Monday, November 14, 2016

Psalm 98 – “Praise the Judge of the World”

Pentecost 26C (First Sunday after presidential election)                                    November 13, 2016
Psalm 98 – “Praise the Judge of the World”
In the Name of Jesus.   Amen.
My friends, my Christian family:  we have work to do.   Even in the weeks immediately following a tempestuous, almost brutal campaign  season, followed by the election itself, here is the work Paul, in Romans 12, says is ours; as followers, not of Trump or Hillary, but as followers of Jesus, every day, in every situation:
Be sure your love is true love.  Hate what is sinful.  Hold on to whatever is good.   Love each other as Christian brothers & sisters.  Show respect for each other.   Do not be lazy but always work hard.  Work for the Lord with a heart full of love for Him.   Be happy in your hope.  Do not give up when trouble comes.  Do not let anything stop you from praying.   Share what you have with Christian brothers & sisters who are in need.  Give meals and a place to stay to those who need it.   Pray and give thanks for those who make trouble for you.  Yes, pray for them instead of talking against them.   Be happy with those who are happy.  Be sad with those who are sad.   Live in peace with each other.  Do not act or think with pride.  Be happy to be with poor people.  Keep yourself from thinking you are so wise.   When someone does something bad to you, do not pay him back with something bad.  Try to do what all people know is right and good.   If it is possible, and so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
I have no doubt, no doubt at all, and I suspect you would all agree, that we would have seen the same reactions, the same despair, the same protesting in the streets, the same vitriolic Tweets and FB posts as we have seen this past week – no matter who had won the presidential election.  Peoples’ opinions and commitments on all sides have been far from casual; they have been, and remain to be, intense, passionate, take-no-prisoners.
We avoid talking about “politics” with our friends and families and fellow church members because we are afraid of the possibility of being judged, or worse, alienated from one another; that despite all of our experiences together and our overall love for the Lord and for one another for years, even decades, we will give “politics”, one election, the power  to destroy those relationships.
But, living saints of Faith Lutheran Church, we are so much more than Republicans or Democrats, liberals or conservatives, Independents or Progressives; we are so much more than citizens of the United States of America.  We are Christians, citizens of the world God has made and loves (according to John 3:16), we are Christians, little Christs, Jesus’ hands and feet we love to say, God’s work/our hands we love to write, now, here; followers of the Son of God who lived and taught, forgave and healed, suffered betrayal and death not only by the power of Rome, but by his own people; God-in-Christ who descended to the dead, and rose from the dead by the power of God.  More than anything else, we are citizens of God’s eternal, perfect, just and gracious Kingdom.  And so Psalm 98 assures us that no matter what, we and all of creation have reason to sing together with joy, to clap our hands, because God comes to rule the earth, and “God’s judgment will be what is right for the world, and just to all people.”
The problem is:  we don’t know when that day will come.  But we do know from Scripture, in the meantime, what our work, our privilege, is. 
Democracy, probably the closest human expression of what is “right for the world and just
to all people,” is only as perfect as the people to whom it is entrusted, yes?  So right away, we know that it, like all human creations, while it may be our great hope, will always be flawed.  And so we may wonder in this complicated world with so many telling us what to believe and who to be faithful to -- what is the “right” thing to do?  The prophet Micah tells us:
The Lord God has told us
what is right
    and what God demands:
“See that justice is done,
let mercy be your first concern,
    and humbly obey your God.”
..and we might want to add today, “No matter who is the leader of any country.”  I’m not sure that we clergy and teachers of the Christian faith as understood by Martin Luther, have done enough teaching and preaching about Luther’s insight that we are at once in, but not of, the world, echoing a portion of Jesus’ priestly prayer where he prayed for us before his passion, saying, in John 17: 
I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours…I gave them your message, and the world hated them, because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world.  I do not ask you to take them out of the world, but I do ask you to keep them safe from the Evil One.  Just as I do not belong to the world, they do not belong to the world.   Dedicate them to yourself by means of the truth; your word is Truth.  I sent them into the world, just as you sent me into the world.  And for their sake I dedicate myself to you, in order that they, too, may be truly dedicated to you.
The world we are in, we have discovered in a profound and painful way this past week, is terribly broken.  Not only are people in general angry and divided, Christians are angry and divided among ourselves.  I, and other pastors and Christians I know, have received many vitriolic posts on FB and even e-mails, from other Christians, friends over politics .  We have become so “of” the world that we fail to remember and proclaim that our true and ultimate ruler, our highest allegiance, is to God, in Jesus.  Paul writes to the Christians in Corinth (1 Corinthians 11).  I am going to substitute some modern names to describe a somewhat similar situation in Corinth at the time:
Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose.  For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there are quarrels among you, my brothers and sisters.  What I mean is that each of you says, “I belong to [Trump],” or “I belong to [Hillary],” or “I belong to [Sanders],” or “I belong to Christ.”  Has Christ been divided?  Was [Trump] crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of [Hillary]?... We proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to those who don’t know God.  But Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God to those people God has called—no matter what our heritage.  Even the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God – dying on the cross -- is stronger than human strength.
No president, no human being, is capable of “healing our nation” as so many of us want and yearn for.  Only God can do that.  Only Jesus can break down the dividing walls we so passionately build and re-build between ourselves.  And how does he do that?  Miraculously, or perhaps foolishly in the eyes of some, Jesus works through us who believe in him, who honor him, who seek to pattern our lives after his.  And as we just heard, “Even the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom.”
Where do you think Jesus is right now?  He is in the middle of this mess of ours.
And what do you think Jesus is doing here, in this mess?
“Jesus came not to condemn this world, which he so loves, but to save it.”  (John 3:17)
In my mind’s eye, I picture him hanging on the cross on Golgotha, now placed squarely on Main Street, USA, still bearing our sin, literally dying to conquer it, to save us, all out of love.  Thanks be to God, I also picture him raised from the dead with all of our walls and all of our sin in shambles, destroyed of its power to rule our lives forever.
Times of struggle and division like this may be among the hardest times to live out of our faith in Jesus’ vision and will for a world reconciled in him.  But we know who is ultimately in charge – and it is no mere mortal.  And we know what to do because Scripture tells us very directly:
The Lord God has told us
what is right
    and what God demands:
“See that justice is done,
let mercy be your first concern,
    and humbly obey your God.”
That is our work, to figure out how to do that in the real world, in real time – and then do it.
Living in Christ – in, but not of, the world, we can also proclaim with the Psalmist:
…sing together with joy before the Lord,
because he comes to rule the earth.
and His judgment will be what is right for the world
    and just to all people.

Come Lord Jesus; let it be so.  Amen.



Pastor Joan Gunderman, Faith Lutheran Church, Swanburg, MN