January 19, 2017
In a few scant hours, the United States of America will do something globally unusual - a “peaceful” transition of power and leadership from one elected President to another. (Yesterday, Gambia’s new President was sworn into office in another country, because the previous one refuses to vacate the premises and titles given him several years ago!) This has been a “curious” election season, to say the least, and daily it “grows more and more curious-er!” As per usual, all of the candidates for the nation’s highest office were flawed, challenged by issues surrounding truth-telling, and all of them promised “the sun, moon, and the stars,” if only they were to be chosen. And for the second time in recent history, the popular vote decision was eclipsed by the Electoral College, which was a safeguard left in the Constitution by “the founding fathers” to prevent one group or another from irrevocably seizing power and establishing some new impenetrable line of succession determined by larger states in our fledgling country. (I don’t know if it’s an idea whose time has passed; you’d have to ask someone who understands these things more thoroughly than I, to get a better handle on the matter.)
Just like in the aftermath of every election, some folks are elated, and others disheartened, if not downright scared by what the future may (or may not) bring. Some of our neighbors and friends have made dire predictions of “wars and rumors of wars” with nearly every breath; others speak of the revocation of the progress and advancements made in the last couple of decades; and yet others hail the President-elect as the “one for whom they’ve longed” all their lives. (For a self-described “Christian nation” - and that’s a topic for a lengthy conversation at some point in the future! - we certainly are capable of speaking ill, if not just plain Ugly, about each other at times like this!)
On Friday morning, at the time that the new President is being ensconced into his new Office, I would like to invite you to come to the Chapel of our Church, and do something that Christians have been doing since Antiquity when it was illegal under the penalty of death, to pray to some other god than the one currently in power. (That is, you will recall, why Paul counseled the Corinthians that it was only by the power of the Holy Spirit that Christians could say “Jesus Christ is Lord!” and not “Caesar is Lord.” It was treasonous and deadly, in that day and age!)
I would like to invite you to gather with me at 11:30 AM for a time of prayer for our nation, its leaders, and the peace of the world; to hear several pertinent scripture passages read; and perhaps, to consider a song or two to soothe our hearts.... while the new President puts his hand on a family Bible, and also one that once belonged to Abraham Lincoln, and promise that he will uphold and defend the Constitution of our nation.... so help [me] God.” As people of Christian faith, whose focus is not deterred, not swayed, not eliminated even by the suffering crucifixion, and death of our Lord, we might well be reminded just Who it is that ultimately prevails and reigns, and holds power and sway in our world.
These have been brutal months of campaigning and accusations and lies in abundance being sloshed on the populace from nearly every corner, rank, and file. Hardly anyone has escaped being drawn into the vortex of the “24-hour news cycle” - of both the truthful and the otherwise headlines and stories. And yet our God calls us to love those with whom we have differences, pray for those who have wounded us, not to repay slander and libel in kind, but to offer grace and reconciliation and peace, as Fred Craddock once said, “even while the spittle of the others drips from our faces and our clothing.”
It is time to be reminded that our calling, as persons of faith in the One who gave what Abraham Lincoln called many years later “the last, full measure of devotion,” to turn our hearts and minds and hands and energies and creativities toward building up our society and world again.... seeing to it that the hungry are fed, the homeless are sheltered, the marginalized are included, the children are taught and formed in the difference between right and wrong, and that all are enabled to lay claim to their divinely given rights to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
I have long understood that a nation is judged - evaluated, if you will - by the way it treats the least of its citizenry, meaning the folks on the lowest and most powerless end of the social scale. In Jesus’ time, they were the widows and the orphans, the diseased and the elders, the foreigners and the outsiders. I think that the same standard still applies, and on the world’s stage, our nation is held up against the plumb-line of our care for the “least,” including the stranger, the refugee, the different, those in transition, those who have no “rights” to our care. On Friday, 20 January 2017, around the noon hour, we will mark the level of the waters of our democracy, and see a course being for the future. I hope that it is in what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., called “the [long] arc of the moral universe” and that we affirm that it “bends toward justice” for all persons on our shores.... enabled by our influence, our power, our guidance, and our prayers for courage, wisdom, and grace.
Come and pray, worship, reflect, and “be still” for a moment in the midst of a raging tide on Inauguration Day, Friday 20 January 2016, from 11:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m.
Grace to you, and peace.
Jim Earley, Pastor
Sr. Pastor, Tabernacle UMC
Phone: 571-239-3529 (cellular)