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A Letter Regarding the Recent Election
Dear Beloved Members and Friends of the Arch Street Church,
Grace and Peace to you in the Holy Name of Jesus Christ—the Name that is above every name, every nation and every circumstance. In the aftermath of a soul-wrenching election season that culminated on Tuesday night, I write you with a word of personal reflection as well as words of Eternal promise and challenge.
One of the things that I need to share with you is how deeply affected I have been this past year by the depth of pain in our region and our nation. I have not had a chance to share with many of you my experience of standing inside the role of the Pastor while seeking a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives earlier in this election season. Tuesday’s results confirm what I had witnessed through my own experience in the electoral arena. Whatever your party affiliation, there is a spirit of bitterness, mistrust and rancor that has been nurtured by unheeded cries for help inside both parties. It is difficult for people of good will on either side of our divide to imagine or understand the profound “truths” that are the result of opposing experiences of this great but flawed nation. The chasm in our society has left Julie and me breathless.
I ran for a seat as someone who has convictions. My work, commitments and candidacy stemmed from values that have been shaped by my faith. I wanted to advocate for those values and to bear witness to the stories of so many I have come to know who do not feel valued or known. But that is not the only reason I ran. I ran because I was deeply concerned about our increasing inability to understand each other’s stories, appreciate one another’s unrealized hopes and reckon with our growing distrust in and disappointment with important institutions. My experience of running was a microcosm of the picture that emerged as Wednesday morning dawned; I awoke nauseous because we are a nation that is at war with itself.
For some Tuesday’s results feel like a vindication—that finally “we” have been heard. That “we” are tired of the corruption, of being talked down to by those who dismiss “us,” and that “we” would rather there be turmoil than tranquility in the face of all that has happened to “us.” For others, the election resulted in deep sadness and a gnawing fear that could tip easily into terror or despair. This experience of the election makes “us” wonder if this is a nation where we belong today if we ever did. “Our” story is one where “we” believed that those who have been subjugated, abused, scapegoated are deserving of something better—something endowed by our God—a chance to pursue opportunity and happiness without fear of expulsion, incarceration or the elimination of Constitutional protections.
What we have in the aftermath is an unholy conundrum. For those pleased with the results of Tuesday, there is a temptation to relish the outcome without recognition of just how much damage has been done and that part of what contributed to this result is terrifying and ugly. And that ugliness needs to be named and it needs to be purged.
For those who want to lash out after Tuesday’s results, this is a moment where some soul-searching is warranted about how or if we are willing to risk the demands of a faith that seeks understanding—of an ability to see a common humanity within those with whom we disagree. Too few of those who are devastated by Tuesday’s result have mutual and respectful relationships with those with whom they disagree. After a season like this one, most of us know that a house divided against itself cannot stand and this election season represents and invitation to stand on principle but also to work for greater understanding across our divisions.
There has never been a time that it has been more important for the Arch Street church community to be who we are at our very best: to dig in and to reach out. To dig in means to listen to each other and to listen together for God’s Word to us. To dig in means to spend time with each other to listen to how it is that we have been affected by Tuesday—and to exercise the patience, skill and wisdom to pay attention without judgment or bias. We need to make ourselves available to each other—and to know that how we feel at the present moment does not define who we are as the Children of God. We were made to live for one another—to love one another—and to show Christ’s love by showing up for each other. The Deacons, Elders and Pastors are committed to being available to you. If you are looking for ways to cope, heal or share who you are at a deeper level—we want to stand beside you as we walk together into this divided time in our nation. We need each other—and we need to attend to each other now.
But this is also a time for us to also reach out. Our community is diverse and it is more diverse than we probably even recognize. And the strength of our community’s diversity is something we can share with the region and the nation. Because this diversity is God’s will and God’s delight, we can draw upon the strength it offers, strength to serve God and one another with humility and courage. We have been confident that God has led us to this place because our journeys are different and our stories are different. We are a people who demonstrate that we are a more powerful community because we choose to share life with those who sometimes believe, value and vote in ways we do not. We do this because we trust that our difference is not deeper than our unified gratitude to God for leading us here.
This diversity in the past has made us strong enough to reach out to our neighbors who want their children to have a head start on their education even if their finances do not permit an ability to pay market rate. And this confidence and humility in God’s desired diversity to affirm those who make sacrificial and loving covenants with one another regardless of race, ethnicity or orientation. And when neighbors of a different faith who were feeling uneasy during this election season asked us if we would welcome them to pray and praise, we chose hospitality. We were not afraid of our Muslim brothers and sisters, we welcomed them. We invested ourselves in their safety and created space for them to experience sanctuary in the fullest sense of that word. By demonstration more than through proclamation, we have reached out in love to show how powerful this commitment to diversity can be! Friends, our nation and our city need us to follow God in the direction we have charted for our congregation. We need to listen but we also need to speak, to stand up and to be obedient to God’s claim on us to respect and honor all God’s children without exception.
When others foment suspicion, we will show love. When others would tear us apart, we will pay the price of reconciliation. When some in our midst are too fragile or too frightened to forge ahead, some of us will stay behind to pray and wait expectantly for healing. But if others want to continue to dismiss, disregard and divide us, we need to ask God for the continued strength to be a people of passion, peace and possibility. This is a difficult time but it is not an impossible time—because with God a renewed future is within reach for with our God all things are possible.
With confidence and joy in the midst of struggle,
November 27, 2016 - Advent Sermon Series