Lord sustains the orphan and widow . . .”   [146]

 

Shaped by the Prophets:

 

Micah:

“. . . what does the Lord require of you but to do justice,

and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?  [6.8]

 

Amos:

“ . . . let justice roll down like waters,

and righteousness like an everflowing stream.  [5.24]

 

Jeremiah:

“I act with steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth, for in these things I delight, says the Lord.”  [9.24]

 

In his hometown synagogue,

at the beginning of his public ministry,

Jesus stood up to read

and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him:

 

“He . . . found the place,

(did not read at random),

but found the place

where it was written:

 

‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,

because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free,

to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. . . .’

. . . ‘Today’ he said,

‘this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing’.”

[Luke 4:16-21]

This is my mission statement.

 

In Jerusalem,

teaching in the temple,

near the time

of his arrest and torture

when he would offer up his very life,

 

Jesus condemned the hypocrisy

of those who made a show

of their importance and piety

while “devouring widows’ houses.”

 

Watching the stream of people

making their offerings,

he directed his disciples’ attention

to a widow,

one of the invisible poor,

who gave as an offering

“everything she had,”

 

or as another translation has it,

“her very life.”

 

It is by Jesus’ words and actions,

the devotion of his very life

to the establishment

of God’s justice,

 

that we must measure

the worth, the rightness or wrongness,

of any candidate, initiative, policy, platform,

administration.

 

By this measure,

I say, with some caution,

that justice-oriented gains were made

in this election . . .

 

thanks to the many people

who devoted themselves

to the hard work

of politics.

 

By this measure,

I say there is so much more to be done.

 

Passion for God’s justice

requires coming up against,

critiquing,

exposing,

challenging,

overturning,

systems that are unjust.

 

Jesus spent his life for that,

and so we,

his Body the Church,

must not pretend

that our religion,

which is our life in Christ,

has nothing to do with the politics

of our time.

 

Standing firm on our platform – the gospel,

we must by word and action

bring to light

and work to change

the evils

that hurt and destroy

the creatures of God.

 

The midterms are over,

some gains were made,

 

but the divisiveness,

the incivility,

the cruelty,

the unpredictability,

the instability,

the dangers,

of the present time continue.

 

But these are temporary.

 

How long they will continue

we do not know,

but they are temporary.

 

Jesus, the Christ, is eternal.

 

So while the present struggles

may dismay us;

they must not

deter us . . .

or make us forget

who we are . . .

 

the Church,

the living Body of the Eternal Christ.

 

We gather every Sunday

to remember that.

 

We touch the water in the baptismal font

and remember

that we have been marked

as Christ’s own for ever,

and

that the promises of our baptism

are the shape of our lives.

 

We pass the Paschal candle

and remember

resurrection:

that Jesus is risen,

and with him,

we have passed from death

to new and risen life.

 

We gather with others

and remember

that we are not alone,

but part of a body of many members

given to be encouragement, example

and resource for one another,

that we may be given for the life

of the world.

 

We proclaim the Word of God

and remember

that God’s intent and desire for us

is living and active among us,

teaching, exhorting, challenging, comforting.

 

We meet under the sign of the Cross

and remember

that Jesus’ complete self-offering

is a call to us

to give ourselves completely

to this life.

 

And, most of all,

we celebrate the banquet

that sustains us in this life,

eating and drinking

the very being of Jesus

in the bread and wine of the altar,

 

remembering

that this is who we are . . .

(we are what we eat),

this holy meal

satisfying hearts hungry for justice,

souls thirsty for peace.

 

In the uncertainty,

the ambiguity,

in which we live,

this is what we must remember,

this is all we need to know.

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