Sermon Preached November 6, 2016
St. Mark's Episcopal Church
Feast of All Saints
St. Mark's Episcopal Church
Feast of All Saints
On Friday in Fayetteville, North Carolina, President Obama was speaking at a campaign rally for Secretary Hillary Clinton when a Trump supporter appeared. The crowd began yelling and booing. President Obama repeatedly said to the crowd “focus,” “settle down.” And, once he got the crowds attention – which took some doing – he proceeded to defend the Trump supporter saying first, “You’ve got an older gentleman who is supporting his candidate . . . We live in a country that respects free speech. . . . It looks like maybe he might have served in our military – we’ve got to respect that. Third of all he is elderly and we’ve got to respect our elders.”
I don’t know about all of you, but I am pretty stressed out about what is going to happen in this country on Tuesday and, perhaps even more so, in the days to follow. This has been the ugliest presidential campaign season I have ever experienced and many of you with more years of experience have remarked that it has been the worst you’ve seen as well. Jazmine Steele, writing for Sojourners describes our environment as one in which we are all “bracing [ourselves] for one of most tumultuous presidential elections in recent history” and that we are all “living on the edge right now.” Does that feel real to anyone here this morning? Well, it certainly does for me. And here we are. Gathered together on this last Sunday before the election. Gathered to celebrate the Feast of All Saints. And I’m thinking, we have a celebration of saints and we have an election that feels anything but saintly. How are we to live in that space together not only for this hour but for days and weeks to come? Because no matter the outcome of Tuesday’s election, if the polls are right, then close to 50% of the voting population is going to be very unhappy with the results. We are living in a very divisive time. I know this is not news to any of you. But, sometimes for me it helps to just say it out loud. To point to the elephant in the room and say, yes, we do see this thing.
And then, yesterday, I saw that video of President Obama and I remembered a conversation I’d had earlier in the week with Scott. Once a week, Scott and I meet for a theological reflection, usually focusing on the texts for the coming Sunday. This week Scott drew my attention to a question and answer from our catechism that I had forgotten about. If you want to read it with me, you can find it on page 862 of the prayer book in the pew. Go ahead, flip to it if you’d like. “Question: What is the communion of saints? Answer: The communion of saints is the whole family of God, the living and the dead, those whom we love and those whom we hurt, bound together in Christ by sacrament, prayer, and praise.” The whole family of God. Living and the dead. And, here’s the part that caught my attention – “those whom we love and those whom we hurt.” Do you hear that? The communion of saints includes everybody that I love and everybody that I hurt. Everybody that you love and everybody that you hurt. And if that is the case, then it is also true that the communion of saints includes everybody that loves me and everybody that hurts me. Everybody that loves you and everybody that hurts you. Yes, the whole family of God. I’ve been letting that reality sink in a bit deeper these past few days.
And then I saw the video of President Obama and I remembered two questions from our baptismal promises. The first, “Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?” And, the second question, “Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?” Both of those questions ask us if we will do these things for ALL people. Those people who are living along side us – some of them known, most of them unknown. Those we agree with and those we disagree with. Those who treat us with love and those who treat us with disregard. The enthusiastic Clinton supporters. The energetic Trump supporters. Those who wish they could vote for Bernie but are not feeling very enthusiastic about anyone. Those we love and those we hurt. All of those living saints. Whenever we renew our baptismal vows, we say, “I will with God’s help.”
And here’s the truth of the matter – the Gospel Truth. It is that very baptism that binds us together in the first place. It’s right there in the catechism. “The communion of saints is the whole family of God, the living and the dead, those whom we love and those whom we hurt, bound together in Christ by sacrament – the water in that font; the bread and the wine which we share – by prayer and by praise.” God has chosen us to be saints. God has elected us to be saints. And unlike our national elections, we do not get to pick and choose our running mates. God has already chosen them too. Those whom we love and those whom we hurt, bound together in Christ by sacrament.
This Tuesday evening, most of us will find ourselves glued to a television set or a favorite website listening as pundits report the election results. We don’t know if it will be a short night or a long night. But we do know that for most of this nation it will be an anxious night. And so I have a simple request for all of us. I ask that each one of us, at some point during the evening – maybe at multiple points in the evening - takes a moment to pray. Not a prayer for the outcome of the election. This isn’t the 9th inning of the 7th game of the 2016 World Series! Not a prayer that others around the country might have had the wisdom to vote the way you voted. But a prayer that you might be given the strength to fulfill your promises, no matter the outcome, to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself and to strive for justice and peace among all people, respecting the dignity of every human being.
 Jazmine Steele, “Processing the Spirit of Fear Pervading This Election Season,” Sojourners (November 3, 2016).
 Book of Common Prayer, 862.